The Amoeba is a new weekly column with four thoughts a basketball topic du jour. Named after Jerry Tarkanian and his frantic Amoeba Zone Defense at UNLV.
Hi there. You knew things were not well when Tony Parker sat sideways motionless on the ground, gripping his leg. You could hear a pin drop throughout southern Texas. Chuck and his churros included. The good news in this muck is the Spurs have someone waiting in the wings, waiting for that thing called opportunity. Here are four thoughts on Dejounte Murray.
Many rookies will become complacent sitting on the pine, whereas Dejounte soaks things up like a tortilla. A la Cory Joseph, he spent a dozen games with the Austin Spurs in the D-League where he averaged 17 points, seven assists and two steals. When Tony Parker went down with a midseason injury, Murray immediately stepped in to do THIS in Denver, had the game winning shot against Toronto, then did this in the Land:
I remember about 15 years ago, L.A. Dodgers rookie catcher Russell Martin had an mid-game argument with pitcher Derek Lowe. He called time and ran to the mound and chewed out the veteran on national television Lowe had refused to throw the pitch Martin had called for, and it resulted in a run. After the game, Lowe was asked about the altercation and said, I knew then and there Martin was special and he’d have a long career.
I noticed something very similar with Dejounte. Midseason, on a pick and roll, he split the defenders and threw a lob to Dewayne Dedmon for what should have been an easy dunk. Dedmon never rolled to the basket, and it ended up being a broken play. A timeout was called, and while walking to the bench, the 20-year-old wrapped his arm around the 27-year-old’s neck and firmly said, “Roll to the rim.”
We live in an era where guys who don’t look like a traditional basketball player can fall later in the draft. Ask Isaiah Thomas, Nikola Jokic, and, sadly, Jeremy Lin.
Dejounte is built like a toothpick and dropped into R.C.’s hands with the 29th pick. Eric Fawcett, our resident NCAA expert at Press, had these thoughts:
He shot the ball very poorly in college, and also lacked the explosiveness to finish at a high level around the rim. He scored a lot in the midrange with floaters, but the perception was that he couldn’t shoot or finish at the hoop well. He wasn’t much of a playmaker and turned the ball over a TON. …Also, the Washington team he played for was really bad, so it doesn’t help your look when you’re the best player and point guard for a very underachieving team.
Pop has never been big on trust with young floor generals; Parker is the first to admit how much his eardrums were rattled his rookie year. Yet Murray’s game is very reminiscent of Mike Conley’s—aggression, composure, smoothness, sneaky athleticism. And that lankiness and preternatural instinct on defense. The Spurs waived Argentinian point guard Nicolas Laprovittola when they realized what they had.
“He’s intelligent,” Popovich said. “He understands when he comes out why he came out. He doesn’t pout or hold a grudge or act like he’s above it all. …He needs to get repetition on pick and rolls, making decisions on the fast break, that sort of thing. He will still do double duty (in the D-League) in that sense, but I just think his potential is off the charts.”
With Tony Parker out for the playoffs, do not be shocked if Pop injects Dejounte into the starting lineup. This is Travolta sticking the needle into Uma Thurman’s heart. The coaching staff wants Manu and Mills playing together off the bench for continuity. Starting the kid ain’t a crazy idea.
Dejounte has done it before, and he will do it again.
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
Something Out of Nothing
It’s March 2016, and I’m driving with Alan Shane Lewis to Montreal to meet with Marc Griffin and Phil Boileau. We’re meeting to speak about this exciting new idea I pitched to them. We were tired of spinning the wheels on our own individual internet shows, and I told them that it was time we stopped waiting for a network and became the network.
We spoke that weekend about creating a community of content creators that all loved ball and came together to make unique content with unique voices – voices we felt were never heard in the mainstream. This community was the base of Press and we’d continue to push forward from that spot. We spoke about some amazing show ideas, article ideas, social media plan. It was truly an exciting time, and still one of the best weekends of my life.
Two years later and that group is a lot smaller, and that idea is Press Basketball.
It caught fire at the beginning and we had people joining our bright shiny new plaything left, right, and center. It was exciting, but now I kind of realize that a lot of it was just that we were that “bright shiny new thing”.
We ended up with a lot of Press Basketball “members” but when I stepped back and looked at what was happening… it wasn’t what I’d imagined. The fire burned out. The idea was gone. We had just become another thing trying to stay alive, waiting for some deus ex machina to show up with money and make everything okay.
I’ve gone through most of my life making something out of nothing. It’s never easy, but when it happens it’s always worth it… ALWAYS. Press made me feel alive at a point. It was literally all I could think about, and while it still is on my mind, it doesn’t make me feel alive. This hurts more than I can ever explain.
Changes are coming my friends. We’re not laying down and dying, and if we do it’s not going to be like this.
The core of Press will be setting fire to a lot over the next few weeks and I personally can’t wait for this to start. From the ashes something new will rise (I watched a lot of XMEN growing up).
Stay tuned, because it’s not over.
Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers
Lonzo Ball is the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. The new savior. The Big Baller Brand is now here to stay and LaVar Ball’s family’s future is set. But is that enough?
Lonzo Ball is a great kid and athlete who knows his talent will take him to another level. The major question mark that remains is whether or not he will take the Lakers there as well. He has the platform and skillset to do so, but with that comes the added pressure from the city and league to basically become part of the next version of Kobe and Shaq. It’s too strainful for a young kid—a rookie—to achieve.
Magic Johnson, the recently named President of Basketball of Operations for the Lakers, is taking an aggressive approach to get this team back into playoff contention his first year in. One of his first moves was sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick. Brook Lopez is definitely an upgrade at center, but has a couple of years already under his belt.
Lopez will provide a much needed veteran presence with a great IQ for the game at his position. The only downfall is that a couple of years under his belt doesn’t really transfer to great experience, but simply wasted miles on his body. He isn’t as quick as he used to be and doesn’t even rank in the top 10 centers in the league. In fact, Bleacher Report had him last season at exactly 15 out of the top 30 centers in the NBA. While he is has improved by adding the three-point range to his arsenal, there is no doubt that he is nearly past his prime, and although he can still contribute on a nightly basis, who knows how much and what effect it will have with Lonzo Ball running the point.
Ball has great court vision that has been often compared to that of LeBron James. Combined with his passing skills, he is a true PG with tremendous upside in the backcourt. With that being said, he will only reach a certain extent. His full potential is years from being maximized and people are buying into it early on. In fact, the pressure for him to lift a sub .500 team to the playoffs for the first time in five years is daunting.
These are Lonzo Ball’s stats during his rookie—and only—year at UCLA:
- 14.6 Points
- 7.6 Assists
- 6.0 Rebounds
- 1.8 Steals
- 0.8 Blocks
- 55.1 FG%
- 41.2 3P%
He did a tremendous job maintaining that statline and even added a triple-double in the NBA Summer League, earning him the Summer League MVP.
Don’t get me wrong, Ball seems ready for the challenge and is definitely a one-of-a-kind talent mirroring that of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but he is not an All-Star or MVP—at least, not yet. These way-too-early predictions that he is the Lakers’ new savior are farfetched. He has yet to face the elite NBA offensive threats and superstars that have been at it for 10-plus years. Defensively speaking he will not be able to keep up. Not in his first year. He still needs NBA experience and a more rounded roster to be able to reach the playoffs.
He is off to a good start, but being named NBA Summer League MVP doesn’t necessarily mean a spectacular season is coming as some think it does. Especially if you consider the previous Summer League MVP winners.
|2012||Damian Lillard (co-MVPs)||PG||Portland Trail Blazers|
|Josh Selby (co-MVPs)||PG||Memphis Grizzlies|
|2013||Jonas Valančiūnas||C||Toronto Raptors|
|2014||Glen Rice Jr.||SG||Washington Wizards|
|2015||Kyle Anderson||SF||San Antonio Spurs|
|2016||Tyus Jones||PG||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|2017||Lonzo Ball||PG||Los Angeles Lakers|
With the exceptions of Damian Lillard in 2012 and Jonas Valanciunas in 2013, the past five Summer League MVP winners have gone on to produce very mediocre NBA careers. All I’m saying is, don’t read too much into NBA Summer League. It’s the pre-preseason that no one really watches or cares about.
The NBA season is nearing—exactly a month away—and my somewhat harsh criticism of Lonzo Ball isn’t too cruel. I am just not ready to jump on the Ball bandwagon following LaVar’s prophecies of his son being the Lakers prodigal son. He won’t be. Again, at least not yet. He needs to earn his spot and the transition will surprise him his first year in. It will hit him hard, but, despite my concerns, eventually Lonzo Ball will become a future NBA All-Star and a daring NBA point guard.
Not yet though, and until then all we can do is prepare for his official NBA debut. Until then, we can enjoy and bask in his newly released rap single paying tribute to his little brother LaMelo Ball.
If the NBA doesn’t end up being his calling in life, at least he has a back up career in mind.
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
An Ode to the 2007-2008 Warriors
USA VS EVERYBODY | The Break | Episode 17
Trading Places | The Break | Episode 18
February Fouls | The Break | Episode 16
Christmas Day Showdowns | The Break | Episode 10
Western Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 1
Eastern Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 2
NBA & More Mailbag with Josh Howe — TWT 102
Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview with Keith Parish — TWT 101
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
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Something Out of Nothing
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Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers
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