June 15th, 2024

NBA Notebook: Blazers coach Billups likens Sharpe’s potential to Suns star Booker

By Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press on October 31, 2023.

Portland Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe (17) moves the ball up court as Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes (4) gives chase during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Monday Oct. 30, 2023. Sharpe of London, Ont., a first-round pick (seventh overall) of Portland’s in 2022, has slotted into the starting rotation with Anfernee Simons out, and is averaging 18.0 points per game as the team’s second-leading scorer through four games.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups didn’t hold back in his vision of what Shaedon Sharpe could develop into in the NBA.

Portland selected Sharpe, of London, Ont., seventh overall in 2022. He has slotted into the starting rotation this season, with Anfernee Simons out with a thumb injury, and is the team’s second-leading scorer through four contests at 18 points per game.

Billups likened Sharpe’s potential to that of Phoenix Suns superstar guard Devin Booker.

“I mean, I don’t just say those things,” Billups told reporters in Toronto on Monday. “Booker is one of the very best in our league and that’s my admiration and respect for him as a player. The one thing that Devin Booker is that I want to Shae to be every single night is Devin is the ultimate competitor.

“Every night, he’s either giving it to somebody, he’s talking smack with somebody, tries to push somebody. That’s not really Shae’s personality, but I want that to be his mentality. You don’t have to talk, you don’t have to do all those things, but I want that mentality.”

The vote of confidence was welcomed by Sharpe.

“I don’t think it ever puts pressure on me, I feel like my whole goal is to be a basketball player and play the game,” Sharpe said. “But it is good to hear Chauncey, the coaching staff, say that my game kind of relates to the top players in the league.”

Sharpe is coming off a rookie season where he enthralled crowds and viewers with high-flying highlight dunks while serving as a solid bench piece for much of the year.

However, he did a lot more than dunk. Sharpe started the final 10 games last season with the Blazers out of playoff contention and opened some eyes, averaging 23.4 points per contest on 45.9 per cent shooting. He scored 20-plus points eight times in that stretch.

“I got to get a feel of how the NBA really is just because of the minutes I played, which helped me you know, in this off-season to work on things I need to work on,” the 20-year-old said.

Billups has been more than pleased with his six-foot-five, 200-pound sophomore guard.

“First of all, let me just say this, he’s been great, man, he’s been great,” Billups said. “Last year was a big time learning year for him, this year will be the same. He came a lot further than I thought he would in a small amount of time last season and he had a good summer.

“I’ve been very happy with him, you know, from the standpoint of him just having to take on some added responsibilities offensively and defensively. “¦ I think he can be elite on the defensive end, I really do.

“And then offensively, obviously, he’s just gifted, you know, but he’s starting to not rest on those gifts and starting to establish even more and more. So as you can read by what I’m saying, I got great, great hope that this is going to be a good player in this league.”

HASN’T MISSED A BEAT

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has picked up right where he left off from last season and this past summer.

The 2022-23 first team all-NBA team selection had a breakout year, finishing fourth in the NBA in scoring at 31.4 points per game and bringing the upstart Thunder to the brink of a playoff berth.

He brought that same impact to the Canadian national team in the summer. The 25-year-old from Hamilton led Canada to bronze at the FIBA World Cup – its first-ever medal – and its first Olympic berth since 2000.

Through four games this NBA season, he boasts averages of 26.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists for the 3-1 Thunder. Their lone loss, and Gilgeous-Alexander’s lone off night, came against defending champion Denver on Sunday. He had seven points on 2-of-16 shooting.

He bounced back with a 32-point, nine-rebound effort in a win over Detroit on Monday.

“Not surprised,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said of Gilgeous-Alexander. “I mean, he’s as steady as they come. If there’s one thing that we’ve learned from him over the last few years, it’s that his ability to stay consistent through the ups and downs of a season is very impressive.”

ASSISTING MURRAY

Denver Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray has continued his increased output of assists from the NBA Finals. The Kitchener, Ont., native averaged 12.5 assists per game in helping Denver win its first NBA title.

The Nuggets have started the season a perfect 4-0 with Murray carrying averages of 20.0 points and 8.3 assists per contest. He set a career-high average of 6.2 assists in 2022-23.

– With files from The Associated Press.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2023.

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