From James Harden’s resurgence to Scottie Barnes’ ‘it’ factor, here’s what I learned after watching an hour of Rico Hines’ offseason runs on YouTube

Picture this: the game is at stake and rookie of the year Scottie Barnes is interfering with his defensive end, 10-time All-Star James Harden. Barnes, visibly cheered, picks up Harden from across the half court and, as the shot clock runs out, forces a hard miss thanks to the help of defensive ace OG Anunoby. The stop sets up a game-winning floater from All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam.

If you imagine what just transpired, was it in front of a raucous crowd at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena? Has there been a cold silence at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly? What if I told you it all happened in a tightly packed auxiliary gym on UCLA’s campus, where the wall is mere feet from the baseline?

Welcome to a run by Rico Hines.

MORE: Fast facts on Rico Hines, the Raptors’ new assistant coach

Rico Hines, the namesake of these Los Angeles pickup runs, enjoyed a four-year college career at UCLA before beginning his career in player development in 2006. 16 years later, Hines will begin his first season as a player development coach with the Raptors.

For some time, Hines’ runs have been a big topic of discussion during the NBA offseason doldrums. From Barnes, Harden and Siakam to LaMelo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Fred VanVleet and Trae Young, the who’s who of the NBA gather on the UCLA campus to take part in offseason pick-ups at elite level, all organized by Hines.

If you’re an NBA fan, you’ve probably seen clips from the runs at UCLA, but they only tell part of the story. Visit Hines’ YouTube channel and you will find over 20 videos that fully document the flow of the pick-up games.

Since short clips can only show so much, I decided to watch an hour of footage of Hine’s first runs in 2022. Here’s what I learned.

1. The basics

What is basketball without structure?

These runs are more than just a typical pick-up basketball. They are designed to allow players to work on their games and, in many cases, develop chemistry with their NBA teammates. Of course, this comes with a few rules.

  • Teams of five are formed at the start of the run
  • Games go to seven, all by 1s
  • Hines acts as a shot clock, counting down loudly from seven
  • After a basket that decides the game, victory is secured with a free throw. A miss resets the score to six and play continues

Regarding the last rule, it may not apply to every winner. If I had to guess, the free throw is required on the first game winner, but didn’t appear to be required for the game point on any subsequent shots.

2. James Harden is set for a big season

Before deciding on a “big” season, I wanted to say that Harden was primed for a “bounce back” season. Then I remembered that he averaged 21.0 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds in 21 regular season games with the Sixers last season.

However, Harden managed to average those numbers in a new situation when his body was clearly not right. He admitted it in an interview with Yahoo’s Chris Haynes, and Harden’s exit in the 2022 NBA playoffs supports that admission.

MORE: James Harden explains why he took a $15m pay cut when he was 76

Whether it was the patented step-back jumper, drives, or threading the needle with his game, Harden did many things that make him a special player.

With an improved roster and Harden back on track, Sixers fans should be excited.

3. Scottie Barnes has it

We might already have had an inkling, but these pick-up games reinforce the fact. The scenario I described above? Yes, that actually happened.

Not afraid of the former MVP, Barnes is clearly smitten and making a game, leading Harden to say that Barnes “has this attitude of just being a dog.”

MORE: James Harden shows respect to Scottie Barnes after viral clip

Barnes is more than over-the-top claps and tough defensive duties, Barnes has gained significant weight and is looking increasingly comfortable handling the ball to create for himself and others while the jumper looks smoother.

As good as Year 1 was for Barnes, Year 2 could be even better.

4. Montrezl Harrell brings playoff intensity to pick up

That really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Harrell’s engine and dedication sets him apart from 99 percent of players in the NBA, and it’s not exactly something that comes with an on-off switch.

I mean, I think that’s one way to welcome Christian Koloko to the NBA.

Just dirty.

5.Pascal Siakam

Due to off-season shoulder surgery in 2021, Siakam started the 2021–22 season at a disadvantage as he missed the first 10 games of the year.

He still made All-NBA.

Raptors fans should look forward to Siakam entering the 2022-23 season with the momentum of an All-NBA selection and a busy offseason.

Siakam has long credited his work with Hines for leading to his breakthrough Most Improved Player and All-Star starter.

6. Raptors Training Camp Part 1?

There was a strong Raptors contingent at the runs.

Let’s start at the top with the two most vocal assistant coaches, Hines and Earl Watson, who were teammates at UCLA and pillars of the community long before they joined the Raptors. Then look to the sidelines and you’ll see several staff members in Raptors gear, which makes a lot of sense given the circumstances.

MORE: What would a bigger role for OG Anunoby look like?

As for circumstances, the teams are organized by affiliation and fitness, and during the first heat there were two teams titled “Raptors 1” and “Raptors 2”. Among the players in attendance were:

  • OG Anunoby
  • Dalano Banton
  • Scottie Barnes
  • Chris Boucher
  • Jeff Dowtin Jr.
  • Malachi Flynn
  • Ron Harper Jr.
  • Christian Koloko
  • Pascal Siakam
  • Gary Trent Jr.
  • DJWilson
  • Squidward Young

By that tally, there were 12 Raptors in addition to former top pick Jarrett Culver, who was decked out in Raptors gear (a potential Raptors 905 candidate?). Team to build chemistry in advance.

By my count, almost every notable player has been except Precious Achiuwa (who spends part of his off-season in his Nigeria), Khem Birch, and most notably Fred VanVleet.

MORE: Fred VanVleet renewal options for 2022-23 season

But that was before FVVTV released a four-minute highlight from his time on a run later in the week. There’s a lot to be happy about downstairs, but VanVleet and Koloko seem to have built some chemistry early on. The rookie Big Man will Meal.

7. Rico Hines is one of the best in the business

These players trust Hines for their development, and with good reason.

Looking at the games, it’s clear that this is a pickup with a purpose. Both Hines and Watson ask each player in attendance to focus on their agenda, what they want to work on and how they can help their respective teams win.

While every player has the opportunity to show off their summer work, it’s more than just that. These guys stay in shape with game reps and improve their feel for the game, which is especially true for the Raptors players who took these lessons from UCLA to the University of Victoria for the training camp and beyond.

The proof is in the results, and with the likes of Harden and Siakam crediting Hines for some of their accomplishments, fans of any team that has a player in these runs should be excited for what’s to come.

2022 Rico Hines private runs

If you want to do some observations yourself, here are some videos of the full runs.

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