If you’ve ever wondered why some players, no matter how talented, seem to bounce from team to team like a ping pong ball, let me introduce you Kelly Oubre Jr. Oubre signed with the Charlotte Hornets in the offseason, making it his fourth team since joining the NBA in 2015.
We must look no further than this play of Charlotte’s game on Friday night against the New York Knicks. The Hornets were up by seven points with 40 seconds left in regulation, Oubre put the ball in the corner with 17 seconds on the clock and proceeded to shoot a three-point shot that was nowhere near the basket. A camera pans the box of Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who can be seen visibly indignant at Oubre for taking the picture and not spending more time.
The Hornets were able to maintain the win and beat the Knicks 104-96, but that could have quickly turned into overtime if New York was able to hit a couple of shots along the stretch. But the whole sequence highlights only one of the reasons Oubre was sent from team to team. There is a lack of self and pitch awareness and a pattern of not realizing what the situation requires during specific points in a match.
Golden State felt the same frustrations as Jordan when Oubre played 55 games for them last season. I’ll give him credit because he’s hitting the ball much better off the 3-point range this year at 38.7 percent compared to 31.6 percent at Golden State. Perhaps shooting alongside Stephen Curry makes most players look worse than they actually are. But then Oubre will go on to score 37 points off the bench as he did a couple of nights before the Knicks game, breaking the Hornets’ franchise record for points off the bench. But I knew Oubre’s days with the Warriors were numbered when he hinted that he didn’t want to come off the bench behind Klay Thompson once back. Once again that lack of self-awareness rears its ugly head.
It’s not that Oubre is a bad player; averaged 14ppg this year in Charlotte and averaged 15ppg with the Warriors last year. But those “WTF” moments that you know he will have can really dilute his contribution to any game, no matter how many points he scored. This is probably where Jordan’s frustration comes from, because Oubre is so talented. However, he constantly skips some of the smaller details needed to be exceptional in any professional sport. Simply knowing and acknowledging the situation, then knowing what to do or not to do in those situations.
Attention to detail is what prevents many players from excelling at higher levels as pros. While we compare the late Kobe Bryant to Jordan, he’s never been as athletic as Jordan, but I think we’d all rate Bryant’s basketball IQ up there with some of the all-time greats, including His Airness. Attention to every little detail is what distinguishes the good from the great and the great from the greats of all time.