A bit under five minutes remained in the first quarter of the Hawks’ season opener in Toronto. Waiting at the scorer’s table was Mike Budenholzer’s first perimeter player substitute.
It wasn’t Shelvin Mack, who had been revitalized the season before and is a stout backup point guard with a new three-year contract. It wasn’t Dennis Schröder, a young German prospect who is still trying to translate his sneaky athleticism and unique body type into the NBA game. Nor was it Thabo Sefolosha, the veteran defensive presence who had been a major part of Oklahoma City’s rotation during a run of major success for the Thunder.
No, none of those players were waiting to check into the game at the scorer’s table. Instead, coming in to replace one of the best shooters in NBA history in Kyle Korver was former Old Dominion product Kent Bazemore.
In the eyes of some, Bazemore wasn’t supposed to be here. Undrafted out of Old Dominion, Bazemore eventually signed with the Golden State Warriors in July of 2012 and essentially became a team mascot. Bazemore played in 62 games in his rookie season, but at a comically low 4.4 minutes per game. Because his playing time was left to garbage time when no one was watching, Bazemore gained notoriety as the league’s favorite benchwarmer, catching the viewers’ eyes with his celebrations of Golden State’s highlight plays.
Of course, Bazemore was in the NBA to be a basketball player, not a comedy act. Unfortunately for Bazemore, that is all the Warriors and then head coach Mark Jackson were going to let him be. The 2013-14 season rolled around and Bazemore was still playing an embarrassing low (6.1) amount of minutes per contest. Again, when Bazemore did get in the game, it was rarely ever in a meaningful spot.
Eventually, Bazemore’s salvation came in a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. He and teammate MarShon Brooks were sent to Los Angeles for point guard Steve Blake. The Lakers, reeling after the departure of Dwight Howard to Houston and injuries to Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, finally gave Bazemore a place where he could find consistent minutes. More importantly, then coach Mike D’Antoni gave Bazemore a system.
An offensive system can be extremely important to a player. In Golden State, Bazemore — like many other Warriors — was left to figure things out in isolation inside of having specific plays ran for his benefit. That changed for Bazemore when he arrived in Los Angeles, as Mark D’Antoni gave him a simple offensive system that complemented Bazemore’s talents and allowed him to shine. Continue Reading…