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Slow Your Roll: Dictating Pace as a Strategic Counter

As teams try to beat the juggernaut Warriors, slowing down the pace may be their best approach.

Ben Dowsett

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Anyone watching the 2015 NBA Finals with a keen eye immediately realized the approach a banged up Cleveland Cavaliers team had chosen to take against the juggernaut Golden State Warriors. Minus two elite offensive players from what was already a top-heavy roster, the Cavs knew getting into a track meet with the Warriors would mean certain demise – they simply didn’t have the talent to trade haymakers in an up-and-down game with a team that thrives in that ecosystem.

They went in the opposite direction instead, dragging every possession out with tactics that both muted Golden State’s advantages in the open court and allowed guys like LeBron James and Matthew Dellavedova to rest between moments of exertion even while on the court. They succumbed to a more talented group in the end, but left the impression that they were much more competitive in the series than most had expected.

Seeing it was one thing, but a few less publicized numbers illustrate the near-insane degree to which the Cavs went to muck the game up. Most would look to standard pace statistics for guidance – simply, number of possessions per-48-minutes. This metric is a double-edged sword, though; there are two teams on the floor every game, and one may have very different goals and tendencies regarding the speed of their possessions. Instead, the discrepancy here can best be illustrated by isolated offensive and defensive time-of-possession statistics, generously housed on inpredictable.com.

The Cavaliers could do all they wanted to slow things down while they had the ball, but nothing could stop the Warriors from their usual ways once they were in control of the rock. Golden State’s average time of offensive possession was 13.5 seconds in the regular season, per inpredictable.com, fastest in the league – the Cavs only managed to get that down to 13.7 seconds in the Finals.

The other end of the spectrum, though, showed the big difference: Cleveland’s average time of possession on offense was a remarkable 17.2 seconds, a mark that would have led the NBA by a full second in the regular season (the entire league is separated by less than three seconds total, meaning this Cleveland number in the Finals was fantastically slow). The Cavs were taking decimals short of 20 seconds before their average shot on all possessions following made shots by the Warriors. Think about that. They took their average shot with four seconds left on the shot clock anytime their possession began following a make from the Dubs.

Personnel and circumstances beyond Golden State played a role, of course. The Cavs were similarly slow to initiate their offense for most of the postseason, especially their sweep of the Atlanta Hawks that featured some of the same lineup deficiencies. The playoffs also naturally slow things down a bit for many non-Warriors teams – take the Memphis Grizzlies, who initiated offense over a second slower than their regular season pace against the Portland Trail Blazers in round one and maintained this same rate in their eventual loss to the Dubs.

A previous year’s playoffs can often be a harbinger of things to come, though. The Cavaliers may not have triumphed through their tactics, but they appeared to at least marginally tighten what most figured was a pretty wide talent gap. And with a new season underway and the Warriors only looking more unbeatable, whispers have begun to spread around the league: Have conceptions regarding pace been slightly misplaced? And, more importantly, might zigging where Golden State has zagged be the best shot certain teams have at stalling a multi-year run of dominance from the Bay?

CurryKlayInside1NBA strategy is a constant evolution. The game has changed an incredible amount over the last half decade in large part because the league as a whole has gotten hip to the smart inroads a select few teams were making. With tactical prowess at the highest premium we’ve ever seen, the holy grail is the next new innovation. The Warriors in their current form are the furthest we’ve seen that line of thinking applied in reality, a team that plays guys at positions general managers would have laughed at 10 years ago while using their unique personnel to exploit simple math (three is more than two!) on a historically large scale, something ESPN’s Zach Lowe discussed at length recently.

In the league’s rush to emulate what makes Golden State so special, though, many may have quite literally raced past the limits of their talent while simultaneously playing into the Warriors’ hands.

Some elements of “pace” have merits regardless of team context, of course, and were items of conversation long before this Warriors’ iteration came along. The Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns of the mid-2000s were among the pioneers of the modern game, illustrating how advantageous it can be to attack a defense still in the process of setting itself. These principles begat a collective understanding of the importance of transition play; regardless of personnel, it’s common knowledge in today’s game that pursuing obvious chances on the break for more efficient looks than nearly any halfcourt set could yield is a requirement for winning basketball.

This doesn’t necessarily equate to “the faster the better” in every circumstance, though. There are trade-offs inherent to this line of thinking that simply don’t benefit everyone. Every team should pursue obvious transition chances, but the trickle-down to faster shots and a near obsession in some circles with speed on offense isn’t so clear-cut.

“It’d be a mistake for us to try and emulate Golden State,” Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “In the sense that they’re unselfish, I think that’s the lesson [to take]… [But] we’re a very different team.

“In a philosophical sense, yes. But the way that we have to go about doing that is very, very different.”

Snyder’s Jazz are among the poster boys for a growing contrary line of thinking. They’re currently in their second straight year as the league’s slowest team by offensive time per possession (stats exclude Wednesday’s games), mostly by design. Utah’s best players don’t necessarily fit with a full-speed-ahead philosophy, and Snyder isn’t about to pigeonhole them into a style just to conform to a league trend.

The idea that slower teams are less efficient (and vice versa) may have been born of positive intentions, but doesn’t reflect reality. Three of the league’s 10 slowest groups by traditional pace statistics (Cleveland, New Orleans, Chicago) were also top-10 per-possession offenses last season – the same number of top-10 teams by pace that were nonetheless bottom-10 offenses. Some teams are stretching themselves thin trying to copy a speedier model, where others have realized that doing so could compromise their identity on both ends of the court.

To some reading tea leaves, this is more than push back against a trend: it’s a basis around which to build a roster that can neuter a Warriors team many fear won’t have a true peer to keep things competitive. Smart front offices haven’t forgotten the way the Cavs leveled the playing field last June, even if they didn’t have enough talent to get them over the top.

Monday night’s wild finish in Salt Lake City was another near miss, but was the latest example of the way a disciplined team can lower the sample over which the Warriors’ talent gap begins to show through. Their win over the Jazz was by far the fewest possessions played in a game featuring the Warriors this year, per basketball-reference.com, and it’s not a coincidence that it was also the closest the Dubs have come to actually losing. That Golden State won while shooting nearly 50 percent from deep and winning the rebounding battle handily (neither of which are certainties on a nightly basis, particularly the latter against a huge group like Utah) further showcased the effectiveness of the approach.

Just like the other end of the spectrum, not everyone has the personnel to play this way. Utah’s length and defensive prowess on the perimeter is relatively unique, at least among teams for whom those same guys can play viable and efficient offensive roles simultaneously. They’re one of the best rebounding teams in the league, a true necessity within this sort of grinding approach. Their discipline defensively, something Snyder has worked incredibly hard to institute, also isn’t commonplace.

They aren’t the only ones choosing the road less traveled, though. The San Antonio Spurs, long the innovator whom the rest of the pack follows, are moving in the same direction. They got bigger over the summer by pairing LaMarcus Aldridge with Tim Duncan (along with adding David West to their frontcourt), and have gone from middle of the pack last year to the league’s fourth-slowest team for isolated offensive pace as they’ve leaned more heavily on the post game offensively. They’ve long been known for punting the offensive glass in favor of transition defense, ranking bottom-10 for offensive rebound “chase percentage” each of the last two years the data was available, per Nylon Calculus. A combination of these factors and personnel has them first overall in the league defensively as they transition yet again into a new identity.

Others are in the same ballpark. The Cavs are sticking with what worked last year, again among the 10 slowest teams for offensive initiation. The Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and Miami HEAT are all in a similar boat and finding success. Each of these five team, with the exception of Memphis, currently sits in the league’s top 10 for per-possession net rating.

The ideology may be even more logical as a head-on strategy if and when these teams encounter the defending champs. There’s rampant speculation that San Antonio’s seeming reversion back to the post-heavy days of old is aimed directly at countering the Dubs come playoff time, and while Utah’s own development is largely personnel-driven (much of which is from a previous regime), many consider their template the only one with a real shot to dethrone the Warriors even if their skill level isn’t where it needs to be yet.

It makes sense, right? Buster Douglas didn’t become a poster boy for upsets in all sports by going toe-to-toe and trading haymakers with Mike Tyson; he did it by dragging things out and putting Iron Mike in a situation in which he wasn’t comfortable. The Warriors have the personnel to virtually guarantee they’ll be the best at their brand of run-and-gun basketball for years to come, so why should teams with other strengths be in a rush to play them at their game? Why not slow things down, up the variance within a given game and shorten the field as much as possible?

There’s only so far this can go, of course. The shooting revolution in the NBA is very real, and supported by some very simple arithmetic that other factors can only bend so far. Reality might simply be that while an opposing style can close the gap, a good shooting night from the Dubs has no counter that’s strong enough to overcome it consistently in the current league. Teams have to try, though, and pace of play could be the next frontier.

Ben Dowsett is a Deputy Editor and in-depth basketball analyst based in Salt Lake City. He covers the Jazz on a credentialed basis for Basketball Insiders, and has previously appeared in the Sports Illustrated and TrueHoop Networks. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.

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NBA Daily: The Stretch Run — The Lottery Version

Most of the next six weeks will be spent focusing on the race for the West’s No. 8 seed, but don’t lose track of the annual plummet to the bottom while attention is diverted elsewhere.

Douglas Farmer

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Despite every vague description of the 2020 draft class as weak, despite the NBA flattening the lottery odds a year ago, despite the competitive instincts genuinely within each roster throughout the league, tanking in the final months of the season is inevitable.

It will not be as pervasive as it may be leading into the already-hyped 2021 draft, and it certainly will not be as rampant as in The Process-headlined mid-2010s, but the idea of increasing lottery odds still holds logical merit. With the flattened odds, four subsets exist within the odds:

Nos. 9-14: Odds from 1 percent to 3 percent of landing the top pick.
Nos. 7-8: Odds of 6 percent.
Nos. 4-6: Odds from 9 percent to 12.5 percent.
Nos. 1-3: Odds of 14 percent.

In the run-up to May 19’s lottery, many will remind that both the New Orleans Pelicans and the Memphis Grizzlies lept from those 6-percent slots into the top-two spots in the draft a year ago — but the focus should still be at the absolute bottom of the standings, where the Golden State Warriors may already have locked up one of the 14-percent opportunities.

The Warriors’ 44 losses are five ahead of — or is it behind? — the Detroit Pistons’ 39, which would necessitate quite a winning boost to overcome, even with Stephen Curry returning sometime next month. The better question is, who will spiral to the other two 14-percent chances? Basketball Insiders may be devoting much of the week to the “Stretch Run” as it applies to the league’s leaders, but five other teams will be racing down to only two spots:

Cleveland Cavaliers: 14-40 currently, 2-8 in their last 10.
Atlanta Hawks: 16-41, 4-6 in their last 10.
Minnesota Timberwolves: 16-37, 1-9 in their last 10.
New York Knicks: 17-38, 5-5 in their last 10.
Detroit Pistons: 19-39, 2-8 in their last 10.

The trade deadline provided some clarity in these franchises’ grander plans, most specifically that the Pistons have little-to-no intent of competing in the near future. With Blake Griffin sidelined, Andre Drummond traded and Reggie Jackson bought out, Detroit’s starting lineup now features a pair of names that the more casual fan might struggle to spell — Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Sekou Doumbouya, for the record.

That three-game lead in the win column should not hold up for long. Consider their next six games: At Portland, at Denver, at Phoenix, at Sacramento, vs. Oklahoma City and vs. Utah. To be blunt, the Pistons will likely lose all six.

If anyone will match Detroit, it may be the Timberwolves, particularly with franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns out indefinitely with a wrist injury. Minnesota’s next six games may include plausibly-winnable games at Orlando and against the Dallas Mavericks, but the Timberwolves have already strung together losing streaks of 11 and 13 games this season. The trade deadline may have reinvented most of Minnesota’s roster, but Towns’ absence may spur another notable losing streak.

If any of these teams might separate itself with wins, it would be the Knicks. They started 4-18 under David Fizdale but have gone 13-20 since under interim head coach Mike Miller. That latter winning rate would have New York at 21 or 22 wins currently, if spread across the entire season to date. Continuing at that pace should distance the Knicks from the best lottery odds, albeit just to still plenty desirable chances.

If such a shift occurs in Cleveland under freshly-instated head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, then suddenly this lottery-driven stretch run may include only the Timberwolves and Pistons. The Hawks’ moves at the deadline — namely trading for Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon — suggest their time pursuing the most ping-pong balls has ended. Their results underscore the value of rising in the lottery no matter the draft; landing Trae Young may be best remembered, but the less-heralded drafting of De’Andre Hunter is increasingly paying off.

The 2020 version of notable tanking is more a selective stagger, one likely to apply to only a couple franchises — currently squabbling over a mere 1.5 percent in lottery odds. In any other avenue of life, that would hardly be enough to fret over, but when it may be the difference in landing Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman or LaMelo Ball, that 1.5 percent still means a great deal to these franchises.

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NBA Daily: The Stretch Run – Atlantic Division

Ben Nadeau praises the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, while also gently eulogizing another season gone wrong for both teams in New York.

Ben Nadeau

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The Stretch Run.

With 20-odd games remaining on the schedule, it’s officially make-or-break time for the majority of the league — unless your franchise rhymes with Los Shamjealous or Hillmockie, of course. With tantalizing lottery picks for those that bottom out or home-court postseason revenue for teams that push forward, the post-All-Star break jockeying is always fascinating.

As of Feb. 20, however, most of the Eastern Conference — and particularly so, the Atlantic Division — is cut and dried. From hyped-up expectations to the somewhat-disappointing, one of the conference’s perennially-strongest divisions is looking robust once again. Although all of them presumably lag behind the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Bucks, the bloodbath for the right to face Milwaukee appears to be better than ever.

But before even getting into the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets’ varying playoff hopes, a rapid-fire eulogy for the New York Knicks must first be had. Fans who once dreamt off trotting out Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson — but ask the Nets and New Orleans Pelicans how life without them went, to be fair — had to settle for trading away Marcus Morris at the trade deadline earlier this month.

At 17-38, there are only a handful of franchises worse off in the standings department — Minnesota, Atlanta, Cleveland and Golden State — and absurdity continues to reign in Manhattan. David Fizdale was unceremoniously ousted in December and was replaced by interim head coach Mike Miller, who was then (accidentally) dissed by Steve Stoute on an ESPN morning show. Even Steve Mills was out as president after tapping Leon Rose, another superagent turned front office executive.

On the roster side, Frank Ntilikina is playing less than ever, the aforementioned Morris led the team in points per game (19.6) and Bobby Portis already shot down any idea of a buyout. Kevin Knox, 20, has seen his minutes and averages nearly halved, while Mitchell Robinson has only played more than 25 minutes on 18 occasions. The Knicks desperately have searched for continuity and clarity only to come up empty-handed time and time again.

Thankfully, RJ Barrett looks like the real deal and, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, the Knicks have begun to look at the upcoming draft to nail down a scoring point guard as the next franchise cornerstone.

With some real, tangible turnover in New York — and some incredibly solid youngsters to boot — it’s far too early to anoint the franchise as revitalized, but they’ve taken some important first steps toward doing so.

And despite stealing away Durant and Irving during the offseason, their cross-river rivals in Brooklyn haven’t fared much better at all. Irving, when he’s played, has been sensational — unfortunately, he’s reached the floor in just 20 total games thus far and is now out indefinitely (again) after re-aggravating that troublesome right shoulder (again). The 27-year-old point guard missed the All-Star Game for the first time since 2015-16 and his season — plus whatever lingering postseason hopes the Nets had — are quickly setting. Durant, as planned, hasn’t logged a minute yet — and likely won’t — while Rodions Kurucs hasn’t matched last year’s breakout campaign and Joe Harris has seen a considerable drop from three-point range too.

At 25-28, Brooklyn owns the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, some 2.5 games ahead of the Orlando Magic. It’s hard to imagine the Nets falling out of the postseason entirely — the ninth-seeded Washington Wizards are just 20-33 — but there’s little chance they catch the Indiana Pacers at No. 6, especially following the return of Victor Oladipo. If Irving is shelved for much longer and Durant sits out the entire year, the Nets’ best-case scenario becomes stealing a postseason game from Milwaukee or Toronto before bowing out in the first round.

After arguably winning the offseason, it’s a tough pill to swallow in Brooklyn — but, at the very least, there are undeniable better days ahead.

And then that leaves three: Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia.

Today, at 34-21, the 76ers are the most disappointing of the bunch as they often struggle to play to both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid’s strengths at once. Simmons, 23, for all his other-worldly playmaking — and previous talk of a summertime-made jumper — has only attempted six three-pointers in 2019-20. The defense is as fearful as ever and rates at 106.1 — good for fourth-best, but sadly behind the Celtics, Raptors and Bucks — so counting the 76ers out of a deep playoff run would be downright shameful.

But in back-to-back-to-back contests before the All-Star break, the 76ers lost to the Celtics, Miami HEAT — the franchise occupying the No. 4 seed ahead of them — and Bucks. The deadline fits of both Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks need some time, but Philadelphia is one of the few legitimate contenders in the conference that actually tried to improve their roster this month — which speaks to the still-strong internal hopes of the franchise.

Just as the Nets are nearly locked into the No. 7 or 8 seed, the 76ers won’t drop any lower than sixth place either. And although both Boston and Toronto have gained an inch of separation in the conference hierarchy, Philadelphia now finds themselves in the midst of a three-team brawl for home-court advantage in the first round. With Philadelphia’s unbelievable ceiling of potential and inherent inconsistency, it’s too early to predict where exactly they’ve fall come playoff time — but, make no mistake, this is a roster no opposing team will be excited to face.

On the other hand, Boston is peaking at just the right time as head coach Brad Stevens continues to push all the right buttons. Jayson Tatum, fresh off his first-ever All-Star berth, is a force to be reckoned with (22.4 points, 6.9 rebounds) and Kemba Walker has found himself right at home in the Garden. Surely the Celtics would love to avoid the Bucks for as long as possible and to do so, they’ll need to skip Toronto over the season’s final few months — however, even without Kawhi Leonard, that’s easier said than done.

The Celtics boast top-five ratings on both sides of the ball and, in spite of everybody’s doomsday-worthy proclamations, the 1-2 punch of Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis under the rim have more than sufficed. It’ll begin to sound like a repetitive cliche — and just wait for Toronto to fill out this trifecta — but Boston is still Boston: Hard-nosed and even harder-working, they’re an absolute shoo-in for home-court advantage in the first round at the very least.

But the Raptors currently stand as the Atlantic Division crown jewel, ready as ever to defend their conference throne.

You know the details by now: Leonard is dealt to Toronto and he wins the city their first-ever championship ring before signing with Los Angeles last July. Without last weekend’s All-Star MVP in tow, the Raptors were expected to sharply fall down the standings — playoffs, maybe, but this? Certainly not.

This is domination. This is an elite defensive unit. This is a franchise that not only lived on after their superstar left — but then thrived off that departure. Sans Leonard, the Raptors are only 40-15, good for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Crazier, right now, the Raptors are on pace to win as many regular-season games as they did with Leonard.

If not for the single-digit loss Bucks, they’d probably be the NBA’s darling story of the season once again. Pascal Siakam, 25, has blossomed into superstardom — 23.5 points, 7.5 rebounds — and is a more-than-worthy mark to pin the franchise’s back-to-back hopes upon. But perhaps even more impressive is Toronto’s ability to shuffle through next-man-up cards with reckless abandon. In fact, post-All-Star break, Terence Davis, an undrafted rookie, is the only player to have featured in all 55 games.

Every major member outside of OG Anunoby has missed a chunk of the season, too: Fred VanVleet, 10; Pascal Siakam, 11; Serge Ibaka, 11; Kyle Lowry, 12; Norman Powell, 17; Marc Gasol, 20.

And yet, they relentlessly compete like bonafide champions.

Toronto is likely destined for a second-round showdown with either Boston and Philadelphia — that much seems ultimately clear. But in the conference’s suddenly-thickening race to the top, for the first time in a long time, it’s still anybody’s best guess as to who will come out on top. Simply put, if you want star power — bank on Simmons, Embiid and the 76ers. If you want pedigreed basketball on both sides of the floor — there’s Walker, Tatum and the Celtics.

But if you want to back a franchise that was left for relative dead mere months after hoisting a championship trophy — well, Siakam, Lowry and the Raptors may just be the heavyweight title contender the conference has been waiting for.

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NBA Daily: Collin Sexton’s First All-Star Weekend A Success

Spencer Davies looks back at Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton’s first-time experience at NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago.

Spencer Davies

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It was early Friday afternoon at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, the stage was set to kick off a laid-back weekend of celebration on NBA All-Star Weekend and commend the hard work of the brightest young talents, both national and international, the league had to offer.

The events of the 72-hour spectacle are meant to be enjoyed, connecting with others and soaking in the experience as a reward rather than being a full-on competition. Added to the U.S. Team roster as a replacement for injured Miami HEAT rookie Tyler Herro, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton did just that. Between a multitude of media appearances in the bright lights with cameras all around, the 21-year-old upstart took advantage of the opportunities to expose his personality to a national audience.

But amidst the fun, Sexton still went the extra mile as he always does. Phil Handy, a former Cavaliers assistant who worked famously with Kyrie Irving and the man that conducted Sexton’s pre-draft workout with Cleveland, was the head coach of the U.S. Team. So the one they call Young Bull decided to take full advantage with a post-practice workout when the floor cleared.

“[He’s worked with] great guards, yeah. He’s a great guy,” Sexton told Basketball Insiders. “He just told me to continue to get better, continue to work, continue to strive to be great. He talked to me a little bit about Kobe [Bryant] and his time with him, so I just got a good takeaway from him.”

Additional work at a practice to improve his game and prepare for an exhibition contest during a time that was meant for fun? It’s par for the course in his world. Just weeks prior following the Cavaliers’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road, a team source revealed to Basketball Insiders that Sexton went to Cleveland’s practice facility after landing in Northeast Ohio in the early morning hours to hone his craft.

“Dude’s motor doesn’t stop,” the source said.

“Oh naw, I work hard. When I feel like…if I’m on the court, I’mma do whatever I’ve gotta do. No days off, whatever,” Sexton told Basketball Insiders of his never-ending drive. “If it’s taking care of my body or just stretching or lifting, it’s not always about shooting and stuff like that. You’ve just gotta do the little things and that’s going to help you in the future.”

Though Sexton wasn’t used to the kind of attention he was receiving in the Windy City, he was determined to prove that he belongs. Usually taking a business-like approach to downplay things of this nature, he admitted how amazing it felt to achieve the milestone and be a part of the most popular three-day stretch the NBA has to offer.

“I feel like all my hard work, it paid off. So I’m glad to be here, especially with these group of guys, really good group. It’s an honor,” Sexton told Basketball Insiders that Friday morning.

Among star-studded sophomore names such as Luka Doncic and Trae Young, as well as human-highlight-reel rookies like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, a motivated Sexton made his mark on the floor.

In 20 minutes of action, he poured in 21 points, nabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists. He shot 9-for-14 from the field, including three triples on six tries. And he even had a reverse jam on a bounce pass to himself, though he joked that it was “kinda weak.”

“At first, I was just chillin’ out there, wasn’t playing too hard. Then, you know, I can turn it on pretty quick,” Sexton said.

“Honestly, I just go out there and just play my game. Honestly, no matter who I’m put in the room with, I’mma do what I do,” Sexton told Basketball Insiders. “It’s exciting just because of like all the attention they bring, but me, being myself . . . I’m a dog too, so I’mma go out there and show everybody that I can represent as well.”

Sexton was the 20th Cavalier in franchise history to represent the team in the Rising Stars game since its inception in 1994. With a grin on his face naming those wine-and-golders who came before him, he was thinking ahead about the teammates that could now follow his lead.

Basketball Insiders saw a side of Sexton that hasn’t been seen much in Cleveland. He started a long media tour Thursday with a Yahoo-sponsored pop-a-shot contest followed it up with an NBA TV sitdown interview alongside Dennis Scott. While the next day was entirely centered on Rising Stars, he continued Saturday with an appearance for Metro By T-Mobile during a media-player role reversal contest and finished off at a Mountain Dew barbershop sit down with the legendary Scottie Pippen and other notorious players from the league.

Through all of the losing, through all of the tumultuous nature of his one-and-a-half seasons with the Cavaliers — who are hiring their fourth coach since the 2018 NBA Draft — Sexton is not going to change his approach. He’s not going to change who he is. He’s not going to veer into a different path because of another shift in direction.

“It’s a great experience for me just to take my bumps and bruises, to go out there and pretty much just play hard each and every night, and that’s what I’mma do,” Sexton told Basketball Insiders. “It’s tough losing because no one wants to lose. I feel like we’re moving in the right directions and we’ll get better and start winning.”

Whether people want to believe it or not, what he’s doing is working just fine.

All-Star Weekend proved it.

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