Palpreet Singh: ‘US training helped secure NBA deal’

Palpreet Singh Brar, India’s latest entrant into the NBA D-League, has defended his decision to train at the New York Athletic Club with coach Ross Burn in Manhattan, while the Indian basketball team was competing in the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016.

The 6ft 9in hoopster, a product of the Ludhiana Basketball Academy, was picked up by Long Island Nets — affliated to Brooklyn Nets— in the D-League draft on Sunday. But his compatriots Amritpal Singh and Amyjot Singh, who performed admirably in FIBA Asia Challenge (Amritpal was featured in the tournament’s best team), missed out on the drafts.

“It was the right decision to go and train in USA. It helped me improve my physical condition. Now I will play in the league and improve myself. I will then be able to contribute more for the country,” said Palpreet to Sportstar when asked if training in USA helped him make the cut while the other Indians missed.

While Satnam Singh — first Indian to make it to the NBA D-League — does not play for India, Palpreet promised that he would never dump his national team.

“I would like to improve as a player but I would always love to represent my country in international competitions whenever I get a chance,” affirmed Palpreet.

The 21-year-old was very frank in his assesment of the coaching standards in India and stressed on the importance of having a professional league in the country.

“There is a lot of difference in standard of coaching in India and the Development League. Whether it’s defence or offence, how to tactically deal with pressure situations, and the fitness training is of different level.

“It is important to have a league in India. I have heard if it is not started soon, FIBA might cancel our recognition. A league will certainly help the country’s players,” stressed Palpreet.

While Palpreet harbours the hope of making it to the major league one day, he intends to take things one step at a time.

“For the next one and half years, I would like to train well and do well in the D-League. I have not set myself any specific targets as to when I would like to see myself in the main league. That will depend on my performance. I have had sessions with Long Island Nets coaches. They have told me to play my natural game and not take any excess pressure,” said Palpreet.

Palpreet also paid tribute to his late coach Dr. S. Subramanian who played a major role in promoting basketball and unearthing talents such as Amyjot and Amritpal.

“We are all his students. The best players from India have been coached by him. It’s his bad luck that he did not get recognition. He was a cut above the rest, very different in his style of coaching,” concluded Palpreet.

The legend of Kobe Bryant

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With five NBA championships, 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, and two Olympic gold medals with Team USA, there is no doubting Los Angeles star Kobe Bryant’s legacy on the basketball court. The ‘Black Mamba’ will play a record-breaking 16th career Christmas Day game when the Lakers host the L.A. Clippers.

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON SPORTSTARLIVE

His performances on court have often been compared to NBA legends like Michael Jordan, who had also plied his trade as a shooting guard, and Lakers legend Magic Johnson. But Bryant, a polarising figure in the world of basketball, a ‘hero and a villain’ according to his own admission to the Associated Press, likes to look at his own legacy from a different perspective.

“I try to look at my legacy and how it impacts the future of the game. I’m not looking at my legacy from the standpoint of where I fit in with the greatest of all time. For me, it’s a moot point and a shallow argument.

“I think the most important thing and the most beautiful thing is how your legacy impacts the generation of players to come. If what I’ve done and what I’ve stood for these 20 years has impacted the players today and the players tomorrow in a positive way, in a way they can then carry that legacy on themselves and impact the generation to follow, that’s much more significant than where I stand in history,” said Bryant during a conference call on Monday night.

An Olympic finish

Kobe’s form for the Lakers has been sporadic this season, much like the rest of the squad. The Los Angeles-based team are 5-24 this season and for Kobe, a place in the USA team for the Rio 2016 Olympics is far from guaranteed. But the two-time Olympic gold medallist refused to be bothered about it, though he conceded that a place in the Olympics team would be an ideal way to end a glittering career.

“It’s not something I’m absolutely pressing for but being part of the Olympic experience is a beautiful thing. It would be a beautiful thing to finish my career playing internationally. But that being said, we will see how it goes,” said the Lakers’ shooting guard, who has also featured as a small forward in his final season in the NBA.

Post-retirement plans

Kobe’s father Joe Bryant was a professional basketball player himself and played for NBA sides Philadelphia 76ers and San Diego Clippers before moving to Italy to play in the Italian A1 League. Kobe was six when the family relocated to Europe in 1984 and returned to America only when his father retired in 1991. There he learned to speak fluent Italian and play football.

But the NBA’s third highest point scorer ruled out any possibility of moving to another league. “I would have loved to play overseas for a season but it’s not going to happen. I wish I could have done it but I can’t. My body won’t let me.”

However, the legend hopes he can continue to contribute to the development of the game in all ways possible. “I definitely plan on helping the game spread and helping kids all around the world understand (the) kind of metaphors that come along with the game … everything that surrounds the game of basketball,” said Bryant.

Regardless of the team’s performance, Kobe is upbeat about his final season in the NBA, especially after a few a characteristic swashbuckling performances, including a 31 pointer against Denver on Wednesday. “My body has been through a lot. And it’s very easy to forget I haven’t played because of it. My timing is off, my rhythm is off. It was about me continuing my training and believing my timing will come back and that’s what happened,” added Bryant.

When the Lakers take on the Clippers on Christmas Day, all eyes will be again on what Kobe can conjure on the court. A pressure he has continuously carried on his shoulders with pride. They say heroes come and go, but legends are there forever.

The ‘Black Mamba’ might be retiring at the end of the on-going season, but one can be assured that the song of his dynamism and determination on the basketball court will continue to be sung for a long time.

Brian Shaw impressed with Indian players’ passion

NBA Champion and former Head Coach Brian Shaw is in India as a part of NBA India’s premier events such as the ACG-NBA Jump National Finals, Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA City Finals and NBA Jam.

Over 14 years in the NBA, Shaw played for seven different teams including the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won three consecutive NBA Championships from 2000 to 2002. Following his retirement as a player, Shaw joined the coaching staff of Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, where he won two more Championships (2009, 2010).

Shaw joined the Indiana Pacers as an assistant coach in 2011 before being named head coach of the Denver Nuggets in 2013. He is most popular for being one-half of the popular ‘Shaw-Shaq Redemption’ (named after Morgan Freeman starrer The Shawshank Redemption), an alley-oop from Shaw to Shaquille O’Neal that was popular with fans of both Orlando and Los Angeles Lakers.

In an interview with The Miami Herald in 2007, O’Neal claimed that the teammate he had most respected in his career was Shaw.

We caught up with Shaw after the NBA Jump finals for a quick interview.

Excerpts:

I’m sure you have been asked this question a lot of times. But how was it to be a part of the Lakers team with Kobe Bryant and O’Neal in it. What were they like? What do you have to say on Kobe’s retirement?

Those were great years for me and for the other players to play with Kobe and Shaq. We had a lot of success, winning three championships in a row. They were two players, each probably the best in their respective positions, who powered the rest of us in the team. It felt like as long as we walk on the floor with them, we were unbeatable.

So it’s great to see Kobe, after 20 years, being appreciated by all the NBA teams and their fans, showing their gratitude to his great contributions to the game. He derseves it.

You had a formidable partnership with Shaq. But in the recent years we have seen a shift in the style of play. The traditional centres are no longer a part of the game. The big men are more agile and shooting three pointers. You see point-guards such as Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook consistenly getting 30+ points. How has the game changed according to you since the 90s?

The game has definitely changed a lot. I would say it’s more perimeter oriented today. NBA doesn’t have those dominant big men like in the 90s. And with none of these big men clogging the D, there is more space to exploit. The big players also shooting three-point shots, which kind of leaves the middle open and you see the point guards now being able to reach the paint area (inner D), thereby making it harder for defences to stop them. That’s why you see a Steph Curry or a Westbrook being explosive on the offensive.

You must have had a chance to analyse the Indian players during the NBA jump finals? What’s one thing that impressed you and what’s lacking in these up-coming players?

I got a chance to look at the players for two days. I have been really impressed by the passion the players played with in the last few days. They play the game really hard.

I would say they lack some style in terms of what I am accustomed to seeing. There are not a lot of big players. The size and the athleticism wasn’t the same. But I’m sure with more exposure, with every opportunity these kids get to play, things will begin to improve.

You started your coaching career under Hall of Famer Phil Jackson. How much of an influence was he, as a player and as a coach?

The experience was great and I learned a lot under Phil. He is one of the greatest coaches. not just in basketball but all of sports. As a player and as coach I learned a lot. He wasn’t very conventional in his approach. We used to meditate a lot. Do yoga. Things that you would think had no connection to basketball. I have always appreciated what I have learned from him.

What other plans in India apart from NBA activities?

I will be spending most of my time working with kids and promoting the game in most parts of the country. I would like to explore, take a little tour and maybe try out some on Indian cuisine but I don’t think I will have a lot of time for that.

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