Former Alabama Players’ Pro Teams to Meet in NBA Play-In Game
Former Alabama basketball players Herb Jones and Josh Primo's NBA teams, the New Orleans Pelicans (36-44) and San Antonio Spurs (34-46) respectively, will meet in the NBA Play-In Tournament.
The former teammates had very different paths from college to the NBA, with Jones being with the Crimson Tide for four years (2017-21), playing a total of 129 games with the team, while Primo played one year at Alabama, playing just 30 games with the team. In their lone season as teammates in 2020-21, Jones averaged 11.2 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game and was named SEC Player of the Year as well as SEC Defensive Player of the Year, while Primo averaged 8.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 0.8 assists and was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. Alabama went 26-7 that year and won the SEC regular-season and SEC Tournament titles, as well as making it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Jones was selected as the 35th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, and even though it wasn't clear how much the 6'7 forward would contribute to New Orleans at first, he has proven himself to be a good asset and is comfortably a starter for the team. He currently averages 9.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists as well as having a total of 128 steals so far this season, which is third in the league, and totaling the most minutes played out of any Pelicans player this season. He was also named an NBA Rising Star earlier this season as a part of All-Star Weekend.
Jones' defensive efforts as a rookie have especially impressed his Pelicans teammates.
"He’s an old soul," new Pelicans guard CJ McCollum said via nba.com.
"Very laidback, mature. He has a veteran approach to the game. Works hard, does his stuff every day to figure out ways to improve. Most rookies don’t understand the concept of defense. They don’t get the assignment of guarding the best player. He’s had to go guard Devin Booker, LeBron (James), (De’Aaron) Fox, (Donovan) Mitchell (in the last four games). You name it, he’s had that responsibility and done a tremendous job."
Primo was selected as the 12th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and has played in 48 of the Spurs' 80 games so far this season, spending the rest of his time with the Austin Spurs, the organization's G League team. In the NBA, the 19-year-old has averaged 5.5 points per game, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists. While in the G-League he has averaged 16.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists. Though he's split time between the two teams, Primo has played with San Antonio in their last 13 games.
Being the youngest player in the NBA, San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich spoke on Primo's maturity and his game after he scored a career-high of 15 points in a January game against the Raptors.
"Joshua has an uncanny maturity about him, kind of a steady demeanor," Popovich said.
"He’s not awed by the NBA or anything like that. He makes good decisions. He definitely knows how to play. He understands the game. It’s just a matter of getting stronger and more aware that these are men and they’re coming after your head, so to speak. Just to get used to that physicality and all those sort of things."
The Pelicans vs. Spurs play-in game will be on Wednesday, April 13 at 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN. Though the teams' seedings aren't officially locked, they are guaranteed to play in the 9th place vs. 10th place game, which means that the winner will move on to play the loser of the Timberwolves vs. Clippers game for 8th seed, while the loser will be eliminated from playoff contention.