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Wally Anderzunas Jersey Signed

OMAHA, Neb. — When the 2019-20 NBA season starts tonight, Creighton University will have five alumni in the NBA at the same time for the second straight year when Kyle Korver, Anthony Tolliver, Doug McDermott, Justin Patton and Khyri Thomas continue the school tradition of Bluejays playing at pro basketball’s highest level.

Korver signed with the Milwaukee Bucks in the off-season, while McDermott embarks on his second season with the Indiana Pacers. Tolliver returned to the Portland Trailblazers as a free-agent in the offseason after spending last year with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Justin Patton spent time with the Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers organizations a year ago and is now part of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Returning for his second year as part of the Detroit Pistons organization is Khyri Thomas.

Korver played at Creighton from 1999-2003 and was succeeded by Tolliver, who played for the Bluejays from 2003-07. In 2012-13 they were teammates with the Hawks, where they became CU’s first alums who were NBA teammates since 1970, as well as becoming the first Bluejay alums to start an NBA game as teammates.

Korver begins his 17th year in the NBA and first campaign with the Bucks. Known as one of the elite long-distance shooters ever, Korver ranks fourth in NBA history with 2,351 career three-pointers and is ninth in league history with his 42.92 percent marksmanship from three-point range. Korver and Stephen Curry are the only players in league history in the top-17 of both categories.

Korver’s 53.6 percent marksmanship from three-point range in 2009-10 remains an NBA record for a season, smashing a mark held by noted sniper Steve Kerr. In 2013-14, Korver smashed the NBA record (since broken by Stephen Curry) with a 127 game streak with a 3-point basket to obliterate the Hawks franchise mark of 42 and the previous NBA mark of 89 formerly held by Dana Barros. He also led the NBA by shooting 47.2 percent from long-range in 2013-14. In 2014-15 Korver was an NBA All-Star for the first time, was named NBA Co-Player of the Month in January, led the league with 49.2 percent three-point marksmanship, and finished third in the NBA with 221 three-point baskets. Korver became the only player in NBA history to lead the league in three-point percentage four times when he shot 45.1 percent from downtown in 2016-17.

For his NBA career, Korver has scored 11,567 points (second-most among Creighton basketball alumni, trailing only Paul Silas) in 1,174 games (9.9 ppg.). He has also made 87.76 percent of his career free throws, which ranks 17th in NBA history among players with at least 1,200 makes from the charity stripe.

Korver, who was inducted into the Creighton Athletics Hall of Fame in August of 2018, wears No. 26 with the Bucks.

Tolliver returns to Portland for the first time since 2009-10 after also spending time with the Cleveland, San Antonio, New Orleans, Golden State, Minnesota, Atlanta, Charlotte, Phoenix, Sacramento and Detroit organizations in his career. Creighton fans who remember Tolliver as an inside force may be surprised to learn of his perimeter game. More than 64 percent of his career shots have come from behind the NBA three-point arc, and he has made 37.6 percent of those shots from downtown. In 2017-18 he made a career-best 43.6 percent of his long-range tries for the Pistons to rank seventh in the league while connecting on a personal-best 159 treys overall. Tolliver has also converted 77.2 percent of his shots at the line and owns 606 career assists (against just 425 turnovers), 202 blocks and 250 steals.

Tolliver went undrafted and spent time in the NBA D-League and Germany before becoming an NBA regular. He wears No. 43 with the Trail Blazers.

McDermott played at Creighton from 2010-14 and left as the most decorated men’s basketball player in school history. He ranks sixth in NCAA history with 3,150 career points and swept 14 National Player of the Year awards as a senior. McDermott was a three-time conference player of the year and became the first male in 30 years to be named a First Team All-American three straight seasons by the Associated Press.

McDermott was selected 11th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets, then traded an hour later to the Chicago Bulls. McDermott averaged 7.3 points and 1.4 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per game during 77 games with the Pacers last season. He ranks 30th in NBA history with 40.4 percent marksmanship from three-point territory, and in 2018-19 led the NBA with 49.1 percent shooting from three-point range in road games (minimum 35 attempts). The son of Creighton head men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott, Doug McDermott wears No. 20 for the Pacers.

Both Tolliver and McDermott joined Korver in the Creighton Athletics Hall of Fame in August of 2019.

Patton signed as a free agent with Oklahoma City in August. He redshirted the 2015-16 season with Creighton before a breakthrough 2016-17 campaign that saw him earn BIG EAST Freshman of the Year accolades. Patton was the 16th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls in June, then traded that evening to the Minnesota Timberwolves with Jimmy Butler for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. Patton played in one game for the Timberwolves in 2017-18 and three games a year ago with Philadelphia. Patton wears No. 13 for the Thunder.

Khyri Thomas bypassed his senior year at Creighton to turn pro in 2018 and last year averaged 2.3 points in 26 games with the Pistons. A two-time BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year, Thomas was a Second Round pick in the 2018 Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, then traded to the Detroit Pistons. Thomas wears No. 13 for the Pistons.

Including 2019-20, Creighton has now had an NBA player in 36 of the last 37 years, and 53-of-56 seasons since 1964-65.

Before 2017-18, Creighton last had four NBA players at the same time during the 1969-70 season, when Paul Silas, Neil Johnson, Bob Portman and Wally Anderzunas were active simultaneously. Last year was the first time the Bluejays had five products in the NBA at the same time.

The five NBA players listed above are among 21 former Creighton products that are playing professionally, including this list generated by

JamesOn Curry Jersey Signed

HE’D REHEARSED THIS moment in his mind thousands of times.

Pop off the bench like you’re sitting on a spring. Tear off your warm-ups, toss them aside and trot to the scorer’s table.

Lean against it? Sit on the floor? Kneel?

Pull the strings on your shorts tight and tuck in your jersey. Adjust your headband and make sure your shoes are tied tight. Not that tight.

Listen for your name echoing through the speakers, hoping the announcer says it correctly.

Checking in for the Clippers, JamesOn Curry.

Savor the moment. Look around the arena, and in this one, see the numbers hanging from the rafters. Maybe dream about yours hanging somewhere someday. Take a deep breath, snap back to the present and call out your assignment. Take your spot on the floor, wait for the whistle to blow, and officially begin your NBA career. Three-point-nine seconds are left on the clock.

You made it. You fulfilled a promise to yourself and your family. You are playing in the NBA.

Three seconds.

Get in your defensive stance. The clock is running, your name is in a box score now.

Two seconds.

Stay with your man. Do your job.

One second.

Another second passes and the buzzer sounds. Run back toward the bench and get in the huddle. You don’t know it at the time, but you won’t step foot on an NBA court in a game again.

“We just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, ‘Well, there’ll be other days.’ I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”

– Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, “Field of Dreams”

INSIDE BOSTON’S TD GARDEN, the Los Angeles Clippers had just witnessed a one-point halftime lead transform into a five-point third-quarter deficit.

It is Jan. 25, 2010, and, headlined by Baron Davis, Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman, the Clippers are 20-23, four games out of the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed. DeAndre Jordan is in his second year. They’re one year away from Blake Griffin’s debut, two years away from Lob City.

The Celtics are 28-13 and the juggernaut of the Eastern Conference — led by Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett — that would go on to lose in seven games to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Rondo draws a foul with 3.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter when Clippers head coach Mike Dunleavy yells from his perch on the sideline.

Called up three days earlier on a 10-day contract, Curry checks in.

Wearing No. 44, he jogs onto the court. He’s guarding Rondo, who maneuvers toward the baseline under the basket. The Celtics inbound, Pierce swings the ball to Allen who takes a couple dribbles into the paint. Rondo drifts a few steps to his left to clear the way for Allen’s drive. Curry stays next to him. Allen loses the handle on the ball and can’t get his shot up before the buzzer sounds. Curry is still there, right next to his man.

“You know, if you think about it, I’m probably the highest paid player per second in NBA history.”
JamesOn Curry
“It was the quickest four seconds ever,” Curry said after the game. “I wish it would’ve lasted longer. Being out there, I just felt like a regular person, felt like a regular basketball player. I felt like I was home, like this is where I belong.”

To start the fourth, Jordan subs in for Curry, who sits on the bench for the rest of the 95-89 loss. The Clippers waive him 12 hours later.

He didn’t take a shot. He didn’t grab a rebound. He didn’t touch the ball. According to Basketball Reference, there have been nine players who have appeared in only one career game and played a minute or less. None played less than Curry’s 3.9 seconds.

NEARLY 10 YEARS later, Curry has nothing from the night he took the court for the Clippers. He doesn’t know what he did with the jersey or the shoes or the headband he used.

He looks the same now as he did as a player, a wiry 6-foot-3 guard with a charming grin and an electric demeanor. His name is one part for his great uncle James, and another for his father Leon.

Curry talks fast and bounces around topics at hyperspeed. He reads everything, and like a living college paper he cites each randomly dropped quote midflow. Something from T. Harv Eker’s “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind” here, or Napoleon Hill’s “Laws of Success in Sixteen Lessons” there. Curry’s mind hums non-stop.

His phone is full of notes, quotes, thoughts, poems, songs he has written only for himself. He has a list of goals for the year, two above the rest: get married and buy a house.

He’s 33 years old now and hasn’t played professional basketball in five years.

“You know, if you think about it,” Curry says now with a smile, “I’m probably the highest-paid player per second in NBA history.”

That kind of optimistic perspective wasn’t always there. There was once a feeling of shame and embarrassment about where he’d been and what he’d done. His dream had betrayed him, turning a chosen one to a cheap piece of trivia immortalized on YouTube.

He rose, he fell, he would be broke, he would be broken. But basketball would find a way to change JamesOn Curry’s life, just not in the way he ever thought it would.

A career spanning just 3.9 seconds was never the end of JamesOn Curry’s basketball journey. Andrew Hancock for ESPN
A BASKETBALL PRODIGY at Eastern Alamance High School in Mebane, North Carolina, Curry was the kind of talent that seemed chosen by a higher power, destined for greatness: a pure jumper, a tight handle and a feel for the game that’s gifted and never learned.

He was a five-star recruit putting up 40.3 points a game, committed to play at the University of North Carolina since his sophomore year.

A newspaper sent a photographer to chronicle his senior season. A UNC fan site traveled to all his games to relay glowing reports of what Tar Heels fans could expect from their super-recruit.

He stood toe-to-toe with other top players from the state, including Chris Paul, whom Curry outshone at the 2002 Hampton Five Star Camp (The “yo-yo dribble” CP3 does to perfection? Curry claims he taught him that at the camp, though Curry gives original credit to streetball legend and former NBA veteran Rafer Alston, who taught him.)

Curry was becoming a state scoring legend. With Lawrence “Cotton” Clayton in the house, the former state all-time scorer, Curry dropped 65 points against Western Alamance in January, then 54 against High Points Andrews five days later.

On the night of Feb. 3, 2004, in a packed gym against crosstown rival Graham, Curry erupted for 47 points, adding to his then-state-record total of 3,307 career points — more than Michael Jordan, David Thompson and James Worthy (Curry’s record was broken by Chicago Bulls rookie Coby White in 2016). The Eagles were undefeated in conference and were hosting Northwood in a couple days.

The next morning, Curry was in art class when he was called into the principal’s office. Sheriff’s deputies were waiting inside.

He thought they just wanted autographs. They placed him in handcuffs instead.

While he was lighting up the Red Devils, law enforcement officials were prepping a warrant for Curry’s arrest; he was one of 60 students from six different high schools in the Alamance-Burlington district arrested as part of a drug sting. Three of his teammates were also arrested.

“I was hustling, I ain’t going to lie.”
JamesOn Curry
Curry had been caught selling marijuana to an undercover police officer, who was posing as a student and had a hidden camera in the strap of a backpack — two deals in the fall, one in the bathroom after first period and another in the parking lot three weeks later. His total take was $95.

He was charged with six felony counts of possessing marijuana and selling it on school grounds. He pleaded guilty to all of them.

A judge suspended his sentence, placed him on probation for 36 months and ordered him to perform 200 hours of community service. He was kicked off the basketball team and expelled.

North Carolina rescinded its scholarship.

On May 5, 2004, three months after his arrest and 20 days before his graduation from an alternative school in the area, he committed to Oklahoma State, picking it over Memphis and Cincinnati. Curry made the most of his second chance.

His freshman year, in 2004-05, he sparked a run in Madison Square Garden in a win against No. 4 Syracuse. Dick Vitale called him a Diaper Dandy. The Cowboys won the Big 12 and reached the Sweet 16. The Tar Heels won the title.

JamesOn Curry vaulted onto the radar of NBA scouts as a junior at Oklahoma State. Ron Antonelli/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images
Everywhere he played, Curry heard the heckles and the chants — “James-On Crack!” was the most popular one. He started all 33 games as a sophomore, averaging 13.5 points and 4.0 assists. As a junior he averaged 17.3 points and 3.7 assists, making third team all-conference and drawing interest from NBA teams.

Against the advice of head coach Eddie Sutton, he declared for the draft.

The Chicago Bulls, who played a part in persuading Curry to leave school with a rumored promise they’d take him, selected him in 51st overall in the 2007 draft and immediately sent him to the D-League.

“I wasn’t worried about getting picked,” Curry says.

Another call-up, another demotion, another incident. At the D-League Showcase in January 2008 in Boise, Idaho, during his first season of professional basketball, he was caught by a police officer urinating in an alley outside of his hotel at 2:30 a.m. He ran and was arrested and cited for two misdemeanors. He was suspended one game.

A month later, he was called up again. On a road trip in February of his rookie season, Bulls coach Scott Skiles told the team the next practice was an open tryout. Curry was ready. He dominated the scrimmage with this passing and scoring. He thought he’d get his chance. Skiles pulled him aside after practice.

“You’ll be the best player in the D-League,” Curry remembers Skiles telling him.

Maybe it was supposed to be an insult, maybe it was a compliment, but Curry was crushed. The Bulls waived Curry after the season.

He blames some of it on the incident at the D-League Showcase and some of it on missing a team flight to New York because he got lost in Chicago driving to the airport. His past left him little margin for error. “This isn’t the only reason, but that’s a big reason I’m not in the NBA,” he says. “When I missed that flight, it really messed things up.”

After a brief time with pro teams in France and Cyprus, he returned to the D-League, playing for the Springfield Armor in Massachusetts. He was the Armor’s first call-up when the Clippers signed him in 2010.

After he was released, he played two more seasons for Springfield, making the D-League All-Star team in 2012. He was maybe the best player in that game, scoring 25 points for the East. He thought for sure another call-up was coming.

“We had three call-ups that season,” says then-Armor coach Bob MacKinnon, “and I thought JamesOn would be the next guy. It still bothers me to this day that he didn’t.”

JamesOn Curry became the Springfield Armor’s first D-League call-up — to the Clippers — in 2010. Chris Marion/NBAE/Getty Images
After another stint in Europe — Italy, this time — Curry came back to the Armor in 2013, and then was traded to the Bakersfield Jam in 2014. Before that season, he was arrested in Midwest City, Oklahoma, for marijuana possession. He pleaded guilty and the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.

He suffered a season-ending ankle injury in March 2014 and was waived for the final time in his pro career.

“The NBA’s funny. There are what, 450 jobs?” MacKinnon says. “And in my mind, if you take the top 200 to 250 players and the next 150 to 200, you can interchange those out with the next group of guys and the NBA wouldn’t change.

“JamesOn was on that next group of guys and, unfortunately, because he had a reputation, that’s what hurt him. If you’re going to overcome a bad rep, you’ve got to be really, really good.

“It’s easy to get a rep. It’s hard to get rid of one.”

IT IS OCTOBER 2014 and Curry is living in Edmond, a suburb 15 miles north of Oklahoma City. His girlfriend, Christy, is from there. They met as freshmen at Oklahoma State and have three children together.

Riding as a passenger in a silver Cadillac with its tail lights out, he is pulled over near the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma at 1 a.m. when an officer finds marijuana and a handgun. He tells the officer his name is James Davis.

He is charged with two felony counts: possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute within 2,000 feet of a school and false impersonation. He pleads not guilty.

With that case still open, in February 2015 he is arrested again for possession of another controlled dangerous substance — this time Alprazolam, better known as Xanax.

“I was hustling,” Curry says now. “I ain’t going to lie.”

After months of the cases bouncing around in court, he accepts a deal and pleads guilty to all charges. More felony convictions. Starting in April 2016, he serves 10 consecutive weekends in Oklahoma county jail, plus 40 hours of community service.

Curry doesn’t like to go into much detail about it — those were the “dark days,” as he calls them. He points to his left eye where there’s a scar across his upper cheekbone. He got it in a scuffle in Tulsa, where someone hit him and a wristwatch cut him.

“All that thug s—, yes. Hood s—, yes. But I’m not some bad guy,” Curry says. “Ain’t no stealing, no killing, none of that. Some selling, some hustling, that s— I did.”

With his life legally complicated, his relationship with Christy in flux and a belief of being targeted by police in Oklahoma, Curry moves back to North Carolina to try to reset his post-basketball life in the fall of 2016. He concedes now he was just running from his problems.

“It was a bad eight months,” he says.

Curry comes from a large, tight-knit family with siblings and aunts and uncles. Being back home, driving the country roads, smelling the tobacco-drenched air from the nearby fields, might give him something sturdy, he thinks.

Being back around his grandmother, Georgia Parker, whom he describes as his spiritual guiding light, could recenter his life. He’s still training and thinking maybe there’s one more comeback in him.

Two long scars running down JamesOn Curry’s spine serve as a reminder of the night that nearly took his life. Andrew Hancock for ESPN
It is April 2017. After a late-night workout, he’s driving down Highway 49 in his dad’s white Nissan pickup. It is around midnight and he is on his way to Johnny Brewer’s, the only store open outside of Pleasant Grove. He wants a cigar.

He drops his phone. He reaches down to grab it.

“Looked up. Wheel turned, it flipped,” Curry says now. “Of course, they thought I was drinking.”

The truck is on its side, propped up in a ditch by scraggly roadside bushes. Every window is smashed, the cab is turned inside out. He had dislocated his ribs, broken his back and had blood pouring from his head. He remembers a man walking up to his truck as Curry crawled out and stood up.

Wiping blood from his eyes and his breaths short and staggered, Curry had asked the man to drive him home.

“You look bad, bud,” Curry recalls the man saying. “But if you can make it to me, bud, I’ll take you home.”

The next thing he remembers is waking up in the emergency room. Two steel rods are implanted in his back, with two eight-inch scars running parallel on each side of his spine. He needs help going to the bathroom and can’t walk for a month.

Three months later, still rehabbing from surgery, the hope of a comeback gone, Curry moves back to Oklahoma to be with Christy and the kids.

“I was so depressed when I came back from North Carolina,” Curry says now. “That whole year.”

With felony convictions haunting him, Curry was lost — and wandering. “Burger King wouldn’t even hire me, man,” he says.

He signs on with a temp agency and works various jobs — at a Purina dog food factory in Edmond, which is next door to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first practice facility. He delivers packages for UPS as a driver’s assistant. After playing pickup at a church rec center he decides to apply for a job as a trainer. They run a background check. Denied.

He is a convicted felon, low on money and thin on options. Looking for somewhere cheaper to live, he moves from Edmond to Enid, some 80 miles farther north. He gets a job working 12-hour days, 60-hour weeks loading and driving trucks. He admits the only reason he got the job was because his supervisor is a big Oklahoma State fan.

After a couple months, his supervisor, Justin, asks if Curry could fill in as a weekend coach for his kid’s team at the YMCA. He knows the game, but doesn’t have any coaching experience.

“It was the hardest thing ever,” he says. “But I enjoyed it.”

Justin also asks if Curry could do extra one-on-one training with his kid. For 20 bucks, sure, Curry says. He works 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., then at 7:15 he’s at the Y, ready to train. He sheds the interim tag and takes over as coach of the youth team. And they are terrible.

“Walking in there and guys knowing me, ‘That’s JamesOn Curry!’ And then guys walking out saying, ‘Man, JamesOn Curry’s team sucked!’” he says with a laugh.

He conducts workouts for a couple more kids; an extra few bucks a week in the pocket. Parents start noticing how much better the kids doing private workouts are getting. With nothing but word of mouth and positive reviews for his coaching and teaching, Curry adds more workouts. He starts coaching an additional team.

Three months later, he quits his job driving trucks and working in oil fields.

He starts a new dream.

IT’S A 60-SECOND drive through Drummond, Oklahoma — a straight shot on Highway 132 — with no stoplights or even a stop sign to slow you down.

If you’re coming from the north, a big metal white cross in a cracked concrete parking lot of a Baptist church greets you. Windmills spin in the distance against a painted pastel blue sky, tinted a slight shade of orange because of the red dirt kicked up by tractors tilling the earth. Black oil derricks tower in yellowed, sun-baked fields. The flat landscape clears the way for classic Oklahoma gusts that feel like someone has a blow-dryer pointed in your face.

Directly across the street from the fire department sits Drummond High School, with a domed gym sitting behind the main building. It’s the practice gym, but it’s also the school’s safe room, built to withstand an F5 tornado.

“Would playing in the NBA bring peace of mind? No. Would I be rich as hell? Yeah. Maybe I could outshoot 80 percent of the guards in the NBA right this second. But would I personally be happy, every single day? This is where I want to be.”
JamesOn Curry, on working with kids in Drummond, Oklahoma
Inside, bouncing balls echo off gray cinder-block walls and joyous screams of children pierce the air. Curry blows a whistle and 60 or so kids drop their basketballs and hustle to form a semicircle around him.

It’s the first annual D.R.I.P. camp — Dedication, Respect, Integrity, Preparation. Curry’s spirit is boomeranging as he talks, his hands popping with energy. He throws himself down on the floor, pantomiming what happens if a teammate doesn’t call out a screen for you. Everyone laughs, including the parents who stayed to watch.

According to the 2017 American Community Survey, of the 432 residents of Drummond, 86.6 percent are white, with small percentages of Hispanic and Latino, and American Indian. There were zero African-Americans on the survey. And that’s pretty clearly reflected in the demographics of the camp.

“I’m a six- or seven-time felon, a black guy with tattoos all over my body,” Curry says, “And I’m also a respected mentor and trusted coach to a Trump supporter’s kid.”

He’s inside the dome in Drummond all day, every day. Principal Jarrod Johnson — who was a student at Oklahoma State the same years as Curry — gave him a key a few months ago.

“I talked to him and told him, ‘I know you’ve had some stuff happen, but the past is the past,’” Johnson says. “‘But if anything happens again, I can’t have you around.’

“But I believe people need second chances, too,” Johnson says. “When I got to sit in front of him, man-to-man, and talk, you just get this feeling where you say, ‘I know this guy is for real.’ This is what he wants and his priorities were right in line and that’s what matters.

“There was no hesitation. It seems like he’s a changed man.”

Johnson is a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Enid, and one Saturday a month he’s part of a group that cooks and serves meals to about 100 people in need. Curry volunteered himself and his basketball players to help.

“He has been nothing but awesome,” Johnson says.

On any given day, odds are you’ll find JamesOn Curry inside the Drummond dome. Andrew Hancock for ESPN
Curry says he has three players whose parents are in law enforcement. He knows they’ve surely looked up his record. He once feared the police, but he gets along great with the parents.

Coaching and training is his full-time job now. Nothing excites him like watching incremental development. He has a unique patience, praising the smallest of steps for struggling kids. He lays out two hula hoops on the left block of the lane.

“Two lines!” he yells, calling for a layup drill. “One foot for each. Right! Left!” He steps to the side. “Watch,” he says with a confident grin, “They’ll be able to do ‘em tomorrow.”

They come from Woodward, from Tonkawa, from Oklahoma City. Parents bring their kids from an hour or more away just for Curry to coach them.

“It’s because he cares, and the kids can tell,” says Jackie Wilkinson, grandmother of Ethan, a shy 12-year-old attending one of Curry’s camps.

“I tried to get [Ethan] into basketball, but he had so much anxiety that he didn’t want to,” Wilkinson says. “And then here, we got him into the Y and JamesOn was the coach.

“He’s come out of his shell. He doesn’t want to work with anybody but JamesOn.”

Jackie didn’t know anything about Curry before he started coaching. Ethan told his grandmother that he was an NBA player. She Googled him.

But like every other parent that knows Curry, what she found didn’t bother her.

“No,” she says. “Because people make mistakes.”

DRUMMOND FEELS LIKE home. Curry loves his jacked-up black Ford F-250 with broken air conditioning, the dashboard stained from driving dirt roads with the windows down.

“I want it to feel like I’m driving the tobacco fields,” he says. “I want it to feel like I’m back home in the country. We’re going to grow this out. We’re going to work.”

There was a time when every setback, every issue, every screw-up, every piece of baggage were things that weighed him down. “Every obstacle is an opportunity,” he says now.

The two rods in his back? They’ve actually just improved his shooting mechanics because his posture is straighter on his jumper.

There was a time not long ago when Curry took offense to his 3.9 NBA seconds — he has seen the YouTube videos — but now he sees it as part of his story and nothing to hold shame in. He was an NBA player. He made it. And he’s proud of that.

“He played. He played in an NBA game,” MacKinnon says. “How many people in the world can say that? He should take a lot of pride in that. And he overcame a lot to get there.”

JamesOn Curry sees himself having his own youth program one day. “This is something real. This has stability. I can do this for a long time,” he says. Andrew Hancock for ESPN
It took foundational events for Curry to find himself. He cites two things that started a transformation: (1) his near-death experience with his car accident that forced him to reconcile a life without basketball and (2) the death of his grandmother in 2018.

“I don’t want to talk about it much,” he says of his grandmother. “But that changed me. It made me refocus and see what’s important.”

His life changed in that principal’s office at Eastern Alamance, but Curry doesn’t think too much about what-ifs, either.

He and Christy got married a few weeks ago in North Carolina on a beach in front of his entire family. He thinks he could still probably play in the NBA. “The way the game’s changed now, man. I really could play. I know I can,” he says.

Parents at his camp watch him drain 30-footers and will text him that he needs to play for the Thunder. He doesn’t hold on to the past, but he does use it. He tells his players he played in the NBA — “It’s good for credibility,” he laughs.

If the phone rang tomorrow and there was an offer, a tryout, a chance, would he consider leaving Drummond behind?

“No-pe,” he says, turning it into a two-syllable word to make it sound more convincing. “I like this. I like building. I like planting these seeds. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s the truth. This is something real. This has stability. I can do this for a long time.

“Would playing in the NBA bring peace of mind? No. Would I be rich as hell? Yeah. Maybe I could outshoot 80 percent of the guards in the NBA right this second. But would I personally be happy, every single day? This is where I want to be.”

A career lived in the blink of an eye, a dream brushing past like a stranger in a crowd, a purpose found in an unlikely place.

“NEVER SEEN IT,” Curry says of “Field of Dreams.” “But I know about Moonlight Graham.”

Graham is from Fayetteville, North Carolina, some 80 miles south of Pleasant Grove. He was a real person — not a Hollywood creation — whose entire career spanned a single inning for the New York Giants in 1905 and he never got to bat. He became a physician and practiced medicine in Chisholm, Minnesota, for 50 years, mainly as a school doctor.

“It’s pretty cool, I think,” Curry says. “Both working with kids, planting seeds, seeing something bigger in this world.”

One played an inning, the other 3.9 seconds. Both found a calling away from the game, trading one dream for another.

Someday, Curry sees himself owning a gym and having his own youth program. He wants players to come from all over the state to his gym and train with him.

Day 2 of his camp is over and he stands in the dome, cleaning up loose gum wrappers. A scream from midcourt turns his attention sharply back to the floor. His 6-year-old daughter Parker is trying to launch half-court shots while his 13-year-old son Braylen and 11-year old daughter Peyton cackle with laughter.

“I could be chasing a ball somewhere still,” Curry says, “but I’d be missing out on this.”

Max Morris Jersey Signed

For the first time in years, the window to win an NBA championship is wide open.

Across the board, the league is as competitive as ever, and few teams head into the 2018-19 season with little to no playoff hope. With so many superstars (Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Kemba Walker) switching teams this summer, the balance of power is far more spread out.

One thing that’s stayed the same? The dominance of the Western Conference, which could have seven of the top 10 teams in the league, led by the new-look Los Angeles Clippers.

With the 2019-20 season nearing its start, here’s how every team stacks up.

Battle for the No. 1 Pick
1 OF 6

Chuck Burton/Associated Press
30. Charlotte Hornets

Biggest Adds: Terry Rozier, PJ Washington

Worst Losses: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb

With Walker and Lamb leaving in free agency, the leading returning scorer for Charlotte is a tie between Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller at a whopping 10.1 points per game.

Rozier should get all the shots he can handle, but his true shooting percentage last season (50.1 percent) ranked 87th out of 96 qualified guards. Charlotte doesn’t have any other go-to options, meaning the Hornets offense should be the league’s worst.

The growth and development of Miles Bridges, PJ Washington and Malik Monk will be the lone bright spots on a team that should have traded Walker when it had the chance.

29. Cleveland Cavaliers

Biggest Adds: Darius Garland, Dylan Windler, Kevin Porter Jr.

Worst Losses: Channing Frye, David Nwaba

The health of Kevin Love will ultimately determine how far the Cavaliers fall this season, and the team needs to be among the bottom 10 to keep its 2020 first-round pick stemming from a 2017 Kyle Korver trade.

Consider the pick safe.

Three first-round selections (Darius Garland, Dylan Windler, Kevin Porter Jr.) join 2018-19 All-Rookie second-teamer Collin Sexton, who averaged 16.7 points while shooting 40.2 percent from three.

The locker room will miss the retired Frye, and losing their best perimeter defender in Nwaba could mean an even worse defense than their record-setting performance (117.6 defensive rating) from last season. Cleveland has some nice young talent and lots of expiring contracts but still won’t be able to stop anybody this year.

28. Washington Wizards

Biggest Adds: Rui Hachimura, Isaiah Thomas, Davis Bertans

Worst Losses: Trevor Ariza, Tomas Satoransky, Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis

The Wizards only won 32 games last season and lost a ton of talent in free agency. Combine that with John Wall’s Achilles injury and Washington should be a serious contender for the No. 1 overall pick.

Bradley Beal will be in trade talks all year as the Wizards sink to the bottom of the East, and trading him with two years left on his contract would probably be the best play for all involved. Beal could challenge for the league scoring title as long as Thomas, when healthy, doesn’t attempt to hijack the offense. Thomas is among the NBA’s worst defenders and made just 36.7 percent of his shots over the past two years.

Bertans was third in three-point shooting among all forwards last season (42.9 percent), Hachimura could be a sneaky Rookie of the Year pick, and Thomas Bryant should outplay his new three-year, $25 million deal. There are some positives on this bad Wizards team, but not enough to keep them out of the basement.

27. Memphis Grizzlies

Biggest Adds: Ja Morant, Andre Iguodala, Tyus Jones, Jae Crowder, Brandon Clarke

Worst Losses: Mike Conley Jr., Avery Bradley

The last time a Grizzlies team didn’t feature Conley or Marc Gasol, Allen Iverson led the NBA in minutes per game, Brandon Roy won Rookie of the Year, and the “We Believe” Golden State Warriors shocked MVP Dirk Nowitzki’s 67-win Dallas Mavericks.

Yeah, it’s been a while.

The good news? Memphis already has a pair of future stars and franchise building blocks in Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. Others like Brandon Clarke, Grayson Allen and De’Anthony Melton could turn into solid role players, as well.

Center Jonas Valanciunas was uber-productive following a midseason trade to Memphis (19.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks in 27.7 minutes per game), and the team should get some decent draft picks and young talent back for Iguodala and Crowder from wing-hungry playoff teams closer to the deadline.

Morant should be among the Rookie of the Year finalists with the offense flowing through him from Day 1.

26. New York Knicks

Biggest Adds: RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis, Marcus Morris

Worst Losses: DeAndre Jordan, max cap space

New York could win 10 more games than last season thanks to a rise in overall talent, even if no superstars came flocking to Madison Square Garden this summer.

Barrett carries star potential, while Dennis Smith Jr. (21) and Randle (24) are still young enough to become standouts, as well. The rest of the veteran signings should at least help keep things competitive, and nearly all have small enough guarantees to be bought out and transformed into cap space again next summer.

New York’s goal should be trying to establish a more attractive culture for future free agents while developing Barrett, Smith, Randle, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Frank Ntilikina.

In the Lottery
2 OF 6

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
25. Phoenix Suns

Biggest Adds: Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, Cameron Johnson, Ty Jerome

Worst Losses: TJ Warren, Josh Jackson

The Suns probably messed up by trading back in the draft and passing on Jarrett Culver and Coby White, even if Johnson will give them a much-needed floor-spacer between Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

Rubio was a huge signing for Phoenix as a veteran who cares about ball distribution and defense. The Suns were just 19th in assists per game last season (23.9) and next to last in defense (115.1 defensive rating).

Kelly Oubre Jr. (16.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals) is still 23 and could be Phoenix’s answer at small forward, while Ty Jerome and Mikal Bridges should be key rotation pieces.

The roster still isn’t playoff-worthy, but at least it’ll be fun to watch.

24. Chicago Bulls

Biggest Adds: Coby White, Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky

Worst Losses: Robin Lopez

The Bulls have assembled a nice, young roster that should be in the running for the playoffs. But unless they can develop a star or trade for one, they’ll once again be on the outside looking in.

Only the 17-win Knicks had a worse offense than Chicago last season (104.8 offensive rating), and starting point guard Kris Dunn has unimpressed to this point. White and Satoransky should help jumpstart the scoring attack, which is led by Zach LaVine (23.7 points), Lauri Markkanen (18.7 points) and Otto Porter Jr. (17.5).

Injuries hit this roster hard last season, so even a clean bill of health could add five to 10 wins. Chicago will need a strong sophomore season from center Wendell Carter Jr., who could be the next Al Horford with his defense and impressive overall game.

23. Atlanta Hawks

Biggest Adds: De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe, Jabari Parker

Worst Losses: Dewayne Dedmon, Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore

Looking for a surprise team to surge into the Eastern Conference playoffs? This is it.

Following a miserable 6-23 start to the 2018-19 season, the Hawks finished a respectable 23-30 behind Trae Young’s 19.1-point, 8.1-assist rookie campaign. Power forward John Collins averaged 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds after the All-Star break, while 6″7″ shooting guard Kevin Huerter drilled 39.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes.

Mix in a pair of lottery picks, a versatile forward in Turner and some scoring off the bench with Parker, and this could be a sneaky seventh or eighth seed in the East.

22. Dallas Mavericks

Biggest Adds: Seth Curry, Delon Wright, Boban Marjanovic

Worst Losses: Dirk Nowitzki

Like the Knicks, the Mavericks entered free agency with lots of cap space and big free-agent targets who ultimately went elsewhere. Unlike the Knicks, the Mavericks have Kristaps Porzingis to fall back on.

Signing Porzingis to a five-year, $158 million contract means he and Luka Doncic will both be under team control for at least the next four years, giving them perhaps the most talented young duo in the entire league.

The rest of the supporting cast (Tim Hardaway Jr., Curry, Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson) isn’t good enough to make this a playoff team in the loaded West, no matter how dominant Doncic and Porzingis will be.

Even though he had little left to offer on the court, Nowitzki soaked up a lot of the media attention last season and was beloved in the locker room. Not having him in a Mavericks uniform for the first time since Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were breaking the single-season home run record in 1998 will just be weird.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder

Biggest Adds: Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Worst Losses: Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Jerami Grant

After punting on their George-Westbrook combo, the Thunder stockpiled eight first-round picks and a new face of the franchise with Gilgeous-Alexander.

Having Paul on board, at least to start the season, is a bit awkward since neither party likely wants to be together. Unless Oklahoma City wants to give up a draft pick or two to dump his remaining three years and $124.1 million, Paul will guide this Thunder team to be a competitive lottery squad in the West.

Steven Adams (13.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.0 blocks) remains a fan favorite, and Gallinari carries value both with his production (19.8 points, 6.1 rebounds 43.3 three-point percentage) and expiring $22.6 million contract.

At some point, OKC can cash in all its gift cards and build a contender once again. But for now, it’ll finish with a losing record for the first time since becoming the Thunder in 2008-09.

Playoff Hopefuls
3 OF 6

David Sherman/Getty Images
20. Minnesota Timberwolves

Biggest Adds: Jarrett Culver, Jordan Bell

Worst Losses: Dario Saric, Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, Tyus Jones

Minnesota sported a playoff-worthy 111.4 offensive rating last season, but a 24th-ranked defense ultimately doomed it.

Point guard will be thin with the loss of both Rose and Jones, and Shabazz Napier will now fill in behind 31-year-old Jeff Teague. Karl-Anthony Towns (24.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.6 blocks) is good enough to keep Minnesota competitive most nights, but the ceiling of the team will once again be decided by Andrew Wiggins.

After he shot just 42.5 percent over the past two years, the Wolves need a motivated and efficient Wiggins to even sniff the playoffs.

Culver will be a good defender in time, and Robert Covington remains one of the NBA’s most underrated players on both sides of the ball. Another 35-40-win season should be expected.

19. Detroit Pistons

Biggest Adds: Derrick Rose, Tony Snell, Sekou Doumbouya, Joe Johnson

Worst Losses: Wayne Ellington, Ish Smith

Detroit had the worst record (41-41) and net rating (minus-0.2) of any playoff team last season, and it should once again struggle to reach the postseason.

Rose, when healthy, is an upgrade as the team’s starting point guard over Reggie Jackson, and a previously weak group of wings is improved with Snell, Doumbouya and Johnson, fresh off his impressive showing in the BIG3.

The Pistons need a healthy Blake Griffin to have a chance, and his 75 games played last season were the most he’s logged in five years. Andre Drummond can become a free agent next summer by declining a $28.8 million player option and should only build on his 17.3-point and league-leading 15.6-rebound 2018-19 campaign.

With the Miami Heat improving, look for Detroit, Atlanta and the Orlando Magic to battle it out for the final playoff spot in the East.

18. Orlando Magic

Biggest Adds: Al-Farouq Aminu

Worst Losses: None

The Magic decided to run back a 42-40 playoff team, handing out $154 million to retain All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and small forward Terrence Ross over the next four years. The Aminu signing didn’t make a whole lot of sense given how loaded Orlando already was at power forward.

For Orlando to make any real jump in the standings, it’ll need Markelle Fultz to have some sort of impact. If the 21-year-old point guard can give Orlando’s lackluster backcourt a jolt, home-court advantage in the East if up for grabs.

In the end, the Magic may have to shake up this roster to maximize their talent. Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Vucevic, Mo Bamba and Aminu are all worthy of starting frontcourt jobs, and Gordon’s growth has already been stunted by playing on the wing instead of at his natural power forward position.

Unless Fultz can prove he’s healthy or some sort of major trade takes place, Orlando won’t be much better than its 42 wins last season.

17. Sacramento Kings

Biggest Adds: Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon, Cory Joseph

Worst Losses: Willie Cauley-Stein, Alec Burks

The first team out of the West playoffs a season ago, Sacramento did the right thing by signing veterans to complement its young core.

Unfortunately, even that might not be enough in this West. Though the Thunder might fall out of the playoff picture, the Los Angeles Lakers look ready to take their place. The New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves could challenge, as well.

To reach the postseason, Sacramento needs star-level play from point guard De’Aaron Fox (17.3 points, 7.3 assists, 1.6 steals), power forward Marvin Bagley III (14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.0 blocks) and shooting guard Buddy Hield (20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 42.7 three-point percentage). Harrison Barnes, Bogdan Bogdanovic and the new free-agent signings will have to play big roles, as well.

The Kings will be good, but too many teams in the Western Conference will be better.

16. New Orleans Pelicans

Biggest Adds: Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick, Jaxson Hayes, Derrick Favors, Josh Hart, Nicolo Melli, Nickeil Alexander-Walker

Worst Losses: Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton

Go ahead and plug in the Pelicans as your must-watch team on League Pass this season.

Between Williamson likely winning Rookie of the Year, Ingram turning into a 20-points-per-game scorer and Jrue Holiday and Ball putting the clamps on opposing backcourts, the Pelicans will be as exciting as any team in the NBA.

Favors should finally thrive in a starting center role, and Hayes is coming off an impressive summer league in which he looked like a future All-Star. Add in a haul of draft picks from the Los Angeles Lakers and this is a team that could still be star-hunting (cough, Bradley Beal, cough) this season.
Max Morris Jersey Signed

While the playoffs are a possibility, this is all about long-term success for executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin and Co. And that’s something they should enjoy plenty of.

John Havlicek Jersey Signed

Carmelo Anthony didn’t take long to start working his way up the all-time leader boards when he returned to the NBA for the Portland Trail Blazers last week. Already having 25 thousand points under when he joined this team, in the game against the Bulls he passed Alex English for 18th all-time in total points.
Everyone knows Carmelo Anthony is an all-time great scorer. In his 17th season in the league he’s now at the point where records are coming easily to him. After moving into 18th place on the all-time scoring list, how far away is he from moving up further in his time on the Portland Trail Blazers?

Melo passed Alex English in the Blazers last game against the Bulls, he now has 25,615 points. For all your stat nerds out there you’ll be happy to know there is a logjam around the position Melo is in now, all the way to where Hakeem Olujawon sits in 11th spot. Below are the players standing in Melo’s way if he stays in the NBA this season.

17. Kevin Garnett – 26,071
Nicknamed ” The big ticket ” Kevin Garnett had a storied 20 year career in the NBA and finished with massive career totals in many categories. It’s conceivable to think that Melo will average 16 points a game and play 60 out of the 64 games remaining in the season. This will give him about another 1000 points on his career total. Enough to pass one of Minnesota’s finest in only a few months.

16. John Havlicek – 26,395
NBA legend, the late John Havlicek was an integral part of the Boston Celtics title-winning teams in the 1960s and 70s, winning an amazing eight championships. Melo is in reach of 16th spot if he can stay fit and continue to score efficiently.

15. Paul Pierce – 26,397
Another Celtics legend sits next on the all-time scoring list. Paul Pierce terrorized defenses for 20 years in the NBA as a member of most notably, the Boston Celtics. A long-time competitor of Melo in the 2000s, Melo can eclipse his point total this season also.

14. Tim Duncan – 26,496
Another long-time competitor of Melo’s in the 2000s as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan is one of the greatest players to ever grace an NBA court. Melo will need to be on his game to the tune of at least 16 points a night to pass Duncan this season.

13. Dominique Wilkins – 26,668
Another all-time great is next on this list. High flying Dominique Wilkins wowed crowds with his dunking ability in the 1990s. Wilkins point total is right at the limit of what Melo can do. Unless Melo he break out and average 20 points plus a game he is unlikely to move any further than 14th or 13th.

Dont get it twisted, being top 20 all-time in scoring is an amazing achievement. But Melo has stated he isn’t finished yet. He wants to play next year, and even finish his career with a title if he can play for the right team.

Melo could conceivably finish in the top ten all-time in scoring, if he doesn’t then he will still go down as a first ballot hall of famer. For now he is on the Blazers and we are loving it!

Chris Robinson Jersey Signed

The Dribble podcast: Boomers coaching switch too harsh on Andrej Lemanis, says Greg Hire
Staff writers
November 21, 2019 3:26PM
Perth Wildcats
Plenty of basketball fans were rejoicing this week at reports NBA mentor Brett Brown will return as Australia’s national team coach.

But was the move too harsh on incumbent Andrej Lemanis?

Former Perth Wildcats favourite Greg Hire thinks so, discussing the switch less than a year out from the Olympics on The Dribble podcast.


Hire queried where the move would fit in with the Boomers’ playing group’s brotherhood and values, citing the example of a current NBL player who had disrespected the national team culture and never been recalled to the squad again.

MORE BASKETBALL: Simmons hits first career three-pointer

IN THE BONUS: Sunday, bloody good Sunday

Hire and Chris Robinson also discuss where each NBL team fits in the league’s set of tiers, why the Wildcats aren’t keen on recruiting a Next Star, the mess in New Zealand, and plenty more.

Full episode rundown:

The time a chef yelled at Greg at a Stitch In Time gala dinner (1:14)
Jesse Wagstaff and Damian Martin aren’t done with yet (7:35)
Why aren’t teams playing to the end for percentage? (16:15)
Ranking the NBL’s tiers of teams (22:41)
What’s going on in New Zealand? (32:12)
Greg’s thoughts on the imminent Lemanis / Brown coach swap at the Boomers (39:06)
How can we use replay better in the NBL? (45:34)
Why the Wildcats are steering clear of Next Stars (48:53)

Greg Lee Jersey Signed

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Consensus Men’s Greg Lee Basketball National Player of the Year Zion Williamson has been selected as the 2018-19 Male Athlete of the Year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, as voted upon by a select media panel (82 voters).

Williamson, who earned the 66th Anthony J. McKevlin Award as the conference’s premier male athlete, is the 16th Duke player to earn the award – the most in league history. Williamson led Duke to the 2019 ACC Men’s Basketball Championship, an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and a 32-6 overall record.

“The McKevlin Award is the premier athletic honor in the ACC, and there was no one more deserving this season than Zion,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “It is an honor for our program, and our institution, to receive the award. Zion represented himself, his family, and our program with class, while having such a tremendous season. I couldn’t be more proud of him, and I know the best is yet to come.”

Williamson finished among the ACC’s top five in seven major statistical categories, including co-leading the ACC in points (22.6 – 15th in NCAA), leading the conference in field goal percentage (.680 – 2nd in NCAA) and offensive rebounds (3.5 – 9th in NCAA). The Spartanburg, South Carolina, native was second in the ACC in steals (2.12), third in rebounds (8.9), third in double-doubles (14) and fifth in blocked shots (1.8).

In addition to earning consensus first-team All-America honors, he was named ACC Player of the Year and ACC Tournament MVP, becoming the first freshman in league history to achieve both in the same season.

The No. 1 overall pick by the New Orleans Pelicans in last month’s 2019 NBA Draft, Williamson was named on 36 ballots to prevail in a tight race over Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who received 28.

Williamson’s award is the 10th claimed by the Duke men’s basketball program — tying North Carolina men’s basketball for the most by one team, and first since J.J. Redick in 2006.

Field Hockey National Player of the Year Ashley Hoffman of North Carolina won the Mary Garber Award as the ACC’s top female athlete in 2019-20.

The ACC Athlete of the Year Awards are given in memory of distinguished journalists. McKevlin was a sports editor of the Raleigh (North Carolina) News and Observer, while Garber, of the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, was a pioneer as one of the first female sports journalists in the nation.

Thomas Bryant Jersey Signed

WASHINGTON — Last season, the trade of Marcin Gortat and Dwight Howard’s injury left a consequential void in the Wizards’ offense that no one else on their roster was able to fill.

After Gortat had for years used his wide frame to set some of the most effective screens in the NBA, Wizards guards and wings had to work harder to get their shots. Washington ranked 24th out of 30 NBA teams in screen assists and 25th in points off screens.


With Gortat and Howard out of the picture, Thomas Bryant assumed the starting job at center and became a mainstay in the rotation, but screen-setting was not his strength. He ranked 41st in the NBA in screen assists, tying Ian Mahinmi with only 2.6 per game.

Then at 21 years old, Bryant was learning on the fly what screen setting in the NBA – against the biggest, quickest and strongest basketball players in the world – was truly like. And when his first season in Washington was over, he recognized that part of his game needed some work.

So, he put emphasis on getting stronger and studying the tricks of the trade. So far this year, it has been a much different story. He is currently third in the NBA in screen assists per game, averaging over twice as many as he did last year. His 5.8 screen-assist average is right about where Rudy Gobert was (5.9) when he led the league last season.

On Sunday against the Magic, Bryant recorded 12 screen assists that led to 28 points for the Wizards offense.

“It feels pretty good to have that because we need it,” Bryant told NBC Sports Washington when informed of those numbers.

“I think that’s very good going forward with this team because I know we have so many guys capable of getting shots and getting to the rim. Me freeing them up is going to open things up for me if it doesn’t open things up for the person I’m setting the screen for or for the weak-side getting open shots.”

Bryant gives the Wizards something Gortat never did when it comes to setting screens in that he can not only roll to the basket, he also can pop out to shoot threes. And when he does roll to the rim, Bryant has the size, quickness and touch to cash in for points at a high level. He was fourth in the NBA in field goal percentage last season (61.6) and set a franchise record.

This year, Bryant is shooting 69.5 percent on shots within five feet of the rim. He is 13-for-16 on layups or dunks cutting to the basket.

Setting screens can help Bryant get points, but ultimately it’s about assisting his teammates first and doing the dirty work necessary to help an offense work efficiently. The Wizards are third in offensive rating (112.4) and Bryant’s contributions have been a big reason for that.

“Screen-setting has been a huge part of our offense. We set them all over the floor,” head coach Scott Brooks said.

“We don’t want to stay in one place or one angle, we want to help them find better reads. There’s a way to get guys open, there’s a trick. Depending on who has the ball or who has the guy coming off the screen, you can manipulate the defense to get us the shot we want.”

Setting picks is not the stuff that makes highlight reels or wins players MVP trophies. It isn’t glamorous work, both because it often goes unnoticed and because it isn’t pleasant to do. Bryant has to commit to building a wall that very large opponents will unknowingly run into.

That means elbows, shoulders and chests colliding in all sorts of combinations.

“When you’re setting a screen, you have to go in knowing that you’re going to get hit and that it’s going to hurt sometimes,” Bryant said.

“If you’re trying to get [your teammate] open and get your play off, you’ve gotta expect that you will get hit. When you have that expectation of you getting hit, that makes setting the screen easier because you know that you’ll have that impact and you know you’ll have to set the screen hard or hold it for a second.”

Bryant is picking up all the little things that go into screen setting; how to brace for impact, the timing of holding a screen and when to break away, what he can get away with from referees and how to roll out of them to create his own offense. He says the only way to learn all of those elements is through experience in NBA games.

If his current pace continues, Bryant could establish himself as one of the league’s best screen-setters, much like Gortat was for years before him. There is a long legacy of setting picks in Washington going back to Wes Unseld, who was perhaps most famous for the craft.

Unseld was the size of a refrigerator and, as the story goes, once knocked an opponent out cold with a screen. Bryant has heard of Unseld and his screen-setting prowess but doesn’t want to take it that far.

“I try not to do that. I set good screens, but I don’t ever want to hurt anybody,” he said.

Noah Vonleh Jersey Signed

According to our projection, you can expect Kyle O`Quinn to be a bench player or a good option off the waiver wire. His 564 projected fantasy points puts him at #116 behind Doug McDermott and ahead of Noah Vonleh. He has averaged 8.9 fantasy points in his past 57 games. Our projected per game average is virtually the same. He is projected to average 8.8 fantasy points. His rank based on avg proj (#115) is better than his rank based on total fantasy points. Kyle O`Quinn is expected to come up slightly short of this season-to-date’s #114 fantasy position rank.

#114 Maurice Harkless (5% OWN) 574 FP, 9 per game 954 FP, 60 gp, 15.9 per game (#76)
#115 Doug McDermott (2% OWN) 568 FP, 8.6 per game 791 FP, 77 gp, 10.27 per game (#108)
#116 Kyle O`Quinn 563 FP, 8.8 per game 389 FP, 44 gp, 8.84 per game (#113)
#117 Noah Vonleh (2% OWN) 561 FP, 8.6 per game 1364 FP, 68 gp, 20.06 per game (#55)
#118 Mike Scott (1% OWN) 557 FP, 8.6 per game 863 FP, 79 gp, 10.92 per game (#106)
These projections power SportsLine’s Computer Picks and Fantasy Data. But for contest winning DFS optimal lineups by top experts like Mike McClure visit SportsLine’s new Daily Fantasy Hub.

Kyle O`Quinn is projected for 16.7 fantasy points in 2 games the rest of week which projects to being the #118 ranked forward. This is projected to be a better than average week with more fantasy points per game than he is projected to average per game the rest of the season. He is ranked above Patrick Patterson but behind Harry Giles the rest of the week. Week 7 will be better based on projected rank (#96). He is projected for 33.8 fantasy points.

#116 Noah Vonleh (2% OWN) 17.7 FP, 2 GP 8.6 FP
#117 Harry Giles (4% OWN) 17.2 FP, 2 GP 7.2 FP
#118 Kyle O`Quinn (0% OWN) 16.7 FP, 2 GP 8.8 FP
#119 Patrick Patterson (1% OWN) 16.7 FP, 3 GP 5.4 FP
#120 DeMarre Carroll (2% OWN) 16.7 FP, 3 GP 5.6 FP
#94 Jarrett Culver (31% OWN) 34.6 FP, 3 GP 13.9 FP
#95 Rudy Gay (51% OWN) 34.5 FP, 2 GP 17.1 FP
#96 Kyle O`Quinn (0% OWN) 33.8 FP, 4 GP 8.8 FP
#97 Marquese Chriss (11% OWN) 33.7 FP, 3 GP 10.8 FP
#98 Kenrich Williams (20% OWN) 32.9 FP, 3 GP 10.6 FP
The tables below show projected stats (totals and averages) for the rest of the season and upcoming weeks. Also included are actual stats from the current and last season.

Rest of ’19-20 563 214 204 73 9.1 47.1
– Per Game (64 Proj) 8.8 3.4 3.2 1.15 0.14 0.74
11/25 to 12/1 (2 Games) 16.7 6.2 6.1 2.2 0.20 1.46
12/2 to 12/8 (4 Games) 33.8 12.6 12.0 4.6 0.40 2.8
’19-20 Season 117 43 43 17 5 9
– Per Game (13 GP) 9.0 3.3 3.3 1.31 0.38 0.69
’18-20 Seasons 389 156 118 56 1 34
– Per Game (44 GP) 8.8 3.5 2.7 1.27 0.02 0.77

Dick Surhoff Jersey Signed

In 1998, two decades before rookie Colin Moran drew a curtain call with his first swing at PNC Park, his uncle B.J. Surhoff sat across the table from then-Pirates general manager Cam Bonifay at a Mount Washington restaurant. Bonifay pointed to the North Shore, to the empty space where workers would soon break ground on Pittsburgh’s new ballpark, and presented Surhoff with an offer: a four-year, $15 million free-agent deal to be the Pirates’ next third baseman.

“Pittsburgh made a very legitimate, very serious, very interesting run at me,” Surhoff said Monday by phone from Cockeysville, Md., shortly before watching Moran detonate a full-count fastball for his first career grand slam in the Pirates’ 5-4 win against the Minnesota Twins.

THIS is why @morancolin92 is trending in the United States…#GrandSlamMoran

— Pirates (@Pirates) April 2, 2018
Surhoff was lured back to the Baltimore Orioles by Syd Thrift’s slightly sweeter deal. Moran was in the stands April 4, 2005, at Camden Yards for the final opening day of his uncle’s 19-year major league career. The next opening day Moran attended was Friday in Detroit.

Moran, 25, and Surhoff, 53, are aware of their similarities. Tall and wiry, they bat left and throw right. They were All-America honorees at North Carolina. Surhoff was drafted first overall in 1982, and Moran sixth in 2013. “But he didn’t get the speed gene,” Surhoff joked.

Francisco Cervelli and Gregory Polanco wait at home plate for Colin Moran after Moran hit a grand slam during the home opener.
Bill Brink
Bill Brink’s Pirates chat transcript: 4.4.18
They are, however, only two branches on a supremely athletic family tree.

The patriarch, the late Dick Surhoff, spent two seasons in the NBA and later became better known around New York City as a prolific pitcher in fast-pitch softball. That, Moran said, “is where our family’s love of the game came from.” The five Surhoff kids piled into the family’s Volkswagen and followed their father around to his games. Soon, their skill started to show. Two of them reached the majors — Rich, a relief pitcher, in 1985, and B.J. in 1987.

Orioles outfielder B.J. Surhoff
B.J. Surhoff makes a diving catch in 2005 against the Seattle Mariners.
(Associated Press)
B.J. Surhoff’s daughters swam at North Carolina and Texas, and his son Austin was an NCAA champion swimmer at Texas. Moran’s older brother, Brian, a seventh-round pick in 2009, is expected to start the season at Class AAA for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Moran’s mother, Diane, and his sister, Megan, played softball. Surely his father has a baseball background too.

“Definitely not,” Bill Moran said, laughing. “That was all her side.”

Bill Moran is a plumber in Rye, N.Y. He was fixing an issue at an apartment building one day in the mid-1980s when a tenant offered him a glass of water. Typically, he’d happily accept. He’d seen this building’s water pipes, however, and, well, he decided he’d pass. But the next time he was there, the tenant offered him water again. This time, it was bottled. So he accepted.

That’s how Bill Moran met Diane Surhoff. He didn’t know then that her brother B.J. had just been drafted first overall by the Milwaukee Brewers. After a few trips to Wisconsin, Moran got the idea baseball would be a big part of their lives. If only he knew the extent. Once three kids were in tow, the Morans’ summer vacations consisted of drives to Baltimore to watch the Orioles.

“I don’t know when it happened,” Rich Surhoff said, “but those boys were hooked.”

The Pirates stand for the national anthem on opening day Monday against the Minnesota Twins at PNC Park.
Paul Zeise
Paul Zeise: Attendance will suffer until the Pirates regain fans’ trust

Save that ball! Moran blasts his first career homer!

A post shared by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on Jul 21, 2017 at 6:36pm PDT

At the 1999 All-Star Game, B.J. Surhoff walked his nephews around the American League clubhouse so they could see the stars — Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter and Pedro Martinez, for starters. The cap Colin Moran had signed by every player he met is still in his parents’ home somewhere. “I wore it out,” he said. “All the signatures faded. All that’s left is sweat lines.”

While some try to credit him and his brother for the Moran boys’ success, B.J. Surhoff said, that should be directed to Bill and Diane — for endless hours of batting practice and for car rides to every corner of the country. Of his father, Colin Moran said, “He’s the reason I’m here. He didn’t play baseball, but he did everything he could to give my brother and me the opportunity to play.”

At North Carolina, things came into focus for Moran. After a “terrible” fall season, he saw an optometrist and tried contacts to correct his near-sightedness. He’d known he needed glasses, but he didn’t like how they looked. Back in the batter’s box, everything was sharper. He picked up spin in a flash. He batted .335 that spring and was named ACC freshman of the year.

Last July, Moran’s season debut for the Houston Astros was at Camden Yards. When he stepped into the on-deck circle, he looked into the second deck behind home plate to find the seats where his family sat all those years earlier, watching his uncle play for the Orioles. “I was thinking back to all those fun memories there,” he said, with his grandmother, Nancy Surhoff, telling stories about his grandfather, the softball star. Moran tripled in his first at-bat in Baltimore.

Later in the game, he hit a solo home run.

“It was special,” he said.

The next day, Moran fouled a ball off his face and was rushed to the hospital with a concussion and facial fractures. The injury prohibited Moran from flying, so his father and then-fiancee, now-wife, Kelsey, drove him to Houston, where he had surgery, and then to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Moran returned for the final week of the season, but the Astros headed into the postseason — and toward their first World Series title — without him.

On Jan. 13, Moran and his wife were in Rye, N.Y., for their niece’s baptism. They were walking into Whole Foods when Moran took a call from Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. When he hung up, Moran turned to his wife and father and said, “I was just traded to Pittsburgh.”

When you’re traded, Moran says now, people don’t really know how to react. Should they be happy? Should they be angry? He was excited, and so they followed suit. Bill Moran recalled he was “ecstatic. Totally ecstatic.” They returned to the Morans’ home and delivered the news to the crowd, included a host of cousins and aunts and uncles, including B.J. and Rich Surhoff.

“There was a lot of excitement going on inside the house,” Bill Moran said.

“They got him for a reason,” said B.J. Surhoff, now an Orioles minor league instructor. “He got caught in a bit of a logjam [in Houston] and had a couple injuries. Got caught behind an eight-ball. As I tell guys in the minors, someone is always watching. If you can play, they’ll notice.”

Yuta Watanabe Jersey Signed

Memphis Hustle swingman Yuta Watanabe dribbles the ball in the first quarter as Jaylen Hoard of the Texas Legends defends him in the teams’ NBA G League opener in Southaven, Mississippi. | KYODO
Hustle top Legends as Yuta Watanabe and Yudai Baba make NBA G League season debuts

NOV 9, 2019
Second-year pro Yuta Watanabe delivered an energizing performance on Friday to help the Memphis Hustle open their NBA G League season with a 105-95 victory over the visiting Texas Legends.

Watanabe, a two-way player for the Hustle and the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, started at power forward and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. He was 3-for-12 from the field in 38 minutes, finishing with seven points. The George Washington University product also had two steals and a block.

Watanabe drained a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the right baseline with 7:17 left in the fourth quarter. That gave his team an 89-81 lead.

The game also marked Legends newcomer Yudai Baba’s NBA G League debut. He starred for the Alvark Tokyo for the past two seasons, helping the B. League club capture back-to-back titles. Baba, who turned 24 on Thursday, came off the bench and saw 5-plus minutes of court time. He was 0-for-1 from the field, picked up a foul and blocked a shot.

It was the first time two Japanese players competed in the same game in the G League or its predecessor, the NBA Development League.

As a result, there was a bigger than normal group of Japanese press at Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, a Memphis suburb.

“There’s a huge Japanese media contingent here in Southaven with both Yuta Watanabe and Yudai Baba set to face off tonight,” tweeted @sbnGrizzlies, which reports on the Hustle and the Grizzlies, before the game.

The Hustle and Legends square off again on Saturday in Frisco, Texas.