MILWAUKEE -- The NBA is boring.
Hey -- it's not me saying that. That's straight from the mouth of Charlotte Hornets rookie guard Malik Monk, who I spent some time chatting with this week after a morning shootaround. Listen for yourself right here, on the newest CBS Sports' Flagrant Two podcast: "It's boring."
Monk didn't mean the league itself is boring. Of course not. The league is difficult. The league is challenging. The league is a lifelong dream, achieved.
The 19-year-old Kentucky one-and-done product is a beautiful, natural scorer who is adapting to the pace and the subtleties of the NBA game. It's been a challenge, he readily admits that. When you're a rookie, grown men bully you around on the court. He's gone up against lockdown defender Avery Bradley, and it was brutal. The challenge is learning the system.
"When I'm comfortable in the system, I'm going to know when my shots are gonna come," Monk said. "Get to my spots, how to play, I'm going to be fine. I just got to get the system down like the back of my hand and I'll be alright."
It will take time. Three games in and Monk has been playing a bunch for the injury-riddled Hornets. But even averaging 19 minutes a game, he's struggled, shooting 18 percent from the field and 21 percent from 3.
There's an adjustment period for every rookie, and this is roughly what I expected from Monk after spending time around him during his one college season. The young man is one of the streakiest shooters that there is. You'll see him struggle for a few games, and then at some point in November you'll look at a box score and see him drop 22 points in 15 minutes. Shooters gotta shoot.
But back to that part about the NBA being boring: At a shootaround before the Hornets' loss to the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this week, I asked Monk the one thing about being an NBA player that has surprised him most since the Hornets took him 11th overall in June.
"It's boring. Boring is good, though," Monk said. "You fly here, you get to the hotel, don't do nothing until game time. I'm in my hotel room watching highlights, watching movies, stuff like that. It's just boring. But in the summertime it's fun because you get to do other stuff and you got a little bit of money, you can vacation, go to places. In season is boring, but that's good, so you won't be out getting in trouble, club life, stuff like that."
This resonated with me. One reason is because it's funny. Monk has achieved the dream of so many American boys where he's getting paid millions of dollars to play sports. He's been able to buy his mother a Mercedes. He's a player that his college coach, John Calipari, told me he believes will some day become an All-Star. And here he is, bored, alone in his hotel room.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford told me he's been pleasantly surprised that Monk is a lot more than just a scorer; he sees him as someone who'll competently be able to play both backcourt positions this season.
"He has a good feel for the game, a high IQ," Clifford said. "He passes the ball a lot better than I realized, and he has a lot more of a pick-and-roll game than I realized. His defense is already getting better. It's more learning NBA coverages and schemes."
There's pressure on his shoulders, and criticism too, even three games into his career.
And yet this was a stark reminder just how young some of these players are. So many people are worried about the funky shooting form and flagging confidence of No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz -- well, he's played in four games, and with a struggling shoulder. Plenty of folks already consider the Denver Nuggets' 2015 lottery pick Emmanuel Mudiay a bust -- he's 21 years old and is still learning the game.
As much as pundits and bloggers want to dissect these teenage basketball phenoms within weeks of their careers beginning (and yes, I'm guilty as charged), it's important to remember that these are young men who are barely older than boys. Calipari loves to point out that a year before these young men were being drafted, they were still sleeping in their childhood bedrooms, their mothers waking them up in the morning. Now they're playing against 10-year veterans with families, with commitments, with routines.
I asked Monk who he thought was going to be this season's Rookie of the Year. He picked the Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum, a player Monk has played against since sixth grade. And that's a smart pick, especially considering Tatum's increased role in light of Gordon Hayward's season-ending injury. But the bigger point is this: At this point in Malik Monk's career -- or Tatum's, Fultz's, or Ben Simmons' or Lonzo Ball's or De'Aaron Fox's -- it's all reading tea leaves. You're going to think someone is a bust who 10 years from now will still be a solid contributor in the league; you're going to think someone is a star who will flame out quicker than you'd ever imagine.
So just be reminded about this the next time you're heaping praise or criticism onto a rookie: At this point, it's all just a bunch of educated guesses.