Stephen Silas has had a front row seat to watch some of the NBA’s most prolific players during the early stages of their career.
Silas was an assistant coach with Cleveland in 2003 when LeBron James was a rookie, an assistant with Golden State in 2009 when Stephen Curry was a rookie, and an assistant with Charlotte in 2011 when Kemba Walker was a rookie. And yes, Silas also was an assistant with the Mavericks in 2018 when Luka Doncic was a rookie.
Between those four players, they’ve combined to earn a whopping 30 All-Star berths. And Silas is the only person who was there when their NBA careers started.
So what are the common traits Silas has noticed between Doncic, Curry and James?
“There’s the intelligence, the basketball intelligence, the overall intelligence, the ability to listen and learn quickly, the ability to take teaching and use it right away,” Silas said before Wednesday’s 102-93 win over the Mavs. “You just have to tell them once and they’ve got it. All three guys are very much the same in that.
“All three guys are like, when you’re watching film with them, they see it already. Luka, I be watching film with him and he be like, ‘Ah, I know what’s coming, I know, here it is. I know, I know.’ And Steph would be the same way, and LeBron would be very much the same way. They see it before it happens and if they made a mistake they knew they made the mistake.”
Silas, who is in his first season as the head coach of the Houston Rockets, went so far as to say if it wasn’t for Doncic, he’s not sure if he would be the head coach of the Rockets.
“Guys like him definitely stretch you as a coach and they help you prepare for moments like I’m in right now,” Silas said. “Obviously without Luka I wouldn’t be the head coach of the Rockets right now, and I realize that. When I would be kind of introducing a new offense or putting in a new play, he would be good. But then as we continued to review the things he would get at times — I wouldn’t say bored – but he’s already got it, so for us to keep going over it and over it and over it again didn’t necessarily make too much sense to him. It was, you know, we all have to get it, not just you.
“It’s almost like a kid who is in a lower grade sometimes and it’s like, ‘Why are we doing this? I already learned this.’ But for the good of the group you have to introduce things and review and review and review. That’s not to say anything about his teammates because he has great teammates as you can see by the progress that they have made. But he is just that level of intelligence when it comes to basketball – all things basketball.”
And that’s not all.
“He is supremely confident, he is quicker than you think, bigger than you think, stronger than you think and he is very much like a basketball savant,” Silas said of Doncic. “He’s very, very intelligent when it comes to who is where, who should be where, where the help is coming from, is this a scoring opportunity for me or is it a passing opportunity for me.
“And now he’s shooting the ball very well, so that makes it harder for anybody to guard him. But I would say the basketball intelligence along with the physical gifts are the things that sets him apart.”
Silas noted that same philosophy applies to Curry and James.
“It’s so much fun to coach guys like that who are smart, and then it’s the work ethic,” Silas said. “They all have gotten so much better from year to year to year. You don’t get that much better by just kind of not working, or expecting to just get better all of a sudden.
“So it’s the intelligence, number one, that separates those guys, but then the work ethic. And you look at Luka as far as his shooting and you look at Steph as far as his body. (Curry) can take the hits and all of those things, and he’s just gotten so much stronger than he was in his rookie year. And I’d say LeBron has just kind of improved all around as far as shooting, his body and everything. So those experiences that I had with those guys prior to where a guy is either asking questions that are very advanced or almost – not necessarily bored – but just kind of going through it because they already know it, I was ready for that. That definitely has helped as I’ve moved along in my career.”
Carlisle applauds Hubert Davis: Count Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle among those who were very happy when Hubert Davis was announced Tuesday as the new head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Davis played for the Mavs from 1997-2001, and also played for Carlisle in Detroit during the 2002-’03 season when Carlisle was coaching the Pistons.
“He’s a great basketball guy, a great basketball man,” Carlisle said of Davis. “I had him for one year in Detroit. We were in situations where we were low on point guards and we actually had him playing some point guard for us that season and he adapted and gave us one heckuva shooter that could get us into the offense and then spot up.
“People that know Hubert and have known him for a number of years know that he’s also got an amazing personality, got a great magnetism, and a great way with people. He’ll be a fantastic head coach in the (Atlantic Coast Conference.”
Davis, who played for North Carolina from 1988-92, has become part of a trend that has seen former NBA players return to become the head coach at their alma mater. Not only is that the case with Davis, but it’s also the case with Patrick Ewing (Georgetown), Juwan Howard (Michigan) and Penny Hardaway (Memphis).
Howard led Michigan to the Elite 8 this year, Ewing led Georgetown to the NCAA playoffs, and Hardaway led Memphis to the NIT title.
“These guys are all having tremendous success,” Carlisle said. “I know Georgetown got back to the NCAA this year, Juwan Howard was named the National Coach of the Year, and Penny Hardaway’s been successful for a number of years.
“I have no doubt that Hubert Davis will be highly successful as well.”
Briefly: Guard Trey Burke didn’t travel with the Mavs for Wednesday’s game at Houston due to a left calf strain, but coach Rick Carlisle said there’s a good chance he’ll be able to play in Thursday’s home game against Milwaukee. Also, forward/center Maxi Kleber sat out the game against the Rockets, Carlisle said: “With a lower leg issue that we don’t think is serious.” . . . Guard JJ Redick (right heel soreness) stayed in Dallas to work with Casey Smith, who is the Mavs’ director of player health and performance. Carlisle said: “Redick has continued to make progress, but there’s no definite timetable.”