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Patrick Beverley Just Said That

The tenacious guard has taken the long road to success, from Europe to the D-League to the NBA. Now running point for the L.A. Clippers, “Mr. 94 Feet” is an underdog no more.

With Lonzo taking top billing for sport’s glamour franchise, LeBron possibly on the way, and stars from virtually every team to be found on the streets and in SoulCycle classes, Los Angeles has become the mecca of the NBA offseason. In the second of four weeklong series leading up to the start of the 2017-18 season, were celebrating the people, teams, and everything in between that make up the most interesting scene in the league. Welcome to L.A. Week.

I. “I’m just Pat.”

Patrick Beverley has just said that.

Patrick Beverley is not a superstar, so there’s an urge here to turn this story—or at least this intro—into a very expository thing; to comb through all the things he tells me during our two or so hours together and list a bunch of Get To Know Him facts so you can learn who he is, like: Patrick Beverley is this old (29). Or, Patrick Beverley went to this college (University of Arkansas). Or, Patrick Beverley has been in the league for this many years (five, going on six). Or, Patrick Beverley was never supposed to be in the NBA; he was supposed to just star on some team in Eastern Europe that nobody has ever heard of (probably true). Or, Patrick Beverley is currently interesting because he was part of a big trade that ended up with him now being the starting point guard for the Clippers and Chris Paul now being the starting point guard for the Rockets (true).

But that feels wrong (or at least partially inaccurate). Because Patrick Beverley has always pushed his way into any basketball conversation of consequence with a style of play that lives as its own testament, not with anything else. So let’s start that way instead:

The most Patrick Beverley play from any game during his career wasn’t even a single play; it was a stretch of about three plays, because everything Patrick Beverley does feels like he’s doing it three times as hard as everyone else. It happened during Game 1 of the Rockets’ first-round series against the Thunder this past postseason. This is the beginning of what I wrote about it back when it first happened:

It was early in the third quarter and the game was still close (64-59, Rockets) and Russell Westbrook was bringing the ball up the court. Patrick Beverley, Westbrook’s no. 1 antagonist in the league, pressured him the entire length of the court, and so Steven Adams, a refrigerator with a ponytail, decided to momentarily free Westbrook of Beverley’s shackles. He jogged into their eventual line of travel. Westbrook saw Adams and realized that Beverley didn’t and so he sped up, which made Beverley speed up, and it was just total destruction from there.

I was at the game when this happened, and as bad as it was to watch on TV, it was about 40 times worse in person. When Beverley collided with Adams, it sounded like the way it sounds if you drop a big chunk of raw meat on concrete from five stories up. There’s a scene in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre where Leatherface clubs a guy in the head with a big hammer. It sounded like that. Even just watching a GIF of it, you can still hear that thwack. (When I asked Beverley about the screen, he just smiled, shook his head, and said, “Steven Adams is a big man.”)

Sidebar: The best reaction shot of anyone involved in the screen is of these two, who were sitting just a feet away from the collision:

Beverley lay there on the ground lifeless for a moment, and it truly would’ve been understandable for him to take a play or two off after that—if not the rest of the game, if not the rest of the postseason, if not the rest of his life. But six seconds later, he was back to his feet, waving off an attempt by Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni to sub him out.

Shortly thereafter, Beverley caught a pass from James Harden near the 3-point line, sidestepped a defender, then swished in a 3, at which point Reggie Miller (one of the game’s commentators) excitedly said, “I guess he’s OK.” A few seconds later, Beverley caught another pass from Harden and swished in another 3. Suddenly, the Rockets were up 11, the arena was vibrating from the yelling, the Thunder had called timeout, and Beverley, now entirely energized, was shooting beams of sunlight and lasers from his eyeballs.

When you watch the replay, which includes an extended shot of him absorbing the moment, you can almost see him processing all of the pieces of it. You can almost see him considering his own existence. You can almost see him understanding, in real time, that all of the basketball things he had chased for so long were presenting themselves to him right there, in front of everyone, in unfettered triumph.

It’s mesmerizing, really, and the kind of thing that only a player like Beverley—which is to say one who has pushed his way into a position of basketball importance through force of will—can offer. That’s the thrust of his basketball existence, and also of his general existence. He’s a person who fought his way through a childhood spent in the worst parts of Chicago, then fought his way through three and a half seasons overseas, then fought his way through the lower ranks of NBA basketball, and then fought his way into becoming a beloved cult figure (which is what he became in Houston because of how ferociously he played defense) or a despised villain (which is what he seemed to become everywhere that wasn’t Houston because of how ferociously he played defense). He now finds himself at the precipice of the biggest moment of his basketball life: potential stardom in Los Angeles. That’s who Patrick Beverley is.

II. “You have to see it. If you see it, you’ll attract it.”

Patrick Beverley has just said that.

Patrick Beverley has many interesting things in his new two-story home in Los Angeles, several of which are Patrick Beverley–related. There’s a large painted portrait of him hanging on a wall near the front door, for one. In the corner of the living room, there’s a poker table with his logo and nickname on it, for two. (His nickname is “Mr. 94 Feet,” a moniker taken on because, as one of the league’s premier defenders, he will turn your life into a natural disaster for all 94 of the feet allowed to him by the NBA on the length of each of its courts.) Next to the poker table, there are some TV trays that also have the same logo and nickname etched onto them. And across the room are some coasters on a small table near a couch with the same thing on them.

The most interesting thing at his house, though, isn’t on display. At least not to every visitor, anyway. It’s a private thing. It’s a goals board in the upstairs area.

A goals board is exactly what it sounds like: a board with some goals written on it. Beverley has a set of them. One goals board is for basketball-specific things (Make the Playoffs; Be a Good Teammate; Shoot 40 Percent From 3; Make an All-Defensive Team), and the other is for just general human-specific things (like being a better father, better family member, etc.). In 2013, he wrote “Make an All-Defensive Team” on his goals board for the first time. Ten months later, he was selected to his first All-Defensive Team. He skipped writing that specific goal down for 2014-15 and 2015-16, and in both of those years he missed it. He added it back before the 2016-17 season, and at the end of it, he was selected again. “When that happened I said, ‘OK, I’m gonna stick to it from now on,’” he says, kind of laughing but not really laughing.

You know the thing where, when you wake up in the morning, you brush your teeth in the bathroom while you stare at yourself in the mirror and wonder about all sorts of things, like maybe about how your day will go or whether or not a piece of your face is oddly shaped? Patrick Beverley does that, too, except he doesn’t stare at himself in the mirror, because he uses that time to stare at his goals boards instead. He literally just stares at them. Brushing and staring, brushing and staring, brushing and staring. And he doesn’t wonder about all sorts of things. He only thinks about the goals, and the things he’ll need to do to accomplish them, and how he will refuse to let anybody prevent him from accomplishing them. Which is probably why he is in the NBA and you are not.

III. “If I told you I wasn’t nervous about it, I’d be lying.”

Patrick Beverley has just said that.

He’s charming when he talks; probably because there are rarely times when it feels like he’s dancing around an answer. Sometimes his voice squeaks a bit when he gets excited, which is funny to consider; other times it drags its way through the gravel. Right now, he is talking about the responsibility of, for really the first time in his life, being the person in charge of quarterbacking an NBA team.

Prior to this season, he’d been all kinds of different versions of a pro basketball player. He’d been the one who got cut (he was the last cut made by the Heat at the end of their training camp in 2010). He’d been the guy who was angry (he is fond of telling the story of how, after he couldn’t latch onto an NBA team, he leaned all the way into a career in Europe, avoiding watching the NBA almost entirely). He’d been the guy who was just happy to be there (he is also fond of telling the story of how excited he was to be on the Rockets’ D-League affiliate in 2012-13). He’d been the guy who was the nondescript backup (remember Jeremy Lin’s early Houston stint?). And he’d been the guy who was dribbling in the shadows (all of his time playing alongside James Harden). And now he’s the one who is supposed to facilitate the offense for a team whose best player isn’t a perimeter player, which is a massive undertaking.

It’s a thing that he asked for, but it’s also a thing that’s terrifying. And of course, all of this is exacerbated by the fact that he is replacing one of the seven greatest point guards in the history of basketball.

“You’re supposed to have that feeling, though,” he says. “You’re supposed to wanna run away from it. The running away is the extra work. The extra running, the extra lifting, the extra shots. That’s how you run away from the fear: by outworking it.”

IV. “I’ll be smarter next time.”

Patrick Beverley has just said that.

Patrick Beverley is fun to talk to when he is telling you about his life, chiefly because he has such an interesting backstory. (As he tells it, the most intriguing part is that, when he heard from his agent that the Rockets were interested in signing him, he returned all of the money that Russian team BC Spartak Saint Petersburg had given him to play basketball for them so he could get out of the contract he’d signed. Last year, he told Adrian Wojnarowski, “I took the dice and I bet it on myself and hit a 7. Or, I hit $25 million,” referencing the multiyear contract he ended up signing with the Rockets.)

But he is beyond compelling to talk to when he discusses the intricacies of specific basketball moments or plays or situations. Everything he says becomes more intense, more nuanced, more considered. He talks about seeing Kevin McHale at his first practice after joining the Rockets and he does a spot-on McHale impression. He talks about something called the Hot Stove Technique, which is a thing where you circumvent the no-hand-checking rule by pushing on your opponent quickly with just one hand, over and over again, trying to steer him where you want him to go.

He talks about how he decided early on that when the Spurs started rookie Dejounte Murray in Game 3 of their most recent playoff series, he was going to terrorize him without refrain (which is what he did), only to realize later on that Gregg Popovich likely wanted him to do that. The Rockets ended up losing that game, and then eventually the series in six. (“The way Popovich coaches is like chess,” Beverly says. “If he knows he can beat you at this one spot, he’ll wait to do that. So I should’ve waited. I should’ve made him feel comfortable, and then jumped on him in the fourth quarter. Pop just threw that bait in the water and I went for it, too. I’ll be smarter next time. Who knows how things are different if I’d have waited.”)

He talks about how he played in the same shoes for a month when he first got to the NBA because he didn’t know you weren’t supposed to do that at that level. He talks about getting death threats from Thunder fans after the Russell Westbrook incident, and how he had to sleep on a separate floor of the hotel than where he was supposed to sleep. He talks about how, after the coaches told him in 2014 he was going to be the starting point guard for the Rockets, he tried to call his mom on the drive home to tell her but hung up before she answered and pulled the car over and cried by himself for a while.

He talks about all of it, and it all has gravity.

V. “Everything happens for a reason. I’ve said that 12 different ways during this interview without even trying to.”

Patrick Beverley has just said that.

Consider these things, which are things that Patrick Beverley says he thinks about regularly:

  • The first team that the Rockets played after Beverley found out they were going to sign him was the Chicago Bulls.
  • He’s from Chicago.
  • The Lakers are the team that originally drafted him, with the 42nd overall pick, in 2009.
  • The first game the Rockets played after he officially signed with them was against the Lakers.
  • He never played for the Lakers and he also didn’t get to play in that Rockets-Lakers game.
  • The first actual NBA game he played in (January 15, 2013) was against the Clippers.
  • He is the starting point guard for the Clippers now.
  • In 2010, he played on Olympiacos Piraeus, a team in Greece, and Milos Teodosic was a kind of mentor to him.
  • The Clippers signed Milos Teodosic for this season, and Beverley will serve as a kind of mentor to him.

Sometimes the universe makes things obvious.

“It’s like everything is forming a line for something special to happen. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it might be us [the Clippers] being the best team we can be and getting a fourth or fifth seed. Maybe it’s us, I don’t know, helping each other for the next year. I don’t know.

“But everyone knows we were placed on this team for a reason. Blake Griffin—now it’s his chance to show if he can star. DeAndre Jordan—now it’s his chance to see if he can star. You have all these things and you put them all together and who knows what can happen? We have that. … Every four or five years there’s that one team that you never think about ever, ever think about winning the championship. They just come out of nowhere. The 2004 Pistons. The 2011 Mavericks. With the team we got, and with the coach we have, who knows? Who knows what can happen?”

Patrick Beverley has just said that.


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