Adding Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers means Landry Shamet is going to see a lot of open shots next season. Like, A LOT of open shots.
A solitary figure stands on the wing, feet set, hands at the ready. It has been four games since he last saw a defender. In the distance, at the nebulous place where the arena lights might the polished hardwood and create a shimmering horizon, a pick-and-roll unfolds. He is far enough away that he can barely make out the shapes, moving in harmony.
Is that Trez rolling to the hoop?
Nope, it’s Myke on the short roll, and here comes the pass!
Catch. Breathe. Still no defender in sight. Shoot.
Landry Shamet jogs his way back up the floor. The action is ahead of him, moving forward on the other side of the court but at this distance, it is just a jumble of shapes. The solitude on his side of the court is overwhelming, like that trip to Canyonlands National Park he took a few summers ago. The angled walls of the arena are covered with bleachers and filled with fans, but the effect is similar — an empty chasm, dwarfing the humanity of any single person. He remembers walking through those canyons in the warm fall air, following the trails the park rangers had directed him towards but grateful for the peace, the quiet, the sense that he might literally be the only person left on this crazy rock spinning through space…oh crap…here comes the ball…time to shoot!
It’s early January and the air outside Staples Center is surprisingly cold, even for Los Angeles. Inside, Landry Shamet is standing in the corner, alone. As if surrounded by an invisible force-field, no defender is within 15 feet of him. On the other side of the court, basketball players are frantically jockeying to contain a pin-down-into-a-hand-off action involving Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Ivica Zubac. The ball is swung to Shamet. He drills the open 3-pointer. His 3-point percentage is now 65.3 percent for the season.
It’s been so long since he last saw a defender, that Shamet is starting to forget what it felt like to even be defended. To feel the breath of a rival on his shoulder as they jostle for position before an inbound pass. To feel that forearm pressed against his back as he slowly makes his way down the wing with the ball. All the wide-open shots are nice. He’s grateful to PG and Kawhi and Lou, he really is. But it’s almost too easy.
Last night he was having trouble sleeping and found himself on the couch past midnight, watching A League of Their Own on TNT. Then Dottie tried to leave and Jimmy Dugan had to coax her back…“If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great…”
Shamet looks down at his shirt and sees it’s wet from tears.