Briante Weber makes no excuses or apologies

Oct 15, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Miami Heat guard Briante Weber (12) dribbles the ball past Minnesota Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica (88) during the second quarter at KFC! YUM Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Miami Heat guard Briante Weber (12) dribbles the ball past Minnesota Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica (88) during the second quarter at KFC! YUM Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports /

When watching the Sioux Falls Skyforce during pre-game warm-ups, they look like a team with a couple of running backs. Thick, muscular, boulders with bounce. They are solid, to be clear, not immobile. But among them, easily distinguished by the ponytail propped up on his head, is the lean-bodied Briante Weber — point guard, leader, and de facto weatherman for the NBA Development League’s defending champions.

When asked if he’s able to predict the forecast thanks to injured joints from ACL and MCL tears he suffered nearly two years ago, Weber laughs and says, “It’s more so the first year.”

“You definitely know when it’s gloomy outside,” he continued, “because you’ll be stiff when you wake up in the morning, and you’re just like, ‘It gotta be raining,’ so yeah there’s definitely those (days), but not recently.”

Read More: Who is the best prospect currently in the D-League?

To tear two of three cruciate ligaments is no joke, but Weber is showing no ill effects in his second pro season. The catastrophic injury he suffered not only left him 12 steals short of the all-time NCAA record, more critically, it caused his path toward the NBA to take an unexpected detour.

“(I’m) definitely not the type to make excuses, if I was to make excuses I wouldn’t be here right now. I’m taking it for what it is. Every day is a new journey. I always say I have a new beginning every day in the morning. So I kind of roll with that, and wherever the pieces fall, that’s where I go. I’m not really worried about it.”

Gently flirting with triple-double averages of 13.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 6.8 assists this season, Weber also leads the league in steals with three per game. Watching him play is a nice change from the hustle bustle, streets-of-New-York style, pace you get accustomed to in the NBADL. Not to say he is lethargic or slow. Weber is measured and patient with his movements and decisions on the floor. Similar to a good running back, waiting for that half-beat, that pause, to see which gap the offensive line opens up, can make a world of a difference.

Weber has that feel, but he’s still not done growing. His priorities in terms of personal improvement look beyond physical tools and mechanics. It’s deciding to work on his game from the top down.

“The psychology of it (basketball) is definitely the part that, you know, that plays a big part in learning the game. So if you can understand how to read things, like read people’s body movements and how they go about things, (that way) it’s easier for me to help my teammates. To get them to their spots, and get ‘em in comfortable spots where they are able to excel.”

You can set up your guys for corner 3s with a kick out passes all day, but you can’t help them with everything on the court. You either have it, or you don’t. You either have a hot tongue, or you’re kicking yourself when you come up with a savage slight two-hours later, and there’s no one around to hear it.

Briante Weber is certainly the former.

“I definitely love to get into it, it actually helps give me a little edge. I like to play with an edge. I’m not really a guy that can play laid back, I’m not a cool player. I’m kind of a dog player, like a grimy player. For me to just get that extra boost of energy, just to get that back and forth, that smack talk, a little trash talk, that definitely helps me along the way. Definitely helps me not get tired.”

When it comes to taunting, and subjects that are sacred, there is nothing off limits for Mr. Weber, either.

“Everything is fair game,” he said. “If the ref don’t hear it, everything goes. If the refs ain’t there, there’s going to be a lot of stuff said that is uncensored.”

Although some adults may frown upon this form of gamesmanship, there was certainly parent club interest in Weber last year. He was signed and waived by Miami during training camp. Later Weber was given a 10-day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies, and then eventually picked back up by Miami at the end of the season. Weber was with the Heat up until their Eastern Conference semifinals elimination by the Toronto Raptors, playing six minutes total in 14 postseason games.

It was not the NBA debut he had dreamed of, but life goes on. But at least he was there, getting experience. Weber was also spending time with the likes of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and, earlier in the year, Vince Carter. That made for giddy phone calls to mom about sharing a locker room with guys you look up to. It also made for mentor type of relationships that continue. And the time with Carter made for some wise words.

“‘Young fella,’ that’s how it always starts,” Weber explained as he lowered his voice to emulate Carter, “‘Young fella, just keep doing what you’re doing, nobodies path is the same. Just keep going down your road, and that’s how you’re going to get there.’ Vince told me that and it’s kind of stuck with me.”

Read More: Thunder setting example of how to use D-League affiliate

Weber is both — a team-leading talent in the NBA D-League and a specialist.  He was the first player in conference history to be named the Atlantic-10 Defensive Player of the Year three years in a row. Now, post knee surgery, he has a defensive rating of 92, which ranks third among D-League players who average at least 30 minutes per game.

Does he have things to shore up? Of course. Shooting 40 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc aren’t numbers to tattoo on your body, but is that how he makes his team better? No. Directing traffic, doing the dirty work, and  turning defense into offense is.

Personally, I’ve never heard of any NBA franchise saying they aren’t interested in rostering those traits.