Seeing an opening last spring in Chicago, Landry Shamet did what came naturally.
He fired away.
It was at the league’s scouting combine, weeks before the NBA draft in Chicago, and the 6-foot-5, 188-pound guard had been interviewed by Clippers brass about everything from himself to basketball.
Then team officials asked if Shamet had any questions for them — a standard question that often comes with a standard response from players. Nope, I’m good.
Shamet reacted differently. He wanted answers, too.
What separated the rookies with smooth NBA transitions from those who stumbled? How should I carry myself in the NBA? What should I expect?
“If you’re sitting in a room with Jerry West and Doc Rivers, you’ve got to ask questions,” Shamet said of the Clippers’ consultant and coach. “Those guys have seen it all, they know more than I know and I wanted to pick their mind.
“That’s kind of always been my thing, just try to learn as much as possible.”
Shamet’s 44% three-point shooting as a redshirt sophomore at Wichita State last season had already put him on many teams’ draft boards, but in the eyes of Clippers coaches and front-office members present for the meeting, his inquisitiveness heightened his appeal.
“We just thought he was very impressive,” Rivers said. “I thought he was one of the better guys in the meeting, for sure.”
Nine months later, faced with the question of whether or not to trade for Shamet and add him to the Clippers’ young nucleus that includes fellow guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson, the team’s answer was a resounding yes.
Drafted 26th overall by Philadelphia last June, Shamet was traded Tuesday by the 76ers — along with teammates Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala as well as four draft picks — to the Clippers in exchange for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott. (Muscala was later dealt to the Lakers.)
It was one of three trades the team executed before the NBA trade deadline on Thursday, the fruits of which were seen for the first time Friday when the new-look Clippers gathered at a small-college gym just steps from Boston Common. There, the Clippers’ core welcomed Shamet and fellow additions Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green, who came from Memphis, and former Lakers center Ivica Zubac.
A key reason for trading Harris, the team’s leading scorer, was receiving draft picks that the team believes will help it build in the future. But it also didn’t hurt that the 76ers were willing to include Shamet, a player the Clippers had “admired ... since last year’s draft process,” president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said in a news release announcing the trade. “He has only justified expectations.”
That familiarity with the Clippers helped Shamet navigate a whirlwind of mixed emotions in the 50-some hours between the trade and his first practice.
He had earned important minutes in Philadelphia for an Eastern Conference title contender by leading all rookies in three point shooting at 40%. He’d found a veteran he trusted in fellow sharpshooter J.J. Redick, and incorporated Redick’s advice into his game whenever possible.
Once he was informed of the trade in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, and after the shock wore off, he “felt good about my destination, where I landed.” He remembered that after his predraft interview with the Clippers, he’d called his agent to discuss the “good conversation.”
Those who’d come to know Shamet during his preparation for the draft weren’t surprised he’d wowed teams as much off the court as on it.
Shamet arrived at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks last April as one of 10 players taking part in a nearly three-month-long, predraft program. Immediately, he made an impression.
“He came in Day One, ready to work,” said Shawn Berina, the facility’s director of basketball. “He asked a lot of our staff and coaches a lot of questions. ‘How do I get to that next level?’ He knew it was going to take a lot of work. First one in, last one out, really mature. I knew executives and GMs were going to be really impressed with him.”
Of course, little of that would matter if he wasn’t also producing on the court.
Among rookies who have appeared in 30 or more games, Shamet’s 40% shooting on catch-and-shoot three-pointers ranks third. His 40.4% shooting on pull-up attempts ranks second among rookies behind only Gilgeous-Alexander.
To the extent Shamet and Gilgeous-Alexander’s minutes will overlap — Gilgeous-Alexander is a starter while Shamet is most likely to come off the bench for now, and Rivers has said the young players must earn their minutes despite the reshuffled roster — the pairing could forge a natural connection. Gilgeous-Alexander ranks fourth among rookies in assist points created per game.
“We considered picking [Shamet], we actually liked him a lot,” Rivers said. “He was definitely on our board. We liked the fact he was the best shooter in the draft, or one of the best. Probably the best.”
And arguably one of the best at seeking answers, too.
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