His world is going too fast for Kent Bazemore to reflect, and it won’t slow down until the end of the summer, when he is rewarded with a new free agent contract.
The Atlanta Hawks swingman was undrafted coming out of Old Dominion in 2012, played sparingly with the Warriors before they became dominant, then was briefly with the Lakers before the Hawks signed him to what has become one of the bigger bargain deals in the NBA.
Bazemore agreed to a two-year, $4 million contract before last season, and in 2015-16 was the Hawks’ No. 4 scorer and No. 3 rebounder in his first full season as a starter. With the salary cap rising, Bazemore could demand perhaps as much as $12 million per season, but he hasn’t thought about future riches.
“Honestly, I haven’t had time,” he said. “It’s been a very aggressive year as far as scheduling, as far as the physical and mental load.
“I think in December, I had already played 300 more minutes than I had the whole last year. So physically, it was a lot.
“One thing I’ve learned to do this year is live in the moment. You can’t look ahead. You can’t look at the last game. You have to live in the moment and appreciate what you have.”
Bazemore’s road to the NBA was arduous. He was a major contributor for an Old Dominion team that lost to Brad Stevens’s Butler squad in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Bazemore averaged 15.4 points per game as a senior in 2012, but was forced to go the rookie free agent route.
He signed with the Warriors after a positive summer league stint and spent most of his time with NBADL Santa Cruz. But it was a trade-deadline deal that sent Bazemore to the Lakers on Feb. 19, 2014, that changed the course of his career.
After averaging about five minutes per game in 1½ seasons with Golden State, Bazemore played 28 per game for the Lakers, averaging 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. On a team playing out the string without Kobe Bryant, Bazemore was able to showcase himself.
That audition led to the free agent deal with Atlanta, a place Bazemore enjoys. He relishes being a small-town kid playing relatively close to home.
“I grew up in North Carolina, which is right up the street,” he said. “And you can’t beat the South — the food, the people, the golf, the weather. The warm embrace you get before the game from the people that work here. Whoever you walk by, it’s just love. And it’s sincere and genuine, and that’s something you can’t take for granted.
“I love playing the game for the people in this city. All these people who come out and watch you play, you go out and give them 110 percent. To see somebody walk by me, you give them a hug, you [shake their hand], you do whatever you can do to put a smile on their face.”
Bazemore will get his share of free agent offers, but it appears he wants to remain in Atlanta. The Hawks will be in a position to make Bazemore a lucrative offer if they wish.
“This is the best two years of my career as far as individually and professionally,” Bazemore said. “I’ve grown as a man and I’m four years in now. I’m coming into my own and it’s a beautiful thing.
“Being able to be out there and play through your mistakes and have a coach [Mike Budenholzer] who takes it personal to coach you. He loves my competitiveness and I love how competitive he is. It’s a match made in heaven.”
Silas recalls time with LeBron
Paul Silas returned to Boston recently as part of the reunion of the Celtics’ 1966, 1976, and 1986 championship teams. Silas won titles with the Celtics in 1974 and ’76, and later he became an NBA coach, reaching the playoffs four times in 12 seasons.
Silas was the Cavaliers coach for the first season of LeBron James’s career, then was fired 64 games into the second season despite a 34-30 record. Brendan Malone took over, finished 8-10, and Cleveland missed the playoffs.
“LeBron was a very good player from the get-go,” Silas said. “I didn’t have a point guard and I made him my point forward. He averaged, like, 24 points and he knew everything to do. And the next year, he started the season, he knew every player and what they should do. It was just unbelievable.”
James became a franchise player the moment he was drafted in 2003, and that didn’t always go over well with his teammates, according to Silas.
“A lot of the guys didn’t like him because of what people said about him and that he was so great,” Silas said. “In a lot of practices, he wouldn’t get up and practice, and I would have to grab him. We would go in and we would talk.
“And that’s what we did all the while while I was there. I was telling him what he had to do as a player and how he was going to be great.
“But it just worked. Now, I’m just happy seeing him what he’s doing.”
Silas had infamous run-ins with Eric Snow and Ira Newble in Cleveland, and he appeared to grow impatient with today’s players, some of whom prioritize their brand over winning.
“Could I coach the guys now? No, I couldn’t,” said Silas. “They’re so different now and the money that they make, that’s what life is all about with them. You can go at them, but they know they’re going to get paid a ton of money regardless of what you tell them and what you say.”
Silas and the other former Celtics at the reunion had a chance to catch the Green practice the day before their regular-season finale against the Heat. Silas came away impressed with coach Brad Stevens .
“I just talked to him, and we went to practice and told him that he’s doing a terrific job,” said Silas. “He was running a practice not where they were really going at each other. His voice, he was talking so loud about what they should do. I told him most coaches don’t do that, that’s just terrific. He’s doing a great job.”
Kings are again in need of coach
The Kings again are looking for a coach, after firing George Karl following a controversy-filled tenure. Sacramento has one of the more mercurial players in the NBA in DeMarcus Cousins, along with underachieving Rudy Gay and Ben McLemore. Former Celtic Rajon Rondo is a free agent, and the organization has to decide whether to bring him back.
ABC analyst Jalen Rose was asked whether the Kings, who need to win soon to create support for a new arena, can build around Cousins.
“You can’t deal him,” said Rose. “He’s been an All-Star player, one of the top bigs in the game. You have to build around him, and they initially seemed to look to build through the draft.
“Well, Isaiah Thomas, last pick, second round, went to Phoenix, became an All-Star. Ben McLemore, the least-efficient starting shooting guard in the NBA. Nick Stauskas, he’s now with Philly. So, if you look back at some of the players they could have taken . . . Willie Cauley-Stein, they took him in this year’s lottery.
“This cripples the growth of your franchise because who’s their second-best player consistently, and also, when you go the route of trying to build through the draft, you also want to have that veteran stability, and while Rondo led the league in assists, I wouldn’t necessarily deem him as being that. Rudy Gay is a productive player but his best years are behind him.
“The situation definitely needs an overhaul, and it’s hard to say who would be a really good coach because I think they’ve gone through 10 in the last nine years, or something like that.”
Clippers assistant Mike Woodson, ex-Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, and former Raptors and Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell will interview for the Sacramento job. All are retreads, as Karl was. And that was a failure.
“It’ll be interesting which way they’re trying to navigate, but we know the top coaches that are out there that can do a good job,” Rose said.
“I know George Karl can do a good job. I played against George Karl when he was coaching Milwaukee when they had Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell, and Ray Allen, so I know he can coach. I saw him in Seattle. Denver as well. They haven’t been as good since he left, either.”
Shaq wouldn’t ban the hacks
As the playoffs progress, more coaches will intentionally foul poor free throw shooters to create more possessions. Commissioner Adam Silver said this past week that league owners have agreed that some change needs to made, because such a tactic effects the pace of play.
In the late 1990s, teams began intentionally fouling Shaquille O’Neal, who was a poor free throw shooter throughout his career. O’Neal is not as sympathetic to poor free throw shooters as one would imagine.
“For me it was, you can’t stop him, he’s shooting 70 percent from the field, he makes it through double teams and triple teams, but he’s shooting 50 from the free throw line,” said O’Neal.
“I may miss four or five in a row, but I never missed them all. I took it as a sign of respect, but a lot of [teams] use it as strategy. I always say as a coach, if you have to use strategy to win instead of having your guys go out and just flat-out beat you, you’re never going to win anyway.”
O’Neal said what became known as “Hack-a-Shaq” didn’t work when it counted.
“Portland tried it in a Game 6 and Game 7 and I nailed them,” he said. “San Antonio tried it, I nailed them. Dallas even tried it when I was with Miami, I nailed them.
“I don’t think you should change the rule. I think it slows the game down, but a lot of times it slows the other team down, too.
“Me and [former Trail Blazer] Steve Smith talk about this all the time. When they got up by 17 and they started going to the Hack-a-Shaq [in Game 7 of the 2000 Western finals], they lost rhythm.
“Of course, it’s slow and boring, but I don’t think they should change it. Because with the rule changes they have now, I would have averaged 60. I would have.”
Why was O’Neal a poor free throw shooter?
“Sometimes I concentrated too hard,” said O’Neal, who finished his career as a 52.7 percent free throw shooter, missing 5,317 free throws. “As a player, you have to get through it. I fought through it, I beat it, won titles with it.
“It didn’t work on me, but I’m not down with changing the rules. Don’t change the rules to make the game soft. I don’t want to play like that.”
Cal swingman Jaylen Brown was the latest freshman to declare for the draft, giving the Celtics another potential target. Brown is raw and had a disappointing end to his lone season with the Bears, but he has a pro body, and his physical style is probably better-suited for the NBA than it was for college . . . The Suns named Earl Watson coach after he took over for Jeff Hornacek on an interim basis this season. Retaining Watson was an interesting choice for general manager Ryan McDonough because the pressure is on to win next season. The Suns have three of the first 28 picks in June’s draft, and have emerging star Devin Booker, and will have Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight returning from injury-shortened seasons. Watson, 36, played 13 NBA seasons and appeared to change the mind-set in Phoenix after Hornacek appeared frustrated with his players’ lack of motivation . . . The Brad Stevens coaching tree is beginning to grow branches, as 26-year-old Ronald Nored, a Celtics assistant for two seasons before being an assistant at Northern Kentucky, was named coach of the Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s new NBADL affiliate. This will be his first head coaching job at any level. Nored played four years for Stevens at Butler and was on both of the teams that reached the NCAA final . . . The Celtics will be part of the Utah Jazz Summer League for a second consecutive year, along with the Jazz, 76ers, and Spurs. The Celtics also will play in the Las Vegas Summer League after having three of the draft’s first 23 picks . . . In case you’re wondering what Celtics will be free agents when the season ends, Evan Turner will be unrestricted and will demand a heavy raise from his $3.4 million salary, especially with the increased salary cap. Jonas Jerebko ($5 million) and Amir Johnson ($12 million) have team options, which the Celtics may decline to create more cap space. Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger are restricted, meaning the Celtics have the right to match any offers from other clubs.
It’s not the number
Kobe Bryant is retiring after 20 seasons and five NBA championships. His career can be broken into two distinct eras — wearing No. 8 vs. No. 24. Here’s how the 18-time All-Star fared donning each jersey:
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.