James Ennis took the road less traveled to get to the NBA.
After being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the 50th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and subsequently having his draft rights traded to the Miami Heat, Ennis decided that he didn’t want to start his pro-career fighting in the NBA D-League so he looked for another option. That option was the Perth Wildcats in Australia’s National Basketball League.
After a break-out year in Perth, where he was arguably robbed from the League’s MVP Award, he found himself slotting directly into the Miami Heat’s roster for the 2014/15 season. During his time with the Heat, he showed flashes of potential but ultimately was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in November 2015. That started a period of professional uncertainty for Ennis, who was unable to find regular playing time and found himself playing with the Iowa Energy in the D-League.
At the end of his second season in the NBA and looking for an opportunity to show what he can add to an NBA roster, Ennis was thrown a 10-day contract lifeline by the New Orleans Pelicans on the 30th March 2016. With the Pelicans struggling with injuries, Ennis was expected to not only be a part of the team, but be a contributor.
And contribute he did.
Ennis spent the remainder of the season with the team, playing nine games, starting five and averaging 15.9 points per game whilst shooting 48% from three.
The late season run with the Pelicans was enough for his former team the Memphis Grizzlies to show faith in the young talent by signing him to a 2-year $6 million contract. Since he’s been in Memphis, he’s found himself starting 22 games so far this season and has been a valuable member to the team’s impressive year to date.
After the Grizzlies 112-103 win over the Brooklyn Nets, Believe The Hype caught up with Ennis for a chat about carving out his role with the Grizzlies, the Australia-to-NBA journey and more.
James, good win for you guys tonight, obviously Brooklyn are struggling a bit this year, but to get a win like that on the road, you must be happy with it?
Oh definitely happy with it. Just going to this next game at home, so this win was big for us looking at the bigger picture.
And just with yourself, after jumping around the league a little bit, spending some time here last year until your breakout period with the New Orleans Pelicans… For you to be starting right now, that’s a real testament to how you’ve played. How have you developed your game throughout the period of bouncing around the league and not really having a set home?
It just keeps you on your toes, you know. Because you never really know what’s going to happen. Just got to stay positive and keep putting that work in. After practice, stuff like that. I’m just thankful I got another opportunity to play with a bunch of good guys like over here in Memphis. I think that Pelicans little run got me a chance to show everyone that I can play in the league.
Defensively, you’ve always been an above average defender, but it really looks like you’ve taken it to another level this year. Is that just a testament to being a part of the Grizzlies organization, who are known for their defense or is that something you’ve been consciously working on yourself?
That’s just me. Defend first and try to just do the little things for the team. That’s how I get going, just playing good defense.
You obviously spent some time in Perth with the Perth Wildcats. Jordan McRae also spent some time in Australia. Guys like Terrance Ferguson are over there. What are your thoughts on that as a parthway to get to the league? Because obviously there’s a bit of success from guys going to the NBL and getting to the NBA.
Definitely. The NBL is getting more athletes from the USA going over there now. I think by me going there it really just opened everyone’s eyes like ‘man, if he can go over there, I can go over there too and still not get lost and come back to the NBA’. So I think it’s good for players to go over there and just experience that.
You been following the Perth Wildcats this year? You think they’re going to take the title?
They should take it. They have a good team. Jermaine’s not on the team anymore, Jermaine Beal. That’s my guy. But they’ve got good guards. They’ve got good leaders like Matty Knight, Damian Martin. People that know how to win a Championship. It’s going to be a good run.
Finally, Valentines Day tomorrow… All-Star Weekend coming up. What are your plans for the break?
Just refresh my mind. Get ready for the second half. Valentines Day…
Haha. Another day, kinda…. Like you said, just cherish it with your significant other.
Cheers mate, keep up the great work and good luck for the rest of the year.