Scoot Henderson made his debut Tuesday night, and in his first-ever game of consequence, finished with 11 points, four assists, three rebounds, and four turnovers on 5-of-11 from the field across 36 minutes of forgettable basketball. It didn’t help that the Portland Trail Blazers trailed the Los Angeles Clippers by 20 at the break, and 26 after three, but the Blazers’ third overall pick failed to record a point or an assist in the first half.
The Miami Heat are one of the great underdog stories in NBA history | Keep it a Buck(et)
The low-key most savage thing L.A. did was start off in a zone, so shout out to Ty Lue for pantsing Chauncey Billups in record time. The final, like Scoot’s stat line, was deceiving because the Blazers tallied 38 in the final frame and still lost by double digits, 123-111. However, my issue isn’t so much with Henderson as it is his development.
The G League Ignite is state-sponsored propaganda moonlighting as an alternative to college, and if ever a prospect wanted to maintain their draft stock, or hide a flaw, this is the route. Think about what’s at stake for the NBA. Not only does it have a considerable incentive to make this path alluring and successful, but also the Ignite is kind of the only reason the G League still exists. (Further evidenced by the league not lowering the draft age minimum, because if they did that, there would be no shiny prospects headlining their team/developmental league.)
Risking a prospect’s draft stock only risks the Ignite’s reputation, and it’s better business to put them in positions to produce. If a five-star puts up empty stats on a sub-.500 blueblood program, the coach will bench him, because his job is at stake, and fans will scream about a lack of accountability. The Ignite are 26-35 over the past three seasons, so clearly there is no motivation to win, make teammates outside of your pick-and-roll partner better, or play defense.
Go out there, put some highlights on tape, and do just enough to preserve your spot.
“But Scoot went right at Wembanyama!”
Yeah, in an exhibition with the defense turned off.
It’s unfair to make broad generalizations after one game against a yet-to-be-injured Clippers team, but it looked as if Henderson still thought the rest of the guys on the court had a non-verbal agreement to get their numbers first and then think about the outcome. He had multiple lazy passes picked off, couldn’t find driving lanes, and when he did get to the cup, underestimated the length of defenders and got his layup blocked.
And that’s before mentioning the defense. (He looked meh on the ball, and didn’t have spatial or situational awareness off of it.) So shocker: Henderson — whose only competitive basketball after high school and AAU was 17 games of Ignite enabling — probably has a long way to go.
If you’re saying I’m a hater, guilty as charged. Now tell me which of these Ignite lottery picks best exemplified an NBA-ready player: Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, or Dyson Daniels?
The Rockets opened up in Orlando on Wednesday and got beat by 30. Green was 2-of-10. Kuminga had five fouls in 20 minutes of the Warriors’ loss to the Suns on Tuesday. Admittedly, I haven’t seen much of Daniels, and perhaps I’m missing something from the on-paper production, yet he wasn’t a standout as a rookie.
The sample size is small, and obviously not enough to definitively say one way or another, but if history repeats itself, Portland coaches will spend the next couple of seasons breaking the franchise guard of bad habits, and teaching Henderson how to behave like a winner. That sounds more like adopting a flawed rescue dog from a sh*tty family than it does buying one from a place that was specifically designed to develop thoroughbreds.
“Here we have a beautiful Golden Retriever, one capable of winning best in show, and as a courtesy to you, our handlers have been letting Fido piss wherever he wants, chew on the sofa, and eat garbage. Good luck!”
The Ignite should be the f*cking Marines of NBA bootcamps, with Adam Silver screaming “Currahee!” at 5 a.m. every morning. If you’re never going to see live ammunition — aka meaningful competition and hostile territory — until the Association, no simulation, scrimmage, or G League game can be taken lightly.
Full disclosure, I’m a Trail Blazers fan, so I may have just been triggered by Scoot Henderson’s performance mixed with all the Damian Lillard promos, but another word for trigger is ignite.