Anger, ambition driving Jock Landale's dual NBL, NBA dreams

Jock Landale feels he should already be in the NBA.

Many talented basketball players would feel the same way, but Landale's circumstances are more complex. NBA teams had been prepared to sign the Australian big-man to fully guaranteed deals over the past year and a half, but those offers were left untouched. The shambolic nature of the contracts Landale signed in Europe made it practically impossible for him to make the move, forcing those NBA franchises to move on and look elsewhere.

"There's a filthy taste in my mouth," Landale tells ESPN.

"I'm p---ed off how things went and how they all got so messed up. Things out of my control, based on advice I was given by people that should be giving the right advice, affecting my career, is ... what else can I do?"

There wasn't much Landale could do. He was shackled by a toxic contract with a buyout clause NBA teams didn't want to touch, and his options were running thin.

Melbourne United managed to negotiate that buyout down and went all-in on Landale, who set a goal to return to his hometown team and guide it to a title, all while making his case to NBA teams. Winning an NBL championship is what Landale has his sights set on, but he sees the forest from the trees.

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"To continue to show up and do what I'm doing, I'm proud of that," Landale said.

"But, at some time soon, I wanna make that transition because I deserve to. I look at [NBA] rosters and guys who get signed over me because I couldn't sign with an NBA team, and I'm livid. I'm so p---ed off. It doesn't sit well with me at all. Some teams have signed guys who have panned out better than maybe I would've; I don't necessarily believe that's the case, but some of those guys have panned out, so credit to them, whatever.

"I've got ambitions, you know."

So far, Landale is living up to the expectations he set for himself. His United team, though undermanned for much of the 2021 NBL season, is atop the ladder with an 9-1 record, and Landale has been the team's anchor on both ends.

He's averaging 16.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game for United, showing off a rounded game that's been developed over years playing across Europe, and as part of the Australian Boomers program.

"I wanna go out there and I wanna play at a high level, and play in the NBA, show people that hey, even though I'm not as athletic as some of these guys, I sure as hell can outthink a lot of them," Landale said.

"A lot of teams who've written me off have been like, 'he's just not athletic enough' ... So now, you look at my game, I can shoot the p--s out of it, I can run a lot faster than guys up and down the court, so I'm a transition player. Might not be able to rim protect like [some] guys but, I think in the NBA, I'd probably be a four, a four-five. I think I can definitely keep people in front, and just knowing the scout, I believe I can outthink a lot of those guys."

At 25, Landale grimaced at the idea of "wasted time," still yet to enter his prime but with the belief that he should already have been making his impact in the NBA.

The solace: the veterans he played alongside with the Boomers at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Landale pointed to Joe Ingles as an ideal mold: an Australian who made his first NBA team at the age of 27, and has since developed into a starting-level wing for the Utah Jazz.

"Joe, to me, is like ... he's not the most athletic guy, and he used to be a target on scout," Landale said. "Now, Joe is an elite defender; he's f--king an elite defender for Utah.

"To see him make that transition, then why not? If I get into the right system and play systematic basketball, which is where I feel like I really excel, there's no reason why I can't, [for example], funnel a four-man downhill into a shot-blocker.

"It definitely p---es me off, and it's something I really want to happen eventually, and I believe that it should and it will. It's just a matter of time. I'm getting fiery just thinking about it right now."

Landale made it clear that he had no desire to paint himself as a victim; only as a competitor who wants to overcome an obscure bout of adversity. The way to do that, in Landale's eyes, is to keep doing what he's doing. On a roster widely regarded as the deepest in the NBL, Landale's numbers taking a slight hit doesn't take away from the fact that he's demonstrating himself to be the best player on the best team in the NBL.

His hope is that's what will resonate most with NBA teams.

"I don't necessarily put up the biggest numbers, but I'm winning," he said.

"I think, going into an NBA team, they wouldn't be like: 'alright, Jock, we need you to put up 15 and seven a night'. No, these guys will be like: 'get out there, defend, run hard in transition, rebound, and shoot open shots'. That's the kind of basketball I think I can really excel in and do at a high level.