Wednesday, December 7

Spurs’ Josh Primo, Pelicans’ Herbert Jones adds Alabama spice to play-in game

NEW ORLEANS — After arriving in the Big Easy on Tuesday, the Spurs’ Josh Primo placed a call to a fellow NBA rookie.

“This is crazy,” he told the Pelicans’ Herbert Jones. “Can you believe we were at Alabama last year and now we are playing against each other in a play-in game?”

Wednesday’s contest between San Antonio and New Orleans had a crimson-and-white tinge to it with two former teammates from Tuscaloosa squaring off as backcourt starters for their respective teams.

But beyond them both being guards who played together last season for the Crimson Tide, Primo and Jones don’t seem to have all that much in common.

The Spurs selected Primo as a one-and-done lottery pick five months before his 19th birthday.

The Pelicans drafted the 23-year-old Jones in the second round after he used up all his eligibility at Alabama.

Primo received seasoning in the G League before becoming a starter in mid-March. Jones became a starter in the second game and has continued in that role pretty much since.

Cousin hails from Toronto, one of the biggest cities in North America.

Jones is from a small town in Alabama.

But despite those differences, there is a deep bond between them thanks in large part to how Jones took Primo under his wing last season.

“He was a big part of the reason why I was able to progress so fast at Alabama and afterward, (with) just the way he is able to push me on and off the court to be better,” Primo said. “That’s something you will hear from anybody about Herb. He is a great guy, someone who is just going to push you to be better.”

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Primo said he wasn’t surprised to see Jones become a starter so quickly. In 78 games for New Orleans, including 69 starts, Jones averaged 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, a team-best 1.7 steals.

“Some people didn’t expect it, but I knew exactly what I was going to get from Herb this season,” Primo said after watching Jones average 11.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks on his way to becoming the 2021 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in a coaches/media vote and the coaches’ 2021 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

“He is a great defender, and he just continues to work hard at his game, so the offensive part just continues to keep coming,” Primo said.

Although Jones didn’t have to take the G League route to gain a substantial role in coach Willie Green’s rotation, Primo has no regrets about how the Spurs brought him along slowly. The patient process included a stint with the club’s developmental squad in Austin.

In 50 games for the Spurs, including 16 starts, Primo averaged 5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists.

“It helped so much to get my feet wet, starting with the G League, being able to play through mistakes, figure out the physicality of things and then slowly make my way into what we are doing here in San Antonio,” Primo said. “It was very helpful, honestly. I feel like I am a lot better player for it.”

Johnson defends Timberwolves

Some NBA fans and pundits thought Minnesota’s celebration after it clinched the No. 7 seed in the West playoffs with a come-from-behind 109-104 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday was a bit too much.

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Keldon Johnson disagreed.

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