In the NBA, the point guard position is considered the most difficult position to play. It's not simply putting the ball in the basket. One has to be the floor leader, direct teammates, carry the burden of being the coach's voice on the court and much more.
It might be even tougher for a young point guard trying to make it in the NBA when the team is a championship caliber team like the San Antonio Spurs with head coach Gregg Popovich, who demands a lot from his point guard. Ask Tony Parker when he first arrived to the Spurs.
Curtis Jerrells knows a thing or two being a point guard with the Spurs. In 2009, the Spurs signed Jerrells to their summer training camp and though he did not make the Spurs squad, he was offered a chance to be play for the Austin Toros (the Spurs’ NBDL affiliate) to develop his game.
In March 2010, Jerrells was called up from Austin to join the team because of an injury to guard Garrett Temple. Although he did not receive time on the court during the Spurs' regular season or playoffs, one thing for sure is he has been observing and learning what it takes to be a point guard in the NBA.
While I was at the 2010 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, I got a chance to speak to Jerrells about his time with the Spurs last season.
“I didn't actually play but being there I got to observe Tony (Parker) and George (Hill) and other guys who play my position like Garrett (Temple). Those guys were just talking to me and being able to sit back and just watch, it's one of the best ways of learning other than actually being out there," said Jerrells to Project Spurs.
As Jerrells said, what better way to learn the point guard position than to be on the same team with the 2007 NBA Finals MVP, Parker, and an up and coming point guard like Hill.
But what exactly is he learning from two quality guards in the NBA?
“The pace they play at. You have to know when it's time to play at certain paces. You can't always play fast and you can't always play slow,” said Jerrells about what he learning from Parker and Hill. “Tony does a good job at playing with great pace. He is a great scorer but also a great passer.”
As Jerrells mentioned, controlling the pace of the game is an area he is learning but learning when to score and when to distribute the ball is another area he is targeting, “One of the biggest things for me is I am a good scorer and a good passer but I still got to know at what times of the game I should score and what times of the game I should pass and find other guys. That's been one of my biggest steps for me this season."
You have to hand it to Jerrells. He knows the Spurs are a wealth of basketball knowledge which goes beyond Parker and Hill. The Spurs boast a Hall of Fame coach like Popovich and a Hall of Fame player like Tim Duncan.
"He is very intense and he can be on both sides," said Jerrells when I asked him about Popovich's coaching style, "He knows when he needs to get after you and he knows how to come at you in a different way. That's part of coaching. You know how to get the best out of them."
As for Duncan, he was not shy to talk about what Duncan has done for his development, "He is one of the most vocal guys on the team. He is like a quarterback down low. He sees a lot," said Jerrells to Project Spurs. "He often talks to Tony, Tony often talks to him and for them the game is about communication. Being on the same page and you got a good chance at winning. That's why those guys are just winning!"
"When you get on the court for the first time and you see Manu (Ginobili), you see Tony and you see Tim, you are like man, it's just a blessing to be here on the floor with those guys at the same time."
Speaking of winning, Jerrells mentioned to me how he had an opportunity to be with the
Spurs during the 2010 playoffs which was an eye-opening experience for him, "It was the playoffs and every body was taking everything seriously and every body was at their fullest. When you are watching that level, at that angle you come away with a lot of good stuff."
With Jerrells as the primary point guard for the Spurs at the Summer League, the team finished with a 5-0 record.
Though the game of basketball is a team game and it took a team effort for the Spurs to go undefeated in the Summer League, I leave you with this which pin-points the biggest lesson learned by Jerrells as a point guard.
He already has shown he has learned to take individual responsibility for the team's performance on the court and is maturing as a point guard, "As a point guard you are leading the team and we win as a team. As a point guard a lot falls on my shoulders."