Kelly Oubre, Jr. has played in over 500 NBA games. He’s been in major sports markets. He even came from a major college program.
Still, his experience at Sixers media day was unlike anything he’d ever been a part of.
“This is my first time actually sitting at a press conference table with this many people,” Oubre said. “It’s a culture shock, for real.”
Oubre, who lingered on the free agent market all summer, brings a fresh perspective and an intriguing skillset to the Sixers.
The man known as Tsunami Papi was a one-and-done prospect at Kansas. He was a first-round pick of the Washington Wizards in 2015. Through his various NBA stops — Phoenix, Golden State, Charlotte — his physical traits shone through, but he hasn’t quite lived up to the promise that made him a high draft pick.
Much like his high school days, Oubre was recruited hard this summer, especially by Daryl Morey and Nick Nurse. Oubre had several options coming off averaging a career-high 20.3 points a game with the Hornets, but perhaps not with the type of contract he was looking for.
Oubre signed with the Sixers for the veteran minimum. There are reasons he maybe didn’t have the robust financial market he would’ve liked. He’s never been the most efficient player or greatest passer. He’s also never contributed on a winning team — granted that’s not something that’s totally in his control.
So, the 27-year-old took the offseason to recalibrate before ultimately deciding to come to Philly.
“I was really taking this offseason to kind of dial my life in, re-energize and refocus,” Oubre said. “Mr. Morey and Coach Nick, they were constantly trying to get in contract with me. At the end of the day, when I sat down and all my options pretty much were what they were, I knew for a fact that I wanted to go somewhere where I’m wanted — just like Kansas. Coach [Bill] Self was the first person to recruit me as a freshman. It really brought me back to my roots of basketball. You go where you’re wanted and you go where you’re loved, and I felt like this was the right place.”
Morey likely loved getting a player with Oubre’s physical tools and NBA experience that’s still in his prime at the veteran minimum. Nurse assuredly loved the idea of acquiring the type of long, bouncy athlete he utilized so well with the Raptors.
Still, nothing is guaranteed for Oubre. After yet another weird offseason, depth on the wing seemed to be an issue after the team lost Georges Niang and Jalen McDaniels in free agency. Now, Oubre joins players like Danuel House, Jr., Danny Green and Furkan Korkmaz in a fight for wing minutes. Players like De’Anthony Melton and Patrick Beverley — and maybe even Jaden Springer — also possess the ability to guard up.
Minutes are very much up for grabs.
“The only thing Coach Nick said, which I would want any coach to say, is there are no promises, but there is opportunity for the taking,” Oubre said. “That’s all I need to hear. It’s something that I really use to motivate me. I respect that.”
Oubre said the right things at media day. He came across as a player that understands where his career is and what he needs to do as a Sixer.
Still, Oubre is brimming with confidence.
“I don’t see myself fitting in,” Oubre Jr. said this week at training camp, per Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire. “I see myself standing out. So that’s what I want to do.”
The kind of thing you’d expect from a guy nicknamed Tsunami Papi.
There is though an appreciation from Oubre about where he’s been and where he is now. From a Sixers fan perspective, being eliminated in the second round year after year is a cruel joke. For someone like Oubre, it’s a chance to win more than he ever has before.
Maybe he can help the Sixers do so as well.
“Honestly, man, this team wins every year,” Oubre said. “The fan base wants them to win more, but I’ve come from days where they had no hope. Zero hope within the whole city, and this is not that at all. I appreciate this fan base, man, for being so hard on the team and wanting to see greatness, because they deserve it. And this organization gives the player the platform to do so with everything. It’s night and day from what I’ve been to, man, and I’m going to just take advantage of it, soak it all in and take it day by day.”