Atlanta Hawks big guard Dejounte Murray looked not long ago as though he was going to be one of those San Antonio Spurs forever guys in the Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker mold. The Spurs liked Murray early on, gave him the ball, watched him become an All-Star, and seemed to be developing his young talent to guide the team for the next decade or more.
But Kawhi Leonard broke that Spurs forever paradigm a few years ago when he, another huge Spurs development success story, took his massive talents north to Toronto, nabbing his second championship after joining the Raptors in 2019.
So while it was a surprise to see the rebuilding Spurs deal Murray to Atlanta before this season, it was not a shock. Times change. And players change places.
Murray talked about his transition from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference — and much more — with NBA super-interviewer Taylor Rooks. Murray told Rooks he likes the “more physical” aspect of the Eastern Conference, and that the rougher style of play is better suited to his mentality. It’s how he likes to play.
Murray knew what he was in for, he revealed, because none other than LeBron James told him so. This past summer, when Murray was working out with James, James told him the East was more physical and helped get him ready for the style. (Note: the two work out together because Murray’s agent is Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, a LeBron James-associated company.)
The insight may help explain why — besides all the glitz, money and glamour of LA — the 38-year-old James chose to play his latter years in the Western Conference. If the Eastern Conference is more physical, as James told Murray, then it follows that the Western Conference is less physical. Note: James played his entire career in the East (Cleveland, Miami, Cleveland) before heading to the Lakers.