One of the most contentious ideas in basketball jargon is the idea of clutch. The internet has examined the word from every angle and come up with no solid consensus on what clutch is, how much it matters, or whether the narrative has any basis in reality.
But make no mistake: some players do rise to the occasion in big moments. Jacob Pullen is one of these players.
Pullen, a point guard for Philadelphia’s Summer League team in Orlando, has been putting up big numbers for the Sixers. And even though Philadelphia is 0-2 in games that he has played (he sat out Wednesday’s game with a mild ankle sprain), in each contest his confidence seems to swell when his team needs late buckets.
“I want the ball, man,” Pullen told HOOPSADDICT.com on Wednesday. “It’s a mentality. I don’t know if everybody has it, but I know I do. At the end of the game, I’d rather have the pressure on me, take that shot and take the blame because I know that I can make it.”
He can indeed. Against the Jazz on Tuesday, Pullen scored 23 points, including 4-7 from three point range. Several of those threes were in the final minutes, as he pulled the Sixers to within striking distance before Utah closed out the game.
“Rather than sitting around and not knowing what’s gonna happen, I’d rather try to make something happen,” Pullen said. “That’s the way I was brought up.”
Pullen, previously a star under Frank Martin at Kansas State, spent the lockout playing professional basketball in Italy for Angelico Biella. Pullen played well in Italy, averaging 34 minutes, 16 points, and 3 assists for the club, but he accepted when the Sixers offered him a Summer League roster spot.
“It’s different,” he said, of the style of basketball in Italy. “It was a great experience for me and I enjoyed it a lot, but it’s two different types of basketball, with the athleticism and everything. You just have to be able to adjust.”
Pullen’s play has been eye-opening in Orlando. A supremely confident competitor, his style mirrors his mentality. He scored 15 points in 20 minutes of action against the Pacers on Monday. But he can also dish the ball, recording four assists Tuesday against the Jazz, a high number for a Summer League offense.
Combined with his dangerous pullup jumpshot, his court vision and basketball IQ make him a handful in pick and roll situations.
“The biggest mistake people make about me [is thinking that] me scoring is me shooting a lot,” Pullen said, and indeed, his 19 ppg in Orlando have come while shooting 52%, a very high number for a perimeter player. “I don’t really need a lot of shots to score. I want people to understand I can control a team and get people shots. But at the same time, when you need me I can put the ball in the bucket in a hurry.”
While Pullen is making a strong case for a roster spot on any team, he believes that he would fit in well with the Sixers.
“I think if I did get a shot, I could really help the team, which is all up to the people upstairs,” Pullen said.
If Pullen continues to play the way he is playing, the people upstairs would do well to take notice. Clutch or not, Pullen is leaving little question as to whether he belongs.