« I’m on my way to the NBA but… »
Surprise guest in Tokyo where he won a silver medal with the Blues, Petr Cornelie (2.13 m, 26 years old) took his first steps in the NBA with the Denvers Nuggets at the start of the season. Without really having the opportunity to express themselves in the big league. If he was afraid of going to the G-League, the NBA’s development league, the former strong winger of Élan Béarnais thrives with the Grand Rapids Gold (15.6 points to 43.5 Shooting percentage, 12.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists for 21.9 evaluation in 31 minutes).
In this rich interview, the Manceau by training looks back on his discovery of American basketball and its specificities. In Denver or elsewhere, he would like to get a new NBA contract. With the France team, it is his priority. Like his sister Jodie Cornelie, he remains attached to his morning routines. One of the keys to success, Petr Cornelie way. Interview.
(photo: Gran Rapids Gold)
Your NBA experience was short with little playing time like Axel Toupane or William Howard, but you had offensive responsibilities. How did you feel ?
I still played a lot of games with the Nuggets (13 matches for 3 average minutes). I never had real playing time. I didn’t have any real opportunities to make my mark, unfortunately. It’s the game. I did everything for it, I have no regrets. The Nuggets are happy with what I did. We had a lot of injuries, there was the Covid-19… In the end, they wanted to keep me and not send me to the G-League so I didn’t play with either team.
« It opened my eyes »
Now I’m with Grand Rapids Gold. I made the choice to stay in the G-League because I have a card to play in the United States, it opened my eyes. I’m on my way to the NBA but don’t give up, don’t stop at a few disappointments.
Physically where are you?
I kinda stayed steady, I’m doing 110 kg for 2.13 Mr. The goal was not to bulk up but to get my body ready for a lot of matches. Per week, we have 3, 4 minimum matches in the NBA. In the G-League, we have a little less but the pace remains more sustained than in France. It’s super intense.
What did you learn from your time in the NBA?
Playing with big players like (Nikola) Jokic. I also learned about everything around : how the guys train, the movements etc There are almost no practices because there is simply no time… When you don’t play, you rest for the next game. When you come from France, it’s weird at first. Last year, I didn’t play in the European Cup with Élan Béarnais so I really had time to create a routine. Here it is very different.
Do you hope to be recalled by the Nuggets?
The goal today is not necessarily to be recalled by the Nuggets but to be recalled to an NBA team, which needs me. At the Nuggets, there were really a lot of interiors so it was complicated to play. Before I wanted an opportunity to get a contract, now I want an opportunity to play and show what I can do.
« I had big concerns when I arrived in the G-League »
Your adaptation to the G-League came naturally, how do you rate your performance?
It’s going very well. I have a staff that trusts me and wants to give me the ball on a lot of systems. I had more trouble adapting to the 3-point shot. The address is starting to get better and better, but I started the season struggling in this area.
The G-League is a decried championship in France but it seems to be changing. Do you share this opinion?
The G-League remains at a lower level than the NBA and different from France. It’s a division where there are a lot of very strong exteriors and smaller interiors than in Betclic ELITE or in the NBA. Compared to what I’m used to doing, it’s sometimes confusing. We could say that playing against a little smaller is easier. Yes, but… Defending against a small player is not easy. I encounter other difficulties.
Technically and tactically, what is the G-League worth?
I had already played the Summer League and frankly, it’s the worst basketball you can see. It’s almost a playground basketball, there are a lot of players who want to show off, the guys keep the ball a lot. I had big concerns when I arrived in the G-League but I was pleasantly surprised. More and more, guys are realizing that they’re not going to be taken by a team for scoring 30 points. That’s not what’s going to get them to the top level. Being skilled at 3-pointers, being skilled at free throws, defending well, being a good team player, going the extra mile and being able to understand the systems… That’s what can open the doors to the NBA for them. . Because more often than not, the guy who arrives from G-League will not directly become a starter. He will join a collective where there are already leaders. And many coaches in the G-League insist on this aspect. In the G-League as in the NBA, players are stronger individually and weaker collectively. Honestly, it plays pretty well in the G-League but it’s not as advanced as in Europe.
Blossoming in the G-League, Petr Cornelie was a little apprehensive about the level of this division.
(photo: Gran Rapids Gold)
And concerning the intrinsic level of the players?
It’s quite a good level, there are big differences in the G-League. Some clearly have the NBA level while for others, we know that it will not pass at the level above. There are big differences between the players, the profiles are also different.
In the Espoirs championship, we can have top players but we know very well that they will not play in the NBA because they do not have the profile. It reminds me of Axel Bouteille, he could perform everywhere in Espoirs but the scouts were never interested in him when he was a very good player of our generation. We knew he was going to have a good career in France or in Europe but not in the NBA, because he did not have that profile. About me, I was less efficient in the Espoirs championship but I had more profile for the NBA.
« In the NBA, I was disappointed because I didn’t have time to work »
In the G-League, they try a lot to create game systems where players are put in positions where they are going to play to their strengths. For example, if a player is very strong in penetration, the objective is to isolate him on a quarter of the field so that he can play his one against one. Concerning me, they try to give me the ball on the post-up. In Europe, that may be the case but there are still a lot of systems where you look for the easy basket to clear a shooter or play a pick and roll.
It’s a double-edged sword because sometimes we don’t take advantage of the quality of the players. The three-second rule in defence, a 3-point line at 7.25m, a slightly larger pitch… It changes a lot of things because you can’t be as much in the assists. I realized that this summer when I was at the Olympics. Vincent Collet had put a defense in place so that there was zero space against the Americans. In the first match, it worked because they were very disturbed by this defense and we won in the end. Not the final, unfortunately.
Before you left for the United States you said “even if I had to spend an entire season in the G-League, I would still have the means to work hard to progress. » Is that the case ?
There are more people in the staff of G-League than in Pau. There are more assistant coaches because the teams are affiliated with NBA franchises, but it’s still very different. In the NBA, I was disappointed because I didn’t have time to work. We’re on the move all the time… When we’re off and want to go to the gym, the assistant coaches aren’t necessarily available because they also have a private life. They want to spend a minimum of time with their family, it’s normal.
In G-League, the rhythm is less sustained but the movements are a little more complicated. There is no private plane so we waste a lot more time traveling. It’s very different than in Pau where we had time to set up a work routine. Mentally, it demands more of you, but there are always ways to succeed in working harder.
Petr Cornelie remains hopeful of finding an NBA contract.
(photo: Grand Rapids Gold)
« If I can get an NBA contract somewhere… »
The G-League season ends quite early, do you plan to return to Europe once it is over?
Honestly, I don’t know because it depends on what will happen. If I manage to get a contract somewhere… I don’t have a vision of what I can do in a month. In two weeks, I may be gone.
If you don’t have an NBA contract, would you be tempted by the EuroLeague?
It’s the same, I don’t know. It depends on a lot of things. When I got cut by Denver, there was interest from quite a few European teams.
You were a training partner last summer with the Blues but you finally played in the Olympics. We imagine that the preparation for the EuroBasket is the minimum objective?
It’s a goal. We’ll see what I can do.
Since your arrival in the United States, in which areas have you turned a corner?
I passed a course on my work force. I have to continue to progress physically, technically, to be more skilful and even more efficient. I don’t need to change anything in my 3-point shooting, I have to adapt to the NBA distance. I feel better and better about it, my percentage is slowly going up.
Like your sister Jodie (UF Angers, LFB) who has read Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, have you set up any morning routines?
Yes, I have a bit of the same routine as her. I write, I meditate and I try to read. I wake up earlier to write down my goals so I can keep them in mind and never have a low. I set up this routine last season but it’s more complicated to stick to it in the United States because there is a lot of travel and especially four different time zones. It clearly contributed to my good 2020-2021 season.
I read a bit of everything, books by players, coaches, people from the world of basketball or professional sports. And even books on finance. There, I have just finished Winning by Tim Grover, who was the physical trainer of Kobe and Jordan, and I am attacking a book on the American banking system. My favorite book remains that of David Goggins, entitled « Can’t Hurt me ».
From the Olympic adventure to Tokyo, Petr Cornlie would not be against the idea of extending his lease with the Blues …