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Whitehead (and others) seek help from rivals

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Los Angeles Clippers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Basketball purists may not like it ... you know, consorting with the enemy and all that, but the Nets in-house Cory Wright highlights a common trend among young players: seeking out help from their rivals, both while on the court and post-game.

Wright talked to Isaiah Whitehead and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson recently about their experiences looking for helpful hints.

“While we were shooting free throws or they were shooting free throws I was asking D Lill [Damien Lillard] questions,” Whitehead said after the Nets-Blazers game on Nov. 20. “I’m out there trying to learn as much as possible. Either he’s going to answer them or he’s not. He was great enough to answer them.”

Whitehead told Wright he asked the Trail Blazers star about quickness and reading ball screens. Whitehead chose Lillard for the obvious reasons: he’s one of NBA’s top guards and he’s someone Whitehead tried to model himself after.

But it’s not just Lillard (and it’s not just Whitehead.) After the Nets-Celtics game on Thanksgiving Eve, Whitehead sought out Isaiah Thomas, a fellow second-round pick. It was basic NBA advice.

“He just said if you get two minutes, 10 minutes or 20 minutes on the court, just give it your all,” Whitehead said. “Do what you have to do and give it your all. Never let anyone say you’re not playing hard. So I just took that accountability and every time I’m out there I try to go all out.”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said he did the same thing as a rookie last season. And of course, Rondae did it his way.

“I was nervous about saying something to Paul Pierce because I had never met him,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “They told me he doesn’t talk to rookies, so I was just like ‘Sup, Paul?’ and walked away. I got a ‘hello,’ so that was cool.”

And of course, it’s not just the Nets. Two days ago, Nik Stauskas of Philadelphia discussed a conversation he had with his high school idol, Vince Carter.

“It’s fun,” Stauskas told reporters. “I was guarding him the other game and the ball was out of bounds and he was just kind of standing there and he just tapped me on the shoulder and was like, ‘What up, Nik?’ and I was like ‘What up, Vince?’ I was like, ‘What is this, year 35 for you? And he was like ‘That’s real cute, real cute.’

“So just having that little conversation with him right there, it’s cool for me because not many kids get to go up against one of their childhood heroes like that.”

There is a downside, of course, like what happens the next time VC is on a breakaway and Stauskas is in front of him. New lesson!