Washington Wizards players Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris, Tomas Satoransky, Ian Mahinmi, Sam Dekker and Coach Scott Brooks have spoken to media during their final practice session in London today ahead of the NBA London Game 2019 against the New York Knicks at The O2 on January 17th.
Q: Can I ask you about how things have changed for the team over the last month or so?
MM: We’re locked in – trying still to make a playoffs push. So we have a bunch of guys that haven’t been playing all year. ..step in, basically play hard and try to get wins.
Q: How important is Trevor Ariza coming back to the team?
MM: Super important man! In his 15th year he is the ultimate vet [veteran]. He still plays 35 minutes a night at 33 and he is a guy that is much needed.
Q: What are your thoughts on Bradley Beal and how well he has been playing the last two, three weeks?
MM: He’s just doing exactly what we all know he can do. He is an All Star and he will be an All Star and he’s showing us that he can carry a team.
Q: What do you make of Petr Cech’s retirement from football?
TS: It’s obviously sad for football, in general for soccer in our country. He’s such an influence for all goalkeepers, he was one of the best for sure when he was with Chelsea. It’s just sad for us and there’s a lot of people in the Czech Republic just looking up to him and I was one of them.
Q: What was it that you idolised about him so much when you were a kid?
TS: He was just so smart too, just the way he talks, the way he handled media. Not only about soccer obviously everyone knows his skills, his concentration, he’s got the cleanest sheets in the history of the Premier League. I was just always amazed how he was outside for the media, how smart he talked. I think he’s a great role model for everyone.
Q: Do you think he’s one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time?
TS: I think so for sure. I’m not saying it just because I’m from his country but just the way he played at Chelsea and how he was dominating the game over a lot years and he’s been playing a high level for a lot of years. I think he’s one of the greatest goalkeepers.
Q: You played basketball for Barcelona’s team, when you were at Barcelona did you ever hang out with Messi or Neymar or any of the Barcelona players? Do you have any fun stories?
TS: We were at the same team but we really didn’t have any dinner or lunches even for like a Christmas. The only way to meet them was at the training centre, they were always kind of hidden from us and the media. Obviously, it’s a big thing there, I remember fans waiting for soccer players, we’re coming there as basketball players – they were like ‘ah we don’t want that’. So they were just waiting for soccer players. But Neymar and Pique are huge basketball fans, they went to a couple of games. You can just feel like that’s family there.
Q: Are you team Messi or team Ronaldo?
TS: Team Messi.
Q: Is there a Messi of basketball?
TS: I would probably say Kobe Bryant. I mean not anymore, I would call LeBron James more like a Cristiano Ronaldo with physically dominant he is. But Messi is more like a Kobe Bryant.
Coach Scott Brooks
Q: What are your thoughts on Tomas Satoransky?
SB: He’s been playing very well. He got some great experience last year with John missing 41 games and this year he’s going to be out for a big chunk as well. Tomas has stepped in and done well. He’s a terrific player and he’s getting better every year.
Q: How excited are you to be in London this year?
SB: I’m excited. When schedule came out over the summer, this was one of the things I was most excited about. I’ve been here three times now and every time I’m amazed at how beautiful the city is and the people are just terrific. We’re looking forward to it and yesterday we had a good time and today we’re going to be able to do a bit of sight-seeing. Then tomorrow we head to the arena – which I hear is beautiful and the crowd will be great. It’s all good here in London.
Q: How proud are you to be a part of the NBA as it continues to grow globally?
SB: I’m proud of being part of the NBA and privileged to be in this position and being at the NBA London Game is another level. All of our players are excited and it’s a great opportunity for us to bond in a different city that we’re not used to but it’s one of the great cities of the world.
Q: Do the Knicks have the advantage having played in London before?
SB: I don’t think anyone has an advantage really so I think the team that plays hard and well will win the game. We’re looking forward to playing the Knicks and I’m sure they’re saying the same thing. It’s a great opportunity for both teams to get away and bond as a group and with the coaching staff.
Q: How important is global expansion for the NBA and the Knicks?
SB: It’s so important, it’s a world game. The world loves basketball and the NBA has done a great job ever since the Dream Team of ’92 but it’s really taken off and there are so many great players in the NBA that are not from the states. That’s what makes the game of basketball such a beautiful sport.
Q: You’ve been to London a few times. When have you been before?
SB: I came on my honeymoon 26 years ago and then a few summers ago with my family. I love it. For my honeymoon we went all over. London, Paris, south of France, Switzerland. We were young and very adventurous.
Q: What was it like having Ron Baker on the team?
SB: We loved him – it’s just a situation had to present itself but he is an NBA player, he’s definitely an NBA player. He’s going to be in the NBA a long time. He just has to find the right spot. It could be anywhere. It could be with us but there will be a lot of teams that will need his style of play. He’s hard-nosed, he’s a great worker, great teammate. When we let him go it was tough but that’s part of the business – but he’ll be back.
Q: How important is it for the NBA to be global?
SD: Basketball’s been growing faster than almost every sport and that’s because of the initiative that the NBA has taken to get across the globe, across the country with camps, with games, with charities. I think the NBA does an amazing job with that. I’m all in, I’m growing the game, I love to see fans getting excited and that’s what it’s all about. It’s not just an American game, it’s a global game and you can see that it’s growing exponentially.
Q: Barcelona are talking about going to play a game in the US, there’s been a lot of controversy as the players don’t want to. Do you think they should play in the US?
SD: I don’t see why not. I’m not a huge football fan but I got to go to Barcelona this past summer and see what the hype was about, it was very cool to see the stadium and see the fan support that they have. If they want to play in America, I know there’s a lot of fans in America for those teams and we have a lot of stadiums so if they want to come I think it will be very cool for soccer and for American fans.
Q: Enes Kanter’s been in the news quite a lot for the Knicks. Do you support the fact that he didn’t come over?
SD: If it’s for his safety, I don’t want to see a guy get harmed. That’s none of my business, I’ve no say in that. I don’t know the insights on everything there so I’d only be kicking myself if I said something. Hopefully everything can get worked out with him. It’s a tough situation and I hope everything can get rectified.
Q: It works to your advantage if he’s not playing anyway.
SD: He’s a good player but you never want to see a guy not be able to play for personal reasons. It’s never a good thing, Enes is a good player. Everyone around this league knows he’s a good player and he makes that team a better team. Every NBA team has 15 very good basketball players so whoever’s going to fill those minutes is going to try to come and play well and we have to be ready for that.
Q: How much is London now becoming a global sporting hub for sports?
SD: I think it’s huge. Obviously they had the Olympics here as well so I think London should be proud of that and you can really see that America is trying to make the initiative to grow all American sports here as well. This is such a global city, such an important city worldwide so it’s an honour to be here and see a place that I’ve never seen before. I’m excited to one day be able to come back when I have a little bit more free time to get around and really learn more about London. But this is cool and hopefully the people of England appreciate it and are excited about this opportunity.
Q: There’ll be a game in India in the near future, how important is that global expansion?
SD: It’s huge. We want to make basketball and the NBA as a league as global as possible. We see the outreach that we get from fans all over the world. It’s growing in India and China, NBA is huge – Africa as well with all our players going there every summer to help with those kids and work with camps. And you can see how many European guys are flourishing in the league and now we’re trying to grow that even more. I think that expansion has become amazing, we’ve been able to find so much talent around the world and interest and that’s what we’re trying to do – just grow that interest and show the world that the NBA is a league for everyone and I think it’s been an exciting thing to be a part of.
Q: How much of a distraction has the news about Enes Kanter been this time around?
SD: It’s not a distraction for us, that’s between him and his family and his country. So best of luck to him and everything. But I wouldn’t call that a distraction for us but you never like to see something like that.
Q: How have you found the mix between the fun and the focus on this trip?
SD: It’s been a little easier actually because the first day we were supposed to be here was going to be a free day but we had such bad weather in Washington that we couldn’t get here so since we’ve been here it’s had to be mostly focus, get off the jetlag and get some sleep, then get a couple of practices in. So we’ve been able to lock in, today was a little sloppy but we got better towards the end and then I think tomorrow once game time comes around we’ll be ready to roll and it’s a game that we see that we have to get a win if we want to keep in the standings to where we want to be. But it’s been fun, it’s been cool to see London and take in this whole experience.
Q: The Knicks are obviously desperate for a win, how difficult an opponent are they going to be tomorrow?
SD: “At this point of the season, every team is desperate for wins. Every team is fighting to get in the play-off contention, we’re right there so we’re just as desperate as they are. But yeah they’re a young team that wants to win games and it’s not fun losing. It’s not fun being on the low end of the standings and they’re going to have a lot of pride coming here. They want to show the world what the New York Knicks are about.”
Q: With your friends and family coming over, is it hard to focus on the fact that it is a regular game?
IM: No you got to separate the things. There’s family, then there’s business. Before everything, it is a business trip. We’re coming out here to win a game. Tomorrow we’ll do that, we play hard and live with the result. Me personally it’s even better just because I get to play in front of my family.