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Pacers’ T.J. McConnell carved out an NBA niche by never backing down



Pacers' T.J. McConnell carved out an NBA niche by never backing down

Each NBA athlete can bear in mind their welcome to the league second. A jarring and sometimes wide-eyed affirmation that their rookie rubber has actually and actually hit the NBA highway. However there’s one other nearly as common second amongst gamers from the final decade; much less jarring, if typically annoying, and possibly a bit extra particular.

Jimmy Butler’s got here after he was elbowed within the face by Alex Len.

It was throughout a January 2019 sport in opposition to the Hawks, when Butler was with the Sixers. Butler was guarding Len underneath the rim, who went up for a bunny-hop basket and, let’s say not completely unaware, swung the sharp knob of his elbow round into Butler’s cheek and chin. Earlier than Butler’s physique had even completed falling throughout the brilliant blue paint of the Sixers’ key, two small palms hooked into the armpits of his 6’7, 230-pound body and commenced hauling his physique backward throughout the ground.

“First I’m like, man, who the hell is grabbing me?” Butler recollects. He put up some resistance, squirming his physique to interrupt out of the maintain, till he appeared up and noticed who it was that had him. “After which I lookup and it’s T.J. smiling like, Yo, I bought you. Don’t even fear about it, man. Don’t even journey.

Butler’s face relaxes, his physique goes slack. He appears to lean tougher into the arms of T.J. McConnell, who drags him just a few extra steps for good measure after which helps Butler onto his toes. Len even circles again, let’s say not completely innocently, however Butler barely notices and walks away beside McConnell.

“Proper then, proper there, I calmed down and let it go. I used to be like, shit, T.J. bought my again. I do know I’m good,” Butler says.

These “Welcome from T.J. McConnell’’ moments are prevalent throughout the league, and most guys can bear in mind them as clearly as their harsher NBA introductions. It has as a lot to do with McConnell’s aggressive engine, a seemingly indefatigable power, because it does his private power, a equally inexhaustible useful resource. Joel Embiid “loves him.” So does Ben Simmons. Former Pacers coach Nate McMillan referred to as him “sunshine,” whereas present Pacers coach, Rick Carlisle, has referred to him as “one of many nice opponents within the historical past of the franchise,” an “indomitable spirit” and a “once-in-a-decade kind participant.” Tyrese Haliburton referred to as him probably the greatest, if not the most effective, backup level guards within the league, whereas Spencer Dinwiddie neatly summed him up with “Oh no.” Josh Hart mentioned — not unkindly — of McConnell’s tenacity, “You may’t simply win, you gotta kill him. He’s not going to cease” and most lately, LeBron James referred to as him one in all his favourite gamers proper now, “He’s like Draymond [Green] as a degree guard.”

That followers of the NBA at massive (and doubtlessly James) are catching up on the various deserves of McConnell probably has to do along with his spirited efficiency within the inaugural In-Season Event earlier this season, and is unquestionably associated to his tide-turning sequences of defensive diligence, offensive spontaneity, and normal frenetic aura on the ground in the course of the Pacers playoff run to this point. What longtime pals — and McConnell himself — will let you know is that in his ninth NBA season, he hasn’t been doing something in a different way than he all the time has. He’s even mentally sequestered a sense from his early profession to make sure it.

“It’s going to sound foolish,” McConnel explains, “however I’ve a chip on my shoulder the place I don’t belong.” He stresses that he is aware of he belongs, however conjures up the load of the chip, and the mindset that fashioned it, to compete as onerous as he can.

“I exploit what bought me to the NBA,” he says, “that’s the factor I by no means misplaced. And I’ll by no means lose. And if I do, I feel it’s time for me to retire.”

T.J. McConnell’s mentality with the Sixers endeared him to now-former-teammate Jimmy Butler for years (and groups) to come back.
Photograph by Issac Baldizon/NBAE by way of Getty Photographs

When McConnell first made the 76ers roster in 2015, he turned to then-teammate JJ Redick when the 2 had been out for a chunk after follow and half-marveled, half-deadpanned, that he wasn’t speculated to be there. He meant the NBA. However after getting in at floor stage of The Course of, serving to construct a younger Indiana staff to playoff competition, and now taking part in in a career-first Japanese Convention Finals, it might be truthful to imagine that feeling would have gone away.

But it surely hasn’t. Not less than not utterly.

“Possibly after my second, or this previous contract, it actually settled in,” McConnell says, about feeling like an outsider. “However I attempt to play like I don’t belong and that folks don’t suppose I belong, and it simply will get me to play tougher.”

After the unsure route McConnell took to even get a finger into the marginally cracked window of the NBA, his reticence to loosen up is sensible. When he first began to play for Duquesne, an indignant fan emailed then-coach Ron Everhart with the dig, “I didn’t understand we had been recruiting water boys.” Everhart confirmed the e-mail to McConnell and his dad, Tim, the following time he noticed them, and McConnell mentioned, “I’ll present them who the waterboy is!’”

Duquesne hosted March Insanity on the finish of McConnell’s sophomore 12 months. He and his dad went to look at some video games on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ enviornment and McConnell remembers a lightweight going off in his head. He knew he had one shot to maintain taking part in basketball and he needed to get on an even bigger stage to do it. After just a few recruiting visits, McConnell selected Arizona (the truth that their coach was additionally a degree guard from Pittsburgh helped). For a way impactful it got here to be in McConnell’s improvement, leaving Duquesne — particularly Everhart, the one that gave him his first shot — was a tough determination he nonetheless thinks about, however the best one.

McConnell spent his first 12 months as a Wildcat redshirting due to the outdated NCAA switch guidelines. He credit that stretch in serving to him acclimate, not simply to life exterior Pittsburgh for the primary time, however to the staff playbook and his personal conditioning which, he realized, was awful. The Wildcats made it to back-to-back Elite Eight appearances in McConnell’s final two years (a squad he shared with future first-round picks Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson), and because the guys round him bought prepared for the NBA Draft, McConnell felt the identical pressing pull that introduced him to Arizona.

Simply days forward of the 2015 NBA Mix, McConnell bought a name from his agent, who instructed him to get to Chicago. McConnell needed to pay his method there and was solely going to get a shot if somebody dropped out, which at 7 a.m. the morning of, occurred. He remembers desirous to skip previous the biometrics proper to the 5-on-5 scrimmaging, noting that no person was going to choose him for his damaging wingspan and “palms the scale of an toddler.” He had just a few exercises afterward, however on the massive evening went undrafted. Thirty seconds after the Draft, Former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie and former Sixers head coach Brett Brown referred to as. Intrigued by what they’d seen, they invited him to coaching camp. He’d be one in all six guards vying for a spot.

“No one even anticipated him making the staff,” Chris Babcock, a former participant improvement coach with the Sixers, says. “It’s the toughest place to get your self into the NBA. There’s plenty of guards. There’s not plenty of facilities. It’s very aggressive.”

McConnell performed in each the Salt Lake Metropolis and Las Vegas Summer time Leagues forward of his first season — a frenetic tempo of video games that matched up with him nicely — and stood out sufficient at coaching camp that a number of ranges of the group had designs on him.

“After I met him, I used to be the top coach of the Sixers G League staff. We introduced him to coaching camp and there have been a lot of guys competing for one of many final level guard place spots. And so the entire time I’m pondering, Oh man, that is nice. That is gonna be my level guard within the G League. He’s the right level guard to have in that sort of league,” Kevin Younger, a former assistant with the Sixers, says.

“T.J. was taking part in nicely in camp, Brett Brown was the coach and he was saying, ‘Man, this McConnell child. He’s fairly good.’ And I’d all the time be like, ‘Yeah, you already know, the opposite level guards are all taking part in rather well!’ Simply attempting to sandbag T.J. so I may have him as my start line guard,” Younger chuckles.

Younger didn’t get his excellent G League PG, however McConnell landed a contract with the Sixers. He’d be one of many oldest gamers on the staff in his rookie 12 months. There was a quiet second of celebration when McConnell referred to as his spouse, Valerie, and his dad, Tim, who had been his highschool coach, to inform them the information, however the aid was short-lived.

“He was nonetheless on a non-guaranteed contract,” Babcock explains, “So there are set off dates on a regular basis of what the following a part of it [will be] assured. The scenario of our staff, which individuals kinda don’t know, each set off date was principally, he needed to remake the staff to solidify his assured contract. It pushed him so much, it was extraordinarily irritating, as you may think about. In a very good and dangerous method, he needed to always show himself.”

The niches McConnell carved out for himself have turn out to be calling playing cards, and a palpable level of irritation for opposing groups. One is selecting off lazy, sluggish, dangerous, and even completely good passes, the opposite is selecting up his defensive project full court docket.

For the passes, which Babcock notes he’s “infamous for” and options in opponent scouting stories as “‘Randomly he’ll steal inbounds passes’” McConnell makes use of an innate sense of timing. Each Younger and Babcock name the talent instinctual, McConnell will let you know it’s only a really feel factor he’s picked up. Nonetheless, to have led the league in steals for a whole season, and have fan-made compilations of 54 stolen in-bound passes, or to encourage YouTube movies titled “T.J. McConnell Making NBA Gamers Look Dumb,” there’s one thing else at work.

“Are they lackadaisical? Are they gonna throw a comfortable cross and I’m in a position to step within the passing lane?” McConnell tries his greatest to elaborate on the operation, noting he’ll additionally typically chat with guys inbounding to see in the event that they loosen up their guard a bit. Requested if there are individuals he’s now in a position to learn like a ebook, and McConnell demurs. Pressed, given the 54 stolen inbound cross video proof, he diplomatically provides, “In case you say there’s a pair gamers which might be in there fairly a bit, I suppose the chance simply presents itself extra with them.”

Dallas Mavericks v Indiana Pacers

T.J. McConnell has by no means been afraid to power stars to get right down to his stage, hitting the deck for free balls.
Photograph by AJ Mast/NBAE by way of Getty Photographs

What’s not diplomatic is McConnell’s different area of interest, selecting up the individual tasked with bringing the ball up the primary few steps they’re on the ground. Watch the faces of gamers McConnell picks up and see them immediately pressure underneath a psychic Sisyphean weight; watch McConnell’s face and see it gentle up with menace. Redick has famous these are the moments McConnell “blacks out”.

“[Chris Babcock] straight up mentioned to me, ‘Look, you’re not bodily imposing, you’re not gonna blow by individuals together with your pace’ — I imply, I really feel like I’m fast — ‘however to face out, nobody picks individuals up full court docket, and it’s important to try this to create a distinct segment for your self on this league,’” McConnell says. “I give him 100% credit score for me doing that.”

The 2 began including full-court scrimmages on high of staff exercises, twice, typically thrice a day. McConnell deployed his new signature transfer instantly.

“No one needs somebody, like, climbing them for 94 toes,” Babcock says, “Particularly if it’s sport 5 of the common season, a veteran participant is hoping to simply have a traditional sport 5 of an NBA season, however T.J.’s attempting to actually not let him carry the ball up in any respect prices.”

“You may’t all the time management for those who’re gonna be making or lacking photographs,” Babcock continues, “however it was one thing that he may do each single time on the ground that teaching employees may depend on, and may change the momentum of the sport.”

McConnell says he does it typically simply to shave a pair seconds off the shot-clock, shortening the defensive sequence for his staff.

“After I see somebody drop their head, or hate that I’m doing it, it kinda fuels me to do it extra ‘trigger I do know it bothers them a lot. I wanna make their evening as powerful as attainable,” he says.

It’s one of many causes Butler discovered it so entertaining to play with McConnell of their time with the Sixers, seeing the stricken appears evening after evening on the opposite finish of the court docket. Enjoying in opposition to him now, Butler is extra pragmatic.

“I can solely think about what’s happening within the opposing staff’s head, for those who’re dribbling that ball up the court docket, he’s hounding you 94 toes?” Butler recollects, a notch of satisfaction in his voice. “I let him know anytime we play in opposition to one another, don’t choose me up full court docket. ‘Trigger you ain’t even gotta fear about me losing my power attempting to get the ball up the court docket, I’m simply gonna cross it. And I’m gonna run up the sideline. No disgrace in my sport, not attempting to take care of you, T.J.”

The NBA, it’s been identified to be mentioned, is a copycat league, and it’s true down to each final area of interest.

“I see individuals do it increasingly more now, particularly younger guys,” McConnell says, “It’s nearly a way of satisfaction when somebody picks me up full court docket. It’s like, okay, I tip my hat to you, somebody’s doing this now.”

As humorous because it was for Butler to see McConnell get into their opponent’s heads, he acknowledges the deeper and oftentimes game-altering worth that area of interest transfer introduced.

“Everytime you’re main by instance on the defensive finish and also you’re selecting up full court docket — now, that don’t imply I’m gonna choose up full court docket, I’m not doing it — however it means I’m gonna do the whole lot that I’m able to inside my wheelhouse on the defensive finish: taking part in within the passing lane, staying in between my man and the ball and the basket, taking part in protection with out fouling like he does,” Butler says.

“Seeing him try this full court docket, it’s like, I’m not gonna let this possession be wasted. He simply picked this man up full court docket, turned him 5 instances, made him cross the ball to my man. I’m not gonna let my man rating, I’m not gonna let my teammate down,” Butler continues. “Enjoying that arduous, that lengthy full court docket, it simply goes down the road. Like, if he can try this, I gotta do my half. After which the following man has to do his half. And I don’t even know if he realizes that, however he actually ignites defenses. He provides guys a lot confidence and he’s the chief with out having to say an excessive amount of. ‘Trigger he leads by instance in how he performs, and the way onerous he performs, and the way he needs everyone to achieve success.”

McConnell signed with the Pacers in free company after the Sixers had been knocked out by Kawhi Leonard’s notorious Sport 6 Semifinals shot. Brown would final yet another season however the rocket booster staff that launched The Course of was successfully dismantled. McConnell credit Philadelphia being in a complete rebuild part as the explanation he bought a shot on the NBA, with the entrance workplace searching for sparks in loads of rotating personnel (possibly greatest underscored by Bryan Colangelo, who had a brief tenure himself, asking at first of McConnell’s second season what an assistant coach was doing taking part in pickup when he noticed him scrimmaging), however Babcock stresses that it was all McConnell.

“I don’t suppose individuals absolutely perceive. He was actually the sixth guard preventing for 2 spots,” Babcock reiterates, “within the NBA world, you could have such a short while to attempt to win that spot. It was unimaginable that he truly did that after which held on, after which by some means saved hanging on.”

2024 NBA Playoffs - Milwaukee Bucks v Indiana Pacers

When NBA stars see T.J. McConnell down in a defensive stance, able to hound them 94 toes, they comprehend it’s going to be a protracted evening.
Photograph by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE by way of Getty Photographs

Ask McConnell’s admirers to explain the best way he performs, and the phrase “gritty” goes to get used. He is aware of it’s a praise, and is grateful, however it may well really feel like a cop-out, a flattening.

“I really feel like I’m way more than gritty, tough-nosed — I do know I’m these issues, however I really feel like I’m greater than that, you already know what I’m saying?” McConnell says, including, “Not in an conceited method.”

It is tough to explain McConnell. By way of quantifying his impression, we will account for steals, however the remainder, with an on-court presence that ranges from eerily, nearly artfully sorcerous to essentially the most belligerent pickup sport of your life, is hard to pin down by way of sport numbers alone. Butler tried his greatest, providing “fierce” and “pest”, clarifying the latter with “solely as a result of it doesn’t matter what staff I’ve been on, or even when I used to be on his staff, what the opposing staff says about him is one factor it’s important to respect, like, ‘Rattling that motherf—er’s a bit pest.’ He’s in every single place on the ground and he by no means runs out of power.”

As soon as, McConnell relied on the margins — the driving lanes, the bottom and sidelines, the Wild West area of interest of selecting up from 94 toes — now he exists in every single place on the ground. He’s an intuitive passer, his quiet scoring video games are usually paired with double-digit help nights. He’s a devastating choose and roll participant, and nonetheless he will get the ball, not many can pry it from his palms when he comes scorching and ricocheting down the ground like a lightning strike — McConnell led the league in drives per 100 possessions for a lot of the season, solely trailed by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

“It simply makes me smile realizing that he’s on everyone’s scouting report, they usually act like my boy can’t shoot the ball,” Butler chuckles ruefully. “He can shoot the ball, he can cross the ball, he can end. He’s simply good, man. He’s bought plenty of what individuals don’t have. He’s bought satisfaction, he’s bought coronary heart, he’s bought a successful mentality. He’s a successful participant, man. I ain’t gonna mislead you, I want he was nonetheless on my staff.”

Babcock says McConnell’s made a behavior of selecting individuals’s brains, at first to fill in his personal developmental gaps, then for real curiosity. It’s how he developed a relationship with Steve Nash, who he can emulate on his drives.

“Him and I went and labored with [Nash] one summer time, which was clearly phenomenal for his sport,” Babcock says. “One of many instances T.J. went to work with him, Steve mentioned there was any person else that was going to be there, and it was Kevin Durant. It was sort of the odd duo.”

Younger and Babcock each use what is perhaps the most effective phrase to explain McConnell: connector. Butler echoed it in the best way McConnell’s in a position to ship power down the road to all of his teammates in a sport, and it’s been evident in a Pacers staff that refuses to give up in an unlikely playoffs run — a sixth-seeded staff now within the Japanese Convention Finals. The place it’s most apt although, is within the conduit McConnell is for thus many within the league. Younger recalled a daily espresso membership McConnell began in Philly with Dario Saric and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, when the 2 had been new to the States and attempting their greatest to acclimatize to it, and to the NBA. He additionally mentioned with regards to speaking to teammates or different gamers, it doesn’t matter their stature within the league, McConnell can discuss to everybody “nearly as good or higher than anyone.”

“It speaks to his consciousness of how he can join with completely different teammates, completely different guys which might be from completely different backgrounds. Each participant, I feel, that has performed with him actually likes him,” Younger says, noting the very first thing T.J. Warren (now with the Wolves) requested Younger when he re-signed with the Suns, studying Younger was a coach in Philly, had been: “‘Was T.J. McConnell there?’ He was like, ‘That’s my man.’”

Requested why it appears guys who’ve been labeled intense or tough additionally are inclined to gravitate towards McConnell, and Butler notes, “You’re spot on. You actually respect guys that go concerning the sport the best method,” he says, itemizing Embiid and himself, McConnell, guys like Kyle Lowry, “We play this sport to win. I feel that’s one factor that all of us have in frequent, which is why we respect one another on such a excessive stage.”

“That’s why you stack as many gamers as you may like T.J. as a result of he’s gonna do no matter you ask him to do. In case you ask him to knock down threes, he’s gonna discover a solution to do it. You ask him to choose up full court docket, he’s gonna discover a solution to do it. In case you ask him to protect Joel Embiid, I don’t know the way the hell he would do it, however I assure T.J. would discover a method,” Butler continues. “That’s why I hope he’s a champion sooner or later. And that’s why he’ll all the time and perpetually be one in all my favourite teammates.”

Being such a perennial conduit, there’s the query of what occurs when McConnell feels tapped out, or has a nasty day, or how it’s he recharges himself. Younger factors out that McConnell realized early the worth of power guys who’re in a position to be the identical individual and produce it every single day, however it was “one thing T.J. actually needed to develop into.” A part of what makes McConnell so tireless are his feelings, they’re the bedrock of that eternal chip on his shoulder, however he had to determine the best way to regulate them.

Babcock recalled a sport when McConnell, nonetheless taking part in for the Sixers, was subbed out. Again on the bench, McConnell was heated – principally at himself. After ready just a few seconds, then-Sixers affiliate head coach Mike D’Antoni turned to McConnell and requested in his signature dry deadpan, “Not your greatest three minutes?” It broke by way of McConnell’s frustration and calmed him down instantly, principally as a result of he couldn’t assist cracking a smile.

A humorousness helps. McConnell’s mic’d up moments, like telling former teammate Mike Scott, “You ain’t about this, return down there” and asking Furkan Korkmaz if he misplaced a wager carrying shiny inexperienced sneakers, are top-tier, even when he admits to taking part in them up, “In case you can’t make enjoyable of your self,” he says, “I really feel like it’s important to simply be capable to chortle at your self.”

Butler shared a favourite instance of McConnell realizing when to be in on the joke when the joke was him. Most individuals are acquainted with Butler’s aggressive spirit extending past the ground in heated video games of playing cards and dominoes. Earlier than a Sixers staff flight, Butler pulled bands of hundred-dollar payments from his bag and instructed McConnell to pose with a stack to his ear, like he was speaking on the telephone. “I simply bear in mind him like, ‘Yo, that is so awkward’, trigger he would by no means consider doing one thing like that. And I instructed him, we’re not getting on this airplane till you’re taking an image of you holding this cash as much as your ear.”

Household has additionally helped. His personal entry into fatherhood and, as Babcock jokes, being a part of a Pittsburgh “McConnell Corridor of Fame.” Past his dad, his brother and sister performed high-level basketball, as did his aunts, Kathy McConnell-Miller and Suzie McConnell-Serio, each of whom went on to educate on the school stage. McConnell Serio additionally gained gold and bronze medals within the Olympics, and performed and coached within the WNBA. McConnell recollects that as onerous as his dad was on him as a coach, twice as onerous as any of his teammates bought it, when he bought to school and ultimately the professionals, Tim switched instantly again to simply being his dad, endlessly supportive. Loads of professionals develop up alongside basketball, however not many have it as such a metronomic power to their lives, interlaced as an organ. It’s in all probability why none of it looks as if such a giant deal to McConnell, as a result of the change between life and basketball, if a advantageous line, has all the time been intuitive.

However these are nonetheless guesses, as a result of McConnell has solely ever seen his personal power as a positive factor.

“I’m so caught up within the competitors of the sport,” he says, “I simply have this factor the place it’s like, you may management how onerous you play. So for those who can’t give 100%, what are we even doing? That’s the one factor that I really feel like you could have full management of.”

Butler echoes him, however goes additional, saying McConnell’s mastered his unending power loop by all the time feeding it – it’s his consistency that retains it going.

“Win 10 video games in a row, that is what I’m gonna do. Lose 10 video games in a row, that is what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna maintain that very same power as a result of he is aware of that’s what he can fall again on,” Butler says. “That’s his constant mechanism of, ‘Look, I’m nonetheless going to be me and I’m gonna do the whole lot in my energy to make it possible for we win.’ And I feel that’s the place his power stems from.”

Whereas the Pacers’ season is perhaps on the road, McConnell’s longevity within the league has by no means been extra assured. From a strictly technical standpoint, as Younger factors out, backup level guards are one of the essential and tough positions to fill within the NBA. It’s a job that has to thrive underneath strain and manage stretches of chaos into quick and managed bursts of triumph, which McConnell, who as soon as had a profession 12 months in a simultaneous contract, Covid-shortened, and new dad season, clearly relishes.

2024 NBA Playoffs - Milwaukee Bucks v Indiana Pacers

Sort “T.J. McConnell hug” into Getty Photographs, and one will discover numerous photographs of teammates appreciating his distinctive contributions with a heat embrace.
Photograph by Ron Hoskins/NBAE by way of Getty Photographs

At a extra human stage, McConnell’s mentioned he’ll play so long as a staff needs him, which is sweet information because it looks as if the league would revolt if he wasn’t in it. Each one that talks about him needs to do it at size, needs to know who else you spoke to about him, and has a advice of at the least 5 different individuals who’d need to do the identical. Carlisle admitted he broke down in tears earlier this season when he needed to inform McConnell he’d be taking part in a reserve function for Indiana, simply due to how amenably and supportively McConnell took the information. It’s not something he hasn’t been doing all alongside; from his precarious begin, to saying postgame how pleased he was for his buddy Oshae Brissett within the Celtics win when Indiana went down 2-0, McConnell is a silver-lining machine. His outlook is so typically the inverse of how most individuals body a scenario (he as soon as instructed Duncan Robinson, “It takes plenty of power to be a nasty individual”) that throughout the sport and nicely past it, McConnell proves {that a} sluggish burn of positivity, generosity and sure — sadly — grit, goes farther in a world satisfied the quickest solution to get forward is by turning inward. What’s higher is how he proves working that method is not any large deal.

All the best way again throughout Butler’s near-beatific second, when McConnell dragged him from the brink (or simply from a technical foul if he’d determined to interact with Len) his thought course of was equally easy.

“Anybody that occurs to, I don’t suppose they’re going to be more than happy about it. In that second I simply grabbed him and, it sounds dangerous, however tried to tug him — ‘trigger he was on the ground — drag him away from the scenario, as a result of we wanted him to win. I additionally wished to attempt to save him some cash,” McConnell chuckles. “He’s fairly wealthy, he didn’t want me to save lots of him any cash, however for us to win, he must be on the ground.”

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