On January 7th of this year, Rocket's Nation was left with a collective "huh?" as Houston plucked guard Patrick Beverley from overseas. At the time Lin, Harden, and Douglas solidified our regular backcourt rotation with Scott Machado showing promising signs in the summer league and at Viper's games.
After buying out his overseas contract, the Rockets signed him to a multi-year deal (3 years, partially guaranteed with team options the next two seasons). To some, it looked like a low risk move to get more young bodies and fresh legs into our system. To others, it looked like writing on the wall for TD.
For Beverley, it meant so much more than that. The collective shrug fans gave his contract signing at the time was a dream come true for a young and hungry prospect out of inner city Chicago. The product of a journey that we are about to delve deeply into in order to fully understand the newest member of our budding young team.
Hoop Dreams, Hoop Realities
These are two phrases that I suggest fans of Beverley familiarize themselves with. They encompass both a very wide range of influential forces in Patrick's life and the best window into a young player's career that a fan can imagine.
"Hoop Dreams" is a documentary (a famous one at that) filmed in 1995. It features the struggle of William Gates and, more notably, Arthur Agee as they struggle to reach their goal of playing in the NBA while struggling through economic hardship, familial deterioration, and the violence associated with a rough part of Chicago. It's a great film that I highly recommend for those who have not seen it (available on Netflix instant watch).
More toward the point, "Hoop Reality" is the 2007 sequel to "Hoop Dreams" where Arthur Agee returns to his old high school to check out a new young player who has drawn comparisons to him from around the city.
That player: Patrick Beverley.
The documentary closely follows our new young point guard's journey through high school up until draft night in wonderful detail. As I attempt to do the documentary some justice in a portion of this article, I would highly recommend watching it (Amazon instant video has it for $10 to keep or $2 for a seven day rental). It is powerfully filmed and provides images that, in many cases, words really can't replicate.
Either way, this is where his story starts.
After being born to a 17-year-old single mother on the west side of Chicago, Beverley's only real connection to his father as a young child were his old basketball trophies. He idolized and revered them, claiming early on that he wanted twice the number of trophies his dad got.
At first, Lisa Beverley, his mother, was hesitant about letting him on the court in competitive high school games and moved him out to the suburbs before letting Patrick play at John Marshall high school back in the inner city. Patrick quickly became the best player on his team as they posted an impressive win/loss record in their Chicago Public League.
Despite Patrick's success and his dream to play in the NBA, big time college scouts were ambivalent about extending scholarship offers. At the time, Toledo was the only school that offered him a roster spot. As great as he would do in the MAC conference, Patrick was concerned about only playing against people ‘on his level'. Patrick is the kind of guy that wanted to challenge himself to consistently play against the guys above him. He was hungry for the challenge of a major Division I program.
In order to get the attention necessary to secure his perceived future, Beverley needed an impressive run to cap of his last season. Without getting exposure at a major Division I program, it would be difficult to grab the attention of NBA scouts.
The first opportunity came against their biggest rival, the Crane Cougars. In a battle for inner-city bragging rights, Patrick Beverley and Sherron Collins (former top prospect, eventual KU national champion, current NBA benchwarmer) headlined the showdown as the then heavyweights battled back and forth. Beverley dropped 33 points on the way to a second half comeback to take home the W.
In the city playoffs, Beverley's 37 point effort was not enough to carry his team past the second round, putting him and his team's collective back against the wall. They now had to go undefeated through their super-sectional tournament to qualify for the Illinois state tournament. One loss and Beverley's big time Division I conference hopes would be washed away into the depths of a mid-major.
With the stage set; Patrick and his squad went on a tear that saw them chew through Collins and the Crane Cougars one last time before also demolishing a Loyola Academy team featuring Jeffrey Jordan (son of the MJ himself) on their way to the super-sectional title, 83-61.
The last time Marshall had been to the Illinois state tournament, they were filming Hoop Dreams in the early 90's as Agee was seeking to make his mark on the basketball world. This time, it was Beverley's turn to shine.
However, at this particular state tournament, Marshall ran into the one and only Derrick Rose in the second round, getting knocked out by the prodigy and his Simeon high school squad. This was followed by a consolation 3rd place game in which an intra-team scuffle led to Patrick being benched until the middle of the third quarter. Despite only playing 15 minutes, he dropped 30 points to seal not only the victory, but also Beverley's chance at getting a big time scholarship offer.
He finished high school averaging 37.3 points (#1 in the state), 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 8 steals.
After receiving offers from more schools, including, the University of Illinois, Florida State, Wake Forest (go deacs!), the University of Michigan (go blue!), and, of course, the University of Arkansas (woo pig sooie!), Patrick narrowed down his choices to Michigan or Arkansas by signing day. Somewhat surprisingly, he chose to sign with the Hogs.
The Razorbacks were just coming off their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2001. The season before Patrick's arrival, Arkansas went 22-10 overall and was bounced in the first round in a pretty heart-breaking loss to Bucknell (I watched that ugly game play out live). Ronnie Brewer led that team, but left for the draft after his junior year was over to be picked by the Jazz and, after a few stops in between, eventually made his way to OKC where he plays today.
Brewer's void the next season allowed Beverley to come in and take over immediately. Along with Sonny Weems and the 7-footer Steven Hill, Patrick helped led the Hogs to a 21-14 season. He led the team in points (13.9), steals (1.7), and 3pt percentage (38.6%). He also was third on his team in rebounding (4.5) and second in assists (3.1).
This earned him Second Team All-SEC honors and making him a candidate for both the Wooden Award and the Naismith Trophy. AS A FRESHMAN!
Despite the successful season, the Razorbacks were knocked out in the first round of the NCAA tournament by a USC team led by Nick Young and Taj Gibson that made it to the sweet sixteen that year.
The next season, Patrick seemingly took a step backwards statistically, or, at the very least, sideways. He even personally acknowledged this fact even as his former coach attributed it to getting complacent with his talent level. Only one major statistic received a major boost his sophomore season: rebounding. He went from averaging 4.5 rebounds a game (impressive in its own right for a guard his size) to a pretty impressive 6.6 per game. That included 7 games of 10+ rebounds a game. That includes a 12 rebound game in a rout against our boy Chandler Parsons in his younger University of Florida days.
During the NCAA tournament, Beverley took on Jordan Crawford (prior to Xavier transfer) and Eric Gordon in the first round as the Hogs defeated Indiana 86-72. Patrick held both to a pretty abysmal 3-20 combined from the floor (15%). Unfortunately, in the second round, the Razorbacks found themselves on the wrong side of Ty Lawson, Danny Green, and Tyler Hansbrough as they were overmatched and totally demolished in the first second round appearance in the NCAA tournament for the University of Arkansas since 1999.
Patrick never had the opportunity to come back for his junior season. He was embroiled in an academic integrity fiasco that ended in him fessing up to turning in a paper written by a tutor and being suspended from play for the year. It is a thoughtless error on his part, as he admits after the fact. He didn't even need it to be academically eligible; he just didn't think he'd get caught. He attributes his youth and lack of maturity at the time for that incident. But what was done was done, he was a Razorback no longer.
Instead of waiting out the suspension, Beverley got himself an agent and was shipped off to Europe help hone his skills for the NBA.
As Patrick got himself ready to travel overseas, his mother Lisa packed her bags as well. She made the trip out to live in Europe with him as Patrick met up with Bob Donewald, Jr., a former NBA assistant coach and current coach of the Chinese national team, to play for his team in Ukraine (Dnipro).
Beverley's work ethic there was steadfast and determined. He knew what his goal was. Donewald knew it too. Specifically, Bob and his staff "broke down every possible drive the kid would make at any angle, and the reads for that...Everything imaginable in terms of NBA spacing and reads, we drilled it."
Patrick also got the chance to mature. He says that playing professionally overseas has "opened [his] eyes to the real world...and it finally clicked. I understand where I need to go, and I needed to grow up."
Playing with older veterans helped his draft stock and his personal development. On this point, Beverley quipped "I had a guy on my team who was 38. That's the same age as my mom...I think me being around that setting forced me to become a better man and better player on and off the court. I now understand the life of a pro." Before coming back to the states for the draft, Beverley competed on the Ukrainian All Star game and also won the slam dunk competition (kids got hops). After all of that he decided he was ready to enter the draft.
After workouts with dozens of NBA teams before the draft, including his hometown Bulls, chatter started to emerge predicting a second round selection for the lanky guard. On draft night, the LA Lakers took him with their second round pick and subsequently flipped him in a trade with the Miami Heat. Watching from his television with his family, Patrick celebrated with his loved ones before packing his bags. But not for the beaches of Florida
Cap space issues forced the Miami Heat to stash their newly acquired guard overseas in on the Greek League team Olympiacos Piraeus. Patrick joined Linas Kleiza and Josh Childress in a very successful season for the club; A season that ended in the finals of several leagues in the region.
Beverley earned a spot on the Heat's summer league roster later that year and played in 4 games, starting 3 of them. There he averaged 5.8 points, 4.8 boards, 1.8 assists, and 2.3 steals. After that stint he was waived by the Heat after their training camp in October and was sent packing back to Euro-land where he happened upon a contract with St. Petersburg in Russia.
It is here that Beverley wont his Eurocup MVP award as he had his highest average in minutes played per game since his days back in Fayetteville. His numbers were as impressive as they were in Arkansas, except this time, he was doing it more efficiently and against more physical, experienced opponents.
Our World's Collide
Beverley has been known to very sincerely believe in the mantra that ‘everything happens for a reason.' Nothing just happens just to happen. Each life event has a meaning and lessons to be drawn from.
So when Beverley decided to put some of his overseas earnings into helping his mother open her own nail salon studio, the question of its location may have been more foreshadowing than anyone could have guessed. Family and friends being close by made the argument to establish the first Beverley presence in Houston a persuasive one before ink ever hit paper for Patrick to play with the Rockets.
If nothing else, I hope THAT happened for a reason.
As the Rockets moved to buyout his St. Petersburg contract and sign him to his first ever multi-year deal, Beverley was immediately sent to the D-League to be groomed for our offensive and defensive schemes. In just 3 games, he averaged 13.7 points, 6.7 boards, 7 assists, and 2 steals.
As Lin began to deal with an ankle issue, Beverley was called up from the D-League, prospectively to serve as an added insurance policy. Although, there was talk that he would have been called up in short order regardless of roster injuries.
And just like that. Patrick Beverley's lifelong dream was finally a reality - playing in the regular season for a professional NBA franchise.
By The Numbers
Obviously these numbers will be much different come the end of the season (tonight, even), but they are still fun to look at. Plus, I will likely write a follow-up near the end of the season.
So far this season as a Rocket, Beverley has played in 21 games totaling 330 minutes. By comparison, Donatas has played 25 games totaling 211 minutes despite being available the whole seasons (in the D-league for stints, but I think that proves the point I'm making here). Greg Smith, 50 games, 687 minutes. James Anderson, 27 games, 229 minutes. Terrence Jones, 11 games, 91 minutes. You get the picture.
Beverley is getting his minutes ramped up far more rapidly than even people who have been working with the team all year. He has totaled over 20 minutes in 7 of his 21 games (3 additional games at 19 mins). He has played under 10 minutes in only 4 games (1 being his very first versus Lob City).
Total averages thus far overall - 5.5 points, 2.5 boards, 3 assists, 1 steal, .4 blocks.
Some very interesting nuances here though. Home/Away splits in particular.
Patrick has had 8 home games (102 mins) and 13 away games (228 mins). Right off the bat, you can see that even if Patrick played twice as many home games as he has so far at his currents minutes average in the Toyota Center, he would still have played 24 more minutes on the road despite playing 3 less games. Layman's terms: the Rockets coaching staff trusts the rookie to play heavy minutes on the road despite the game disparity. Part of this is our starter's playing worse on the road, particularly on defense, but the confidence to plug the rookie in is quite notable.
Here is where it gets more interesting.
At home, Beverley is shooting 26% from the floor (44% avg. this year), 21% from 3pt range (43% avg. this year), and his true shooting percentage is 46.6% (58.7% avg. this year). He scores 2 less points per game and his assists number dip slightly. His free throw attempts, however, increase; much like a player on the road whose coach tells him to drive more to create contact when the rest of his game is off.
However, on the road, Beverley shoots 50% from the floor, 52% from beyond the arc, and has a true shooting at 64%. Those percentages are even more impressive considering the extra minutes he is on the floor at away games versus at home. He also averages 1.2 more points per game, but I could easily see that being entirely related to usage increases, so I won't read too much into that particular one.
I know the sample size is small, but even so his minutes are not necessarily insignificant. I have never seen such a clear road/home stats flip flop in my life. If the minutes were skewed too significantly you would think you would see much more inconsistency in the numbers.
I like to think that the Chicago grit in him make him play better with haters around him (seriously, watch that documentary. It's well worth your 90 minutes).
There are, however, two categories that show no wavering regardless of what court he plays on.
Rebounding and steals.
And let's be honest, statistics aside, this guy is fun to watch aesthetically for those two purposes alone.
This dude hounds the ball and has so much energy on the court it's ridiculous. I always loved watching PPat bounce around in the paint wait to pick someone up off help or get ready to block a shot, but watching a guard play with that type of energy on defense is just fun. Undisciplined? Sometimes. Expending too much energy? Maybe. But I'll be damned if I don't get a little giddy every time this guy checks onto the floor (and it's not just the Razorbacks fan in me).
He is following a Chandler Parsons-esque trajectory of being an early second round pick who contributes in a number of stat categories, defends on the ball incredibly well, and gets more minutes on the floor by depriving the coaches of the arguments necessary to tell him doesn't deserve to be there. The man shows up, does his job, and knows he does it well.
I very much hope we pick up his team option the next two years and that his development really takes off. His potential is sky high with his athleticism and nose for the ball. Once he gets more comfortable in this game (and in the Toyota Center!) we are in for a real treat.
And it's about time; I am getting tired of Joe Johnson being the best active Arkansas Razorback in the NBA. Despite him winning my alma mater, Little Rock Central, a state championship back in the day, I would not mind cheering for a new-age Sidney Moncrief instead.