LOS ANGELES -- Rookie Shaedon Sharpe, after a stunningly impressive start to his professional career, hit a but of a lull in the last few weeks. After scoring 20 points, his current career high, in a last-second loss to the Brooklyn Nets on November 17, the 6-6 guard tallied just 16 points on 7-of-32 shooting from the field and 1-of-11 shooting from three combined in his next six appearances.
Whether it was due to showing up on the opposing teams’ scouting report, the grind of the NBA schedule catching up to a player who sat out his lone season at Kentucky or simply the ups-and-downs that comes with being a 19 year-old rookie, Sharpe had lost a bit of his early season mojo.
He got some of it back Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
There was less than 10 seconds left in the first half of Wednesday’s contest between the Trail Blazers and Lakers at Crypto.com Arena. With both the team and the shot clock winding down, Anfernee Simons, handling the ball at the three-point line, got into his modified stepback in order to get off a three-pointer over Austin Reaves. Simons’ attempt missed the mark and took a short bounce off the front of the rim. With three Lakers players in the key, it seemed likely one would grab the rebound, giving Los Angeles a last shot before the intermission.
But Sharpe had noticed that the Lakers had a tendency to follow the ball after shots rather than boxing out, which gave him an idea.
“They was turning they head every time the ball went up,” said Sharpe, “so I just figured I’d go in and try to get two points, little putbacks.”
Though there turned out to be nothing little about what happened next.
Sharpe, who was on the opposite side of the court from Simons for spacing purposes, took a few steps inside the three-point line, elevated in between Russell Westbrook and Thomas Byrant, collected the ball with his right hand and threw down a powerful putback dunk that sent the bench (and play-by-play man Kevin Calabro) into hysterics, while surprising and delighting even the most ardent Lakers fan.
“So I looked at the clock and I seen Ant was dribbling, had a little iso,” recounted Sharpe. “I’m like ‘Okay, this shot’s going up,’ so when it went up, I seen Russ and he turned his head so ‘Okay, I’m gonna go in and see if I can get a putback.’ And when the ball came off, I just jumped, caught it and dunked it.”
After the game, which Portland would go on to lose 128-109, Sharpe indicated that his confidence had taken a bit of a hit as of late after starting his professional career off with a number of impressive performance and highlight dunks that already have him as one of the favorites to participate in this season’s dunk contest at All-Star Weekend. And in that way, the dunk provided him with more than two points.
“I needed that,” said Sharpe, who also showed a rare display of emotion after the finish. “Just to get my confidence back up. I feel like the majority of the game is mindset, so just get my confidence up, just get going and look forward to playing in the next game.”
Sharpe finished Wednesday’s loss with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and three rebounds in 28 minutes. And while the effort didn’t result in a win, it did give the rookie out of London, Ontario a boost of confidence, which might end up being more valuable in the long run.
“I’m still learning the ins and outs of the game,” said Sharpe. “I think I played within the system, within how we want to play. I think I attacked when we need to attack and just played defense, space out. I think I did pretty good but as a team, we fought.”