ORLANDO, Fla. — A year ago, Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke came to the Orlando Pro Summer League and couldn’t have looked more lost if they were wearing blindfolds.
Indecision. Errant passes. Shots that rattled off the rim again and again. That is, when they came close to the rim at all.
It’s all part of the educational process for rookies, especially for point guards. A different game, faster, tougher game, at a higher level.
But it eventually worked out for both players last summer. Carter-Williams was eventually named Rookie of the Year with the 76ers. Both he and Burke were voted to the All-Rookie first team.
So welcome to the NBA, Shabazz Napier. With a 3-for-15 shooting line and eight turnovers in his first big gulp of pro competition, LeBron James’ favorite point guard in the 2014 draft knows now that he’s got some things to learn before he’s ready to help the Heat.
“I felt this game was going to be a big learning experience for me, which it was,” said Napier, the 24th pick in the draft. “I came out with a little jitters.
“I’m definitely going to look at this game. I felt like it’s the biggest learning experience I can get. I want to learn from it as quick as I can and move on to the next game.”
The 6-foot-1 guard missed his first 11 shots of the game before he pulled things together in the second half with a mini-tear that included a 17-foot jumper, a nifty reverse buck in transition and then a 3-pointer.
It was a far cry from the last time he was on the court in a game situation, leading the UConn Huskies to the NCAA championship in Apri.
“That’s the biggest thing. I haven’t played competitively. I’m on a new team. That’s tough. How to understand my teammates on the fly. I think I did a great job of it in the second half. The first time came out kinda not ready.
“I still kinda had a college game coming in. Like I said, I don’t know my teammates as well. We made a lot of big mistakes today. We had like 25 turnovers. I had eight of those. We’re just learning on the fly. Even though we lost, sometimes losing helps you win.”
Boston’s Phil Pressey got right up in Napier’s face and didn’t give him space to make moves or control the offense at times.
“It’s a different game,” Napier said. “I’m unable to do a lot of things I did in college. Such as passes. I have to learn how to adjust and make those certain passes on an NBA level. That’s the learning curve. Today was a good adjustment for me. I had to learn. It took me a while, but I felt like I got into a good groove.”
In the first half, Napier missed wide open shots from the corners and the top of the key, the kind that were easy buckets when he was earning Most Outstanding Player honors in the tournament three months ago. He looked as out of sync as Burke did a year ago with the Jazz summer league team.
“I didn’t watch it at all,” Napier said. “I didn’t have NBA TV, especially at school. If a lot of point guards do this, I guess it’s kind of a remedy. It’s a big learning curve for all of us, especially myself. You can’t do a lot of things you did in college. You have to find ways to do those certain things, but on an NBA level. I will as soon as I continue to play and get this learning curve out of the way.”