Don’t get Tyshawn Taylor wrong.
The Hoboken native knows that he’s living the high life right now as a member of the Brooklyn Nets.
“I’m definitely living the dream,” said Taylor, the former St. Anthony standout and University of Kansas All-American. “It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember. It’s a thrill for me to be in the NBA. I know the percentages. I know there aren’t a lot of guys who get the chance that I’m getting right now. It’s an unreal feeling.”
But the rookie Taylor doesn’t have the best of all worlds, because his playing time with the surging Nets, perhaps the most improved team in the NBA, has been very limited.
In fact, Taylor has played in just 21 games and seen a total of 91 minutes of action, scoring 33 points.
“I’m a competitor,” Taylor said. “I want to play. I know I’m confident enough to play. It’s just part of the business.”
The Nets have an All-Star franchise player in Deron Williams to start at point guard and they have a quality veteran in C.J. Watson to back Williams up.
It leaves Taylor with seeing time in blowouts – either wins or losses – and not much else.
“I just have to wait my turn and be patient,” Taylor said. “It’s definitely a lot easier said than done.”
Taylor scored seven points in 20 minutes of action Dec. 26 against Milwaukee, a game that Williams missed due to a thigh injury.
Last Tuesday, the Nets were preparing to face the defending NBA champion Miami Heat and Williams was among the missing from practice, battling the flu.
So it meant that Taylor had to step up and take the floor time that might have been designated for either starter Williams or bench player Watson.
“These are my game days,” Taylor said after the practice session. “The coaches want me to go a little easier on days like today, but I can only go 100 percent.”
Taylor, who was traded to the Nets on draft night last June after being selected by Portland in the second round (the 41st pick overall, thus the reason why Taylor now wears uniform No. 41 with the Nets), said that he’s had to keep a strong mental approach throughout this rookie campaign.
“I have to be mentally ready, because I never know when I’m going to get called upon,” Taylor said. “I have to pay attention to everything. It’s definitely more mentally than physically, because I know I have the talent to be here.”
Taylor had a standout career at St. Anthony as part of the famed 2008 Friar team that went undefeated, won the national championship and sent six players to NCAA Division I basketball.
Taylor is the first of that group to make it to the NBA and he’s the first former St. Anthony product to make an NBA roster since Roshown McLeod with the Atlanta Hawks in 1998.
P.J. Carlesimo, who took over the Nets’ head coaching duties in December and has turned around the Nets’ fortunes, winning 13 of 17 games, thinks that Taylor just needs to play.
“He obviously learned a lot during his St. Anthony days and Kansas days,” Carlesimo said. “You can’t learn from better people than Bob Hurley on the high school level and Bill Self on the college level, so has a great basketball background. You can’t imagine someone getting a better pedigree than those two coaches. But with us, it’s been hard to put that into use. He’s been practicing with us, watching the league and learning. And it has been a great learning experience for him. But he just doesn’t get a chance to play. It’s not an easy thing for any player to sit on the bench.”
Four times this season, the Nets have sent Taylor to play for the Springfield Armor in the National Development Basketball League, the minor leagues for the NBA also known as the “D-League.” Taylor has done very well in those games, averaging 26 points per game.
“I like being there to get the competition,” Taylor said. “It’s fun to get out and play, show what I still can do. It’s good for my confidence.”
In fact, Taylor played last Saturday and Sunday for the Armor, scoring 27 and 26 in those two games and was back in Brooklyn Monday night to face the Orlando Magic.
“Of course, I’d much rather be here,” Taylor said. “It’s frustrating not playing, but it would be a lot harder if I was somewhere else and with a team that was losing.”
Taylor still resides in Hoboken, where several family members, including his younger sister, live.
“I’ve been getting a lot of support from my family and friends,” Taylor said. “That really helps. Being with the Nets and we’re winning now also helps. It makes the situation much easier. It’s frustrating, because I’ve always been a competitor. But if I was somewhere else and I’d be there alone with no one else and not playing, it would be much worse.”
Taylor likes being on a Nets team that has a host of veterans. The 22-year-old Taylor is the second youngest player on the squad, with Tornike “Toko” Shengelia the only Net player younger. Shengelia has also been going to Springfield with Taylor to get increased playing time.
“The veterans on this team have really helped me out,” Taylor said. “Keith Bogans is my man. He’s always in my ear and he’s a good dude to listen to. So yeah, I’m learning a lot.”
Carlesimo feels a certain kinship to Taylor.
“After all, he’s living in Hoboken and I’m living in Jersey City, so in a funny way, we’re close and we can relate,” Carlesimo said. “It’s all been positive for Tyshawn. He’s working hard and the coaches are working with him a lot. No question, he’s working at it. I think he’s got a bright future in the league. Right now, it’s just not an easy thing for him to do, because he just needs to play.”
So Taylor will bide his time, keep absorbing as much as he can. He has to be ready for whenever Carlesimo needs him. More than likely, there will be other trips to Springfield to get more playing time to fuel his competitive spirit.
“I tell my friends and family that it’s so different not playing, but everyone understands,” Taylor said. “I’m glad that I’m here. I want to be here. I just want to play. I knew I could be a player in the NBA. It’s definitely living a dream. I have the best job in the world.”
But in a perfect world, Taylor would like to be working just a little harder to collect his paycheck. Perhaps that time will come later on down the road, but for now, Tyshawn Taylor is doing what every kid who puts on sneakers and hoists shot after shot at the local playground. He’s an NBA player, getting paid to be a member of the Brooklyn Nets, playing for a team located six miles from the front door of his home.
“It’s not bad at all,” Taylor said. “But it could be just a little better.”
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.