Brandon Paul’s NBA ticket could be people game
BY MICHAEL O’BRIEN firstname.lastname@example.org May 18, 2013 12:42AM
Brandon Paul (right) puts up a shot over Tim Hardaway, Jr. during the NBA Draft Combine that was held last week in Chicago. Paul, from Gurnee, is giving it his all in hopes of getting picked by an NBA team on June 27. | RANDY BELICE~GETTY IMAGES
NBA Playoff Glance
Best-of-7; x-if necessary
Heat 4, BULLS 1
May 6: BULLS 93, Heat 86
May 8: Heat 115, BULLS 78
May 10: Heat 104, BULLS 94
May 13: Heat 88, BULLS 65
May 15: Heat 94, BULLS 91
Pacers 3, Knicks 2
May 5: Pacers 102, Knicks 95
May 7: Knicks 105, Pacers 79
May 11: Pacers 82, Knicks 71
May 14: Pacers 93, Knicks 82
May 16: Knicks 85, Pacers 75
x-Saturday: N.Y. at Pacers, 7
x-Monday: Pacers at Knicks, 7
Spurs 4, Warriors 2
May 6: Spurs 129, Warriors 127, 2OT
May 8: Warriors. 100, Spurs 91
May 10: Spurs 102, Warriors 92
May 12: Warriors 97, Spurs 87, OT
May 14: Spurs 109, Warriors 91
May 16: Spurs 94, Warriors 82
Grizzlies 4, Thunder 1
May 5: Thunder 93, Grizzlies 91
May 7: Grizzlies 99, Thunder 93
May 11: Grizzlies 87, Thunder 81
May 13: Grizzlies 103, Thunder 97, OT
May 15: Grizzlies 88, Thunder 84
Heat vs. Knicks/Pacers
Wednesday: at Heat, 7:30 p.m.
Friday: at Heat, 7:30 p.m.
May 26: at Knicks/Pacers, 7:30
May 28: at Knicks/Pacers, 7:30
x-May 30: at Heat, 7:30 p.m.
x-June 1: at Knicks/Pacers, 7:30
x-June 3: at Heat, 7:30 p.m.
Spurs vs. Grizzlies
Sunday: Grizzlies at Spurs, 2:30
Tuesday: Grizzlies at Spurs, 8
Saturday: Spurs at Grizzlies, 8
May 27: Spurs at Grizzlies, 8
x-May 29: Grizzlies at Spurs, 8
x-May 31: Spurs at Grizzlies, 8
x-June 2: Grizzlies at Spurs, 8
Updated: June 20, 2013 4:36PM
Brandon Paul’s secret weapon at the NBA draft combine is a little unorthodox. It involves his experience wearing a name tag and working an actual eight-hour day — not something most Big Ten basketball stars and potential NBA draft picks do.
Paul was a ‘‘guest services agent’’ at the I Hotel in Champaign this spring, part of an internship required to receive his degree from Illinois in recreation sport and tourism. He thinks the experience will prove valuable over the next few weeks as he interviews for a spot with an NBA team.
‘‘I’ve had a job now, working at the I Hotel,’’ Paul said. ‘‘And these are like job interviews. I’ve always been able to talk to different people and interact in different environments. That’s something I can [attribute] to my parents. Growing up, they had a disciplined household and made sure I respected adults, as well as myself and others. Growing up in that type of environment, it has helped me get to this point.’’
Paul is smart, well-spoken and charismatic. It’s often said that the period leading up to the draft can be more about the interviews than the basketball, so he’s the ideal candidate to climb a few spots.
The experts are split on Paul’s chances. Some have him going in the middle of the second round, some the end of the second round and some have him falling out of the draft altogether. ESPN ranks him 61st overall and 14th at shooting guard.
The Bulls are one of the teams his agents have been in contact with.
‘‘Growing up in Illinois, I’ve been a Bulls fan my whole life, so that would be real great,’’ Paul said. ‘‘[Tom Thibodeau] is a great coach. Watching those guys throughout the playoffs, they fought with a lot of adversity. I really admire them.’’
Paul’s senior season at Illinois was both spectacular and disappointing. He needs to prove to NBA general managers that he can maintain a level closer to where he was when he scored 43 points against Ohio State. He trained at the IMG Academy in Florida this spring, joining some of the other top draft prospects for skills workouts. He measured at 6-4 in shoes with a 6-10 wingspan before the drills session Thursday.
‘‘I think both my shot consistency and endurance have improved,’’ Paul said. ‘‘Some of these drills I’ve been doing down at IMG . . . I’ve been killing it down there, so hopefully that carries on to this. Not all my shots fell, but I stayed poised and I stayed positive.’’
Paul went to high school at Warren in Gurnee. His signature prep performance came in the Pontiac Holiday Tournament against Oak Park and Iman Shumpert, who now plays for the New York Knicks. Paul scored 36 points in that game, leading Warren to a double-overtime win. Shumpert scored 34, but it was clear that Paul — the younger player — got the better of the matchup. Watching Shumpert excel in the NBA has given Paul confidence that he can do the same.
‘‘No doubt,’’ he said. ‘‘I always think about that. I still haven’t been able to find the film for that game. I wish I had it.’’
Paul thinks he can model his NBA game after Shumpert’s.
‘‘He’s a great defender, and that’s what I’m trying to be,’’ Paul said. ‘‘Jimmy Butler and Shumpert have really built something off of defense. That’s something I want to continue to improve. I think my length and size can help.’’