Hamiltons Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drives fast lane to NBA stardom

Hamilton\s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drives fast lane to NBA stardom
UK Wildcats Basketball: John Calipari talks Duke, Southern Illinois and the PG situation
LOS ANGELES—The players’ parking lot at the spiffy training facility of the Los Angeles Clippers in Playa Vista is filled with luxury vehicles, as one would expect.

There’s a Mercedes-Benz over there, an Escalade over here. Any number of new, impressive rides all kept in pristine condition, because there’s a car wash off the corner of the building and you can’t sweat the details in the detailing, right?

No, we can fly. We can open up the court. I think we did at times. We took bad shots. Quick, contested. Guys were acting like it was high school. Then we got down, Im gonna get mine now. What? You dont play that way at Kentucky. You tried to get yours and now were down 30. Whyd you do that? Well, he did it. Oh really? So he does it, so you do it, what about him? Then we had one place we could throw the ball and get something good other than running stuff and that was Reid (Travis). Well, teams are going to double team him. Ill say it again: I like this team. I like the people, the players, the way they treat each other. Now, we gotta have a little chip. We gotta get hungrier. I was calm that whole game. Matter of fact, it was really positive. I did not say much. I mean, I really didnt. Even at halftime or after. I didnt raise my voice but once or twice just to (say), Why did you do that? But just once or twice. But, maybe I need to coach like I did at the beginning of last year. If you remember how I coached at the beginning of last year, I was like the point guard. I became the point guard on the sideline until I could start backing up, until Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) got real good and I said, Go do what you do and we are good. Maybe I have got to do that. I am still learning how to coach these guys individually and collectively. But, I say this: They have got to go play. Just go play. Be who you are. If the other guy outworks you, you should not be in the game and dont expect to be in the game. That is just pretty much my history as a coach. If you dont dive on the floor, I took you out. He takes me out every time I dont dive on the floor for a ball. Are you saying that publicly to everyone? Please do that. It has nothing to do with missed shots or turnovers. It is fight. It is 50-50 balls. How many did we get? Not one. We had guys jumping because we did not put a body on somebody. Guys like, who the heck is that? Where did he come from? But, thank goodness, as much as I hated that to be our first game, thank goodness it was our first game. Could you imagine if this happened game five? Game seven? Five weeks of games and then you get back and its, oh my gosh. So we have time. Today, we are going to get after it, but weve got a game tomorrow. We didnt get back until 3 what? [Lindsey: A little after 3.] Is that one of the reasons you dont have players out here? [Laughter].

As a visitor wanders around, he wonders which one might belong to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the ascending Clippers point guard who got his start in the sport in Toronto and Hamilton.

Kids buy cars with first contracts, right? It’s a statement that they’ve arrived, a way to show their teammates what kind of taste they have, another way to belong. And with a salary that starts at nearly $8 million (U.S.) and will top out at something around $20 million, he’d have the pick of the automotive litter, wouldn’t he?

Well, situational, focus on game plan, trying to figure out where – like, Ive had all kinds of different point guards. Like Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) kind of spoiled us. Shai became like John Wall, Brandon (Knight). You know, he became – and now hes in the NBA doing that. We dont have that guy. Hes not on the roster. Do I play them like I played my UMass point guards? When I had Derek (Kellogg) and when I had Edgar Padilla? Do I play my point guards that way, which is more a facilitator than is the guy thats going and – Im still learning. Im trying to figure it out, and thats what happens. If I thought we could do some of the stuff just spread the court, You go beat the guy. Come on. Youre watching the game. We dont have those guys. Its not who we have. But, Im telling you, we have really good players. Weve just gotta be a little bit more in tune to how we have to play to win basketball games. How you stop the bleeding. How you finish people off. How do you get somebody down and get it to 20, 25? What is a good shot? What is a bad shot? Heres the other one: Do I try and create opportunities for different guys by doing different stuff? How do we get Nick (Richards) involved? I just thought Nick would be better right now, and so, OK, what do I do to help him get going? How do I do this? Most of this falls back on me, on my shoulders. They want to do right and they want to win. And they know what uniform theyre in and they know what that means. I dont do the social media so I cant imagine (what people are saying). I dont read it. I could care less. Somebody said, Your fans (are saying this and that). I know this: When I walked into that arena there was 75 percent Kentucky fans. I do know that. And they travel and they want to win. They care. If some of them are saying stuff, Im not reading it anyway, so all I know is they are – theyre into this. I watched the tape twice. Im telling you if anybody watched that tape three times theyre out of their minds. Some of them shouldnt have watched it at all. Burn the tape. Dont ever look at that tape.

Not the Mercedes, not the SUV. None of those ritzy vehicles belong to Gilgeous-Alexander, who might be one of the few 20-year-olds in driving-mad L.A. who doesn’t have the keys to any car.

“I’ve just always been lazy,” he jokes. “Now I need to drive places, so I’m going to get it.”

Each guy – we were out there, instead of playing for each other, they were trying to get theirs. I had one guy call me and say, It looked like your guys had their hair on fire. I had another guy saying, They were so quick. One pass and guys were – people all over them, shooting it anyway, driving. The game, it was a 12-point game, and we took three bad shots, quick, contested, basket, basket. All of a sudden, timeout. What are we doing here? Start the second half, alright, were OK. Even though it should be 10 or 12, were OK. OK, now its 23. Timeout. Stopping the bleeding. They dont know yet what that means. Im going to ask them in there, Do you know what stop the bleeding means? Band-Aid. Hold it. I dont think they understand some things that were going to have to get down. And then, like I told them, we gotta get five guys who will fight like heck and leave them in and play them as long as they can play. Find those five who will fight together and play together and leave them in and then the rest of you will sub in when they need a break.

For now, he’s driven hither and yon — it’s a three-freeway trek that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to hours on the traffic-choked L.A. routes from the facility to Staples Center where the team plays — either by good-hearted teammates or franchise employees or by whichever Uber driver takes the fare.

“It’s annoying,” he concurs about the traffic. “It almost makes you not want to get it. Sometimes it’s like, you know what, it’s not worth it.”

Later on that night, after the drive or the ride or whatever (wonder if he ever thought of doing the Kobe Bryant helicopter commute?) Gilgeous-Alexander enjoys one of the true breakthrough moments of his life.

No. [Looking at sports information director Eric Lindsey] Tell me why you did that? [Lindsey: Because they have not practiced or watched film yet or met with anyone since the game.] When he said were not having the players, I said, Why is that? If you guys want Ill bring Jemarl Baker out if you want to meet somebody. Well have him come out after Im done.

The skinny kid — he’s six-foot-six, and it’s a generous estimate to list him at 180 pounds — makes the first of what will be many NBA starts when the Clippers take on the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The move may have been hastened by injury, but L.A. insiders said the day before that his ascension to a starting role was going to come sooner rather than later.

Video: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Freezes Zach Collins With “Smitty” Move

Gilgeous-Alexander just has a way about him — a style, a form, an intelligence — that can’t be taught. One NBA assistant coach thinks the Toronto-born, Hamilton-raised youngster is going to be an NBA all-star before everything is over.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway was Caliparis assessment of the point guard situation. While Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley have potential, they simply arent the kind of lead guards that Calipari has had in previous years at Kentucky.

“He’s really good,” says Doc Rivers, the Clippers head coach and a 14-year NBA point guard who knows a bit about what it takes to be a good one. “Not just as a player. He’s very cerebral. I think he just, he’s one of those players — I hate putting names, I’ve said it before, he does remind me of (Rajon) Rondo in his rookie year, where in shootarounds he would call out the plays or he would already know.

“I ask a lot of questions in practices, just general questions, and Shai seems to always smile or he knows the answer. I don’t know what that means. I just know that he’s studying and he really understands the game.”

Southern Illinois brings back their four leading scorers. Theyve got inside players that can really play and shoot the ball well. A team that beats us if we dont play harder than we play.

That Gilgeous-Alexander would be some kind of sponge when it comes to absorbing basketball information should come as little surprise. He’s been listening and learning and applying those lessons for years: the first decade of his life in Toronto, a move to Hamilton, prep school in Tennessee before a year at Kentucky that turned him into the 11th pick in last June’s draft.

Caliparis team, who was off from practice Wednesday, will need to move on fast as theyre set to host the Southern Illinois Salukis at Rupp Arena on Friday.

He credits his parents — mom Charmaine Gilgeous, who ran for Antigua and Barbuda at the 1992 Olympics, and dad Vaughn Alexander — for driving him, figuratively and literally, to become what he is.

“Both my parents are really confident and that’s how they raised me,” he said. “Always be confident in yourself and believe in yourself. Growing up, my parents were always hard on me, always expected better of me in every aspect of life. I wouldn’t be here where I am without it.”

“I’ve always been, I like to say, the good kid in my family. My brother’s a little bit more rebellious, my cousins are a little bit more rebellious. I’m always the listener and I take things in.”

On if not seeing them is why they changed the normal pattern and didnt have players talk today …

The Clippers would like him to be a bit more assertive, and he surely will, to be a bit more of a talker than a listener as he guides the team in the post-Chris Paul, post-Blake Griffin, post-DeAndre Jordan era. It will be part of Gilgeous-Alexander’s maturation.

“He has to learn the word no,” Rivers said. “Especially if you’re young, to veterans, otherwise it’ll drive you crazy. It’s a tough spot sometimes for a young point guard. I tell him all the time: You have the most power ’cause you have the ball and they want it, so they’ll listen to you. Trust me, and they will.”

It was the summer of 2016, Gilgeous-Alexander, as star-struck as any teenage basketball prodigy would be, desperately wanted to accept an invitation to a Chris Paul Basketball Camp that summer, to test himself against other North American teens and, maybe, learn a thing or two.

They wanted the 18-year-old to accompany the team to Manila for a last-gasp chance to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Gilgeous-Alexander wasn’t going to play and everyone knew that. He was there as insurance and a piece for the future.

What’s a kid to do? Be buried on the bench half a world away at a tournament no one was paying attention to? Or be at a Chris Paul camp?

Because he’s no dummy, and because Canadian officials convinced him it would be wise to stay with men instead of competing against boys, he went to the Philippines.

He worked out against Cory Joseph and Tyler Ennis after having spent a training camp going against Steve Nash. He had one memorable dinner with Joseph, Joel Anthony, Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, revelling in the atmosphere with multiple NBA champions.

“That was my first time really playing against pros and I learned so much in that month or so that I was with them, on and off the court as well,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That experience kind of helped me for this, being in the NBA today. I’m a little bit ahead of the game, being with those guys and seeing how they act on and off the court and how professional they are.”

LOS ANGELES—The players’ parking lot at the spiffy training facility of the Los Angeles Clippers in Playa Vista is filled with luxury vehicles, as one would expect.

There’s a Mercedes-Benz over there, an Escalade over here. Any number of new, impressive rides all kept in pristine condition, because there’s a car wash off the corner of the building and you can’t sweat the details in the detailing, right?

As a visitor wanders around, he wonders which one might belong to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the ascending Clippers point guard who got his start in the sport in Toronto and Hamilton.

Kids buy cars with first contracts, right? It’s a statement that they’ve arrived, a way to show their teammates what kind of taste they have, another way to belong. And with a salary that starts at nearly $8 million (U.S.) and will top out at something around $20 million, he’d have the pick of the automotive litter, wouldn’t he?

Not the Mercedes, not the SUV. None of those ritzy vehicles belong to Gilgeous-Alexander, who might be one of the few 20-year-olds in driving-mad L.A. who doesn’t have the keys to any car.

“I’ve just always been lazy,” he jokes. “Now I need to drive places, so I’m going to get it.”

For now, he’s driven hither and yon — it’s a three-freeway trek that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to hours on the traffic-choked L.A. routes from the facility to Staples Center where the team plays — either by good-hearted teammates or franchise employees or by whichever Uber driver takes the fare.

“It’s annoying,” he concurs about the traffic. “It almost makes you not want to get it. Sometimes it’s like, you know what, it’s not worth it.”

Later on that night, after the drive or the ride or whatever (wonder if he ever thought of doing the Kobe Bryant helicopter commute?) Gilgeous-Alexander enjoys one of the true breakthrough moments of his life.

The skinny kid — he’s six-foot-six, and it’s a generous estimate to list him at 180 pounds — makes the first of what will be many NBA starts when the Clippers take on the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The move may have been hastened by injury, but L.A. insiders said the day before that his ascension to a starting role was going to come sooner rather than later.

Gilgeous-Alexander just has a way about him — a style, a form, an intelligence — that can’t be taught. One NBA assistant coach thinks the Toronto-born, Hamilton-raised youngster is going to be an NBA all-star before everything is over.

“He’s really good,” says Doc Rivers, the Clippers head coach and a 14-year NBA point guard who knows a bit about what it takes to be a good one. “Not just as a player. He’s very cerebral. I think he just, he’s one of those players — I hate putting names, I’ve said it before, he does remind me of (Rajon) Rondo in his rookie year, where in shootarounds he would call out the plays or he would already know.

“I ask a lot of questions in practices, just general questions, and Shai seems to always smile or he knows the answer. I don’t know what that means. I just know that he’s studying and he really understands the game.”

That Gilgeous-Alexander would be some kind of sponge when it comes to absorbing basketball information should come as little surprise. He’s been listening and learning and applying those lessons for years: the first decade of his life in Toronto, a move to Hamilton, prep school in Tennessee before a year at Kentucky that turned him into the 11th pick in last June’s draft.

He credits his parents — mom Charmaine Gilgeous, who ran for Antigua and Barbuda at the 1992 Olympics, and dad Vaughn Alexander — for driving him, figuratively and literally, to become what he is.

“Both my parents are really confident and that’s how they raised me,” he said. “Always be confident in yourself and believe in yourself. Growing up, my parents were always hard on me, always expected better of me in every aspect of life. I wouldn’t be here where I am without it.”

“I’ve always been, I like to say, the good kid in my family. My brother’s a little bit more rebellious, my cousins are a little bit more rebellious. I’m always the listener and I take things in.”

The Clippers would like him to be a bit more assertive, and he surely will, to be a bit more of a talker than a listener as he guides the team in the post-Chris Paul, post-Blake Griffin, post-DeAndre Jordan era. It will be part of Gilgeous-Alexander’s maturation.

“He has to learn the word no,” Rivers said. “Especially if you’re young, to veterans, otherwise it’ll drive you crazy. It’s a tough spot sometimes for a young point guard. I tell him all the time: You have the most power ’cause you have the ball and they want it, so they’ll listen to you. Trust me, and they will.”

It was the summer of 2016, Gilgeous-Alexander, as star-struck as any teenage basketball prodigy would be, desperately wanted to accept an invitation to a Chris Paul Basketball Camp that summer, to test himself against other North American teens and, maybe, learn a thing or two.

They wanted the 18-year-old to accompany the team to Manila for a last-gasp chance to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Gilgeous-Alexander wasn’t going to play and everyone knew that. He was there as insurance and a piece for the future.

What’s a kid to do? Be buried on the bench half a world away at a tournament no one was paying attention to? Or be at a Chris Paul camp?

Because he’s no dummy, and because Canadian officials convinced him it would be wise to stay with men instead of competing against boys, he went to the Philippines.

He worked out against Cory Joseph and Tyler Ennis after having spent a training camp going against Steve Nash. He had one memorable dinner with Joseph, Joel Anthony, Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, revelling in the atmosphere with multiple NBA champions.

“That was my first time really playing against pros and I learned so much in that month or so that I was with them, on and off the court as well,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That experience kind of helped me for this, being in the NBA today. I’m a little bit ahead of the game, being with those guys and seeing how they act on and off the court and how professional they are.”