Pullen Proving He Belongs In The NBA

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.

Catching Up With Perry Jones III

Perry Jones III talked with HOOPSADDICT.com about his ankle injury, adjusting to the pace of the NBA, what he feels he will bring to the Oklahoma City Thunder and his fall on draft night.

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Stephenson Is Turning Into A Leader

After a sophomore campaign that saw just 10 minutes per game and 42 appearances overall, Indiana Pacers’ guard Lance Stephenson has set himself a goal for this Summer League.

“Being a leader on the floor,” the 6-5 guard told HOOPSADDICT.com Tuesday evening. “That’s the big thing. I know I got the game, and I’ve got the physical body, I’ve just got to get people in the right spots to make good plays.”

He certainly took a good step in that direction on Tuesday in Orlando. Stephenson was integral in the Indiana Pacers’ Summer League win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, going off for 28 points. He also played aggressive, physical defense and dished out seven assists to his teammates in the win. Several times, his passes created easy looks around the rim, and he was robbed of an assist more than once by a quick foul that prevented a basket.

“I just let the game come to me,” he said. “I looked for the open spots and tried to get my teammates involved. Just trying to win the game. Everybody played good. That’s what opened things up for me. Everybody was hitting shots and I was trying to get everyone involved.”

Showcasing a jumpshot that has clearly seen some work since Indiana’s season ended in the second round of the playoffs, Stephenson was very efficient from the field, dropping 10 of 14 shots, including 2-4 from three point range. His mechanics were noticeably improved. Where as before his body twisted going into his jumpshot, on Tuesday his feet were squared to the basket on spot up opportunities, and his stroke appeared fluid.

“[I've been] working on my jumpshot off the pick and roll,” Stephenson said. “I’m feeling good, I’ve just got to keep working hard.”

The Pacers have a team option on the third year of Stephenson’s contract, so even though he has more NBA experience than many of the players in Orlando, Stephenson has to prove himself equally. If the Pacers decide that he isn’t worth a contract on their team, they can decline his option, sending him into free agency.

But Stephenson certainly doesn’t lack confidence. After draining one three pointer in the face of an Oklahoma City defender, Stephenson skipped backward down the floor and screamed “Buckets!” at the Thunder bench.

His handles appeared fluid, and he looks more comfortable finishing shots around the rim with contact.

“I’m feeling good,” Stephenson said, “I’m trying to show my teammates how to get better. Get in the gym every day, and the game becomes easier.”

Spoken like a true leader.