Former Lakers guard and assistant coach Brian Shaw joins HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto on the latest podcast episode. Shaw discussed his favorite interactions with Kobe Bryant behind the scenes. He also explained why Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga, two players he’s coaching now on the G League Ignite, are among the top prospects to keep an eye on towards the upcoming NBA draft. Shaw also explained why a prospect should consider the G League instead of college. Listen to the podcast above or check out some snippets of the conversation in a transcribed version below.
1:00 How Shaw is keeping his G League Ignite roster sane heading into the bubble
2:20 What can top prospect Jalen Green become down the line?
Shaw: In terms of what he could become, the sky’s the limit, and I mean that. I’ve been around some very good players in my over 32 years being around the NBA. The special ones have pretty much something in common in terms of the way that they approach the game, the work ethic, confidence that they play with, and that desire to be great, and to consistently be great by putting in the work. He embodies all of those qualities. He has effortless athleticism on top of that. We’re trying to instill and put into place the footwork, the fundamentals and the things that will be his foundation going forward. I think the combination of that, along with his God-given talent and ability athletically, as well as his knack for being able to score the ball at every different level, from the three-point line, mid-range game. He can post up, even though he has a slight build. He’s a great slasher who can get to the rim and finish with contact or over contact.
5:54 What has impressed you about Jonathan Kuminga, and what do you see for him long-term?
Shaw: Jonathan is special. Right away, when I was first around him, the person that came to mind that he reminded me of the most was Jaylen Brown on the Celtics. Being from the Bay Area here in Oakland, I got to see Jaylen play when he was at Cal. I also did his draft workout when he worked out for us when I was with the Lakers. Just the body type, very mature for his age, strong, athletic, and I think the best part of his game, which is not the most glorious by any means, is on the defensive end. He’s a guy that can defend ones, twos, threes, and fours.
10:37 Do you have a player comparison for Jalen Green?
Shaw: No. His game is more unique. Each guy here I send clips of different guys that I want them to study their games and pick certain aspects of their game. With Jalen, I’ve sent him video clips and sat with him and watched Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant, Paul George, and I think I’ll also show him some footage of Bradley Beal. To me, even though his body type is not like Beal, the ways in which he scores the ball are kind of similar to that, but he has more of the body of a young Penny that I played with in Orlando for three years. He’s not the playmaker and facilitator like Penny, but in terms of that athleticism, length, and the way he attacks on offense reminds me a little bit of his game.
12:30 What are your impressions of Isaiah Todd and any comparison for him?
Shaw: Isaiah Todd is, I think, under the radar. I hope that the guys aren’t really paying too much attention to the mock drafts and things of that nature. There have been a lot of them that I haven’t seen his name on at all. I can’t imagine that there would be 30 to 60 guys that are better than him when you watch him and his skill set as a 6-foot-9, almost 6-foot-10, young player. I bring him down and do the workouts with him with the guards because he can do all the guard skills in terms of the ball handling, step backs, three-point shots off the dribble, things of that nature. He has length. He has to get stronger, as they all do, to understand the physicality of the game. When the executives that have to make the decisions on who their organization is going to have to draft get a chance to see him in a workout, they’re going to be impressed.
16:45 Shaw on Daishen Nix’s potential
Shaw: Daishen Nix is pretty impressive in terms of a player with his size and ability at the point guard position.
18:35 Why should a top high school prospect consider the G League instead of college?
Shaw: I went to college. I had a great time. It was some of the best days of my life, with my experiences I had in college, but college isn’t for everybody. If you’re an elite prospect that was most likely only going to go to college for a year and be one and done, why not? If you’re going to be playing basketball and training to try to get to that next level and you are identified as one of these elite prospects, I think it’s a great alternative and something that should be explored more, and it’s not like anybody can just come and be a part of this. These guys that we have were hand-selected by Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Rod Strickland to be part of this pilot program.
You get to train. You’re surrounded by staff that has been on being a part of NBA teams from our trainers, our strength and conditioning coach, from our assistant coaches to myself, as well as Strickland and Abdur-Rahim, the president of the G League, that they can lean on and spend the majority of the time preparing. You don’t have to go to class. You’re getting paid a pretty significant salary. If you choose the college route, unless you’re getting paid illegally, you’re not in that same category in terms of being compensated for what you’re doing on a daily basis. That’s preparing you for what’s coming next and giving you a jumpstart on the business of basketball. Much like a lot of international players that go to academies and things of that nature and play professional ball from their teenage years on, they have an opportunity to do that, and just really concentrate on the game. But at the same time, they take courses and things every day, from financial literacy to mental health, to death and dying, to the business of basketball, and they’re talking to professionals in all of those fields.
Then, on top of that, what most people don’t know is once you come through this program, you make it professionally, regardless of how long your professional career is, the day that your career ends professionally, you have five years to allow us to pay for four years of college through a program at Arizona State. When you look at that, the fact that you’re hooping and you’re preparing for the next level, you don’t have to go to class, you’re getting paid significantly, and you still get school paid for once it’s all said and done if you choose to. That, to me, and let me preface that, again, by saying if you’re one of those elite guys, that was going to probably only be in school for a year anyway, I don’t know how you can really beat that.
23:03 Have you thought about being an NBA head coach again or being a college coach?
Shaw: I’ve thought about it, but it’s not really something that’s burning in me at this point. I feel very fortunate to be in this position. I’m 54 years old now. I’m living in my house here in Oakland that I haven’t been able to live in basically other than the summer months in the offseason for the last 30 years. I’m able to live and work out of my house. It’s a 15-minute drive to work every day, which is worth its weight in gold when you have family and elderly family members that you need to be around and take care of. I’m still doing what I love to do, which is coach basketball and impact young men in trying to provide the blueprint for them to get to where they want to get to.
26:13 Shaw discussed a conversation he had with Kobe Bryant after scoring 62 points against the Mavericks in three quarters
Shaw: At the end of the third quarter, we were in our coach’s huddle out on the floor. The players were sitting on the bench resting. I think we had a 30-point lead. Phil Jackson sent me over to ask Kobe if he wanted to stay in for the first few minutes of the fourth and see if he can get 70. I went over and asked him, and he looked up at the scoreboard. He said, ‘Nah, I’ll just do it another time when we really need it.’ And so I got mad at him because I played with him. I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? You got a chance to get to score 70 points. How many people can say that they scored 70 in an NBA game?’ And he looked up at the scoreboard again. He was like, ‘We don’t need it right now. I’ll get it another time.’
28:32 What were your most memorable stories with Kobe as a teammate or coaching him?
Shaw: Obviously, seeing him score 81. Seeing him in a game where he had an injured right shoulder and he pretty much played, I think he scored 37 or 40 points, pretty much playing most of the game, left-handed, not using his right hand at all because his shoulder was banged up pretty good. Just the incredible mindset that you have to have, knowing that you can’t use one side of your body basically, but you still want to be out there with your teammates. While I’m on the subject of mindset, one of the most impressive things was when he actually tore his Achilles, and he got up, and he shot his free throws, and then he walked off the court on his own strength with a ruptured Achilles.
Lastly, I was at his last game as a spectator. The Lakers brought in all of his ex-teammates. I was sitting up in the stands sitting with Gary Payton and Horace Grant, and we were kind of joking and betting on how many shots we thought he would take, how many points he would score, and I remember, he missed his first five shots to start the game out. We just laughed and said we all knew that that’s not going to slow him down. He’s going to keep firing away. In your last game, when you’re about to retire, to score 60 points in a win was pretty incredible as well.
31:48 Was there anything about Kobe that fans wouldn’t have known about from behind the scenes?
Shaw: He was a staunch rap and hip hop fan. When I first joined the Lakers, when he was still young, he couldn’t do a lot of things that the rest of the guys on the team could do because of his age. He wasn’t 21. He couldn’t go out to a club or to a bar and have a drink after a game. When we would be on the plane playing cards, he would kind of sit in his own section by himself and didn’t really engage in any of the card games with us. You would initially think he’s kind of standoffish. But when you look back at it, it was like he couldn’t do a lot of things. He was still a teenager and a young man that wasn’t of age around a bunch of grown men. While he would be in his corner, on the plane, or the bus, he would always have his headphones on. He’s always listening to music, or he was watching film. But he had the ability to listen to a song and remember and recite, word for word, from beginning to end whatever song he was listening to. He listened to a lot of Jay Z and then, later on, J. Cole.
35:02 What was your view of him as a player all-time?
Shaw: As a player, I played with Larry Bird, against Magic Johnson, against Jordan. I view Jordan as the best ever to play the game. I don’t think that anyone will ever overtake him in terms of that crown. If Jordan is the best player ever, and he’s the best player at that position at the two-guard position, I think that he’s number one, and I think that Kobe is number 1A behind Jordan. When you look at the tenacity that he played with when he first came into the league. He didn’t start. He didn’t play very much the first year or two. That fueled his fire for him to be able to accomplish what he was able to accomplish and play, as long as he was able to win championships that he was able to win with Shaq, without Shaq with a whole new cast of characters. What he brought to the USA Olympic team, when he participated with that group, and just overall that killer instinct. He’s in my Top 5 NBA players of all time I would say, and right below Jordan.
37:10 Anything else stuck out to you about Kobe that people should know about?
Shaw: Seeing him from a single young man to a married man to a father. Then, being able to transition from playing, finding some passion in something else, once he was done playing, and putting that energy into his daughter, coaching her team, as well as the business that he was doing for his company, Kobe Inc. That included a lot of different things from video animation projects where he got awards, to writing books, to some of his speaker series going around to corporations and speaking about competition and the mindset that you have to have in any field and things of that nature. He was just one of the most well-rounded guys that probably was misunderstood for a lot of the time.
I love the fact that he didn’t care about, for the most part, about what people said or thought about him. He brought that same tenacious attitude to everything that he did, whether it was playing checkers, knowing more rap lyrics than the next person, definitely anything on the basketball court.
40:17 Do you remember where you were and how you found out about Kobe’s passing a year ago?
Shaw: I was at NBA TV was about 10 minutes away from coming on the set. I was with Stan Van Gundy and Matt Winer. We had had our makeup done. We’re getting ready to walk onto the set, and one of our statisticians came over and said I can’t believe this report. TMZ said Kobe was killed in a helicopter crash. It just kind of stunned everybody, and everybody started scrambling and grabbing their phones and making calls and trying to find out if it was true. What most people didn’t know, at the time, was that his daughter and the other folks were, were on that helicopter. I remember the producers at NBA TV asked me if I wanted to go on air and talk about it.
You can follow Michael Scotto on Twitter: @MikeAScotto
Basketball, Draft, Lakers, NBA, Podcast, Featured, Top, Bradley Beal, Brian Shaw, Daishen Nix, Isaiah Todd, Jalen Green, Jaylen Brown, Jonathan Kuminga, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Paul George, Penny Hardaway, Rod Strickland, Shaquille O'Neal, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, G League Ignite, Los Angeles Lakers