Sports

Just the beginning for Marcus Paige

Former Linn-Mar prep hopes to more points, long NBA career

Marcus Paige of the Charlotte Hornets dunks against the Memphis Grizzlies on March 22 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C. (Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
Marcus Paige of the Charlotte Hornets dunks against the Memphis Grizzlies on March 22 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C. (Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

DALLAS — It’s a night Marcus Paige will always remember.

On March 22, 2018, Paige scored his first points in the NBA.

It’s an achievement he considers only the beginning.

On that Thursday evening in Charlotte, the former Linn-Mar prep scored nine points, had two assists and one rebound while playing the entire fourth quarter for the Hornets, who blew out Memphis by a franchise-record 61 points, 140-79.

Paige made his NBA debut Oct. 25, 2017, for Charlotte against Denver, but went scoreless in nearly three minutes of action.

“I grabbed a box score for my parents,” Paige said during a recent road game to Dallas. “My dad keeps everything (from my career), but I’m hoping that this is just the beginning, not just some flash in the pan that was cool.

“It’s a great moment, but at the same time, I’m hoping I get to build on this and have a long career (in the NBA).”

After starring at Linn-Mar and helping lead the Lions to the 2011 Class 4A state title, Paige, now 24, spent four seasons at North Carolina. Brooklyn drafted him in the second round in 2016 and then traded his rights to Utah.

Paige played the 2016-17 season in the NBA G-League with the Salt Lake City Stars. After a stint in the 2017 NBA Summer League with Minnesota, he signed a two-way contract with Charlotte last August.

He played most of this season with the Hornets’ G-League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm, and averaged 15.2 points, 4.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. Charlotte and Greensboro are just 90 minutes apart, which has allowed him to practice with the Hornets while still playing regularly for the Swarm.

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“The G-League’s gotten way better, especially the last few years, they’ve emphasized it more, they’ve put more money into it. It’s more viable of an option than it had been in the past,” Paige said. “Teams are starting to utilize that with the two-ways and with affiliate guys and everything. It’s helped me a bunch because I can practice with them (Charlotte), play the next day with the Swarm, move back and forth and feel like I’m still a part of both teams.”

Paige is one of two players on a two-way contract, an arrangement where players can spend a maximum of 45 days in the NBA. Fellow rookie Mangok Mathiang, who he shared the floor with in the fourth quarter against the Grizzlies and throughout the season in Greensboro, is the Hornets’ other two-way player.

Their shared experience has resulted in a strong friendship.

“We room together on the road with the Swarm,” Paige said. “He just played with us the other night, then he finished the season with the Swarm. It’s been great to have one other guy that’s going through the same thing as you because it’s the first year of two-way players, so we get to share that experience. It’s made it a lot easier.”

Paige also has made a strong impression on Hornets head coach Steve Clifford, who has only put Paige on the floor twice this season but has liked what he’s seen of Paige in practice and limited game action.

“(He’s) smart. He did a good job the other night (against Memphis),” Clifford said. “He picks things up very quickly. Whatever you’re doing from a team standpoint, you’re going to have a good chance to do it because you’re going to be organized and he’s going to know what his job is.”

Paige is grateful to get his first NBA points out the way, but something else he will remember about that game is getting to see Hornets standout scorer Kemba Walker score 46 points on a franchise-record 10 3-pointers while playing less than 28 minutes.

Seeing that performance firsthand was special to Paige because Walker is one of several Charlotte veterans who made him feel welcome from day one with the Hornets.

“It’s been awesome. Getting to spend an entire training camp learning right behind Kemba and being able to pick his brain about things has been huge for me,” Paige said.

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“He’s also been real cool about taking time to talk to me about things or boosting my confidence. He’s never been too big for everybody on the team. Same with Dwight (Howard), obviously I’ve known (fellow Tar Heel, Marvin Williams) since college, so it’s been very nice to have cool vets around that care about the young guys and aren’t just here to get a paycheck.”

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