Darko Milicic: “I thought as a kid that talent was God-given, but it’s not. God gives you talent and you should use that talent with the real meaning of that word. I was stubborn. Maybe being young had something to do with it. There was option then of going to the NBA or staying in Serbia because Hemofarm knew that if I went to NBA they would get more money than they would get if I went to some European club. Here you had poverty and money was there.”
January 19, 2021 | 11:24 am EST Update
Shams Charania: Pacers center Myles Turner has a slight fracture in his right hand and will be re-evaluated in the coming days, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Turner is the NBA leader in blocked shots (4.2 per game).
SOMETIME IN OCTOBER 2019, Joe Boylan, then an assistant coach with the New Orleans Pelicans, received an unexpected text from Brandon Ingram — one of the franchise’s new stars, acquired months earlier in the Anthony Davis trade. “I trust you now,” the message began. Ingram urged Boylan to coach him hard, invited Boylan to “motherf—” him if necessary, whatever it took. It was the same message Ingram had delivered to New Orleans higher-ups on his first day there, when he walked into the office of Jeff Bzdelik, then the Pelicans’ lead assistant, and declared, “I think I have greatness in me. I want you to get it out of me, and I don’t care what you do,” several in that room recalled.
Days after that text, Ingram arrived a few minutes late to his appointment at the training table. That was not unusual. Ingram is a night owl. Boylan lit into him in front of the training staff: “This is why the Lakers got rid of you! This motherf—er wants to be great? No! He wants to be comfortable.” Boylan’s delivery was so over the top, everyone knew it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Boylan reminded Ingram that his lateness delayed players behind him on the schedule. Ingram smiled and took it. “I like being called out,” he said. “Players at this level think they’re above that. I’m still a few minutes late sometimes, but I’m much better.”
Van Gundy walked out of Ingram’s house and called his brother, Jeff, a decorated coach and current analyst for ESPN. “This guy,” Van Gundy told his brother, “is the real deal.” Ingram is one of the most important swing players in determining the NBA’s balance of power. If he becomes the player he thinks he can be — a two-way superstar who approaches double digits in assists — the Pelicans have a chance to contend for titles around Ingram and Zion Williamson. Boylan often told Ingram that New Orleans could win championships if he became their Scottie Pippen.
Ingram has become a more confident and polished finisher around the basket — a prolific producer of free throws. Something clicked in the 2018-19 season, his rumor-filled final year with the Lakers, and the development accelerated in New Orleans. Ingram mastered his footwork — when to use choppy steps in tight creases, and when to gobble up space with loping strides. He finally seemed to understand how long his arms are — that he was on top of the rim sooner than he had perceived.
“The [trade rumors] were tough on him,” said Josh Hart, Ingram’s teammate in both L.A. and New Orleans. “Before LeBron got there, he had been given the keys. And then people in L.A. were killing him: He’s not as good anymore. He’s not a great No 2. pick. The rumors became part of our lives, all year. Thank god I don’t have to deal with that s— anymore.”
Justin Kubatko: Damian Lillard has made all 52 of his free throws over his last six games. It’s the second time in his career he’s shot 52-52 from the FT line over a six-game span. The only player in NBA history to make more free throws without a miss over a six-game span is Dirk Nowitzki. pic.twitter.com/Zx3Ez4lJ08
January 19, 2021 | 11:06 am EST Update
Shams Charania: Update on Delonte West: West now has a job at the Rebound therapy center in Florida, which is the rehab facility he attended. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reunited West with his mother in September and has stayed in close contact.