A mature college freshman is an oxymoron in most cases, except when it comes to the NBA draft.
That’s when 19-year-olds are suddenly expected to be wiser than all their peers who are still exploring life mysteries such as how to maximize their meal plan and how to get by on as little studying as possible.
Former Pleasant Grove High School star Marquese Chriss had to wear the immature label leading up to June’s NBA draft. That didn’t stop the Phoenix Suns from giving up two draft picks and the rights to a third to Sacramento for Chriss’ draft rights.
Is Chriss all grown up? Of course not. But the Suns believe they are creating an atmosphere to nurture young players, guiding them on the journey from teen talent to trusted pro.
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The best NBA franchises realize the importance of player development.
Perhaps that’s why Chriss, 19, appears so comfortable in Phoenix. Earl Watson is in his first full year as head coach and thrilled to have Chriss, who he believes will thrive.
“His progression has really been amazing for our group in a positive way,” Watson said. “He has the natural ability physically to impact the game playing above the rim, hitting 3s, running the floor, dunking, making shots. He just needs to continue to develop an NBA work ethic. And a lot of these young guys come here and they don’t have that and that’s OK, that’s natural. We accept that, we embrace that. It’s up to us to teach it, to instill and to create discipline within it.”
Most rookies are not ready-made pros. To help educate them on the NBA and its history, Watson quizzes young players about their opponents on game days. Chriss admitted he didn’t ace the quiz on the Kings. Then again, he admits he was never a diehard Kings fan.
Chriss said he’s confident in his maturity.
“I don’t think anybody questioned my off-court maturity,” Chriss said. “I think I’m mature for my age. I think it was more my emotions on the court that they were saying was immature. I think I’ve grown from that.
“Off the court I’ve never had any problems, I never get in conflicts or things like that. I’m real mellow, kind of just handle my business and put my head down. I’m just adjusting like everybody else is, getting up every morning, coming to the gym with the mentality that I want to get better and every day has a purpose.”
Chriss is averaging 6.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in 15.0 minutes in his first six games. He’s shown he can play with an edge, something that is more innate than taught.
He likes the NBA game. Perhaps as he learns how to be a pro, he’ll love it even more.
“Everybody’s faster, more athletic, stronger,” Chriss said. “The refs let you play a little bit more. I think that’s the best part.”
This can’t be real life
Bulls guard Dwyane Wade knows he’s not a 3-point shooter, right?
He’s a career 28.8 percent shooter from beyond the arc. Last season he made seven 3s in 74 games with Miami. He only attempted 44.
Wade has already made 10 of 19 from 3-point range this season.
Sign him up for the 3-point shootout during All-Star Weekend.
Keeping it way too real
“How many minutes did he play? Three minutes. I’m trying to focus on whoever’s on the court. He trying to talk to me from the sideline. But I’m sure he’s going to put something on Twitter tonight.”
Warriors forward Kevin Durant to reporters when asked about trash talk between himself and Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter, who had some words for him from the bench Thursday. It was the first time Durant played his former team and the first time Durant publicly put Kanter in his place.