Here’s how the young Kings are doing in Orlando.
The Kings didn’t send their Stockton affiliate to the G League bubble, but both of the team’s second-round picks — Robert Woodard II and Jahmi’us Ramsey — are in Orlando with separate affiliates playing their first significant professional minutes.
Since the rookies are playing for different franchises, coach Luke Walton said that the Kings staff didn’t give them specific instructions, but rather a general message to soak in the time that they have on the court.
“Go have fun playing basketball,” Walton said last week. “They’re going to different teams, so you don’t know exactly what they’re going to be told, but you know you got to listen to whoever your coach is that’s there. So I told them to enjoy themselves having basketball. I said look, this is the way that professional sports work and when you get an opportunity to play, make the most of it. Everybody’s watching. And it’s a chance to get better. They were both excited to go, which is what you want. You want players that want to go play basketball, so excited to see the next couple weeks play out for them.”
Woodard is with the Austin Spurs and has been an instant hit. He came off the bench for the first four games, understandably slotted beyond San Antonio’s internal prospects in the rotation, but the Spurs have found it hard to keep Woodard off the floor. He is averaging 30.2 minutes over the first five contests while posting 17.2 points and 11 rebounds per game. Austin is playing Woodard during closing time; he hit some big shots during the Spurs’ 104-102 win over the Lakeland Magic last Thursday and had the game-saving deflection.
Austin started Woodard in its most recent game with 2019 first-rounder Luka Šamanić out with an injury. Even if Woodard goes back to the bench, he’s likely to still be a critical part of what the Spurs are doing in the bubble.
Meanwhile, Ramsey has had a less seamless transition. Woodard has an obvious NBA body, something his teammates commented on endlessly during the preseason, but Ramsey is only 19 and dealing with this level of physicality for the first time. He’s shooting 28.3 percent from the field (he’s made 4-of-22 threes) through the first five games as he struggles to finish around the rim. However, there have been meaningful signs of progress, even over the course of one week.
The Agua Caliente Clippers have him in the starting lineup right now with their best player Amir Coffey recently called back up to the Los Angeles. Ramsey had his best game of the bubble in his second start against the Salt Lake City Stars, scoring 21 points while shooting 8-of-17 from the field and dishing out three assists in the team’s win.
@newanimprovedJR was a certified in today’s contest
The highs from his game in the G
— Stockton Kings (@StocktonKings) February 17, 2021
After the game, Ramsey said that the key for him was being more aggressive. It helps that his teammates and coaches have given him the green light.
“He’s such a good athlete, I think coming up through the ranks, whether it’s high school or club basketball even at Texas Tech, he probably could just, when you need to go get a basket, try to split two defenders,” Agua Caliente coach Paul Hewitt said Tuesday. “He tried that first couple games here and he wound up on his backside with the ball going the other way, so I thought he did a better job of recognizing when the ball moves, we swing it once or twice, now those those gaps that he wants to attack are a little more wide open, and then when he sees it goes through, then his outside shot gets going. He’s a talented young player, and he’s also made it easy for other guys to root for him.”
Clippers point guard Jordan Ford echoed that sentiment about Ramsey.
“[Jahmi’us] was just being aggressive, he was making quick decisions, he was attacking closeouts and getting to the rack,” Ford said. “I think when he’s getting to the rack, he’s a really good player and he was very decisive, he’s always very decisive when he plays, so he really had it going today. We’re just trying to be positive with him, tell him to keep shooting and it worked out today.”
Ramsey kept going after it against the Raptors 905 Wednesday, but he only made 3-of-15 shots in that loss. It’s still good to see him figuring out what he can and can’t do against professional defenses as he grows during this bubble experience.
Here are both players’ schedules for the next week. All games are available on ESPN+, which you can sign up for here.