Wizards rookie Kelly Oubre is learning on the fly

Wizards forward Kelly Oubre was supposed to spend most of his rookie season in observation mode, learning how to play at the NBA level during practice and by watching the rest of the team in action.

That experiment didn’t last long.

With the Wizards wracked by injuries to their frontcourt, Oubre, fresh off his one season at Kansas, has seen his minutes grow.

“I’m just playing hard — that’s all I can do,” he said.

After averaging 9.4 minutes in eight November games, Oubre became a bigger contributor in December, playing in 14 games and averaging six more minutes an outing.

And heading into Wednesday night’s home game against Cleveland (7 p.m., CSN), the Wizards’ third game of 2016, he is averaging 23.5 minutes in January outings.

Not bad for a player considered to have limited value this season.

“Even when those thoughts and rumors were going around, that was never on my mind, me not playing,” said Oubre, 20. “My will to win is going to allow me to supersede that and work to be the best and get on the court. No matter what, I’m just going to keep trying to get more minutes and earn the trust of the coaches.”

At 6 foot 7, with a wingspan over 7 feet, Oubre is the kind of long and lean defender the Wizards can utilize as they become a pace-and-space team.

“He’s definitely learning a lot, especially defense,” forward Otto Porter said. “He’s learning how to use his length and things like that. With him out there, it gives us another lengthy person that can play defense and also rebound for us. That’s what we need.”

While Oubre is learning the game on the fly, he has several young mentors to whom he can turn, including Porter, John Wall and Bradley Beal, who have schooled him all season.

“They’ve been through this situation. They’ve been through their rookie years,” Oubre said. “Always be confident, always be ready. That’s what Brad used to always say.”

Oubre, the 15th overall pick last summer, scored a career-high 18 points against the Spurs on Dec. 16 and has made 41.5 percent of his 3-point shots. He said his confidence boost is from concentrating on the game and not his flaws.

“I feel great on the court. Nothing is really going through my mind but just playing and my assignments,” he said. “Before, I was not making the right read and coming out of the game. It’s a great feeling to be on the court, but I’m just here to help everybody win, help everybody get better.”

It’s gotta be the shoes

Wizards rookie Kelly Oubre made one of the more memorable fashion choices on draft night when he sported a pair of gold, spiked Christian Louboutin smoking slippers to complement his red velvet suit. The shoes went viral but haven’t been seen since. What happened to them? “They’re in a box somewhere, stored away,” Oubre said. “That was a special moment, a special night for me, so I’m just going to relive that moment through the box.”

 

By: Elliott Smith, Washington Post

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