This class of NBA rookies is facing an unprecedented transition to the league. Most of them haven’t played an organized game since March, and now they are set to begin their first NBA training camp on Dec. 1, less than two weeks after being drafted.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic deprived them of the opportunity to walk across the stage and shake the commissioner’s hand on draft night, and prevented them from having any kind of summer league or extended offseason to get ready for their first NBA season.
So a group of NBA veterans and legends shared their experiences entering the NBA and what advice they’d give to this year’s rookies as they embark on their own NBA journey.
1. Put in the work
Gary Payton (No. 2 pick, 1990): “Coming into the NBA is a privilege and honor. You have to work hard and don’t take it for granted. Go in with the mindset to be the best player you can be, and for whatever organization drafts you, just try to help them win a championship any possible way you can.”
Marcus Camby (No. 2 pick, 1996): “Make sure that you guys are continually working on your game. There’s gonna be a lot of idle time, a lot of downtime between practices and games and travel. You have to continue to constantly be in the gym working on your game.”
Mitch Richmond (No. 5 pick, 1988): “There’s no excuses for not working on your game — no more classes, it’s all what you put into yourself to be the best you possibly can.”
Rudy Gobert (No. 27 pick, 2013): “Don’t sweat about the position you get drafted at, what matters is what comes next. Trust your journey.”
2. Take care of your body
Darius Miles (No. 3 pick, 2000): “In high school, I was used to eating things like McDonald’s before or after games. Now, when you get to the NBA, they have food prepared for you at games, practices, everything. There was no more McDonald’s in my routine.”
Mikal Bridges (No. 10 pick, 2018): “Always stay ready and take care of your body. You never know when it’ll be your turn to get in the game and make an impact on your team. You want to make sure you’re ready when your number is called.”
Robert Horry (No. 11 pick, 1992): “Be early, stay late and always put in the extra work, but listen to your body at the same time.”
3. Practice, practice, practice
Isiah Thomas (No. 2 pick, 1981): “Practice hard every single day and always outwork your opponent. When hard work becomes your daily habit, you will have success.”
Sam Perkins (No. 4 pick, 1984): “Be accountable. Use practice as a platform for your play. I looked forward to practice daily. Yes, practice was hard, but games became easier to play within the team system.”
4. Get ready for a lot more time on the road
Camby: “In college basketball, you’re playing like 30, 30-plus games. In the NBA, some teams are playing 90, 90-plus [games] with 82 in the regular season, eight preseason and then the playoffs. So, I would think that was probably my hardest adjustment, just getting myself ready on a nightly basis to compete and also to deal with the travel and wear and tear of the NBA schedule.”
Perkins: “Hardest adjustment entering the league was the travel, the practices, the number of games in my rookie year. Back-to-back games are a real adjustment.”
5. Expect a serious step up in competition
Payton: “My first two years, I struggled. I had to understand I wasn’t the best player on the floor anymore. There were a lot of people out there, night in and night out, who were better than me. I had to realize what I did in college wasn’t going to work in the pros. I was the No. 2 pick, so I had a target on my back and had to prove myself. I had to be more humble and work on my game. I thought I’d made it already when I was drafted, but that wasn’t true.”
Kendall Gill (No. 5 pick, 1990): “When I went from the University of Illinois to the Charlotte Hornets where I was drafted, I could not believe my first practice how fast Muggsy Bogues was, how fast Johnny Newman was, how fast Dell Curry and all of the other guys that were there my rookie year were. How fast they were and how strong they were. So that’s the biggest difference they’re going to have to deal with.”
Thomas: “Every single person you compete against will annihilate you, if you’re not ready to compete and win.”
Oh, and one more thing…
Gill: “Nothing’s going to be normal about this upcoming season because we are in a pandemic so [this year’s rookies] have to realize that the things they are about to go through are not normal NBA protocols. So you have to expect things that are quite frankly are not of the NBA culture right away, but hopefully the following season everything will get back to normal.”
Notable Bets – Patrick Mahomes’ injury throws oddsmakers for a loop
Oddsmakers had been contemplating what the line would be on an AFC Championship Game between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs for days. Yet, on Sunday afternoon, after the matchup was set, the opening line ranged wildly, from Chiefs -4 to Bills -2.5, at sportsbooks around the globe.
That’s what the injury to Patrick Mahomes II did to the betting market, and it’s only the beginning.
By late Sunday night, the line had settled with the Chiefs as 2.5-point favorites, with some books at -3. It’s unlikely to remain there.
Mahomes left the Chiefs’ 22-17 playoff win over the Cleveland Browns in the second half with a concussion. His status for AFC Championship Game was up in the air heading into Monday. If he plays, the line will almost certainly grow. If he’s out, Buffalo could end up favored, and the Green Bay Packers could become the Super Bowl favorites.
“If Mahomes were ruled out, the Bills would be a decent favorite,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, said Sunday night, noting that some of his oddsmakers projected a line as high as Buffalo -7 if backup Chad Henne starts for the Chiefs in place of Mahomes. “That sounds a little extreme to me, but it gives you an idea just how much drop-off it is from Mahomes to Henne, in terms of the point spread.”
Johnny Avello, sportsbook director for DraftKings, expected the Chiefs to remain the favorites to win the Super Bowl, but he knows the gap between has narrowed significantly with Mahomes’ injury.
“They’ll still be the favorites, but it will be tightened up a little bit,” Avello said.
On Sunday night, William Hill U.S. sportsbooks had the Chiefs at +200 to win the Super Bowl, followed the Packers at +225, Bills +300 and Buccaneers +400. But a lot could change this week.
In the meantime, here are the notable bets.
• On Sunday night, the Packers were consensus 4-point favorites over the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. The SuperBook opened Green Bay at -4.5 and quickly took money on the underdog Buccaneers, driving the number to -4.
• In the AFC Championship Game, most of the early bets were on the Bills at the SuperBook. “Although the biggest bet yet was one for $20,000 on Chiefs -3 (even),” Murray said. “The public likes both of these teams, even though the Chiefs continue to let the bettors down. They failed to cover yet again today.”
• The Chiefs have failed to cover the spread in eight of their last nine games.
• Late money showed up on the Browns leading up to kickoff Sunday. The line, which had flittered between Kansas City -10 and -9.5 all week, plummeted all the way to -7.5 before kickoff. The SuperBook reported taking late sharp money on Cleveland, as the entire market moved toward the underdog Browns.
“The difference between 7.5 and 9.5 is not that big,” DrafKings’ Avello said. “I don’t know why that thing dropped. I can’t explain why they were taking nine, eight and a half and eight.”
At Circa Sports, a Las Vegas sportsbook known to cater to professional bettors, there were more bets on Kansas City, but more money was wagered on Cleveland.
“All the large bets we keep taking are on the Browns,” Matt Metcalf, sportsbook director for Circa Sports in Las Vegas, told ESPN in a text message before Sunday’s game began. “Someone just took [Cleveland plus] 8 for a lot a minute ago.”
• The Chiefs were leading 22-10 with just over 11 minutes left when Mahomes was officially ruled out for the rest of the game. Kansas City was a massive favorite at that point, -900 to win the game outright. After a Browns’ touchdown cut the lead to 22-17 and Mahomes was ruled out, the live odds shifted to Chiefs -500.
• The most popular player proposition bet on the Browns-Chiefs game at New Jersey sportsbook Tipico was the under 260.5 on Baker Mayfield passing yards, which accounted for 50% of the book’s action on player props.
• The Buccaneers-Saints game Sunday was the most-heavily bet game of the weekend for multiple sportsbooks.
• A bettor with sportsbook PointsBet placed a $5,400-per-point bet on the Bills -3.5 against the Ravens. In this example, the per-point bet, commonly known as pointsbetting, was based on the number of points by which the Bills covered the spread. They covered the spread by 11.5 points, and the bettor won a net $56,700.
• The Rams-Packers game on Saturday was billed as a “Pros vs. Joes” game by some. The underdog Rams attracted early betting interest from professional bettors at +7. The line dipped to Green Bay -6.5 and stayed there for most of the week, despite lopsided betting action on the favored Packers. At kickoff at PointsBet, 82% of the bets and 89% of the money wagered was on Green Bay. The Packers won and covered the spread 32-18.
Nets favorites in Eastern Conference after Harden trade
After the acquisition of James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets moved in front of the Milwaukee Bucks and are now the favorites in the Eastern Conference. But some oddsmakers still aren’t sold on the NBA’s newest super team.
The Nets’ title odds improved from 12-1 to 7-2 last week at the SuperBook. Jeff Sherman, who oversees the SuperBook’s NBA odds, began shortening Brooklyn’s title odds last Tuesday after Harden told reporters that he didn’t think the situation in Houston was fixable. Sherman first trimmed the Nets’ odds to 8-1, then to 6-1 before going to 7-2 after the trade.
Only the Los Angeles Lakers have better title odds than the Nets, who attracted big bets at the SuperBook in the preseason and more recently, including a $10,000 wager in December. The Bucks have the second-best odds in the Eastern Conference at 8-1, followed by Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers at 20-1.
“I don’t have as much separation between them and some of the other teams in the East, as the title odds indicate,” Sherman said. “When you see 7-2 on the Nets and 8-1 on the Bucks, and the Heat, Celtics and Sixers at 20-1, I don’t think on a per-game basis it’s that much of a difference than what it looks to be based on the title odds.”
“They can talk a good game all they want, but we don’t know how the chemistry is going to come out of this,” Sherman said. “There’s already been these rumors about Irving not being happy with the Nets behind the scenes. Is this going to make him more unhappy?”
… with Scott Butera, co-CEO of sportsbook platform Vigtory, which last week announced intentions to be acquired by live TV streaming platform fuboTV. The acquisition deal is in the final stages, and when completed, fuboTV expects to launch a sportsbook before the end of the year.
Q: What is your vision of the product that will come out of the fuboTV-Vigtory deal?
A: I think being able to watch sports live and transact on and bet on sports is very powerful. I also think it gives us tremendous reach in terms of customer reach, customer acquisition. The product, we’ll announce at the right time, but the whole idea is that you’ll have sort of a simultaneous experience between consuming sports, watching sports and being able to bet on sports and transact on sports. It could be betting, it could be merchandise, getting tickets. I think the whole idea is to create these global entertainment experiences that are multi-faceted. We find that there’s a lot of synergy between the two.
Q: What hurdles remain to launch such a service?
A: In terms of hurdles, clearly, like any other operator, we’ll have a state rollout plan. We’re knee-deep in that. Getting the correct legislation passed in jurisdictions that it’s not yet passed. I think those things will evolve over time. I think this combination (with fuboTV) helps us get a lot in getting over those, and I think there are a lot of different ways that we can get into markets now that are beyond just traditional ways that a sportsbook would, either through streaming services or other products that we my introduce that don’t necessarily have the same regulatory challenges that sports betting does at the moment. It helps us clear a lot of those, actually.
Q: Vigtory’s announced approach to sports betting was to offer a low-vig sports betting option. Is that still the plan?
A: Our plan was always to have a really great product and great value. We want to have outstanding technology, outstanding experiences, and we want to have good value. And value is not necessarily defined by price; it’s defined by what you get for what you paid for, and that’s always been our goal.
Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving questionable vs. Milwaukee Bucks after missing 6 games
NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving is listed as questionable for the Brooklyn Nets‘ game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday. It is the first time since Jan. 5 that Irving’s status leaves room for him to be available to play.
Irving has missed the Nets’ past six games.
For the first five games of his absence, Irving was listed as out for personal reasons.
During that hiatus, a video began circulating online of Irving at what appeared to be a family birthday party. The video showed the Nets guard maskless, dancing with his sister and standing next to her as she blew out birthday candles.
The league’s COVID-19 safety rules say that players are not allowed to go to bars, clubs and lounges or attend gatherings of 15 or more people. Irving was found to have violated those rules. The league fined Irving $50,000 and docked him over $800,000 in salary for the two games he had to miss in quarantine.
Irving was out for the Nets’ game on Sunday against the Orlando Magic as a part of the league’s health and safety protocols. League rules allow for players who have had to quarantine to have a few days to ramp up on-court workouts before rejoining their team in a game.
On Saturday, Nets coach Steve Nash said that he anticipated Irving would work out on Sunday with the team’s “stay ready” group of bench players.
Nets general manager Sean Marks said last week Irving will “have the opportunity to address his absence when he is ready to do so.”
Sunday night’s Philadelphia 76ers-Oklahoma City Thunder game postponed
The game was postponed in accordance with the league’s health and safety guidelines as the 76ers don’t meet the minimum roster requirement of eight players.
The contact tracing is connected to Saturday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Grizzlies listed Jonas Valanciunas as out for Monday’s game against the Phoenix Suns as the center has entered the league’s health and safety protocols. The Grizzlies played the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday before their game on Friday was postponed due to contact tracing within the Wolves. Karl-Anthony Towns announced that he tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.
The Sixers have been battling against a postponement for more than a week after guard Seth Curry tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 7. They played with only eight players on Jan. 9 against the Nuggets.
They used just nine players in Saturday’s loss and had six listed on their injury report. Two were out due to health and safety protocols (Curry and Vincent Poirier) with Joel Embiid (knee), Furkan Korkmaz (groin) and Mike Scott (knee) sitting with injuries. That would leave six other players out Sunday because of contact tracing.
The Sixers are next scheduled to host the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
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