Saturday, June 27, 2015

Wizards’ Kelly Oubre filled with confidence


— Basketball fans are enamored with the idea of native son Kevin Durant playing for the Washington Wizards starting in 2016. Starting this fall, Kelly Oubre Jr. begins his rookie campaign in Washington as a draft-day trade landed the Kansas product with the Wizards.

The young forward has a relationship with the Oklahoma City Thunder star. Durant posted a photo on his Instagram account of him playing basketball against Oubre two days before the draft.

The 15th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft arrived Friday for an introductory press conference. Speaking with a small group of reporters afterward, the 19-year-old Oubre was asked about the Durant connection.

“We’re competitors,” he said. “I’m not enamored with who he is. That’s Kevin Durant, but I’m Kelly Oubre.”

The Wizards hope the athletic 6-foot-7 wing, who spent one season with the Jayhawks, provides the roster with intangibles it otherwise lacks.

“We don’t have this type of player on our roster, someone who really moves up and down the floor, gives you a lot of versatility,” said team president Ernie Grunfeld, who also noted Oubre’s ability to guard multiple positions.

The Wizards made a move up four spots to select the long-limbed forward. Washington selected Notre Dame point guard Jerian Grant at No. 19 and sent his rights to the Atlanta Hawks, along with second round picks in 2016 and 2019.

Grunfeld said the opportunity for a trade up only occurred a day before Thursday night’s draft.

“We didn’t really think leading into the draft we’d have an opportunity to pick a guy like him,” coach Randy Wittman said.

Washington went 46-36 this season, the franchise’s most victories since 1978-79, then swept the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the Hawks in six games.

How much Oubre plays next season will be determined in part based on he handles his latest transition.

As a fourth-grader, Oubre and his father moved from New Orleans to Houston because of Hurricane Katrina.

The initial move from Nevada’s Findlay Prep to the Jayhawks of Kansas started out rocky. Despite entering as one of the nation’s elite recruits, Oubre initially received scant minutes. Kansas coach Bill Self’s explained defense wasn’t optional.

“I need to be a two-way player. He kept harping on that,” Oubre said of Self. “Once I pretty much bought in and realized that’s going to help me get money at the next level. That’s when the tables started to turn for me.”

Oubre finished with averages of 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 21 minutes.

“It was tough, definitely, but I handled it pretty well,” he said. “I didn’t really let my situation get the best of me.”

That confidence is key considering the talents he’s about to face on the NBA level and the other small forwards on Washington’s roster. That group may include 37-year-old Paul Pierce. Another Kansas alum, Pierce will announce before July 1 whether he intends to return or become a free agent.

“Veteran guy in the league,” Oubre said of Pierce. “I don’t want to say he’s on his last stretch, but he’s a guy who knows how to play the game.”

Maybe Oubre will get to play next season in Washington with Pierce. Perhaps the year after with Durant, a free agent next summer.


Dale Rogers 7 years ago

Was Oubre that cocky while at KU? Or did someone tell him he needs to show some self-confidence in the NBA and he carried it way too far? If he was this way at KU it sure was hidden from those of us not on the campus. At least, I never saw anything cocky about him. I sure hope he figures out self-confidence and cockiness are not the same before someone decides to take him down a couple of pegs and he gets off on the wrong foot.

Glen Miller 7 years ago

Oubre has always had self confidence. This is nothing new. Believing in yourself isn't cocky, nor is it a problem. I would much rather have a guy who is confident in himself on my team. If he was brash and didn't work hard, then I'd worry.... but nobody has ever mentioned that Oubre is lazy or entitled. You can't go into the NBA scared or timid, he will be fine.

Dale Rogers 7 years ago

I see your point but it seems to me he's setting himself up for some problems with teammates or even opponents who may decide to take him down a notch or two. I'm sure some of that happens anyhow but I suspect when the mouth flaps that much before having proven anything....

Pius Waldman 7 years ago

Oubre didn't perform at KU to earn a top first round pick. They call it potential. How that potential develops we'll all be watching. He didn't make many comments at KU at least according to my memory. So this is a change that maybe his agent pumped him to do. Getting selected at 15 maybe the confidence he stated helped him.

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