Jul. 7—HAVERHILL — Five years ago, I caught up Georges Niang at Cedardale Health and Fitness in Bradford.
Yesterday, I caught up with him again.
There were two distinct differences between our visits:
That Cedardale was nearly burnt to the ground about eight months later, with the current facility new and improved in every area.
And Niang, five years into his NBA career, looks new and improved, too.
There is another difference. Five years ago, Niang was the property of the Indiana Pacers, after being drafted 50th overall in the second round.
Five years ago, he told me if the NBA was going to be his future home he had to extend his shot to beyond the 3-point arc, as the game was changing with all positions becoming a deep-shot threat.
Well, his 3-point shot not only looked pretty good yesterday, shooting with his friend and German League pro Tyler Nelson, but NBA records show his progress — 1.6 attempts per game in 2016-17 to 5.6 attempts in 2020-21.
In fact, he was part of Utah Jazz history just over four months ago when he hit all seven 3-pointers he attempted en route to the Jazz hitting a franchise-record 28 three-pointers in a game with 19 coming from the bench.
The Jazz were the talk of the league, earning the best record (52-20), with their spread offense and ball movement.
But the top-seeded Jazz were KOd in the second round by the L.A. Clippers, 4-2, after winning the first two games.
Upon the playoff exit, Niang’s three-year deal — $5 million — signed before the 2018-19 season was completed.
The Jazz have his rights until Aug. 2, the opening of free agency.
“Honestly, it does feel a little weird not knowing the future,” said Niang. “It sort of feels like I did going into the draft. I had no idea what would happen.”
As for his shooting range, as he hoped in 2016, it ranks among the best in the NBA. Naing ranked 16th overall in 3-point field goal percentage at 42.5 percent.
While his agent Mark Bartlestein begins to weigh his options, Niang will be preparing for whatever lies ahead.
“I love this game and love playing in the NBA,” said Niang. “When I wake up in the morning, it doesn’t feel like I’m going to work. I love it. And I feel I have a lot more to give.”
You can email Bill Burt at [email protected]
Niang on the Nelsons
When Georges Niang comes home to visit family in Methuen, he usually connects with one of his favorite shooting gurus, Jeff Nelson.
Nelson, a former college player and high school coach, got his start as an NBA scout with the Utah Jazz before joining the Philadelphia 76ers six year ago.
Niang also has stayed close to Nelson’s son, Tyler, who is Fairfield University’s all-time leading scorer and four-year starter at Central Catholic.
Yesterday, the three of them were all part of the workout. Jeff coaching and Tyler and Niang shooting.
“I trust Jeff,” said Niang. “He has knowledge not only about shoot, but with the correct mechanics. He’s worked in the NBA as a scout for a long time and he knows where are coming from.”
As for having Tyler around, that’s a bonus.
“Shooting with Tyler gives a competitive edge to the workout,” said Niang. “He’s probably the best shooter around, a guy that has competed a high level. He’s the kind of guy you want to work out with.”