Ray Allen: My Trip Overseas With The USO

December/26/2016

Before Ray Allen ever touched a basketball, the NBA’s all-time three-point kings was born on Castle Air Force base in Merchard, Cali. Walt Allen, a metals technologist, spent 21 years in the military, repairing planes and raising his five children on bases around the the world. One month after the third Allen child officially retired from basketball, Ray joined General Joseph F. Dunford on the USO’s Holiday Tour, visiting American troops in Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan and Germany. Allen recounted his life-changing experience to The Crossover’s Jake Fischer. 

As a child, I thought I was cursed. I never had the opportunity to live in one place for longer than three years. I never had an opportunity to keep my friends and I wasn’t good at writing letters either. But as I got older and started traveling and then got to the NBA, I realized it was a blessing because I was tailor-made to do what I do: travel around the world and meet and interact with so many different people. I felt like I was built for it.

Every base that I lived at as a kid, I have been back to visit, except for two: one in Oklahoma and another base in Germany. So when the USO called me up and invited me to go abroad—with a stop in Germany—I assumed we would be visiting the base I grew up at. I had so many memories from that base, but I always felt like I needed some type of conclusion or closure. So I was very much looking forward to going to Ramstein, but we ended up at a different base called Grafenwoehr. As it turned out, I still got that closure; being on that base and seeing a lot of young people, I saw a lot of the military members’ spouses and their kids and it still gave me that same feeling I had as a military dependent myself.

There was one gentleman in particular I remember at the Grafenwoehr base. He was 21 years old and had already gotten to see the world. It was so inspirational to hear that because you realize the military has given this young man wings, literally, to fly and be able to see things all around the globe.

In the NBA, often times we’ll be in the locker room and we’ll talk about “going to war” and “going into battle” and “being in the foxhole,” all these terminologies that we equate with being at war. I have such a greater appreciation for the conflicts going on around the world, now I try to not use those terms out of respect, because I know exactly what these guys are doing when they’re in harm’s way. When we go on the floor, we make mistakes all the time—but it doesn’t cost us our lives. Those guys can’t afford to make mistakes and have to have each other’s backs. We look up to them far more than they realize.

One of the things that General Dunford said that resonated with me was, “We’re over here at war, my job is to make sure that we have all away games.” So when I got back on U.S. soil, I thought about how privileged we are. That as much conflict that is going on in the world, we in this country, we have managed for the most part to be void of any war on our home soil. I don’t think people appreciate that enough.

Being in Afghanistan was a slap in the face for me. It woke you up. When you walk around and you see the young men and women carrying their M4s everywhere they go like we carry our iPhones, you realize the serious nature of the ground that you walk on. Anything can happen at any given moment. You have to be prepared. In this country we don’t live with those pressures and those constraints as we move every single day. It gives you a great appreciation for the freedoms and liberties you have as you move around this country.

BY Ray Allen / PUBLISHED December/26/2016 / Sports Illustrated

http://www.si.com/nba/2016/12/26/ray-allen-uso-holiday-tour-overseas-afghanistan-military
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Spurs retire Tim Duncan’s No. 21 jersey

December/19/2016

After 19 seasons, five NBA championships and two MVP awards, Tim Duncan’s No. 21 jersey was raised to the rafters of the AT&T Center Sunday night, officially immortalizing “The Big Fundamental” as one of the greatest players in San Antonio Spurs history.

As if he wasn’t already.

The hour-long ceremony — which took place after San Antonio’s 113-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans — was hosted by Spurs legend Sean Elliot, and featured speeches from coach Gregg Popovich, who teared up when he said that Duncan is “exactly the same person now as he was when he walked in the door,” and Duncan’s long-time teammates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

“To all of you in here, the fans, all of San Antonio — thank you,” Duncan said. “The love and support is overwhelming, especially over the last couple weeks.

” … I got so much more from you guys. From my teammates, from these guys over here (group of ex-teammates and coaches), than they can explain that they got from me, and I know that.”

The soft-spoken superstar addressed his family, ex-Wake Forest coach Dave Odomand Spurs general manager R.C. Buford before thanking Popovich, who he played under for all 19 of his seasons.

“Thank you coach Pop, for being more than a coach. For being more like a father to me. Thank you.”

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:

  • In addition to the championships, MVPs and Finals MVPs, Duncan led the Spurs to a 1,072-438 regular season record, the best in NBA history over 19 seasons.
  • He’s the only player in NBA history to start and win an NBA championship in three separate decades.
  • He finished his career with 15 All-NBA Team (tied for most all-time) and 15 All-Defensive Team (most all-time) honors.
  • Not only was he the third player in NBA history to reach 1,000 career wins, he was the first player to reach 1,000 wins with one team.
  • He’s the Spurs’ all-time leader in total regular season points (26,496), rebounds (15,091), blocks (3,020), minutes (47,368) and games played (1,392).
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How Jeremy Lin went from the Garden to the pages of the Hulk

December/15/2016

NEW YORK — In Greg Pak’s colorful and fantastical world, the award-winning comic book writer and filmmaker has superheroes from all walks of life accomplishing amazing feats.

But even Pak, like most of New York City in 2012, was captivated by “Linsanity” and in awe of Jeremy Lin‘s superhero-like origin story, going from a D-Leaguer who slept on a teammate’s couch to Sports Illustrated cover boy overnight.

“I was a nerdy kid who didn’t really care about sports,” Pak told ESPN. “But I was living in New York when ‘Linsanity’ happened, and it was a mind-blowing experience. I totally got sucked in. I mean the whole city was happy. It was a really kind of an amazing phenomenon. You would see random people start talking about it [all over the city].

“The more I came to learn about Jeremy Lin, the more I came to admire the guy. He has got a tremendous fortitude and dedication, and he is an incredible underdog story. And I love an underdog story.”

So Pak found a way to add Lin to the color-splashed pages of the Marvel universe of comic book superheroes. On Wednesday, Lin appeared in Pak’s latest issue of Marvel’s “Totally Awesome Hulk.”

The Brooklyn Nets point guard said he was shocked when he first found out that Pak wanted to add him into the Hulk’s storyline.

“‘Man, how are they going to use me, or what is it going to look like, especially me being Asian,” Lin said in an interview with ESPN. “I was really interested to see what would happen. I loved everything about it. … Growing up, watching the movies or whatever it might be, we have all experienced some sort of fandom toward superheroes.”

Pak, who is Korean American, co-created Amadeus Cho, a 19-year-old Korean American genius, with Takeshi Miyazawa more than a decade ago. Cho now has taken over the mantle and the powers of The Hulk from Bruce Banner and is a rare Asian American superhero.

Lin — the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent — said he is fully aware of the potential impact Pak’s character can have. He knows of the struggle many Asian American males face trying to land significant, strong and impactful lead roles as opposed to token portrayals that play off Asian stereotypes. For instance, none of the top 100 grossing films in 2015 featured an Asian actor as the lead or co-lead, and 49 of them featured no Asian characters at all, according to a report from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC.

“I have friends who are kind of into acting and the entertainment industry,” Lin said. “You kind of see how Asians and Asian-Americans are kind of portrayed in films over time.

“I feel that there have been a lot barriers, but this is a big step in the right direction. In terms of just making Asians more mainstream [and] not just in the stereotypically Asian way where it is almost like sometimes, it is like the token Asian guy — you are being made fun of, in some ways you got to be on there with an accent or something like that. It’s awesome that [Cho] is this really prominent and masculine figure as well.”

Pak has been cognizant of trying to create or cast diverse characters into his stories and films, such as “Robot Stories,” which starred Japanese-American actress Tamlyn Tomita and won 35 awards.

There are Asian characters throughout the Marvel Universe, but not many are of Asian-American descent such as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Jimmy Woo and Cho.

“Over the years, writers have created tons and tons of characters of all different backgrounds, but a lot of the Asians characters in comics are Asians from Asia,” Pak said. “That is not just Marvel, that is all comics, which is great. But I have always been an Asian American and had a special interest in seeing Asian-American characters. Historically there hasn’t been a ton.”

Nets teammate Brook Lopez, a lifelong comic book fanatic, went out to pick up five copies of the issue on Wednesday before posting 20 points and seven rebounds to help Brooklyn beat the Lakers later that night.

The center, who can practically deliver a thesis on any Marvel or DC Comics character, gave Lin’s comic debut his stamp of approval.

“Oh, I can’t state how jealous I was!” Lopez said repeatedly. “I didn’t even find out about it until I read my comic book websites … It was spot on. Great stuff. There were panels that I swear that [Pak] was behind me (with Lin and the Nets) looking at Jeremy while he drew it. And it was pretty true to his voice.

“[Lin and Cho] have a lot of similarities. Both Asian American, same haircut, both geniuses — genius-level intellect. They get along very quick. It’s a two-parter, left me on a cliff-hanger.”

Pak says after the two back-to-back issues with Lin, the “Totally Awesome Hulk” will feature Cho joining forces with other Asian American idols from Marvel.

“The next story in the ‘Totally Awesome Hulk’ is going to be a team-up with Amadeus and a bunch of other Asian American characters, including Jimmy Woo, who is one of the oldest and most classic Asian American characters in Marvel,” Pak said. “More recent characters like Silk, who is a Korean American woman with spider powers in the Spider-Man universe and Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel, who is a tremendous character (and Pakistani American). The books more and more reflect the world in which we live, and it is a fantastic thing. It is great to be a part of it.”

Lin never dreamed of being in a comic book. While Pak kept Lin in the loop over the storyline, Lin largely stayed out of the creative process and let Pak do his thing.

Even though the two only recently met after a Nets game, Pak has followed Lin closely, reading plenty of stories and books on the Nets point guard and watching the documentary about Lin — “Linsanity” — to get a feel for Lin’s character and vocal rhythms.

“It is such a great story,” Pak said of Lin’s rise. “I think there is something about superhero stories, a lot of them start from a place where the hero is an underdog. You look at Bruce Banner, Peter Parker, maybe not so much for Bruce Wayne — although Bruce Wayne is like, poor little rich boy, his parents have been murdered. Very often these superheroes come from a place where life has not treated them well.

“Then they find something inside or whatever the case may be, but they rise to the occasion and have this transformation and are tested as people and heroes. Athletes are the closest thing we got to superpowers.”

Pak says there is a natural bond between Lin’s and Cho’s characters.

“They have something in common of being thrust into a position of leadership and a responsibility,” Pak says. “Jeremy has been very open about this kind of feeling, about having a platform, and he needs to step up and use that platform responsibly when the time comes, and that is exactly some of the stuff that Amadeus struggles with as well.

“Amadeus is a cocky kid who thinks he knows everything, he is a lot of fun, so when he becomes The Hulk, he thinks he will be the best Hulk there ever was. But of course, being The Hulk, being the strongest one there is and running the risk of losing control of your emotions, there are huge responsibilities. Amadeus has a ton to learn.”

Lin jokingly admits you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry, as Banner, the original Hulk, famously says. But if Lin were to possess one super power, he says it would be the ability to fly.

“I have always wondered what it’s like to fly,” Lin said with a chuckle. “I would be a lot better at basketball if I could fly.”

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Cook’s Record-Setting Night Propels Charge in Win

December/07/2016

The Canton Charge (4-6), powered by the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, snapped the Texas Legends’ four-game win streak in a 134-128 victory at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Wednesday night,

Canton’s Quinn Cook set a franchise record for points in a game by netting 49 points on 15-of-21 from the field, 4-of-5 from three-point range and 15-of-16 from the foul line.  Cook, the reigning NBA D-League Rookie of the Year, got hotter as the night went on, scoring nine, 11, 12 and 17 points in each quarter respectively.  The record was previously 46 points scored by former Charge guard and current Texas Legend Manny Harris on 2/16/12.

The Charge led wire-to-wire the entire game and by as many as 22 points.  Texas cut it close late by having a monster fourth quarter, scoring 52 points and cutting the deficit to four points.  Canton hit 17-of-21 foul shots as a team and hit 10-of-18 shots (56%) to stave off any comeback attempt.  With the win, the Charge improved to 7-3 all-time versus the Legends and have won six in a row versus Texas.

Cook finished with 11 assists, five rebounds, and three steals in 42 minutes for his seventh career double-double and first this season to go along with the individual accolades.  Chris Evans scored 28 points on 12-of-18 shooting with 10 boards and two steals in 37 minutes.  Eric Moreland had an all-around effort of 14 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and three steals in 25 minutes.  Grant Jerrett added 13 points, eight boards and two blocks in 39 minutes for Canton.

Manny Harris paced Texas with 31 points, 13 rebounds and two steals in 40 minutes.  Quincy Acy added 21 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes.  Tony Wroten came off the bench to score 25 points in 29 minutes of relief for the Legends.

The Canton Charge are part of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena organization and also owned by a group led by Cavaliers Majority Owner and Quicken Loans Founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert. The group also owns and operates the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League and the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League, both of which play their games at Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland.

 

BY Canton Charge / PUBLISHED December/7/2016 / NBA D-League

http://canton.dleague.nba.com/news/cooks-record-setting-night-propels-charge-win/
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Indiana Fever to Retire Catchings’ number

November/29/2016

The Indiana Fever announced Tuesday that they will retire the No. 24 jersey of Tamika Catchings.

The formal ceremony will take place June 24, when the WNBA champion Los Angeles Sparks meet the Fever at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Catchings retired at the end of last season after a 15-year career in the league.

The Catchings announcement was made in conjunction with release of the WNBA’s 2017 schedule. One sign of the post-Catchings era is that the Fever were excluded from any of the nine regular season games to be televised on ESPN or ESPN2.

The Fever will open under new coach Pokey Chatman with two road games: at Seattle on May 14 and at Phoenix on May 17. The home opener is May 20 against the Connecticut Sun. The Fever also play the Sparks at home on May 24.

Under the second year of a 34-game balanced schedule, the Fever will play the Washington Mystics four times and the 10 other teams three times each. The finale is Sept. 2 at home against San Antonio.

Chatman and point guard Briann January will participate in a select-a-seat event Dec. 15 at the fieldhouse.

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Ray Allen: Letter to my Younger Self

November/01/2016

Dear 13-year-old Ray,

When you get off the school bus tomorrow, you’re going to be in a whole new world. This is nothing new. Every time your father gets stationed at a new Air Force base, you have to say goodbye to your friends and start a new life. It’s the same routine once every three years or so. New school, new culture, new faces.

Northern California. Then Germany. Then Oklahoma. Then England. Then Southern California.

And now, Dalzell, South Carolina.

You’re used to being the kid that nobody knows. The majority of your existence has been about trying to find new friends, trying to show people that you’re a good person and that you mean no harm. You’re used to being an outsider.

You’ve gotten pretty good at it.

This time is different though. It’s the middle of the school year. Everybody already knows one another. You’re at a critical age, and kids are just.…

Kids are just mean.

You’ve grown up in a military household your whole life. Until now, your friends were all from military families. You walked around the neighborhood with your I.D. card hanging around your neck like a dog tag in case some unfamiliar MPs rolled by. You spent your formative elementary school years in Britain. So you don’t even realize it, but to some people, you speak very proper.

When you step off that school bus in South Carolina tomorrow and open your mouth, those kids are going to look at you like you’re an alien.

“You talk like a white boy,” they’ll say.

You’ll look around the school and see groups of kids all paired off, and you’ll feel like you don’t have a place.

You’ll think to yourself, I don’t understand. Who am I supposed to be?

I’m going to be 100% honest with you. I wish I could tell you that it will get easier, and that you’re going to blend in, and that it’s going to be alright. But you’re not going to fit in with the white kids, or the black kids … or the nerds … or even the jocks.

You’ll be the enemy to a lot of people simply because you’re not from around there.

This will be both the toughest and the best thing that will ever happen to you.

What I want you to do is this: Go to the basketball court. Stay at the basketball court. You can build your entire existence there.

The world is much bigger than Dalzell, South Carolina. If you stick to the plan, you’ll see. Remember that when when you’re lying in bed on Saturday and Sunday mornings and you hear the engine of your father’s old Trans-Van start up outside.

You know that sound. It’s not pretty.

All you’ll want to do is sleep, but grab your sneakers and run down the stairs because he will leave you. You have exactly two minutes before the heat kicks on in the van and he’s backing out of the driveway. He’s on military time, and if you don’t get to the Air Force base court by 0900 on the dot to put your name at the top of the sign-up sheet, you’re going to have to wait around all day to get a run in.

You’ll learn a lot on that court. As a 13-year-old kid playing against grown men, you’ll learn to play in transition out of necessity. You’ll play so fast that all the airmen will start calling you “Showtime” when you walk into the gym.

In between games, when you’re on the sidelines, I want you to listen very carefully to all the stories these guys tell.

You’re going to hear a lot of, “Man, I coulda …” on these courts.

Man, I wish I could go back in time.

I’d have gone D-I.

Booze got the best of me.

Man, I coulda.…

Man, I shoulda.…

I wish I could go back, young fella.…

Don’t ever put yourself in the position to wish you could hop in a time machine, Ray. You need to stay focused, because things will only become more complicated as you have more success on the court.

When you start getting attention from colleges, some of your own teammates will say things like, “UConn? You’ll sit on the bench for four years.”

Just because you don’t drink, they’ll say, “Man, you’re gonna be an alcoholic once you get to college. You won’t be ready. All they do is drink there.”

A lot of people don’t want to see you succeed. Don’t get into fistfights with these kids. Trust me, it will accomplish nothing.

Instead, remember exactly who said those things.

Remember how they said it.

Remember their faces.

Keep these voices inside your head and use them as fuel every single day when you wake up.

And the voices telling you you’re the man? Those are the voices to keep out. When you start getting some national attention in high school, you’ll hear things like, “Ray’s jumpshot is God-given.”

Listen: God doesn’t care whether or not you make your next jump shot.

God will give you a lot of things in life, but he’s not going to give you your jump shot. Only hard work will do that.

Don’t be so naive as to think you’re ready for college ball.

Young fella, you’re not ready.

In high school, you might think you understand what it takes to be a great basketball player, but you will truly have no idea. When you get to UConn, your coach will show you what hard work really is.

His name is Jim Calhoun. Don’t get on this man’s shit list.

When you walk into the gym for that first practice, get ready for hell on wheels. You’re going to be all excited to put on your Huskies gear and start shooting around. But then Coach Calhoun is going to flip the script.

“Freshmen!” he’ll say. “You think you deserve to wear this uniform? You don’t deserve the privilege. Not yet.”

Then the assistant coaches will start handing out these plain grey shorts and T-shirts to all the freshmen.

“I want to see some sweat,” Coach will say.

Up until that very moment, you’ll think basketball is all about going out and putting up some jump shots and showing your skill.

When you get put through Coach Calhoun’s first practice you’ll realize, Oh, this game is a sonofabitch.

You will be put through the hardest workout of your life. You’ll be gasping for air, hunched over. But the thing is, the gym in Storrs is air conditioned. Your body is used to playing in the sweatbox gyms in South Carolina, where there’s no air conditioning.

At the end of the practice, coach Calhoun is going to line everybody up and walk down the line, looking at every player.

When he gets to you, he’ll look down at your shirt. There will be a single bead of sweat trickling down your Adam’s apple.

He’ll look at you. Then he’ll look at the little bead of sweat. Then he’ll look back at you.

“That’s it? I guess we didn’t work you hard enough, Allen.”

The next practice is going to be even tougher.

This man is going to damn near break you, but he’s going to make you a much better player and person. This will be your introduction to what it really takes to be great.

A few days later, you’re going to have one of the most memorable moments of your life. You’re going to wake up at 5:30 a.m. and go to the weight room to get your workout in, and then you’ll come back to the dorm and shower before class.

You’ll put on a shirt and tie, throw your backpack over your shoulder and walk across campus to your first class of the day.

It’s early, so it’s still quiet. The leaves are crunching under your feet. You’re sore, but your clothes are on point. You got your work in. You’re prepared. You have a purpose.

I don’t know what it is about this moment in particular, but as you’re walking, you’ll think, Wow. I’m a college student. No matter what happens at the end of this tunnel, I’m going to make my family proud.

When you get to your public-speaking class and sit down, this girl will turn to you and say, “Hey, why are you so dressed up?”

You’ll say, “Because I can.”

In that moment, it will feel like you have conquered the world.

I could end this letter right here, and you would still probably be excited about what you are going to accomplish in life. But you still have an 18-year NBA career ahead of you.

How do I sum up nearly two decades in the NBA? What do you really need to know? What’s truly important?

You’ll get to play against your heroes: Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler.

You’ll play alongside Hall of Famers: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade.

Sometimes you’ll be afraid.

Sometimes you’ll think you’re out of your league.

But you’ll keep showing up every day, putting in the work.

You’ll put up more than 26,000 shots in your career. Almost six out of 10 won’t even go in. I told you this game was a sonofabitch.

Don’t worry, though. A successful man is built of 1,000 failures. Or in your case, 14,000 misses.

You’ll win a championship in Boston.

You’ll win another in Miami.

The personalities on those two teams will be different, but both teams will have the same thing in common: habits.

Boring old habits.

I know you want me to let you in on some big secret to success in the NBA.

The secret is there is no secret.

It’s just boring old habits.

In every locker room you’ll ever be in, everybody will say all the right things. Everybody says they’re willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to win a title. But this game isn’t a movie. It’s not about being the man in the fourth quarter. It’s not about talk. It’s getting in your work every single day, when nobody is watching.

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade. The men who you are going to win championships with are all going to be very different people. What makes them champions is the boring old habits that nobody sees. They compete to see who can be the first to get to the gym and the last to leave.

Your peers who think this is a cliché, or who think this doesn’t apply to them because they have God-given talent, will play their whole careers without winning an NBA title.

But I want you to understand something deeper. The championships are not the point.

Yes, there will be a sense of validation and vindication when you raise the trophy above your head, remembering everyone who ever said you wouldn’t amount to anything.

Four-year benchwarmer.

Alcoholic.

White boy.

But if I’m being real with you, what you’ll realize after you win the first title is that the thrill is fleeting. The vindication is fleeting. If you only chase that high, you’re going to end up very depressed.

The championships are almost secondary to the feeling you’ll get from waking up every morning and putting in the work. The championships are like when you were sitting in class at UConn with your shirt and tie on. They’re just the culmination.

Your winding path to those moments, just like your walk across campus on that quiet fall morning in Connecticut, is where you will find happiness.

I really mean it from the bottom of my heart: Life is about the journey, not the destination. And that journey will change you as a person.

Let me tell you one final story that may help you understand what I mean.

It’s the early morning hours of June 21, 2013. You’re 38 years old, and just a few hours ago you won Game 7 of the NBA Finals with the Miami Heat.

You are an NBA champion for the second time.

You lay down in bed at about five in the morning, but you just can’t sleep. Finally, around seven o’clock, you give up on sleep and creep downstairs. All your friends and family have come over to your house to celebrate — they’re all passed out on couches, sound asleep. You tiptoe around them on the way to the kitchen to make some breakfast. The sun is coming up, the house is quiet. You have achieved exactly what you set out to do. But you’re still restless.

So why do you feel this way? Isn’t this what you worked so hard for?

Around 7:30, you get into your car and go for a drive.

You park your car in front of a white office building. They’re just opening up.

When you walk in the door, the receptionist looks at you and says, “Ray? What … what are you doing here?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“But … you just won the title.”

“Yeah, I just wanted to get out of the house.”

“But … it’s eight in the morning. And you just won the title.”

“Well, I still got some work to be done on this tooth. Is he in?”

Your dentist walks out of his office.

“Ray? What are you … what?”

“Couldn’t sleep.”

This is what success looks like for you. You’re the kind of guy who goes to the dentist the morning after winning an NBA title.

I know, man.

I know.

But in order to achieve your dreams, you will become a different kind of person. You’ll become a bit obsessive about your routine. This will come at a heavy cost to some of your friends and family.

Most nights, you won’t go out. Your friends will ask why. You won’t drink alcohol, ever. People will look at you funny. When you get to the NBA, you won’t always play cards with the boys. Some people will assume you’re not being a good teammate. You’ll even have to put your family on the back-burner for your job.

Most of the time, you will be alone.

That won’t make you the most popular person. Some people simply won’t understand. Is the cost worth it?

Only you can answer that.

Who am I supposed to be?

Tomorrow when you get off that school bus in South Carolina, you’ll have to choose.

Every day for the rest of your life, you’ll have to choose.

Do you want to fit in, or do you want to embark on the lonely pursuit of greatness?

I write this to you today as a 41-year-old man who is retiring from the game. I write to you as a man who is completely at peace with himself.

The hell you experience when you get off that bus will be temporary. Basketball will take you far away from that school yard. You will become far more than just a basketball player. You’ll get to act in movies. You’ll travel the world. You will become a husband, and the father of five amazing children.

Now, the most important question in your life isn’t, “Who am I supposed to be?” or even, “What do I have to do to win another championship?”

It’s, “Daddy, guess what happened in math class today?”

That’s the reward that awaits you at the end of your journey.

Go to the court. Stay at the court.

Get your work in, young fella.

Most people will never really get to know the real you. But they’ll know your work.

BY Ray Allen / PUBLISHED November/1/2016 / The Players' Tribune

http://www.theplayerstribune.com/ray-allen-letter-to-my-younger-self/
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Jeremy Lin’s Moment of Clarity

October/31/2016

Jeremy Lin is standing on the corner of Kent and West Streets in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, waiting for his longtime friend and trainer Josh Fan to arrive. The two were supposed to roll together, he explains, but plans changed once the Nets kept Lin and his teammates for a mandatory orthotic insole fitting after this morning’s workout. It’s a drizzly Monday afternoon in September, and Lin is wearing adidas sweats from head to toe, with a matching snapback that’s keeping his man bun, or braids, or whatever’s under there hidden from view.

In a few minutes, we’ll descend into a dimly lit, dungeon-esque basement to do one of those trendy new “escape the room” adventure games. You know, where you have an hour to collect clues and solve riddles as a team in order to, well, escape the room. (In our case, pulling off a Mission Impossible-themed bank robbery before the fictional cops catch us committing the heist.) While we wait, we bullshit about the Nets’ fancy new practice facility in Sunset Park, about how Lin scored his new apartment near the Barclays Center after refreshing Zillow for days on end, and about the upgrades he still needs to make to the shiny black-on-black Maserati he pulled up in, including tinting the windows and replacing the rims. As a jackhammer pounds away at a construction site across the street, Fan finally appears, panting. Turns out, he took an Uber to Kent Avenue, not Kent Street, and had to run the last three-quarters of a mile here, which draws a laugh from Lin.

The last time he played professional basketball for a team in New York, Lin was crashing on his brother’s couch in a cramped Lower East Side apartment. He was, before what ultimately became one of the most memorable individual stretches of basketball in the history of the NBA, another anonymous New Yorker. The night before his “Linsanity” phenomenon began, Lin famously slept on Knicks teammate Landry Fields’ sofa. What unfolded thereafter, for the last two months of the 2011-12 season, established him not only as a full-time pro, but as one of the most popular basketball players on the planet.

“I’m definitely glad to be back,” says the 28-year-old, who after stops with the Rockets, Lakers and Hornets from 2012 to 2016, signed a three-year, $36 million contract with the Nets this summer. “I obviously have a special connection with New York fans because of everything we’ve been through, so to be back here playing in front of them again is…to me, I wish it happened earlier.”

During our faux bank heist in Brooklyn, Lin immediately takes charge. He’s responsible for solving most of the puzzles to unlock each new clue and he instinctively directs everyone else to pick up items we’ll need along the way. It’s corny as hell to say, but he really is point guard-ing the shit out of this. When we emerge victorious with 26 minutes to spare, Lin admits that he’s done this before. In fact, it’s his eighth or ninth time “escaping the room,” and he shrugs once we get back outside to daylight—this wasn’t as challenging as the versions he played in Charlotte and Los Angeles. Then again, dude went to Harvard.

J-Lin’s “regular guy” vibe is disarming, and yet there are brief moments when his status as an international superstar smack you dead in the face. As we casually talk hoops on the walk back to his (ridiculously nice) car after wrapping the interview portion of our shoot, for example, Lin points out that it’s kinda hard for big men to look cool in highlights, because nine times out of 10, Stephen Curry breaking a defender’s ankles and raining a three is more entertaining to watch than LeBron James muscling in 2 points in the post. It’s not an earth-shattering observation for a person to make until you consider the two players being compared are among just a small handful whose global following eclipses that of the person who made it.

But this story isn’t about Linsanity. Because that story’s already been written many times over. And, if you’re reading this, you already know what happened. The night it all started with Lin, then a little-known Knick, dropping 25 on Deron Williams and the Nets at MSG. The 38 and 7 he put up against Kobe and the Lakers less than a week later. The game-winning three on Valentine’s Day in Toronto.

The memories won’t soon fade. Walk the streets of New York City and you’ll still occasionally see his No. 17 Knicks jersey every so often. But the next chapter for Jeremy Lin will play out across town, where Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson is handing him the keys. (Lin says Atkinson, who mentored him as a Knicks assistant during the Linsanity season, is “the only reason why I really considered the Nets in the first place.”) This year, on this team, Lin comes in as the starting point guard, not just some flash in the pan. With all due respect to former All-Star center Brook Lopez—whom Lin first met a decade ago on a serendipitous midnight visit to an IHOP during a high school tournament in California—it’s Lin who will be looked at as the face of the franchise, from the inside and out. And he’s definitely ready for the challenge.

“To have this role, I’m so excited I can’t even really explain just how happy I am,” says Lin. “There’s days where after we work out or play pickup or whatever, I’m just like, Man, it feels natural. I’m a leader. I’m a starting point guard. I run the show—and that’s something I’ve done my whole life on the court. So the last few years playing in a backup position, to me, that’s not who I was created to be as a player, that’s not natural. I feel like I wanna be the guy in the front. I wanna be the guy leading the charge, and I feel that here.

“Walking around Brooklyn, the vibe that I get is that they haven’t had a product that the people have been proud of,” he continues, noting the team’s 21-61 record last season. “I can tell there’s that disappointment from the past. No disrespect or no offense to anybody else who was here before, but that’s just the vibe that I get. So for me it’s just another challenge: How can we turn this thing around?”

Perhaps due to all the same lazy stereotypes that have followed Lin at every other stop throughout his career, it’s still hard for some to picture him in the role of the veteran leader. Time to get over it. The reality is, almost all of his new Nets teammates really do look up to him, and almost all for different reasons.

Like 21-year-old Nets rookie Isaiah Whitehead, who remembers watching every game of Linsanity as a sophomore at Lincoln HS in Brooklyn: “I was right in front of my TV watching every one.” Or Sean Kilpatrick, another New York-bred guard, who looks at Lin as a model of D-League-to-NBA-starter success. “He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” Kilpatrick says. “He’s always talking to me about staying hungry.”

Even Greivis Vasquez, who will be pushing Lin for that starting PG spot every day in practice, respects Lin for being “a fighter” who fears nothing on the court. “We want him to lead,” says GV, “and we want to win games with him.”

Meanwhile, Lopez is…actually, Lopez is just envious that Lin is being featured in a special edition of Marvel’s Totally Awesome Hulk comic book. “I was so jealous when I saw that,” Lopez laments. “He didn’t even tell me about it. Apparently it’s no big deal to him. I had to read about it on my comic book sites.”

Despite never having been an All-Star, Lin can sell comic books as a superhero thanks to his universal appeal. A week after our photo shoot in Brooklyn, at Nets Media Day, Lin is predictably swarmed by reporters despite playing on a team that beyond his presence is of lukewarm (at best) interest to the rest of the world. And, not unlike his teammates, Lin says his fans are as diverse as they are loyal.

“My story is so unique, and so there are people that always support different parts of my story. It might be that I’m Asian, or it might be that I went to Harvard, or it might be that I grew up in an immigrant family or the underdog story or the Ivy League,” he says. “For me it’s just something I want to be grateful for every day. I used to take my fans more for granted, and now I’m really thankful for them and I think I do a better job of showing that.”

On the court, Lin insists he’s shored up a lot of the parts of his game that were suspect during his first go-round under the bright lights of New York, including his jumper, his ability to go left and his defense. Last season in Charlotte he averaged 11.7 points, 3 assists and a career-high 3.2 rebounds per game in a Sixth Man role for a Hornets team that won 48 games and made the postseason. With increased minutes, expect to see his numbers jump across the board—a lot.

Friday night, Lin flirted with a triple-double as he led the Nets to their first win of the season in the team’s home opener, finishing with 21 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds. Through the first three games of the 2016-17 season, he’s averaging 17 points, 7.3 assists and 5 rebounds per game.

Lin, though, says he’s matured as a person as much as he has as a player.

“Probably spiritually and mentally more than anything. I think when everything first happened I was a little scared and jaded, just because a lot of friendships and relationships and the way things worked out, I felt like maybe people betrayed me. I felt that sense of like, I don’t know if I can trust people,” Lin says. “Having gone through the last four years, I’m really in a different place. I’m not so concerned with what everyone else has to say about me anymore, whether it’s reporters or opponents or anybody, really.”

The Nets surely don’t have championship expectations in 2016-17. Competing for a playoff spot in a suddenly crowded Eastern Conference is probably a stretch, too. But Jeremy Lin is at long last comfortably stable, both in spirit and in his situation.

“I have a lot more fun through each day,” he says. “I smile a lot more.”

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Alana Beard + LA Sparks win 2016 WNBA Championship

October/20/2016

In the final act of the WNBA’s 20th season, the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx put on a show that elevated women’s basketball and the WNBA to new heights.

The 2016 Finals featured the two preeminent teams in the league competing at the ultimate level game after game in a series decided by a single point scored with just 3.1 seconds remaining in a winner-take-all Game 5.

The culminating game of this incredible series featured outstanding play by some of the league’s brightest stars. L.A.’s Candace Parker had her best game of the series with 28 points, 12 rebounds and 3 steals on her way to earning Finals MVP honors. Her teammate, league MVP Nneka Ogwumike grabbed her 12th rebound and scored her 12th point in game-winning fashion. Ogwumike’s shot came just 12 seconds after Minnesota’s Maya Moore hit a potential game-winner with 15.4 seconds to play to cap off a 23-point, 11-assist and 6-rebound effort.

“It was an unbelievable series,” Moore said even amid a disappointed Minnesota locker room. “So many great things came out of this series, so many great, talented athletes. Fight, will, people being resilient. Looking back, I don’t think either team should be ashamed, whoever came out on top. All season we’ve been the two to set the tone and it really was just an unbelievable end to a hard-fought series.”

There was high drama from the opening tip to the final buzzer with 24 lead changes, 11 ties and neither team leading by more than six points until a late Sparks run put them up by eight with 3:06 to play. The Lynx erased that lead in the span of 78 seconds with an 8-0 run to tie the game with 1:48 to play.

That set up a final sequence that had the Target Center crowd on its feet and fans at home on the edge of their couches and glued to the television.

“If you weren’t watching this series you missed out on some great, great basketball. This was WNBA at it’s finest,” said Penny Toler, the Sparks’ GM since 2001 who as a Sparks player scored the first basket in WNBA history.

The teams traded the lead five times in the final 72 seconds before Lindsay Whalen’s half-court heave at the buzzer went wide and sent the Sparks into a frenzy of celebration. Not only was it the first title for the Sparks in 14 years — it was the first title for each and every player on that roster.

The Lynx lost four games at home during the regular season and playoffs combined – three of those came at the hands of the Sparks. L.A. won the first and last game of the series at the Target Center by a combined three points.

In Game 1, it was Alana Beard’s buzzer-beating jumper from the corner that proved to be the difference. In Game 5, it was Ogwumike’s offensive rebound and putback that lifted the Sparks past the Lynx with the championship hanging in the balance.

“You think about the different playoff format that they implemented this year, and you couldn’t have a better series with the two top teams in the regular season competing against each other going through a five-game series, competing at the highest level,” said Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus after the game.

“We always talk about great players making great plays. Throughout the five games, you saw people rise to the occasion. Any given night there was any given player that could be the most important piece at that time.”

On a night that featured Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers, a Thursday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, a pair of college football games featuring Top 25 teams and a Stanley Cup rematch in the opening week of the NHL season, none could match the drama put forth by the final game of these WNBA Finals.

“This was what we needed, and I hope that we gained a lot of fans from around the world, around this country, and they really recognize how well women’s basketball is being played here in the USA,” said Augustus.

There’s someone else that turned away from the Dodgers to the Sparks and that’s the co-owner of both teams – Magic Johnson. The Hall of Famer and L.A. basketball icon was on hand for Game 4 in Los Angeles and was in Minnesota for Game 5 to watch the Sparks win the championship and celebrate with the team.

He also offered some key words of encouragement after the disappointing Game 4 loss that help lift the players’ spirits after they missed the opportunity to close out the series on their home floor.

Throughout the first 20 years of the WNBA, there have been moments that have captivated the national audience and drawn eyes from outside the core women’s basketball fan base. Cynthia Cooper’s brilliance in the league’s infancy. Teresa Weatherspoon’s shot for the ages. Lisa Leslie’s first dunk. Candace Parker’s debut. Maya Moore’s game-winning buzzer-beater just a year ago.

Can this series be the watershed moment? The one that turns the tide and finally brings the respect and attention that these women deserve? The one that can show casual fans what the best NBA players have recognized for years, that the women in this league are playing the game at an incredibly high level?

“I tell these guys all the time how proud I am of them for more than just their skills and just kind of what we’re doing to change minds, if you will, move forward in society,” said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve. “And these two [Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus] are a big reason why we’re able to do that here locally in this community, so exposing boys and girls, men and women, to strong, powerful women playing at the top of their craft, they brought it tonight, our fans did, and like you said, I hope they walked away knowing they saw a good game, and I know they’re just as proud of our team as I am.”

BY Brian Martin / PUBLISHED October/21/2016 / WNBA.com

http://www.wnba.com/news/sparks-lynx-wnba-finals-game-5-102116/
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C.J. Watson Visits Google with NBA’s Career Crossover program

C.J. Watson’s mom pushed him at a young age to get ready for the “real world,” making him learn how to write checks, do mock job interviews, and accompany her to work.

Watson wasn’t sure if he was going to keep playing basketball, much less make the NBA, and his mom wanted him to be prepared after his playing days ended.

“You never know with basketball — you can get hurt or get cut or something like that,” Watson told Business Insider. “So, you always have to be prepared and keep it in the back of your mind and just always keep your options open.”

That’s why Watson, a 32-year-old guard in the second year of a three-year, $15 million deal with the Orlando Magic, took his mom’s advice to heart and spent part of his summer job-shadowing at Google and Douglas-Elliman Real Estate in Miami, Florida.

He wasn’t the only one. As part of the NBA’s Career Crossover program, Watson was also joined at Google by Cleveland Cavaliers forward Dahntay Jones, Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, and former NBA Development League guard Moses Ehambe. Jones and several other players also spent days with Douglas-Elliman in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.

The Career Crossover program, which NBA Senior Vice President of Player Development Greg Taylor estimates is in its sixth or seventh year, is meant to educate and expose players to fields outside of basketball. Alerted by the number of players looking only into basketball-related jobs after their playing days were over, Taylor and the NBA began to find corporate partners that players expressed interested in learning more about. In total, the NBA had 13 players take part in the corporate program (there are other programs for basketball-related jobs, from front-office work to refereeing), which also featured companies like Esquire and 2K Sports.

“I’m certainly not suggesting that basketball-related careers aren’t important, but there’s a whole world out there,” Taylor said. “So, the specific purpose of the Career Crossover program really was about exposure, exposing the guys to different career options and then letting them know what marketable skills they had to develop, what education they needed to have in order to be competitive in those new career endeavors that they expressed interest in.”

Players dive into Silicon Valley and beyond

The tech field, in particular, was a popular choice amongst players, which led Watson and Jones to Google.

“It’s the best company in the world right now, and I just wanted to see how it operated, what the culture was,” said Jones, a 35-year-old forward in his 12th season in the NBA. “I just wanted to see the intricacies of what made it such a great company.”

Jones, Watson, Chandler, and Ehambe spent the day touring the campus, sitting in on meetings, learning about YouTube’s analytics, social media, the company’s hiring process, and testing the self-driving cars. Watson enjoyed the self-driving car. Jones enjoyed learning more about YouTube and added, “Google Ventures was dope.”

Watson was impressed with the company.

“It’s a fun environment” he said. “They’re not really strict on a dress code or certain ways they have meetings and stuff like that. They do things outside of the box, which is pretty cool.”

Al-Farouq Aminu, a 26-year-old forward with the Portland Trail Blazers, visited Facebook for the day, after also expressing interest in tech. Though he enjoyed testing the Oculus Rift and touring the “beautiful” campus, he was ultimately looking for a more hands-on experience.

“In an internship, you kinda like push papers, you know, you do work sort of thing,” Aminu said. “For what I was intending it to be, it was not.” Still, Aminu came away with some valuable lessons, noting he’s interested in further exploring “the design aspect of technology.”

Taylor said that up until the interest in tech companies this year, real estate was the most popular job-shadowing choices, and it continued to be in-demand this year, with six players accompanying Douglas-Elliman.

Watson spent his days with Douglas-Elliman looking at high-rises, condos, and multimillion-dollar homes while he picked the realtors’ brains in Miami. Jones, who spent four days in New York, also saw some properties, ate lunch with the CEO, and had a meeting with the chairman. Jones said he’s taking online classes to pursue his broker’s license.

According to Taylor, there have also been some surprising requests from players to look into other fields and companies.

“We have a lot of guys who like doing outdoor things, fishing primarily, so I know there were some guys that wanted to spend some time at the Outdoor Channel,” Taylor said. “I would not have selected that one.”

“We had a player who was interested in going into mortuary science.”

He continued, “We’re fortunate at the NBA to be able to kind of pick up the phone, create internships and job-shadowing opportunities to expose them to the various fields. And then really giving them resources is important if they choose to pursue careers in those areas.”

Yet, breaking into the tech or real estate world is difficult — do NBA players actually have a shot at being hired by Google or Facebook or Douglas-Elliman?

“There’s no question that if you’re going to be competitive in those kinds of markets that there’s certainly going to be an education component of going back to school and doing internships and really gaining real life professional experience,” Taylor admitted. “But I also wanna be clear that we know our guys come to those jobs already possessing what we believe are marketable skills: teamwork, grit, time management, conflict resolution. These are all what we believe are transferable skills from their career as players. And now it’s about supplementing their existing education levels with the requisite education that it takes to pursue in those areas.

“So, that’s a really important message that we try to share with the guys. You’re not starting from scratch. You are a professional — happens to be in a different field.”

The mystery of life after basketball puzzles many players. While it may seem like an afterthought, as players devote much of their time to honing their on-court skills, it’s always a present factor. Taylor estimates that between mandatory twice-a-year “team awareness meetings,” and formal and informal “touch points” with each team, the league talks to players about “financial education and career management” up to seven times per year.

Despite the constant pressure from the NBA, however, players don’t necessarily begin thinking of what’s next right away. Jones, who has played on eight different teams during his career, estimates he began thinking about life after basketball about five or six years ago and decided to use his summers to look into other fields. Watson was four or five years into his career when he began to think about it. Aminu had something of a revelation after he was traded following his rookie year.

“After I got traded my rookie year, it kinda like hit me that this is a business and there’s no guarantees, so to say. It kinda opened my mind up to other possibilities,” he said.

“I mean, I remember just thinking after my rookie year, like, ‘Wow, I really don’t have any other skills,’ like, that just would cross over, that could make me anywhere close to the amount of money that I would kinda want to look out for my family.”

Clippers guard J.J. Redick said he began thinking about his post-NBA career sometime between the ages of 26 and 30, in between getting married and having children. Redick is an interesting case-study, seemingly already juggling a second job as the host of his own podcast on Yahoo’s “The Vertical.” Redick said he accepted the offer from Yahoo despite having never listened to a podcast beforehand. He insists it’s been a valuable experience, though he’s not positive a career in media is in his future.

“I never expected to be at this point in my NBA career and having to create an hour of content every week,” Redick said. “But it’s what I’m doing. … I’ve learned a ton about it and it’s been an overall just an amazing experience.”

While Redick has never taken part in the Career Crossover program (scheduling conflicts have often gotten in the way), he said he’s taken a valuable lesson from meetings with the league and NBA Players Association: networking. According to Redick, Clippers point guard Chris Paul has an “amazing” Rolodex of contacts across sports media, and he’s tried to follow his lead as far as “picking people’s brains.”

“I think Kobe [Bryant] used to cold-call people; I’ve never gone to that extreme,” Redick said. “But that’s the sort of thing that’s been really interesting to me and really fun for me.”

One such contact is David Solomon, co-head of investing at Goldman Sachs. During a conference in Napa Valley, California, Redick said Solomon gave him “simple, but profound” advice that has stuck with him.

“He said, ‘If you’re an athlete and you’re lucky enough to play, you know, 10-15 years, and you retire at 35, like, you can have a whole ‘nother career of 30 years.’ And I guess I had always thought, like, well, depending on how much money you make or what your kids are doing, you can really actually have a whole ‘nother career.

“And I guess that was a great way to sort of summarize the way I was thinking the last five or six years of my life is, what do I find to do for 30-plus years that I’m gonna enjoy doing, that I’m passionate about doing in the same way that I’m passionate about the craft of basketball?”

Redick said if basketball were to cease to exist, he would like to pursue his MBA.

Despite the quandary of picking a second career, numerous players have gone on to meaningful, if sometimes odd, work after their playing days are over. Jones said he knows of former players who have taken up entrepreneurial pursuits; some become franchisees; Watson said his former teammate Keith Bogans opened up a pet store and tried to convince him to do the same; Redick recalled the story of former NBA forward Adrian Dantley taking up a job as a crossing guard at an elementary school; Aminu was inspired by former player Maurice Ager, who became a music producer.

“They do things different, I guess, because they don’t wanna have the standard 9-to-5,” Watson said of former players’ jobs. “So they try to start their own business and do things that way to be successful that way.”

Watson said he “definitely” wants to work in real estate and may consider becoming a franchisee of a restaurant like Subway or Jimmy John’s. Jones, aside from real estate, believes he could do something entrepreneurial. Aminu may also look into manufacturing, apparel, and music.

A big lesson in all of it is getting an early jump. Redick remembers advice an older player gave him that he would share with any incoming rookie.

“If there are people you wanna talk to, if there are opportunities that you wanna pursue, do them now. In other words, if I want to talk to a CEO of a company… if you wanna do that, do that while you’re an active player. It’s much easier to get someone to pick up a phone call or to get invited to a program if you’re an active player. There’s weight, there’s juice in being an active player, being an active NBA player, being an active NFL player, as opposed to being out of the game for six months or a year and being retired and saying, ‘Oh my God, I gotta figure out what I wanna do.’ I would say, if you are a rookie, I would say start thinking about these things right away.”

Jones feels the same way, saying he would tell a rookie to take advantage of the NBA’s programs.

“Don’t wait ’til it’s too late to be able to try to gather something for when you’re done, because you’re gonna ultimately be done at some point in time and you’re gonna have to move onto something.”

It’s not an easy transition, but it’s one the NBA is trying help make a little bit easier with its programs.

“I’m not sure yet,” Watson said of his next career, “still thinking about it, but I know it’s in the back of my head.”

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Diamond Stone shows he’s more than just a paint player, he can shoot

October/16/2016

Diamond Stone stood about 18 feet from the basket and, without moving, swished four straight shots.

He was one of the only Clippers working out before practice and, despite his 6-foot-11 frame and reputation as a back-to-the-basket scorer, was going nowhere near the paint. A smile crept at the sides of his mouth as his jumpers poured through the rim. He slowly gravitated to behind the right elbow for more of the same.

Swish. Swish. Swish.

“I think they all would be really surprised,” Stone said. “The people who saw me in college, they don’t really know that I can shoot and do all these things. But I can.”

Stone was tethered to the low post in his one season at Maryland, giving him the reputation of being a bruising big man: Drop steps, dunks and jump hooks. But the 19-year-old rookie has displayed much versatility since joining the Clippers. The second-round pick regularly wins shooting games in practice. During training camp, Coach Doc Rivers likened him to first-round pick Brice Johnson, who is known for his athleticism and midrange game.

None of this means Stone will get regular minutes this season, as he is still a teenager on a roster of veteran stretch forwards. Stone has the opportunity to stay on an accelerated track while shaking the labels that have been placed on him.

“I can really put the ball on the floor, I have a great touch,” Stone said. “I think this system will really be able to expose the good parts of my game.”

Unlike many NBA draft picks, Stone wasn’t tabbed as a potential professional player from a young age. He actually wasn’t even tabbed as a recreation-league starter.

When his parents searched for a trainer a decade ago, they just wanted their son to get on the court.

“He wasn’t playing, like at all,” said DeShawn Curtis, who started training Stone at 9 years old. “He was towering over his fourth-grade classmates, but he couldn’t get in games. They just wanted him to have a chance to play.”

At the time, Curtis worked full time in finance and was a part-time basketball coach. He met Stone and his father, Robert, at an outdoor court in Milwaukee in the summer. Robert put Curtis through an extensive interview, and then had Curtis show him the kind of workouts he’d do with Diamond.

Curtis, who came straight from his office, sweated through his full suit while running Diamond through a series of drills. Robert wanted his son to be developed as a low-post scorer. Curtis, looking at the kid’s long arms, agreed, but also wanted to make him well-rounded.

That was the plan when Stone started working out with Curtis four times a week. Before they got to post moves and jump shots, Curtis taught Stone how to move. Curtis noticed that Stone dragged his feet when he ran, so he put a series of hurdles on the side of the court.

Whenever Stone started to slow down, Curtis blew the whistle and told him to start jumping.

“For about two months all he did was go over those hurdles,” Curtis said. “He really didn’t like coming to work out with me, I can tell you that.”

It slowly worked, and Stone’s conditioning was eventually paired with attractive inside-out skills. He committed to Maryland as the second-best center in the 2015 recruiting class, and was immediately put in the paint when he got there.

The Terrapins were loaded with shooters, including two perimeter power forwards in Jake Layman and Robert Carter Jr. That narrowed Stone’s role to one of a traditional center, but didn’t stop him from working on the other parts of his game.

“I always made sure to get shots up, to go off the dribble, all of those things,” Stone said. “It would usually be before practice, or late after practice, but that was something I focused on because I knew I’d need those tools at the next level.”

The Clippers’ power forward group is full of floor spacers. Blake Griffin is continuing to expand his range beyond the three-point line. Veterans Brandon Bass and Marreese Speights have built careers on their midrange jumpers. Rivers has even said Paul Pierce could play the position in small lineups.

But Stone’s foresight was still correct. If he is to earn minutes, it will be with his soft shooting touch, physical defense and an unforeseen passing ability.

“Sometimes you actually have to give the guy the ball to make a pass to find out if he can actually pass,” Rivers said. “He didn’t do any passing in college because he wasn’t in that position. Now we’re putting him in a pass position and what we’ve found is he’s got passing instincts better than half the veterans.”

After working his way around the arc before practice, Stone started a one-on-one drill with Pierce.

Pierce, the 18-year veteran who plans to retire after this season, frequently works with Stone. They went at it on the wing, banging into each other in games up to three points.

“That’s not his range! That’s not his range!” Pierce barked, pulling at Stone’s hair, as the rookie set up just inside the three-point line. “I’m telling you, that’s not his range!”

He leaned his body into Pierce, took one step back and knocked down a 20-foot jump shot. Pierce looked at Stone, then at the basket, then back at Stone. Having heard those words before, Stone smirked before calling for the ball again.

“Wow,” Pierce said, lowering his voice to a near whisper. “Damn, this kid really can shoot.”

BY Jesse Dougherty / PUBLISHED October/16/2016 / Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com/sports/clippers/la-sp-diamond-stone-clippers-20161016-snap-story.html
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  • Cook’s Record-Setting Night Propels Charge in Win

    December/07/2016

    The Canton Charge (4-6), powered by the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, snapped the Texas Legends’

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  • Indiana Fever to Retire Catchings’ number

    November/29/2016

    The Indiana Fever announced Tuesday that they will retire the No. 24 jersey of Tamika

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  • Ray Allen: Letter to my Younger Self

    November/01/2016

    Dear 13-year-old Ray, When you get off the school bus tomorrow, you’re going to be

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  • Jeremy Lin’s Moment of Clarity

    October/31/2016

    Jeremy Lin is standing on the corner of Kent and West Streets in Greenpoint, Brooklyn,

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  • Alana Beard + LA Sparks win 2016 WNBA Championship

    October/20/2016

    In the final act of the WNBA’s 20th season, the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota

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  • C.J. Watson Visits Google with NBA’s Career Crossover program

    C.J. Watson’s mom pushed him at a young age to get ready for the “real

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  • Diamond Stone shows he’s more than just a paint player, he can shoot

    October/16/2016

    Diamond Stone stood about 18 feet from the basket and, without moving, swished four straight

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