Cleveland Cavaliers head coach JB Bickerstaff has been in the NBA since 2004 as an assistant coach. Since then, he has seen all types of basketball talent come and go. Now in his 17th year in the league and third as part of the Wine and Gold, Bickerstaff has encountered a talent he admits he has never seen before. And it is none other than rookie center Evan Mobley.
Bickerstaff admits he's unsure if he's been around such a talent like Mobley's or not. The neverending stream of individual brilliance that enters the NBA every year can make things fuzzy for a coach. What's certain is Bickerstaff's observations of Mobley at practice and in the Cavaliers' first 14 games. From his point of view, fame, fortune, and personal accolades are extraneous matters to Mobley.
“I’m not getting ahead of myself here, but he’s shown these first games that’s the impact he can have. Because one, his skill set, but two, his intent. He does not care about anything else. There’s no agenda, there’s no motive. His sole focus is, ’How do I help the Cleveland Cavaliers win basketball games?’ He just goes out and does that.
When you play the game with that purity of heart, and then throw his skill set on top of it and intellect, you’ve got a guy that impacts winning. He can do it so many different ways. Any given night, he can help you in any way.”
JB Bickerstaff, Cleveland.com
Watch a Cavaliers game, and you'll understand what Bickerstaff is talking about. Mobley does not possess the demeanor of a young gun — one who is living his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA and is therefore overwhelmed with every second spent on the hardcourt. Mobley's disposition is much more like a veteran star: a Zen-like coolness that's nonthreatening to amateurs but is deemed extremely lethal within professional circles. Bill Simmons went so far as to compare him to Kevin Garnett.
It is easy to say Bickerstaff has a bias about his player. One can argue that JB has been blinded by the Cavaliers' surprising 9-5 start. Or the fact that Mobley became the fastest Cavs player in history to reach 200 points and 100 rebounds.
However, there are whispers around the league that a bunch of coaches are jealous that Bickerstaff gets to coach an ego-less generational talent like Mobley. Perhaps this is good proof that JB is right in his early observations of Mobley. The man can be a star in the league and be absolutely nonchalant about it.