Something was wrong, key information was withheld, and Terance Mann suspected to be waiting in the hallway of a luxury Beverly Hills hotel this month.
The clues had accumulated. His mother, Daynia La-Force, had invited him to the hotel, which was a reason in itself to go, but obviously few other reasons were given. A man leading Mann to a guest’s room asked the Clippers guard if he knew what was on the other side. Before the door opened, his mother began filming on her phone to record her eldest son’s reaction to his 25th birthday surprise.
Hall of Fame guard Allen Iverson was waiting in an adjoining room.
“Your idol, baby! Her mother yelled.
The former NBA MVP rose to hug Mann as his expression changed from a nervous smile to something bordering on awe. Others in the room laughed and screamed, knowing the meaning. As a child, Mann imitated Iverson’s braids, headband and sleeves. As an adult, Mann has an Iverson poster in his house.
The warm welcome might have expected Mann even if he hadn’t made the NBA. Iverson got to know La-Force in the 1990s when their playing careers overlapped in Georgetown. A mutual friend helped organize the surprise. As Iverson told the assembled group, Mann is a “family.” But when Iverson started talking about the basketball player Mann, the praise rose to a different level thanks to the events of the previous summer.
“This is… bad, man,” Iverson said, nodding. “This… is a certified killer. “
Coming from a former NBA MVP, the words were particularly surreal. La-Force called Mann “blushing”. He later called the recognition “crazy to me” – and yet it fitted the pattern of a surreal summer that has seen its profile rise at breakneck speed since a playoff series that included a career high of 39. points in June for a second series victory over Utah.
“My life has changed dramatically over the past three months for sure,” Mann said.
Mann had achieved local fame when he was in the state of Florida, but this summer he was regularly noticed in the cities where he traveled anonymously. On a visit to Las Vegas to watch the Atlanta Dream, for which his mother is the assistant, Mann was arrested every few hundred yards inside a casino as his mother proudly watched. His hometown of Lowell, Mass., Gave him a key to the city. While on vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mann thought he would surely go under the radar.
“I was out there on the beach, I was going into town, and people were like, ‘Oh, aren’t you playing?’” Mann said. “I’m like, how the hell? “
He is no longer known as the winger taken 48th overall in the 2019 draft, who played more in the G League than the NBA as a rookie, who was told on the eve of the playoffs in May that he was out of the Clippers’ rotation.
“We had never been anywhere before the playoffs where guys ask for pictures and autographs,” said Julius V, an Los Angeles-based coach who has worked with Mann each of the last two offseason. But now?
“People ask to take pictures…” laughed V.
They recognized Mann because of how often he seemed to be in the right place at the right time during a second season in which he continued to make the nuanced and intelligent plays that helped him get drafted all the way. by improving its three-point accuracy by seven percentages. peaks at nearly 42%. Dip over Utah Rudy Gobert, the three-time defensive player of the year, twice in the playoffs didn’t hurt.
Mann wore a fearlessness from the start of his career. But more and more he let that confidence show through in different ways. When asked last week to be named by NBA GMs as a breakout contender, a chip appeared on his shoulder.
“You said, the GMs, the ones who didn’t draft me? Up to the 48th choice? he said. “I don’t care about that.”
In the midst of such a change, what stands out around Mann’s entourage is what was not.
While Mann understood this summer that he had likely gained a bigger and more consistent role on the bench at the start of his third season, V said the prospect of increased security has not altered Mann’s will. to improve during training. He remembered Mann had landed at the airport overnight and asked to meet at a gym before it closed.
“We always talk about this: don’t do anything different than what brought you here,” said V. “With him we’re talking about you have to approach this like it’s your freshman year at Florida State and there is to all the seniors on this team. “
Mann isn’t sure he likes anything that comes with greater fame. He must have been more aware of who is around him as he travels. He’s also on every opponent’s scout report now. With greater outward expectations will come greater scrutiny.
“We only see 10% of Terance Mann at the moment,” said teammate Nicolas Batum. “He’s going to be awesome. You know.”
Iverson won loyalists like Mann during his NBA heyday because, even as an undersized guard, he could take control of games out of sheer force of will. Clippers star Paul George can summon the same ability. When Mann talks about the Clippers’ potential, however, he envisions rosters where he becomes just one cog in an offensive and changing five-player basketball mix.
“You’re going to see one guy get 20 one night, the next guy will be 20 the next night, I think they’re going to be different guys all the time,” he said. “That’s what I see, and I like it because it keeps the other teams on their toes. It’s hard to prepare for a team like this where you don’t know who this guy will be all the time. Obviously we have PG, we know what he’s capable of. We know what [Reggie Jackson] is able to. But there are also a lot of surrounding rooms that can do the job. “
The exhibition came with benefits. In August, he met with New Balance, Li-Ning and others to discuss the shoe deals. He has finally signed with Anta and hopes the approval will lead to a tour of China next summer.
To help “get my name known,” Mann said. “Make known.”
As he now knows, the word can travel fast.