Chicago native Patrick Beverley’s first-ever NBA game in his hometown was bittersweet, as the point guard’s Rockets fell to the Bulls, 111-87, Thursday at the United Center.
“It’s definitely a dream come true. In high school, you always want to play here,” said Beverley, who scored nine points and dished out three assists. “That means you’re one of the top teams in the state and in the city. So to come back here and play in front of my friends and family is definitely a dream come true.”
The Marshall High School product has developed a reputation as one of the league’s premier pressure defenders in just his second season. While his style of play has been deemed controversial by observers after incidents like Oklahoma City All-Star Russell Westbrook suffering a season-ending knee injury in last spring’s first-round playoff series after the two collided when Beverley bumped into him when Westbrook was calling a timeout, the former Arkansas star insists that he could care less about that perception.
“I guess I’m doing something right. I don’t even look into that. I just go out there and play aggressive defense and just leave the cards on the table from there. I really can’t help what other people say and how other people feel. It’s just like I said: I just put my team in the best position to win basketball games. So if that’s me defending all night, then that’s what I’ve got to do,” Beverley explained. “I don’t even watch TV, so I just go out there and do what I need to do to try to put my team in the position to win a basketball. So if that’s playing hard defense, diving after every loose ball and stuff like that, then I have to do that to put my team in position to win basketball games.”
An unknown commodity outside of Chicago prior to his senior year of high school, after leading all of Illinois in scoring and taking Marshall to the semifinals of the 2006 state tournament, where they were beaten by Derrick Rose-led Simeon, Beverley went on two a stellar two-year career at Arkansas. He was drafted in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat before embarking on an overseas odyssey before Houston signed him last winter.
Now the Rockets’ starting point guard, pushing the more high-profile Jeremy Lin to a sixth-man role, Beverley’s confidence and toughness gives the Rockets, one of the better teams in the competitive Western Conference, an edge on the court. Given his hardscrabble background on Chicago’s West Side and professional experience in the Ukraine, Greece and Russia, it isn’t surprising that he always thought he’d end up in the position he is now.
“I just always had it in my head that I’d play in the NBA and ironically, in the last year so much has changed. I’m just starting out on one of the best teams in the NBA and everything has changed. It just happened so fast. But I’m glad to be here and I earned everything I got up to this point,” Beverley said, before discussing the offensive improvements to his game. “I’ve been working on my offensive craft. I know James Harden and Dwight will get doubled a lot. I know CP’s always attacking, J-Lin is always attacking, so me being able to not be a liability on offense was a big thing for me this summer. So I tried to develop a good spot shot and it’s been working for me this year.”
Others around the league have taken notice of his progress.
“His ball pressure is as good as anyone in the league. He brings a lot of energy, sets the tone. He’s going to make energy-effort plays for their team and anytime a player does that, it gets everyone going. That pressure oftentimes turns into turnovers, quick scores. But it can wear a guy out, too,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau observed. “So he’s done a terrific job for them, as has Lin. It’s a great combination for them. I think their overall depth is terrific. When they go to the bench, there’s no drop-off.”