As the NBA season is just days away, we caught up with the incoming rookies to discuss what they will bring to the table come opening game day! Hear from DeAndre Ayton, Trae Young and more here!
One of the best parts about the start of an NBA season is the rookie class. It’s a time for the incoming players from famed collegiate franchises to debut why they were drafted at No. 1, like DeAndre Ayton, or No. 14, like Michael Porter Jr. It’s also a time to see which of these young rooks will be franchise-changing players, and potentially land that coveted Rookie of the Year award that most incoming players secretly strive for.
For the past two years now, ahead of each season, HollywoodLife.com is on hand at the NBA Rookie Photoshoot in New York with Panini America, where we get up close and personal with incoming ballers as they model their team’s uniform for the very first time. It’s an extremely intimate and special experience for both us and these players, as they are about to step on basketball’s highest stage. We got an exclusive on MPJ’s injury status, DeAndre Ayton’s attack plan for the Suns’ season, Trae Young‘s relationship with Quavo and how he will turn Atlanta’s franchise around while leading the offense and so much more! — Check out our interviews below!
MICHAEL PORTER JR. — The now Denver Nugget went from a top five pick to being selected at No. 14 after concerns with this back injury clearly got in the way of other teams taking him on. However, the Mizzou native told us that he is confident after undergoing a recent surgery (ahead of August). “The first surgery, they did a good job and it helped some, but this one helped all,” MPJ explained. “So I think those issues are behind me. I’m excited to get to work and get better.”
He will now join Isaiah Thomas, who is also dealing with his ongoing hip injury, in Denver. IT was traded from the Lakers to Denver after a one-year stint in LA, following the same tenure in Cleveland. “I think it’s a great move for him,” MPJ admitted. “We have a bunch of young guys, so he can come in and be a veteran leader for us. We can learn a lot from him, I’m excited to see his comeback.”
DEANDRE AYTON (Phoenix Suns; Drafted No. 1 overall)
On implementing his skills to Phoenix & working with Devin Booker: “We’re young so we’re definitely going to be running the floor; A lot of pick and rolls, transition offense. I’ll be jumping at the rim, trying my best to jump and put it back up. I just think trying to get to know these guys on and off the court, build relationships with them, it’s going to be super important. If they see your work ethic as a rookie coming in, then you have no problems. Just always be respectful and honest.
On how Summer League gave him a taste of what’s to come in the regular season: “I needed to get a little wind that’s about it. It was fun! All those guys are cool… It was competitive for some reason, I didn’t think it was going to be that competitive. Some of these dudes are out here getting it, we’re all fighting for a job. It was a really great way to welcome us just coming in.”
On if he feels any pressure being drafted No. 1 to a team trying to solidify a contending edge: “Not really, no pressure at all from anyone. But, I’ve been pressuring myself to where I’m trying my best to play as many games as possible, be the best teammate I can be and play my but off on the floor.
TRAE YOUNG (Atlanta Hawks; Drafted No. 5)
On how he will help bring a winning culture back to ATL: “I think it starts from building chemistry in and off the court with my teammates, getting in the gym… including the community and their support as well as the culture…”
On his teammate Jeremy Lin: “I’ve talked to him about how we’re going to get to know each other on and off the court… Our new training facility has made it a lot easier for us to work.”
On his friendship with Quavo: “For sure he’s going to come to more than a couple of games. That’s my guy. I talk to him 3 or 4 times a week. He’s great, he loves basketball and Atlanta.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson at the 2018 NBA Rookie Photoshoot with Panini America in New York on August 12, 2018. (Photos exclusive to HollywoodLife)
JAREN JACKSON JR. (Memphis Grizzlies; Drafted No. 4)
“It’s cool to wear this uniform because it’s the first ones of this kind. I like my shorts. It’s just so cool. Just putting it on and seeing everyone else with theirs, it’s kind of weird but it’s fun at the same time,” he said about wearing his uniform for the first time.
On preparing for the NBA level of play: “It’s a lot of work. The workouts are a lot more intense, because you gotta get your body in shape to play these 82 games. But also, you have to keep in mind that it’s a long season, it’s about the little things — making sure you recover, eat right, all that.”
On his dad being a former NBA player: “There’s a couple of us here, but having him there for advice is always great. He’s done it all, he’s done all the levels, so he knows the ins and outs. Anytime I got a question, I go right to him. He’s told me just to stay patient and not try to rush anything. I’m 18, so I need to be patient, I’m an impatient kid, really. But, I’ve got to be patient, because I know there’s going to be ups and downs in the season. Just keep your mind right, stay level headed, don’t get too up or too down.”
On first purchase after signing his rookie contract: “When I signed I bought ‘Astroworld’, I might buy it again, the hard copy. It’s like an 8-way tie (favorite track), but I’d say ‘Stop Trying To Be God’, ‘Carousel’, ‘Sicko Mode’ is great.”
As the NBA season quickly approaches, the players aren’t the only ones who’ve been putting in major work in the offseason. The league itself has locked down epic, new partnerships, with Beats, and most recently, Express, Inc. The league and the retail giant recently announced their multi-year expanded partnership.
Express unveiled its second “NBA Game Changers” campaign and Performance Collection featuring NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Mo Bamba (Orlando Magic) and Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks), two of this year’s top NBA Draft picks, as well as current NBA stars John Collins (Atlanta Hawks) and Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets). As part of its expanded partnership with the NBA, Express will also introduce a collection of licensed apparel, available in-store and online beginning this fall.