Pistons’ Rookie of the Year contender Jaden Ivey excited to be ‘learning the game’ in Detroit

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Young Jaden Ivey is among the top 5 players racing for this year’s Rookie of the Year award, with Orlando’s Paolo Banchero and Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams leading the ladder. And especially when you are young, it’s common to be compared to other NBA greats while you are figuring yourself out on a professional basketball court. 

Sometimes these comparisons can be simply for amusement, or even revealing, as Banchero has been contrasted with Blake Griffin or Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin with current Bulls’ star DeMar DeRozan. In Ivey’s case, it’s hard not to set him side by side with veteran star Russell Westbrook.

And it’s not just because of the way he plays on the floor, but also his stats makes us reminisce on a young Westbrook. For example, in his rookie year back in 2008/09 season, he averaged 32.5 minutes, 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 3.3 turnovers, 1.3 steals, and 2.3 fouls.

As for Ivey’s current campaign stats average 30.4 minutes, 15.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 3.0 turnovers, 0.8 steals, and 3.2 fouls. See any resemblance in both players? Maybe Russell was a bit stronger when defending, but most of his other stats are almost identical.

Apparently, nothing about this is coincidental, as Detroit assistant coach Rex Kalamian, who worked for Oklahoma City during Westbrook’s second professional season in 2009/10 and beyond, actually took Ivey to work out with the Clippers star at the same gym in Los Angeles during the offseason.

“It’s great to be compared to a Hall of Famer,” Ivey said. “I have loved his game since I was a young kid. I’ve watched a lot of his film, to take stuff and add it to my game. I’m trying to be a great myself, so I’ve got to stay level-headed and keep working. But to be compared to Russell Westbrook is a blessing.”

Ivey only had great things to say about how Westbrook was generous when they practiced together, always sharing insights that the 21-year-old might encounter through the NBA. “I cherished it, being able to get some of his knowledge,” Ivey added.

The 34-year-old Clippers player earned an All-Rookie selection in his first year and ended up 4th in the Kia Rookie of the Year voting. It seems the Detroit youngster is following his steps, as he’s currently fifth in the rookie race and will most probably be chosen for the final selected squad.

Ivey assures he keeps learning new things about the sport daily

“This season has been everything,” Ivey admitted. “I’ve been learning the NBA day-by-day. It’s what I dreamed of doing — it’s a blessing and I love it. It’s tough losing a lot of games, but I get to compete on the highest level. Win or lose, I’m learning the game.”

One of his best performances of the campaign so far was just two weeks ago against the Wizards, as he dropped 26 points, won 5 rebounds and handed out 12 assists for Detroit.

Check out the highlights from that match as the Wizards beat the Pistons on March 7:

The player has been growing in confidence throughout the season, and now seems to have become a regular starter for the Pistons.

“Shoot, you’ve got to give something with me,” the 21-year-old said. “My speed is my greatest asset and I use that. I feel like I can beat anybody to the basket. I feel I’ve made strides as a passer and being able to see a second defender. Being able to make that right read, that’s what’s going to put my teammates in the position to succeed.”

Antonio is a life long sports enthusiast and professional journalist, who shares an obssesive urge to find and dig up the most interesting facts to guide gamblers towards more exciting, yet safe bets. In his own words, ''you can never really know enough about the things you love''.

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