Two games are on at adjacent courts at the Jaypee Integrated Sports Complex in Greater Noida, near Delhi. Standing in the reserved area between the two courts with a pad in hand, taking notes, is Brian Shaw. The former coach and basketball player who won three National Basketball Association (NBA) championships in the US for the Los Angeles (LA) Lakers, was in India last week to spot talent and promote the game. The 28 players who made it to the sports complex had been picked by ACG-NBA Jump, India’s first national basketball talent search programme, and had undergone six months of training in various parts of the country. The winner of the ACG-NBA Jump national final competition will attend the NBA D-League National Tryout in the US. Shaw spoke about basketball in India and his first impressions of the boys playing here. Edited excerpts from an interview:

The NBA has been involved with basketball in India since 2008. But there really hasn’t been much progress to show.

No, I think it takes time, anywhere. One kid from here will get drafted and that is the first step. I shared with the kids here the story of my rookie year—how, in 1988, when I got drafted in the NBA, we played with a team from Yugoslavia. We were the first team to go to Spain to play against the team from Yugoslavia that had players like Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic, some of the first European players to come over and play in the NBA.

I never would have thought how big the game became in their countries and how big an impact that meeting against the NBA players had for them. Because once a kid sees a person from the same country make it big, he can dream big. You have to see someone you can identify yourself with to start dreaming.

I think the more exposure the game gets, the more interested the people here will become in basketball. That’s what it comes down to—exposure, starting at the grass-roots level, identifying the talent and developing it. Every country started the same way.

What are your first impressions of the 28 players here?

Today was the first time I saw them playing. I made some notes and spoke to them about a couple of things. But I was impressed by what I saw. They competed hard against each other. I think that is a talent in itself, going out and understanding how to play hard.

I was mostly impressed with Palpreet’s work ethic and court skills (Palpreet Singh, 21, from Muktsar Sahib in Punjab won the national finals of the ACG-NBA Jump). His feel for the game and understanding.... I could tell he grasps it.

Which is your favourite NBA team?

I probably have to say Golden State Warriors. I live in Oakland. I was born and raised there. So even though I have played for, and been in, several teams, I kind of pooled for them.

Who is your favourite in the current bunch of players?

I really like Paul George. I was able to coach him for two years in Indiana. So I was close to him. I also like Draymond Green for the bunch of things he can do on the floor. Not necessarily just score a lot of points but, you know, rebounds, passes, defence game, those are the things that matter a lot in the end.

For the Lakers, you had a great partnership with Shaquille O’Neal. What is your favourite Shaw-Shaq moment?

Well, there are a lot. Because we started well before we played for LA. We played three years for Orlando before LA. From the very beginning, Shaq and I had developed a non-verbal form of communication. We could look each other in the eye and tell by the way the defence was playing if he was going to open up or not. When I leaned on him too much, he would spin out and all I had to do was throw up the ball to him and he would do the rest.

I remember the seventh game of the Western Conference Finals in 2000. We were playing at home against Portland Trail Blazers and were down 15 points in the third quarter. It didn’t look good. Phil Jackson (the then Lakers coach) told us that we were relying too much on Shaq and that we got to take on the outside shots when they were there. That gave us the green light to shoot some three-pointers. I hit one towards the end of the third quarter and we went on to win the game. That took us to the finals for the first time. We won our first championship and that led to two more (championships) in consecutive years.

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