BULLOCK AND STACKHOUSE SHARE KINSHIP WITH KINSTON

Former All-Star Jerry Stackhouse was not at Staples Center to talk about Reggie Bullock.

It was early in the season and Stackhouse, who has served as a mentor/role model for Bullock since the Clippers’ rookie was an adolescent, had business to attend to.

The longtime NBA veteran, who was last seen in a reserve role for the Brooklyn Nets in 2012-13, was in the Clippers’ locker room waiting for Chris Paul so the two could discuss Paul’s presidency with the NBA Player’s Union.

But Paul was still getting dressed at his locker and Stackhouse was waiting on the opposite corner of the room. So, I approached to him to ask about Bullock.

Stackhouse, like Bullock, grew up in Kinston, North Carolina. Not Kingston, Jamaica as Bullock joked that many outsiders mistakenly think. He endured the gangs, drugs and violence that have at times overwhelmed the community there. But he’s also seen what happens when it supports someone trying to make it out.

So, when I asked Stackhouse if he had a minute to spend talking about the 22-year-old Bullock, he gleaned a familiar smile.

“He’s from my hometown,” Stackhouse said, inviting me to ask whatever I needed. “I’ve got a lot of attachment to a lot of kids that grew up in the same place that I did.”

Stackhouse proceeded to talk about the sense of responsibility he felt in lending advice to youngsters in Kinston, a city of about 22,000 in Carolina’s Inner Banks. Bullock was one of them.

“The community of Kinston definitely embraced me,” Bullock said. “They came to a lot of my high school basketball games. They came to a lot of college games. They just wanted me to be able to play past college. They definitely showed me support. They look out for my family while I’m on the road. It’s just family-based there.

“[Stackhouse] was definitely a mentor for me in my life. He talked to me about the problems that were going on at Carolina, things that I should expect coming from high school to college, things I should expect coming from college to the NBA. So, he was definitely in my life for a lot of years and helping me with basketball.”

The two met for the first time at Stackhouse’s local basketball camp when Bullock was in middle school. Bullock caught Stackhouse’s eye as a youngster, and gained something of legendary status at the camp after he made a 3-point bank shot over Stackhouse in front of his peers.

Stackhouse stuck by Bullock’s side from then on. And as Bullock mirrored Stackhouse’s path, becoming a high school All-American at Kinston High and then attending North Carolina, where Stackhouse scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons, the comparisons between the two became commonplace.

According to Bullock, though, their games were never much the same. Stackhouse was an explosive leaper and aggressive scorer. He was in attack mode at all times. Bullock made his way as a so-called 3-and-D guy, which is what attracted Roy Williams to him in his college recruitment and again appealed to Doc Rivers on draft day in June.

Bullock recalled talking to Stackhouse about the business of basketball, well before he became a professional.

“Definitely some of the things that I remember was that he told me it was a business and that every day is an opportunity to get better,” Bullock said. “He told me he always wanted me to stay aggressive. That’s probably the difference between me and him. When he was in high school he was way more aggressive than I was. I was more a laidback, chill type player.”

What kind of message was Stackhouse trying to get through to Bullock over the years?

“First and foremost, it was the basketball,” he said. “Just continued to have him focus on what he needed to do to reach his goals, but more so just being that ear to him. Dealing with, we come from a pretty tough town, a small town, but it’s a pretty tough town, and dealing with the different pressures that come, and just understanding, just being able to pull him out of it and seeing what’s on the other side too.

“And I think it was kind of spending time doing things that he probably otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to do, you know, going out on the boat, hanging out riding jet skis, doing things that a lot of kids from that area never get to see. I just think him seeing that, and seeing his, taking advantage of his talents, he was like ‘That’s what I want to do.’ You know, he saw that, he saw my wife; he said like you know, ‘I want a pretty girl, too.’ So, all of those different things that he was able to see, and I’m just proud of him.”

Pride is something Bullock has deeply for Kinston. He said there were a number of people who looked out for him as a young ball player growing up in a place he has described as “gangland.” Bullock said gang members helped dissuade him from a life of crime and went as far as to shelter him from danger. And, of course, there were men like Skeet Davis, Derrick Sheffield, Ronnie Davis and Stackhouse. All Kinston natives, all engrained in the community of basketball, and all with a vested interest in helping out a young player that reminded many of them of themselves.

“When I was looking at a picture the other day, and he was just a little peanut kid, you know in the pool with goggles on, and now all the sudden I see him, he’s eating at Mastro’s,” Stackhouse said.

“It’s great, man, I mean, it couldn’t happen to a better kid. I think you’re talking about someone that’s humble and really worked for it. He got in the gym, put in the time. I don’t think there’s anybody that’s ever coached him or ever been around him for any length of time that has one bad word to say about Reggie.”

Bullock understands what the neighborhood and men like Stackhouse meant to him, especially after his father died in 1998, and he says, one day he’d like to return the favor.

“That’s what the city of Kinston is about,” Bullock said. “There is a lot of bad stuff going down there, but I don’t think anybody is intentionally trying to bring somebody down. I definitely want to do that after my NBA career, or during my NBA career, if I can help somebody out. I want to be a phone call away for somebody who is struggling in any situation or their life. I just want to be there.”