Posts tagged ‘Nittany Lion basketball’
Sitting quietly at his locker on Tuesday night, 90 minutes before tip-off, Tim Frazier was busy with one of the NBA’s most enduring pregame rituals: filling out envelopes.
Frazier was in Philadelphia with the rest of the New Orleans Pelicans for a mostly meaningless late-season games against the Sixers; “meaningless,” of course, being a relative term. Neither team will make the playoffs this season, so it didn’t mean much in the standings. But for Frazier ’13, ’14, a second-year player looking to establish himself as an NBA regular, every game—every possession, really—is a chance to prove himself worthy. For guys like Frazier, every game matters.
He didn’t seem to be feeling the pressure before the game, filling out envelopes for the comp tickets he was leaving for some friends. Times like these, Frazier looks like a seasoned vet, calmly handling one of the NBA’s more mundane tasks. His focus now is on showing that same sort of veteran composure and production on the court.
His story should be familiar to Penn State fans: Undrafted in 2014, he spent most of the 2014-15 season in the NBA’s developmental league, where he was nothing short of dominant, winning D-League Rookie of the Year and MVP honors. That effort earned him brief call-ups last season with the Sixers and Blazers, and it was Portland that signed him for the 2015-16 season. But the Blazers’ backcourt depth mostly relegated Frazier to the bench this season, and he went back to the D-League, nearly averaging a triple-double for the Maine Red Claws in eight D-League games.
Signed by the injury-ravaged Pelicans three weeks ago, he’s been better than good so far in New Orleans, posting a career-high 19 points and 13 assists last weekend in a win over Brooklyn. He was slated to start against the Sixers, the team that gave him his first, brief NBA opportunity. In the locker room pregame, seeing a familiar face from his days at Penn State—where he finished his career as the Nittany Lions’ all-time assist leader and one of the most complete players in program history—he’s happy to take a minute to look back, and to look ahead.
He says he keeps as close an eye on his alma mater as his schedule will allow, talking regularly with coach Patrick Chambers, who made the drive down to Philly for the game. He’s heard plenty about the Nittany Lions’ incoming recruiting class, potentially the best in program history, and a group loaded with Philly talent. He speaks regularly with teammates from his time in Portland; he and Damian Lillard, the Blazers’ star point guard with whom Frazier became particularly close, are in daily contact, and he says Lillard will watch his games and offer advice and critiques.
It’s suggested that the biggest difference in Frazier’s game this season is simple confidence. “So much,” he concurs, his eyes going big with acknowledgment. Unlike the rookie who was called up late last season and thrown into the NBA fire, he understands the importance of looking for his own shot. His on-court unselfishness worked against him at times last season, as he almost never looked for his own shot, even when left open. As he showed with that 19-point outburst last weekend, or his 10-point first quarter against the Sixers Tuesday night, it’s one of the many lessons Frazier has learned since.
He also had five assists in the first quarter Tuesday, and for all practical purposes he was the best player on the floor as the Pelicans built an eight-point lead. But they lost it when he went to the bench for a breather, and as the game went on, the Pelicans looked every bit like a team with its top six scorers out injured, fielding a roster of unfamiliar call-ups in their place. The Sixers ended up running away with the game, winning 107-93. Frazier’s stat line—12 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals—was probably the most impressive on the team.
His contract with New Orleans guarantees him a spot through the end of the regular season, now just a week away. Asked if he has a hunch about what happens next, Frazier is blunt: “July 1,” he says. That’s the date NBA teams can begin negotiating with free agents. Until then, he’ll keep looking for chances to make his case.
Ryan Jones, deputy editor