Ask Exum a question and he will give you answer and an honest one at that. We probably need to give him some time, but he doesn’t come across as the typical jaded athlete bored with the media circus that surrounds life in the NBA.
Again we may need to give that some time.
His Vegas summer league debut was a two-hour Twitter exercise in wild proclamations that included overstatements and understatements. Usually with events like his debut the reality is somewhere in the middle. Still, this isn’t a typical situation. When someone is drafted as high as Exum was, No. 5, typically his game is broken down, reconstructed and dissolved again before being selected.
That didn’t happen for Exum. His game wasn’t on display for over a year. “I haven’t played a full game…a legit game since last year” said Exum in an interview after a recent practice in the Las Vegas summer league.
Exum went on to explain how he felt the year off actually helped his development.
“It was good. I know a lot of people criticize it because I wasn’t playing games, but I was working on my game — working on little aspects that needed working on. You see in the NBA season and college seasons there isn’t a lot of individual work and it’s just game play. It was good to just have a year of working on that before I head into a lot of games.”
Because his game hasn’t been on display for U.S. hoop critics to scrutinize, skepticism rules the air when forecasting his career path. Exum seems to be handling the detractors in stride, and understands he’s the one who decides his fate, not the prognosticators.
“I just look at it as if they could say good things about me, or I could be this or that but it’s in my hands,” Exum says. “I’m the controller of that. So whatever they are trying to predict it doesn’t mean anything. I’m the controller.”
When he was asked about what people are most surprised by when they finally see him play, he alluded to his playmaking ability as the attribute that stands out the most.
His quickness also seems to be an asset that will propel him in the NBA game. Similar to height, speed is something that you just can’t teach.
But Exum will not be able to zoom past some of the elite guards and complex defensive schemes that are his primary obstacles in his path towards success. When questioned about what he’s focusing on while at summer league and heading into the season, the answer came back to his naysayers’ chief complaint: shooting.
“I just want to stay confident in my shot. Try to shoot with confidence and walk out of the (summer league) tournament with the confidence to shoot.”
The release on his jumper doesn’t always have the same arc on it from what I’ve seen of him in Vegas. He doesn’t force the issue when it comes to his offense, either. That probably stems from both his lack of confidence in his shot, and his more natural playmaking mentality.
Utah has another playmaker on the team in Trey Burke, but Exum doesn’t feel the two will have issues alongside each other on the court.
“Me and Trey have built a good relationship thus far and no one is trying to steal anything away from the other,” Exum says. “So it’s all about sharing.”