#byHOPZ: Landry Shamet is on the rise ‼️

I’m regrettably late to link up my latest story for SLAM, but today so happens to be great timing.

Landry Shamet, 21-year-old Sixers sharpshooting rookie, drained 8 treys (on just 14 attempts) in Philly’s 132-115 win over the Wizards on Tuesday. To give this some perspective, in just over 23 minutes of court time, Shamet doubled his previous career-high of 4 three-pointers. He also connected on 5-5 free-throws for a career-high 29 points. The man was en fuego last night.

He’s been one of the League’s most efficient shooters this season, filling a huge need in Philly’s rotation. When Shamet’s hot, the Sixers have been close to unbeatable. In games where he’s hit 3 or more three-pointers this season, Philly is 9-1. Long-term, there’s no question in my mind that the No. 26 overall pick will be considered a top-15 player in the 2018 Draft if he continues on this trajectory.

For a reporter, Shamet is the perfect interview. Last November, he spoke to me in detail about growing up in Kansas City, MO, with a single, working mother. How they lost their apartment after filing for bankruptcy during the recession. How he had to become self-sufficient at a young age.

In high school, he was overlooked as a prospect, but continued to focus on making the right plays, not necessarily the highlight plays. He still carries that attitude of being disrespected and overlooked to this day.

Here’s an except of the story, which ran on SLAMonline.com on December 18:

By age 8, Landry Shamet had learned how to take care of himself. The only child of a single mother, Shamet would often be home alone while his mother, Melanie, worked long, odd hours. By the second grade, he carried his own key around his neck to school, locking his apartment’s door behind him.

Despite Melanie’s best efforts, she couldn’t always make ends meet. They filed for bankruptcy during the recession of 2008 and were forced to move in with his grandparents.

As she worked to get them back on their feet, Melanie would often come home after back-breaking shifts, sometimes late in to the night.

“I understand what she sacrificed for me and how hard she worked first-hand,” he says. “Her literally breaking her back making beds, coming home, not being able to stand up because she’s been bending over making beds all day.”

Melanie’s sacrifice provided motivation as Landry’s hoop dreams began to manifest on the court. Shamet promised her that he would make it to the League one day so they could live a comfortable life.


#byHOPZ: My interview with Maya Moore 🐐

Some call her the GOAT, which is crazy, because she’s only 29. But the thing is, if Maya Moore retired today, she’d easily go down as one of the five greatest female basketball players of all time. That’s no cap.

So when I was offered the opportunity to interview Moore last month, I jumped at the chance. If I was writing a feature on Moore, I would have focused the interview on her life and psyche. But Steve Marsh had already deftly penned that feature for SLAM over the summer.

Instead, since I had only a 15-minute window (and just a fraction of that time to ask basketball- and career-related questions), I decided to talk to Moore about her future with the Minnesota Lynx, who appear to be entering a new chapter.

Typically coy with her responses, Moore said she was still reflecting on the past season and hadn’t seriously considered her future yet.

In one of her responses that didn’t get published (because of incomplete audio), Moore spoke about the Seattle Storm’s quick rebuild. Just three years ago, Seattle had one of the worst records in the league. And this season, they were crowned WNBA champs.

Moore said that having the No. 1 pick (two years in a row) helped that rebuild tremendously. And Sue Bird was the integral piece, carrying the burden of leadership while Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd gained their footing in the league.

Minnesota does not have the draft assets that Seattle did. And while this is conjecture on my part, I think Moore knows it would take Minnesota longer to a complete rebuild similar to Seattle’s.

Moore may not have the stomach to spend the rest of her prime with a rebuilding franchise devoid of assets. She understands this element of the league very well. But that’s just my two cents.

Here’s Moore’s response about the Storm’s rebuild (the part that I could make out clearly). Of course, to read the rest of my interview with Maya Moore, head to SLAMonline.com.

Does the Storm’s rebuild show you how quickly things can turn around with a few key moves? I believe Sue Bird even re-signed with the team at the beginning of the rebuild.

Maya Moore: You know, yes and no. I think, yes, because the difference between the best and the worst is so narrow, I think. But Sue, willing to—one of the greatest to ever play the game—her willing to commit to that rebuild, made those young players develop quicker than if she hadn’t been there.

Me being drafted to the Lynx with Lindsay Whalen, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Rebekkah Brunson, Seimone Augustus made me be greater, quicker because I had the leadership… [inaudible]

[…] take on leadership roles that they’re not ready for [inaudible] second-year players or third-year players, you have to be able to have the luxury of having at least one great leader around you. And a No. 1 draft pick gives you really good shot at getting a championship within the first four years.”


#byHOPZ: Jonathan Isaac is on the rise‼️

Back in mid-August, I had the opportunity to speak with Magic second-year forward Jonathan Isaac over the phone.

Isaac was forced to sit out 55 games during his rookie season due to various injuries. Orlando ended up in the great tank race to the bottom, finishing the year with a forgettable 25-57 record.

Admittedly, I hadn’t seen Isaac play much his rookie season, but I knew with his size, agility, defensive instincts, offensive potential and youth, Isaac could eventually develop into an elite two-way player.

After speaking to Isaac and Magic player development coordinator Kevin Tiller for the story, it was clear that Isaac has the mentality and work ethic that will eventually help him fulfill his immense potential.

Here’s an except of the story, which ran on SLAMonline.com today:

Wearing his blue plaid draft-day jacket, palms sweating and visibly nervous, Jonathan Isaac walks to the podium to give his first sermon.

“This season is the best season of my life, but I’m not playing right now,” the 20-year-old Magic rookie tells the audience on a Sunday morning in mid-January.

Isaac injured his right ankle just three weeks into the season and hasn’t been fully healthy since. To say his rookie year hasn’t gone according to plan would be an understatement.

“There’s insecurities, and there’s doubt in my mind,” he continues. “Like, what are people thinking about me? Are people calling me a bust behind my back? Are my teammates, like, When is Jonathan going to play?”

“And I’m in the best season of my life because I’m growing [spiritually],” he says as the church erupts in applause.

The jitters quickly melt away, and Isaac delivers a message—quite naturally and authentically—about receiving God’s blessings in 2018.

The sermon, streamed on YouTube, would later headline the NBA news cycle. Viewers commented, saying they were confused—what was this? And why?

Not playing and now misunderstood, on this mid-January morning, Jonathan Isaac is the most content he’s been in his life.


SLAM LINKZ 🔗 Gilbert Arenas is still a 🐐

With just over a month until the NBA season begins, things are beginning to pick up on the aggregation front.

Here’s some of what I’ve been working on today…

Gilbert Arenas Hits 95/100 Shots After Being Challenged by Nick Young 😳: Pure insanity. Hibachi is a triple-OG certified GOAT.

Ray Allen: ‘LeBron Has to Reinvent Himself’ with Lakers: I listened to Ray Allen’s HOF speech and then part of his interview with Dan Patrick. The man could have a future in commentary. Just sayin’…

Kyrie Irving Among NBA, WNBA Players Enrolled in Harvard Business Program: Athletes are more interested in business than ever. As they say, athletes want to be rappers, and rappers want to be athletes… but now they all want to be entrepreneurs!

Cassius Stanley Mic’d Up at SLAM Summer Classic 🎤: Watch out for this kid. Insane athleticism. Only knock is he’s 19 and still hasn’t begun his senior season of HS ball.

Out The Archive: SLAM 196

I dug up SLAM 196 to re-read a Punk story, and ended up digging up plenty of old memories with it. I went to Oklahoma City in December of 2015 to interview Russell Westbrook for this cover story.

Russ, wearing the #AirJordanXXX for the first time, spoke about his late best friend, Khelcey Barrs, who passed away in the 10th grade. I asked him if he could write Khelcey a letter, what would he say?

“I don’t know, man,” Russ said. “I’d take some time to do that. But my job, I think, is to constantly keep playing for him and through his name.”

Russ doesn’t talk about Khelcey Barrs often, but he always wears a wristband with “KB3” on it. Always keeping his friend in his heart and mind.