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Brown cherishes Murray's reaction to tough-love coaching originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Keegan Murray, the fourth player selected in the 2022 NBA Draft, is 38 games into his NBA career. Most rookies -- especially valuable lottery picks -- are cut some slack as the future of the franchise to learn the difficult lessons that arrive on the doorstep a player's first journey through the demanding 82-game NBA schedule.
But Murray is in a unique situation. He is contributing on a roster built to win now and is being brought up like a veteran by Mike Brown and his tough-love coaching style.
"I signed up for it in college, playing for [Iowa coach] Fran [McCaffrey]. He’s always going to be tough on you no matter what," Murray said after practice Thursday [h/t FOX 40]. "As a freshman, I kind of had that same experience that I have now.
"Coach Brown, he’s kind of been a father figure outside of basketball. Being hard on me on the court, off the court just cracking jokes and things like that. He’s been really good to me and my career."
Murray wasn't named in the Kings' starting five to begin the season. It took him three games to prove to Brown he deserved a starting role next to Domantas Sabonis in the Kings' frontcourt, one that the rookie hasn't relinquished since.
Murray launched his career with five straight games with double-digit points, but then struggled through a rough patch in November. Since the calendar flipped to December, though, Murray is averaging 13.0 points while shooting 48.4 percent from 3-point range. But Brown still pinpoints areas where Murray can improve. Right now that's on the boards, where Murray is averaging just 3.7 rebounds per game in that span.
"At the end of the day, he knows I can be a really good player in this league. That’s just doing all facets of the game. If I start rebounding well, I’m sure he’ll find something else to critique me on. That’s just part of his coaching style for me. I’m grateful for that."
That's something Brown appreciates in his 22-year-old rookie forward, a quality traced back to a certain six-time All-Star he used to coach.
"If he can handle that, the sky is the limit for him," Brown said Thursday [h/t FOX 40]. "I’ve gone at him pretty hard, and he doesn’t get too high or too low. He’s stays even keeled. He looks me in the eye. He responds back to me with what he’s feeling and/or thinking. And for a young guy, that’s remarkable.
"I look back at my time as an early assistant in this league, watching Popovich get after Tony Parker. If I could teleport Keegan back in time to meet Tony Parker, and then bring him back here, he’d hug me and cry on my shoulders, begging me to keep him here instead of sending him back there to be Tony Parker.
"Tony Parker turned out great. I think Keegan is going to be just as good."