De­ter­mined Shamet’s NBA star is ris­ing

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - SPORTS - Jack McCaf­fery Colum­nist

PHILADEL­PHIA >> The last au­di­tion be­fore his life would change had just fin­ished, so there was noth­ing more for Landry Shamet to show on a bas­ket­ball court. In two days, he would be in the NBA Draft. There was noth­ing else for him to prove.

That’s when he was brought into Brett Brown’s of­fice. That’s when he could just be him­self. That’s when he could ex­hale. And that’s when the two of them knew it all could work.

“The 19th of June,” Shamet was say­ing Fri­day night, the date stamped in his bas­ket­ball con­science. “My work­out was over. He pulled me in. And we just talked for like 30 min­utes. It wasn’t even about bas­ket­ball that much. It was just good, gen­uine con­ver­sa­tion. That was the big­gest thing.

“So when I left for New York and the draft, that kind of stayed in my head, that you want a re­la­tion­ship like that. You want to be around good peo­ple. That’s the whole vibe I got here. And that’s why I kept think­ing about Philadel­phia.”

The draft can be volatile, with plans scut­tled early, late, and even in be­tween. That’s what hap­pened with the Six­ers last June, when they drafted Mikal Bridges in the lot­tery, traded him be­fore the night was out, landed Zhaire Smith at No. 16 and promised to use a draft

choice ac­quired in the trans­ac­tion as cur­rency for a loudly an­nounced star search. And it was later, at No. 26, in that swirl, that the Six­ers did what Shamet had hoped. They made the 6-5, 190-pound shooting guard the 26th over­all pick. On a night when they would have their fans con­vinced that Le­Bron James or Kawhi Leonard could come their way, the Landry acquisition was, at best, muf­fled. Even Brown, who still char­ac­ter­izes that con­ver­sa­tion in Cam­den as vi­tal to the de­ci­sion to draft him in the first round, wasn’t re­ally sure what the Wi­chita State prod­uct could pro­vide.

“I thought he was go­ing to be in the G-League play­ing G-League bas­ket­ball,” Brown will ad­mit, five months later. “Lots of rook­ies do go to the GLeague and play back and forth. I thought he would come up to our team from time to time and get on a court. But that’s what I guessed.

“Not many young play­ers are able to do what he’s done. But he just grabbed some­thing and he didn’t let it go. It’s just a clas­sic case of op­por­tu­nity.”

By train­ing camp, and then well beyond, cir­cum­stances would change. Jer­ryd Bay­less, whose ex­pe­ri­ence as a perime­ter shooter may have helped, sprained his left knee and never re­cov­ered. Wil­son Chan­dler, a for­ward ex­pected to pro­vide shooting from the perime­ter, could never re­ally shake a ham­string in­jury. Mike Mus­cala, an­other shooter, in­jured his an­kle, then had his nose bro­ken. Markelle Fultz and Ben Sim­mons, two play­ers taken 25 slots sooner than him in the pre­vi­ous two drafts, ei­ther would not or could not shoot. And there was Shamet, pro­fes­sion­ally pre­pared, will­ing to en­gage, not in­tim­i­dated by the NBA or its chal­lenges.

“For the most part, I think I am that way,” Shamet was say­ing Fri­day, be­fore a game against the Char­lotte Hor­nets. “The op­por­tu­nity was pre­sented to me and I think I at­tacked it with the right mind­set. I am still not com­fort­able. I am still learn­ing and have a ton of room to im­prove through watch­ing film and talk­ing with coaches and stuff. So there is still a lot more for me to do in my eyes. That’s how I’m look­ing at it.

“It’s 11 games into my rookie year, so I won’t let my­self get too com­fort­able. But I am happy so far with the start.”

Shamet av­er­aged 7.8 points and shot 39.6 per­cent from three-point range as the Six­ers moved to a 7-5 start. In each of his two games be­fore Fri­day, at Brook­lyn and In­di­ana, he had 12 points and one turnover. He’d been on a four-game dou­ble-fig­urescor­ing streak. His scor­ing aver­age was in the top 12 among NBA rook­ies. His 53 at­tempted three point­ers were third-high­est among first-year play­ers, his 21 suc­cess­ful dis­tance shots sec­ond.

Sud­denly, he’d be­come a nightly scout­ing-board fo­cus.

“I think they are try­ing to play him like build­ing an­other J.J. Redick out there, a guy that’s com­ing off screens,” said Char­lotte coach James Bor­rego. “He is a tough cover. He moves with­out the ball very well. He’s a three-point shooter. He can ‘play-make’ some. So he’s got our at­ten­tion for sure. He is in the scout­ing re­port. He got loose a few times on us the last game. So we have to be locked into him just like we are to J.J. Redick.”

That’s remarkable praise so early. But it is blos­som­ing to the point where a spot in the All­Star Week­end’s Ris­ing Stars Chal­lenge, for the bet­ter rook­ies and sec­ond-year NBA play­ers, is a real­is­tic pos­si­bil­ity for Shamet.

“I don’t share many of my goals,” the rookie said. “I like to keep them in­ter­nal­ized. But that was one that I’ve been kind of shooting for I guess, with no sort of self­ish drives be­hind it. I just feel like I am good enough to be in that.

“If I can keep do­ing what I am do­ing, con­tribut­ing and just play­ing my role here, the rest will take care of it­self.”

There was a rea­son Brown, who was the Six­ers’ act­ing gen­eral man­ager at the time, thumb­supped Shamet when he was avail­able at No. 26. He knew he could shoot. But he saw some­thing deeper, much deeper, than 23 feet.

“He saw the game in an in­tel­lec­tual way,” Brown said, re­mem­ber­ing that long-ago con­ver­sa­tion. “That side of it, as much as what he did on the bas­ket­ball court, ex­cited me as much as any­thing.

“And he has not dis­ap­pointed.”

It was a con­ver­sa­tion that helped change Landry Shamet’s life.

Qui­etly, it changed the Six­ers, too. To con­tact Jack McCaf­fery, email him at jm­c­caf­fery@21stcen­tu­ry­; fol­low him on Twit­ter @ Jack­McCaf­fery


Philadel­phia 76ers guard Landry Shamet (23) goes to the bas­ket past Detroit Pis­tons for­ward Blake Grif­fin (23) and guard Bruce Brown (6) dur­ing the sec­ond half on an NBA bas­ket­ball game, Satur­day.

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