PERRY AVERAGED 18.1 POINTS, 8.9 REBOUNDS, AND 2.9 ASSISTS OVER MONTH IN G LEAGUE
Lessons come in all forms.
For Reggie Perry, Brooklyn’s rookie forward, a lot of ground has been covered over the first half of his first NBA season. He’s been thrown into the fire, playing rotation minutes with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden, and that was one kind of learning experience. Another was spending a month with Long Island in the G League, where it was Perry who had a turn to take a lead role.
Perry has been back a week now from something that amounted to a basketball boot camp, a G League season that squeezed 15 games into 25 days in a bubble environment in Florida that mirrored the way the NBA concluded its 2019-20 season.
“He said he really enjoyed it,” said Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash. “He played I think 15 games or something, so for him it was great to play. For him, I think that’s a great development opportunity. And he’s, obviously we have a lot of depth at center right now, but we still think that he has a lot of potential in this league and we’re thrilled that he had that opportunity to grow and play and regardless of what happens here, we see Reggie having a future in this league and becoming a good player.”
The 57th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Perry is with Brooklyn on a two-way contract. In a normal season, stretches in the G League would be expected. But this isn’t a normal season. NBA limits on two-way players have been eased, and the truncated nature of the G League season didn’t leave much time for back and forth.
Plus, in mid-January, Perry suddenly found himself playing regular NBA minutes after the trade for James Harden left the Nets undermanned in the front court with the departures of Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs. Pressed into action against the Kicks on Jan. 16, Perry had 11 points and five rebounds in a Brooklyn win. On Jan. 29, he posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Oklahoma City.
“I felt all right about that little stretch right there when the trade first went down,” said Perry. “I felt like I could have done a lot of things better, could have finished a lot better, but like I said, being thrown out there, seeing the pace of the game, seeing things I need to work on, learning defensive coverages on different players and being able to put that to work for a long period of time was really challenging, but it was a great learning experience.”
A few days after that double-double, Brooklyn GM Sean Marks sat down with Perry with a new plan, to join Long Island, where Bret Brielmaier, who worked closely with Allen while on the Brooklyn staff over the previous few seasons, is in his first year as head coach.
It was an opportunity not just to play more minutes, but to take on more responsibility and emphasize development with the way he was used. For the 6-foot-8, 250-pound Perry, that meant a ton more time with the ball in his hands. Nash has described Perry as a small-ball 5 in the modern NBA, able to create offense from the perimeter. This was a chance to exercise and grow that skill set.
“That was really helpful,” said Perry. “I feel like it was a good thing that they did that, because eventually that would be my role, being able to stretch the floor, being able to playmake out of pick and rolls. I feel like the best thing with our G League team is we’re on the same page as our NBA team and we’ll run the same sets. Them just putting the ball in my hands a lot more is really what helped my development a lot.”
“We really gave him the freedom to be a little bit creative,” said Brielmaier. “We didn’t put in a ton of offensive rules except that we wanted him to kind of be a facilitator and almost run some things through him. We ran some of the same actions as Brooklyn, running that delay where he’s at the top of the key and he’s the primary ball-handler making decisions. As possessions broke down, we constantly had him flashing back to the basketball, almost like Bam (Adebayo) in Miami, and with his ability to pass and put pressure on the defense we found a great place; him in the middle of the floor with a live dribble and guys cutting and moving. You could really see his ability to pass the basketball and make things happen.”
On the defensive end, Brielmaier had Perry switching regularly on ball screens, putting him in different positions isolated on guards and big men, showing off a versatility that was a topline takeaway for Brielmaier in evaluating Perry’s performance.
Perry averaged 18.1 points and 8.9 rebounds for Long Island, shooting 52.1 percent and playing 28.8 minutes per game. He also shot 32.4 percent from 3-point range on 2.5 attempts per game, and showed the facilitating touch the Nets were looking for with 2.9 assists per game.
“A big who can make those type of reads and create opportunities for other scorers is so unique,” said Brielmaier. “And then the other one that really stood out, and I think coach Nash has spoken out about his ability to do so, is shooting the basketball from three. He really has a gift and a soft touch to his shot and as he continues to grow and get more comfortable with the distance of that line, I think you’ll see his percentage, his efficiency just continue to climb.”
Perry’s consistency stood out to Brielmaier; aside from a load management game midway through where he played limited minutes, Perry scored between 15 and 24 points in every game and had at least eight rebounds 10 times. With the heavy schedule, off days in the G League resembled what off days in the NBA have been like this season — limited practice time, but an emphasis on teaching through film, both in group and one-on-one sessions.
“Film was always helpful,” said Perry. “I’m a big visual person. Just being able to see, being able to break down film, being able to see little things that I can better at, it’s a big thing. Being able to sit down with the head coach and break down film with him was a really fun experience.”
Now that he’s back in Brooklyn, Perry has returned to a more crowded frontcourt. Nic Claxton is healthy. Blake Griffin is here now, ramping up for his Nets debut. Whatever happens the rest of the season, he’s comfortable that he made the most of his opportunity with Long Island.
“I just approached the experience by going out there and playing as hard as I can,” said Perry. “Realizing as long as I played hard and had a good motor, I’m going to be able to do good things on the court.”