Willie Reed is known as "Showtime" for his highlight reel dunks and blocks. A restricted free agent coming off his first full NBA season, Reed's hoping to be back in a Brooklyn Nets uniform next year. The Nets must give Reed a qualifying offer of $1,215,696 to keep him and it's still not known whether Reed will be in Brooklyn next year or continue his days playing for one team or another around the league and around the globe.
NetsDaily caught up with Willie Reed Thursday. He discussed his rookie season, his basketball camp this summer and if he expects to be a member of the Nets next season. And Reed explains why he left the team for personal reasons and the rationale behind a controversial Instagram post that had many Nets fans wondering about his maturity.
First things first. Reed wants to clear up the confusion about his end-of-season leave of absence and that Instagram post.
On April 6th, a week before season's end, Reed left the team due to "personal reasons" and fans assumed that it was due to a precipitous drop in playing time. Reed quickly turned aside that notion and says that it was indeed about off-the- court issues.
"It wasn't a basketball matter, Reed said. "It was a private matter I had some things that I had to take care of. At the end of the day my family is what's most important. I had another incident early in the season when my cousin passed away... The team was very respectful about it and how everyone comforted me and gave me so much support meant a lot,
"After I went to the funeral I went to the game in Atlanta for the fourth quarter just because I knew my cousin would want me too. Making it to the NBA was a dream we both had, we talked about it every summer and the fact that he wanted this for me, I was the last one to talk to him before he passed away and I was able to go to the funeral and go back and be a part of the team which I knew he would've wanted,"
"That was earlier in the season, the end of the season there was so much going on in my family, there was only a couple of games left, we weren't in the playoff race and the team did an excellent job of allowing me to be a family man first, so I'm thankful for that and I appreciate them for understanding."
The personable 25-year-old also tried to clear up the other issue, his Instagram post that many thought was a criticism of interim coach Tony Brown. It came two weeks before the announcement of his leave. Here it is.
Reed averaged about 10.5 min. under Hollins. Under Tony Brown, less than 9 min and 13 CD-DNP's (via Willie Reed IG) pic.twitter.com/JkZbDCzarL— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) March 24, 2016
The post was later deleted and Reed told NetsDaily that it was not a shot at Brown, but he admitted it was a mistake.
"It wasn't a shot to Tony Brown at all," Reed said. "It was a dream of mine to play in the NBA since I was 5 years old, I guess I was just frustrated that I wasn't playing and not understanding the bigger picture,"
"Me as a man I have to figure out different ways to channel my frustration. I'm going to practice early, getting work in and things like that, but I think it was me and coach Hollins had a special bond. He gave me my first opportunity in Memphis, I wanted to thank him. That wasn't the right time to do it, but there was no shot towards Tony Brown,"
"At the end of the day I just wanted to be out there competing and doing what I love to do and helping my team win games."
Sandwiched in between those two incidents, Reed's rookie season was filled with personal highlights, starting with his first NBA minutes. Not many people can say they made their debut at Madison Square Garden, but that's where Reed started his NBA career. He had been on the Kings and Grizzlies rosters, but never got on the court. To Reed, finally walking on an NBA court , let alone the Garden,was a surreal feeling.
"It was unbelievable. I've never been to Madison Square Garden, so it was my first time being there. You grow up watching so many of the great players have great games there at the Garden, so when you get there you can't help but feel the energy. Once I got my name called I was a little bit nervous, 'it's my first NBA game,' but once I touched the ball I feel it went smoothly and I'll never forget that Joe Johnson got me my first NBA bucket, setting me up for a dunk."
Reed also talked about the special bond he had with two of the team's veterans. He had a few guys who gave him advice, but Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez in particular were big helps.
"All the vets were great," Reed said. "I learned so much from Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez, those guys were great leaders. They're young players, but they've been in the league for a while so they know how the league is and they can talk to me,"
"They're not much older than me, but the fact that I can have somebody to talk to that's experienced and be able to pick their brains a little bit everyday in practice will make things that much easier for me moving forward."
While Reed's still unsure if he will be a member of the Nets next season, he definitely sees a bright future for the organization.
"They're bringing in great pieces, obviously Sean Marks was an incredible piece, he's coming from the Spurs system and we know how they move the basketball and how good they are defensively. You can see the faster pace towards the end of the season and I feel like that faster pace of play fits my game,"
"I'm a mobile big and my ability to protect the rim I feel like that's a key. I'd love to be back, my teammates know that I'm all in for the team. I love Brooklyn. Brooklyn is nice. My wife is very comfortable, my kids are comfortable, right now I'm just playing the waiting game and praying for everything to work out."
Does Reed expect to be on the Nets next season? He seems legitimately unsure, but just as genuinely, he hopes to back in Brooklyn. No matter what, he's enormously grateful to the fans for always being there to support him.
"When the fans send me congratulations I see it. When they all were there for me about my cousin I saw it. For that I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for dealing with me through my personal issues at the end of the season, I really appreciate everything and look forward to hopefully being back in a Brooklyn Nets uniform and giving you all something to cheer about. I just wanna say thank you to all the Brooklyn fans."
And not just the fans in Brooklyn. This summer, Reed wants to help out his community. Reed is hosting a camp in his hometown of Kansas City and the camp is completely free. Here's information on the camp.
Reed is excited about it and when I asked why he made the camp free he said it's all about the community.
"I just wanted to give back. There's not too many players from Kansas City that have played in the NBA or are in the NBA, so having this camp free gives me a chance to give back,"
"I'm trying to get the mayor involved, to get Alec Burks and Willie Cauley-Stein(Both born in Kansas) to come and say a few words, take some pictures, sign some autographs to say, we made it out of here, but still care about our city, Reed said. "I know that we might not change the whole city, but we can be the start to make something positive in our city."
By that time, Reed may know whether he's back in Brooklyn or continuing his vagabond hoops life. He's played for D-League teams in Springfield, Des Moines, Reno and Grand Rapids, spent time in Eilat, Israel; Girona, Spain; and Santiago in the Dominican Republic. There were summer league stints with Sacramento, Memphis and Indiana in the past and with Miami and Brooklyn this summer. He's also spent time in training camps with Sacramento, Memphis and Brooklyn before being cut.
Reed said that If the Nets decide to bring him back next season, there's one thing he promises to give the team. Hard work.
"They know with me they're gonna get a guy that gives 110 percent every time he steps on the floor whether it's practice or game," Reed told NetsDaily. "Obviously this is the worst part. Waiting to find out, but I've been working on my game, so I'll be ready when the decision is made."