Interviews – TalkBasket.net https://www.talkbasket.net NBA, EuroLeague, FIBA basketball news Fri, 22 Jan 2021 20:55:18 +0000 en hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6 Dino Rađa on today’s NBA: “Harden is shooting 50 threes a game, and they call that basketball” https://www.talkbasket.net/119974-dino-rada-on-todays-nba-harden-is-shooting-50-threes-a-game-and-they-call-that-basketball https://www.talkbasket.net/119974-dino-rada-on-todays-nba-harden-is-shooting-50-threes-a-game-and-they-call-that-basketball#respond Fri, 22 Jan 2021 20:55:13 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=119974 Hall of Famer Dino Rađa (Radja) does not appreciate the path the NBA basketball has taken since he left the league. For the taste of the former Boston Celtics center today’s NBA resembles more an All-Star game rather than a serious competition. “In my days in the paint — you got killed. Certain Barkleys, Oakleys, […]

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Dino Rađa on today’s NBA: “Harden is shooting 50 threes a game, and they call that basketball”

Hall of Famer Dino Rađa (Radja) does not appreciate the path the NBA basketball has taken since he left the league. For the taste of the former Boston Celtics center today’s NBA resembles more an All-Star game rather than a serious competition.

“In my days in the paint — you got killed. Certain Barkleys, Oakleys, Masons, Laimbeers, they cut your head off. If you fake them and go underneath, your head is going with the ball away from your body,” the Croatian legend remembered on 1-ON-1 with Basketball Network.

Opposite to his time in the league, now there is virtually no defense being played, according to Rađa. Also, the players tend to hold the ball too much and play one against five. As prime example of that he mentioned James Harden.

“You can do 25 dribblings, it’s all 1 against 5. Harden is shooting 50 threes a game, and they call that basketball. I don’t like it,” Rađa said.

“The NBA became an All-Star game, where defense isn’t played. Numbers are pumped unreasonably. People like it, people pay for it. I don’t care about it,” the two-time European champion shared his views on the NBA.

Rađa spent four seasons (1993-1997) in the league with the Boston Celtics before returning to Europe. During his NBA career he averaged 16.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.9 blocks per game.

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Norris Cole and David Lighty discuss EuroLeague season, playing with/for Tony Parker https://www.talkbasket.net/118943-norris-cole-and-david-lighty-discuss-euroleague-season-playing-with-for-tony-parker https://www.talkbasket.net/118943-norris-cole-and-david-lighty-discuss-euroleague-season-playing-with-for-tony-parker#respond Fri, 15 Jan 2021 09:54:45 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=118943 French powerhouse LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne are on a four-game losing streak in Europe’s premier competition. The squad coached by Tony Parker’s brother, TJ, has a 5-13 balance which places it just three wins ahead of Khimki Moscow Region, the undisputed letdown of the 2020-21 season. Avoiding the last place in the standings can barely provide […]

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Norris Cole and David Lighty discuss EuroLeague season, playing with/for Tony Parker

French powerhouse LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne are on a four-game losing streak in Europe’s premier competition.

The squad coached by Tony Parker’s brother, TJ, has a 5-13 balance which places it just three wins ahead of Khimki Moscow Region, the undisputed letdown of the 2020-21 season.

Avoiding the last place in the standings can barely provide consolation for what David Lighty succinctly describes as an “inconsistent” campaign for a club that will be allocated a long-term EuroLeague license and will be part of the big stage for many years to come.

Lighty, now on his fourth consecutive season with ASVEL and sixth overall, is averaging 10.8 points on 96.8% free-throw shooting, plus 3.3 rebounds. A 32-year-old guard from Ohio, he has been playing professionally in Europe since 2011, with Italy and France being his only two destinations.

On the other hand, another veteran like Norris Cole, provides the French outlet with firepower on the perimeter. Despite his 12.8 points and 3.2 assists per game, his season is far from perfect. In fact, it mirrors what ASVEL Villeurbanne has been doing since the beginning of this peculiar endeavor.

Like his teammate, Cole is an Ohio native and in fact, he relished the chance to not only share the floor with LeBron James, the state’s most well-known ambassador, but win a couple of NBA titles on his side.

Since 2017, the 6’2” guard has been getting buckets in Europe. Alas, his teams never make the playoffs. Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2018, Buducnost Voli in 2019 and now the almost “doomed” ASVEL, missed EuroLeague’s penultimate phase by a mile.

Following a 88-71 blowout defeat to Panathinaikos OPAP in Athens, Lighty and Cole, who share the same age, state of origin and -of course- locker room, spoke to TalkBasket.net about the things that keep their team behind and their relationship with president Tony Parker.

“We had a tough second half, man. They kept the rhythm and the flow. You got to commend them, they executed on both ends, making every basket for us difficult and creating offensive possessions for themselves”, David Lighty uttered upon exiting the locker.

The goal of the French team now is debatable: “We got to take it game by game. That’s the only thing we can do. We can’t look forward, ahead of anything. This season has been like Covid. It’s crazy! It’s been up and down. At times, we show a great level, that we can play and beat games. We are lacking consistency. Just finding the right flow for everybody and being on the same page has been tough this year”.

The question is how can the squad change the bad momentum. Lighty reiterates: “If we had the answer for it, we wouldn’t be inconsistent! It’s something that we’ve been working on, in order to fight for every possession. I think that against Panathinaikos, we started the game well and we did a great job, but then they got all the 50-50 balls and the rebounds. We just have to keep fighting. You can’t give up.”

Norris Cole believes that “the goal is to take it one game at a time. Stay positive. That’s all we can do: stay together though the good and the bad times. Now, it’s a tough time, but we’re going to stay together, keep working every day and remain professional. There’s multiple problems. Every game is different. We just have to make sure that we get better and limit the mistakes that we make. We don’t point fingers on this team. We all take accountability and we have to play better.”

Serbian star Nemanja Nedovic had another splendid performance this season, scoring 33 points in just over 28 minutes for a Performance Index Rating of 40. Guarding him is “very hard”, David Lighty concedes. “He’s moving so fast and then there’s the actions that they draw up for him. He’s coming off the down screens and ball screens. He has the green light and can shoot at any time. With a player like that, it’s very difficult. You can’t be physical and put your body onto him. He found his rhythm early and kept going.”

One cannot help but notice the big disparity between ASVEL’s home and away games, especially in terms of shooting percentages: “Exactly, that’s been a big thing for us”, Lighty admits. “We got to focus and lock in. it’s up to us. Maybe, if there were fans, it would be a little more easier. Now, we have to make do with the empty gym.”

How is it playing for a team managed by Tony Parker? Norris Cole takes the stage: “Tony is very professional. He takes care of his players. He makes sure we have everything we need; the organization provides all the resources that we need and that’s all you can ask for. I’ve been fortunate to be able to play for him and his team.”

Lighty played for ASVEL between 2014 and 2016 and then from 2017. Last summer, he signed a three-year extension. Does this mean he will end his career with Asvel, as Tony Parker said in the summer?

“I’m always open to anything. We never know what’s going to happen. It’s a good situation and a good place for me. If anyone would like me, we could go and see what’s the best options and details for me and the team.

Italy and France were the two best places for me. I had offers from other places and teams, but I don’t think the fit might have been right. In the end, you never know what’s going to happen. That’s why I go out and whatever teams has me, I try to fit the role.”

In Norris Cole‘s case, the player-president relationship is the one that holds sway, although the two share a great deal of NBA past in common. The former Miami Heat reserve faced the Frenchman, who was a starting point guard for the 2014 NBA champs:

“We get to talk sometimes. Obviously, I practice and play and Tony does what he has to do, but when we see each other, we talk a bit about our NBA time. I’m sure that as the season goes on, we’ll get to talk more about the (2013, 2014) NBA Finals, when we played each other a lot. It was great. I was a young player in the league at the time. Obviously, he was a veteran, but it was great to compete against him.”

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Arturas Gudaitis on Zenit, time in Milan, NBA agenda and the special place that is OAKA https://www.talkbasket.net/117713-arturas-gudaitis-on-zenit-time-in-milan-nba-agenda-and-the-special-place-that-is-oaka https://www.talkbasket.net/117713-arturas-gudaitis-on-zenit-time-in-milan-nba-agenda-and-the-special-place-that-is-oaka#respond Thu, 07 Jan 2021 07:34:00 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=117713 Arturas Gudaitis hasn’t been much himself lately. His performances with his new club, Zenit Saint Petersburg, have been solid albeit unimpressive. 8.4 points and 3.6 rebounds over 14 games pale in comparison with the numbers he was used to posting while in Lombardy. A torn ACL vanquished the Lithuanian big’s brilliant 2018-19 campaign with Armani […]

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Arturas Gudaitis on Zenit, time in Milan, NBA agenda and the special place that is OAKA

Arturas Gudaitis hasn’t been much himself lately.

His performances with his new club, Zenit Saint Petersburg, have been solid albeit unimpressive. 8.4 points and 3.6 rebounds over 14 games pale in comparison with the numbers he was used to posting while in Lombardy.

A torn ACL vanquished the Lithuanian big’s brilliant 2018-19 campaign with Armani Milan, in addition to putting his plans on becoming an NBA player to a halt. Gudaitis, a second-round pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2015, was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018, the franchise that still holds his NBA rights.

Whether he gets a call-up or not remains to be seen, mostly because what matters at this points is for him to become the dominant center EuroLeague was witnessing two years ago: 12.5 points, 7.5 rebounds on 64% two-point and 80.5% free-throw shooting rendered him a sight to behold.

The now 27-year-old from Klaipeda has joined the ranks of an ambitious Russian side, whose roster and balance have little to do with last season. Zenit are 10-5 and, for the time being, they loom as one of the favourites for the EuroLeague playoffs.

A few hours before his team, coached by the celebrated Catalan coach Xavi Pascual, squares off with Greek team Panathinaikos OPAP in Athens, Arturas Gudaitis expressed his views on the game, the season, his new as well as his former team and his NBA aspirations which are largely dependent upon him becoming a better version of himself.

Moreover, as a player who feeds off the crowd’s energy, he repeatedly uttered his desire to have the fans back in the gyms all around Europe – and especially at the OAKA arena.

“The situation is difficult everywhere in the world. Some people get sick, some stores are open, others remain closed. The most difficult part is playing without fans. For me, as a basketball player, that’s very important. Other than that, there are some restrictions regarding family members. Everything is different, but we need to do our job to the best of our abilities”, Gudaitis told TalkBasket.net over the phone before stepping on the plane that carried Zenit to Athens.

Photo Source: EuroLeague

Q: How has the season been for you?

A: With up and downs that I don’t like because normally I’m a player who is consistent. But it’s not a normal situation since I missed the team’s preparation because of a hand injury. I’m trying to do my best to get back in shape and play consistently for the team. I believe that I can add some things in order for us to be much better.

Q: Overall, to what extent are you content with the team’s progress during the season?

A: It’s very early to say anything. We definitely had a good start in the season and our philosophy is to not look back on what we did yesterday, but on what we can do tomorrow. Of course, we’re playing smart basketball and I like what we are doing but we need to continue in the same vein.

Q: It’s somewhat ironic, but your last game in Athens against Panathinaikos was in December 2018, when Giorgos Vovoras had taken over from Xavi Pascual. You were playing with Armani Milan at the time. Now, Vovoras is out and Pascual is coaching your team, Zenit.

A: (laughs) Every time I come to play to OAKA against Panathinaikos, it’s their first game after changing their coach. Yes, I remember that game. I remember that we won.

Q: Ahead of the upcoming game, which are your thoughts?

A: It’s going to be a tough game because their players will be very motivated to show their character after the change of coach. I think they will play hard in this game and I’m really looking forward to competing. Every time in OAKA is special, even without fans. It’s a historical place and it’s nice to play there. Fans make the experience, but when I was young I used to watch Panathinaikos’ games and how they played with Saras, Batiste and Diamantidis. When you are growing up, watching this kind of basketball with such amazing fans, is something that stays inside your head.

Q: You said that Xavi Pascual was the main reason why you signed with Zenit. How is it working with him?

A: I’m really learning a lot from him every day. He’s a very tactical coach. Every day we learn something new and we feel that we’re growing as players. I know that I’m not giving my best for the team, but I am certain that I will in the future, game by game.

Q: You’re about to face several ex-teammates of yours at Armani that are now playing for Panathinaikos: Nemanja Nedovic, Shelvin Mack, Aaron White were with you in Milan last year. What about those guys?

A: With Nemanja we are really good friends and we are still talking. Shelvin is a great guy too.

Q: You had a guaranteed contract with Milan for another season, but you didn’t stay there. Why?

A: I don’t want to talk about it so much. The coach and the organization of Zenit want me here, I accepted their offer and I’ll take that.

Arturas Gudaitis makes a slam dunk during a game between EA7 Emporio Armani Milano vs Germani Basket Brescia at Mediolanum Forum in Assago, Milan, Italy on 26 December 2017. (Photo by Roberto Finizio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Q: How was your experience with Milan, at least before you got injured?

A: I gave them everything that I got; all my passion and love. I love the place and the fans; the organization is amazing. We have been on good terms until now and I’m really thankful for the opportunity, but now we’ve taken separate paths.

Q: Two years ago, you told me that the NBA is your dream. How is the situation right now?

A: Honestly, I’m not thinking about it right now because I need to concentrate on my current team, Zenit, and keep playing well. I must deserve something to go there. So, for now, I want to show better basketball from my side.

Q: Before getting injured in 2019, you had been in touch with Cavs GM, Koby Altman. Did you have any discussions recently?

A: We were talking back then and I was really close to signing with the team. If it hadn’t been for my injury, I would have gone to Cleveland that summer; that’s it. But injury happened and my plans were disrupted.

Q: How easy is it to adjust to not having fans and to getting tested for COVID every once in a while?

A: It’s different without fans because home-court advantage is not an issue; you can win on any court. We are still playing basketball, but having fans back in the arenas will add much more fun.

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Ty Lawson is ready for his next overseas mission https://www.talkbasket.net/117459-ty-lawson-is-ready-for-his-next-overseas-mission https://www.talkbasket.net/117459-ty-lawson-is-ready-for-his-next-overseas-mission#respond Tue, 05 Jan 2021 11:24:38 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=117459 In what looked like an unexpected series of events, Greek team Kolossos H Hotels, located on the island of Rhodes, recently announced the signing of free-agent point guard Ty Lawson. The team started the season with two other guards at the helm: JaQuan Lyle and Dusty Hannahs. Both had turned heads in college but never […]

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Ty Lawson is ready for his next overseas mission

In what looked like an unexpected series of events, Greek team Kolossos H Hotels, located on the island of Rhodes, recently announced the signing of free-agent point guard Ty Lawson.

The team started the season with two other guards at the helm: JaQuan Lyle and Dusty Hannahs. Both had turned heads in college but never managed to find chemistry in an ensemble that is still trying to figure things out in the Greek League. Kolossos currently stand at 3-7, being placed nearer to the relegation zone rather than to the playoffs.

But the present status of the team is likely to change. Lawson, 33, a consensus second-team All-American and NCAA champion in 2009, was at one point considered one of the best guards in the NBA. However, China became his home for the last three years, excluding a five-game stint with the Washington Wizards in 2018.

Kolossos marks Lawson’s first professional contract since being banned from the Chinese Basketball Association in September due to some Instagram comments that were considered racist. Prior to his release, he averaged 27.3 points, 8.7 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game.

One of the keys to his latest deal, which has already been announced, is the relationship that Lawson developed with Kolossos’ head coach Ilias Kantzouris, when the former played with Lithuanian powerhouse Žalgiris Kaunas during the 2011 NBA lockout and the latter was an assistant coach at that time.

TalkBasket.net had an exclusive albeit brief chat with the 5’11’’ guard, who is ready to embark on another overseas journey. Kolossos H Hotels management told him not to do any interviews until he steps foot in Greece and is officially presented by the club.

So, what follows is not an interview, but Ty Lawson explaining his present status.

“I’m waiting for my Chinese visa, so that I can get back to China after I come to Greece. I believe it will be done Thursday or Friday (7/8 January). As soon as I get it, I am on the next flight out. The team will book my tickets once I get my visa. Then, I’ll be on my way to Greece.”

When asked why he stayed in China, he replied: “Because the COVID situation is really non existent. Right now, there’s hardly any cases and I’m allowed to work out in the gym, play basketball, go eat somewhere. In the United States, I live in California where everything is shut down. So, I thought China is a better place to stay.”

Ty Lawson says he’s trying to stay in shape: “I have been practicing here. My big brother, who I stay with, has a gym in his hotel. I play basketball, I work out and I have a gym 24/7 at my disposal.”

The former Nuggets point guard has caught up with the developments in his new club, including some of his future teammates: “I’m aware of the situation. We’re hoping to make the playoffs because the team is one game from there and one win from last place. So, I understand the importance of winning games. The coach has sent me some of the games, so I can watch the plays. I know about the team and everything. For instance, there’s Enes Kanter’s brother on the team. I know Enes and I’m big fan of him. I’m excited.”

Last but not least is Zalgiris, a club that Lawson is still very fond of: “It was good. I had to leave early because I was still under contract in the NBA and then, when the league started, I had to go back. I love Zalgiris and I’m very aware of European basketball.”

Let’s see what Rhodes may have in store for him.

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Mario Chalmers: I would choose the Heat over the Lakers. Djordjevic has a complex against American players https://www.talkbasket.net/115326-mario-chalmers-i-would-choose-the-heat-over-the-lakers-djordjevic-has-a-complex-against-american-players https://www.talkbasket.net/115326-mario-chalmers-i-would-choose-the-heat-over-the-lakers-djordjevic-has-a-complex-against-american-players#respond Mon, 21 Dec 2020 23:28:18 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=115326 Mario Chalmers discusses with TalkBasket current trends, developments and the different coaches that marked his career in Europe and the NBA. Mario Chalmers boasts one of the most impressive career resumes European basketball has ever witnessed. A two-time NBA with the Miami Heat (2012, 2013) and a one-time NCAA champion with Kansas (2008), the now […]

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Mario Chalmers: I would choose the Heat over the Lakers. Djordjevic has a complex against American players

Mario Chalmers discusses with TalkBasket current trends, developments and the different coaches that marked his career in Europe and the NBA.

Mario Chalmers boasts one of the most impressive career resumes European basketball has ever witnessed.

A two-time NBA with the Miami Heat (2012, 2013) and a one-time NCAA champion with Kansas (2008), the now 34-year-old guard is making a living overseas for the third season in a row. After lifting the Basketball Champions League with Virtus Bologna in Italy (2019) and the Greek Cup with AEK Athens (2020), the Alaska native decided to stay in Mediterranean territory for another round, this time with Aris Thessaloniki.

Chalmers is widely known as a player who has won titles almost everywhere he’s been. From Kansas to Miami and then Europe, he always brings his championship pedigree wherever he goes. However, his average of 9.3 points on 36.7% threes over 7 Greek League games with Aris BC this year has not proven enough to give the historic team from Northern Greece the necessary boost in order to aim higher.

His seven-year tenure in Miami was followed by a two-year stint with Memphis and also a right Achilles tendon rupture that eventually put a rather premature end to his NBA presence. Finding ex-Kansas standouts in Greece, such as Keith Langford and Brandon Rush, makes him feel more comfortable, even amidst the covid-19 pandemic.

After Aris BC lost to his former team AEK in Athens (84-67), Mario Chalmers took some considerable time to answer TalkBasket’s questions about his impressions from basketball in Europe, make some predictions about the upcoming NBA season and share his opinion on some of the coaches that marked his career.

Q: How has the season been for you?

A: It is what it is. At the end of the day, we just try to play basketball, without worrying about anything else. I haven’t had the chance to experience Thessaloniki because of the lockdown. I haven’t really seen anything. We get tested every week and try to stay away from people. I’m getting a real taste of the Greek League and I like it. It’s a different kind of basketball. It’s very physical, but the Champions League is even more physical because they let you play like that.

Q: How is the situation with Aris BC right now?

A: It’s a situation, that’s the way to describe it. It’s getting a little better day by day. We’re getting better as a team, but as far as management there’s still a lot of things that we have to work on as a whole to make everybody more comfortable.

Q: What kept you in Greece for another year?

A: It was just another good opportunity. I feel like playing for AEK last year, the season was cut short because of COVID, but at the same time I like Greece. I had a lot of fun and success here. The offer I had from Aris was really one of the best at the time, too. So, that’s why I took it.

Q: Do you feel bitter about not staying with AEK for another year?

A: Not at all because it wasn’t my choice. It was up to the management of AEK. They decided to go in a different direction, which happens. So, there’s no hard feelings. I still have love for AEK. I definitely had a great time last year. Meeting Zisis, getting close with Gkikas, knowing Keith (Langford) since 2003; it’s always good to be here.

Photo Source: Basketball Champions League

Q: How do you come to terms with not being in the NBA?

A: I know why I’m not there. I had a major injury and then had to bounce back, but it didn’t go as planned. I just never got another opportunity. So, I had to decide whether I was going to keep playing basketball or I was ready to quit.

Q: Seeing the Miami Heat back in the NBA Finals was a surprise for you?

A: Definitely not. The coach has always built around going to the Finals. I know how hard those guys have worked and now they know what it takes to get to the Finals.

Q: If LeBron James and Erik Spoelstra were to call you at the same time to take you on board, who would you pick?

A: (He takes about 10 seconds to think about it) I think I’d go back to the Heat, just because the Lakers are the champs. You never want to join the champs, you want to beat them. That’s how I think. I always prefer the underdog. I’ve been considered one throughout my whole life. No matter the championships, I’m still fighting and I’m still going for the underdogs.

Q: Do you believe that many NBA players downgrade the importance of the overseas grind?

A: I don’t think they downgrade it. I just think they don’t experience it. They don’t really know exactly what it is until they play the Olympics and even at the time, it is a quick game, a one-month tournament. I definitely don’t think they downgrade it.

Q: What would you tell them?

A: NBA is more about iso basketball, running more, wide open spaces. Europe is like getting back to college. You can sit in the paint all day, teams give you different schemes and defenses.

Q: How was Sasha Djordjevic as a coach in Bologna?

A: We were just talking about it with the guys of AEK. He definitely knows a few things, but he has a complex against American basketball players or the ones that have played in the NBA. I had a very short time with Sasha. We were successful and we won. That’s the main thing.

Aleksandar Djordjevic (L) head coach of Segafredo talks with his assistant coach Goran Bjedov (R) and Mario Chalmers (C) during the FIBA’s Champions League Cup match between Virtus Segafredo Bologna and Le Mans Sarthe Basket at PalaDozza on March 13, 2019 in Bologna, Italy. (Photo by Mario Carlini – Iguana Press/Getty Images)

Q: How did he treat you?

A: I didn’t have any interactions with him. I played there for two months in the end of the season.

Q: So, how did you get that impression?

A: Just by the way he talks. He made some slick comments here and there about the NBA game; and then, the treatment that he gave me. It was a couple of little things that I know.

Q: Were you surprised that they got Belinelli back?

A: Yes, but he’s from Italy. I’ve known Marco since we played in the league together. It was definitely a surprise, but not a bad move at all.

Q: Four NBA Finals, two championships and one college title is what you expected when you started your career?

A: Definitely. That’s why you play the game. You want to win championships and be successful. When you set out to achieve goals and you actually do that, it’s always good.

Q: Do you feel that once you’re gone from the NBA, it’s very difficult to return?

A: It’s very hard to get back to the league. The NBA changes so fast. Right now, they’re getting young guys and they want to go younger and younger and develop more players instead of having already developed players or veterans who have been through a lot. It’s all about the swing that the NBA is going with right now.

Q: Is it related to people in the States not paying much attention to Europe?

A: I don’t know. They look at Europe a lot. I don’t think they look at the BCL level, to be honest. They definitely look at the EuroLeague and try to see players who are successful. It’s always about the highest level of basketball.

Q: Do you remember the comments made on Luka Doncic before and after he was drafted?

A: I was just talking to Marcus Slaughter who is a Luka fan. Luka was able to prove what he could do. So, I’m a Luka fan too. I watched many of his games. I’ve heard about what he did in Madrid because he played with Marcus there, but I didn’t see him until he got to the NBA.

Q: This season, you are playing with a former Jayhawk in Mario Little and also against other notable Kansas players, like Brandon Rush and Keith Langford. Do you hang around?

A: Brandon has been one of my best friends since we were 12 years old. Any time that we play each other, it’s a little personal. I was able to get the upper hand and steal the ball from him in the last game we played. I was happy that our team won.

Mario Chalmers #15 of the 3 Headed Monsters drives against Brandon Rush #4 of the Aliens during week two of the BIG3 three on three basketball league at at the Liacouras Center on June 30, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/BIG3/Getty Images)

Q: Could you highlight similarities and differences in the point guard position between Europe and the NBA?

A: It’s a little bit different. Most point guards at the Greek League and the BCL level are not really scoring point guards. They set up the offense and hit the open shot when they got it. In the league, point guards are the scorers, the leaders of the team, people who have the ball 24/7. I think they rely more on the point guard to make plays instead of team game, as it is in Europe.

Q: Do you believe players like Mike James and Shane Larkin deserve a spot in the NBA?

A: They both had their chances in the NBA. Especially for Shane and Mike, they are more successful and are making more money in Europe. I’m sure they enjoy it over here, but everybody wants to play in the NBA. That’s just life.

Q: Since you consider becoming a coach or a scout, which elements would you pick up from each coach you had?

A: Coach Self was a defensive guy. I definitely take his defensive system. Offense I would take from Dave Joerger who I played for at Memphis. In terms of motivation and everyday preparation, definitely Erik Spoelstra. He’s one of the best I’ve seen do that; being on point with everything, knowing how to make adjustments and being able to make the game a little bit easier for his team.

Q: Coaching-wise and playing-wise, is there any similarity between the NBA and Europe?

A: Kind of. The NBA is more of a spread-out game, more wide open. So, the scheme is different for teams that play in those leagues. Most European teams pack the paint, in the NBA you can’t sit there.

Q: Which are your NBA projections?

A: It’s going to be a good season with a lot of competition going around. There’s a lot of things people got to prove, so the season is going to be more entertaining. Everyone’s healthy now: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving … And now they’re on the same team. That’s a scary combination once they figure out how to play with each other. The Lakers are still at the top, being the champs from last year. You still got the Heat.

Q: Who would you like to win the championship?

A: I would go with the Heat. I’m a Heat guy; my first NBA experience was with them, so I’m a die-hard Heat fan.

Q: Did you expect Giannis to stay with Milwaukee for another five years?

A: Yeah, definitely. That’s a lot of money to pass up. He’s built for that city, he’s a star there and he loves it. That’s his new hometown.

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Nicolas Laprovittola talks role with Real Madrid, Campazzo’s departure, Greek teams, short NBA stint https://www.talkbasket.net/114667-nicolas-laprovittola-talks-role-with-real-madrid-campazzos-departure-greek-teams-short-nba-stint https://www.talkbasket.net/114667-nicolas-laprovittola-talks-role-with-real-madrid-campazzos-departure-greek-teams-short-nba-stint#respond Tue, 15 Dec 2020 09:00:00 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=114667 As soon as it became known that Facundo Campazzo wants to make the leap to the NBA, things changed for Nicolas Laprovitola in Real Madrid. The 30-year-old Argentinean guard, who has been a long-time teammate of “Facu” on their country’s National Team having won silver at the latest FIBA World Cup, was the Spanish League’s […]

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Nicolas Laprovittola talks role with Real Madrid, Campazzo’s departure, Greek teams, short NBA stint

As soon as it became known that Facundo Campazzo wants to make the leap to the NBA, things changed for Nicolas Laprovitola in Real Madrid.

The 30-year-old Argentinean guard, who has been a long-time teammate of “Facu” on their country’s National Team having won silver at the latest FIBA World Cup, was the Spanish League’s MVP in 2019. He was playing for Joventut Badalona at the time and in what turned out to be a career-best season, he ended up with 17.1 points on 39.3% three-point shooting.

After the 2019 World Cup with Argentina, Laprovittola was a star player. On the other hand, Real Madrid had always been a star team in Europe and Spain, a powerhouse showcasing double-digit continental titles.

The 6’3” combo guard saw between 13 and 14 minutes of playing time in his first year with Madrid, as the team was steadily among the best in any competition. Facundo Campazzo, who recently moved to the Denver Nuggets, continued as the undisputed leader and Laprovittola had to settle for less.

In the summer of 2020, Panathinaikos OPAP came along and asked for his services. Real Madrid had been waiting on Campazzo’s decision on whether he would go to the NBA and after detecting his intentions, kept Laprovittola on the roster. Currently, Real Madrid have 14-0 in the Spanish League and stand at 8-5 in the EuroLeague, having won all but one of their last 8 games (a narrow 74-73 loss to CSKA Moscow on a “crazy” Mike James triple). Nevertheless, the Argentinean guard averages 4.3 points on 29% threes.

With Facundo Campazzo gone, will Laprovittola -once at the exit door- gain some more ground and space? It seems that the once San Antonio Spurs player, who had a very brief tenure in Texas with 18 games contested during the 2016-17 season, can perform better in the absence of his compatriot. He now spends more time on the floor, but in order to win coach Pablo Laso’s confidence he will also need consistency in his game.

In this interview with TalkBasket.net, Nicolas Laprovittola – just before traveling to Greece to face both Panathinaikos and Olympiacos back-to-back, readily answered all questions regarding this strange season, what transpired between him and the “Greens” last summer, the advice he gave to Campazzo on the NBA and his personal experience in the league.

Q: What do you think about this season so far? I mean every aspect of it: covid-19, travel, matches, competitions, empty gyms etc.

A: It seems like a strange season, an atypical season in which many teams, all teams, are adapting to this new normality, travel, protocols, etc. The important thing is that the competition continues, that it keeps being played, so that people can enjoy the best basketball in Europe. It’s always better to think about the good things than the negative ones.

Q: What has been the best and worst news you received during 2020 (apart from those related to covid-19)?

A: The most important news, which has made me happier, is that I am going to become a father, a big step in my life. With my partner, we are creating a family, which I hope will be beautiful and I have to be ready for parenthood in 2021.

Q: With the departure of Facundo Campazzo from Real Madrid, do you have the feeling that your role on the team is going to change? Do you think it is a challenge, an opportunity for you to become an important piece in the roster?

A: It is a great opportunity that I want to take advantage of, but the exit of Facu has changed the role of many players, not only mine. Facu was a very important player for us and we are trying to resolve the issue by getting every one of us involved. So, as long as the team functions properly and we get wins, everything will be fine.

Nicolas Laprovittola Real Madrid
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball

Q: Is it true that there was a verbal agreement between you and Panathinaikos last summer? What do you think of the messages that the Greek fans sent you on social media? Were you irritated or amused?

Q: I received many messages, really a lot, from the fans of Panathinaikos. Panathinaikos was the team that was most interested in me, but everything was resolved in a fairly simple way: the club saw that Facu could leave and decided that I could not go (there). I am happy to be on the team and the roster of Real Madrid because for me it’s an important opportunity.

Q: What do you think of the two Greek teams (Olympiacos and Panathinaikos) and in particular their guards (Sloukas, Spanoulis, Mack, Nedovic)?

A: I watch the EuroLeague because I like it. I try to focus on a lot of guards and Sloukas is one of them. He is a player of my generation, whom I have faced at some Junior National Team tournaments. He has always made progress. In my opinion, Nedovic is the most important player of Panathinaikos. He is capable of making decisions with the ball in his hands and he’s also a great scorer.

Q: What is the element or detail you did not expect or know about and surprised you in the Euroleague?

A: What’s different compared to other seasons is the players’ market. I mean the transfers made, even after the season started, as was the case with Facu. I think these circumstances keep popping up over the years and the teams are constantly adapting to them.

Q: In the conversations you had with Facundo Campazzo – before and after he announced that he was going to make the leap to the NBA – which piece of advice or information did you give him and what was that he wanted to know more than anything?

A: Facu is my friend. He is a very curious person and I really gave him my perspective, my view of what the NBA is. But he is prepared. I believe that he is the best player in Europe in order to get to the NBA and surprise everyone. So, the first thing I did was wish him all the success in the world. The fact that he pursues his dreams is an example to many people.

Nicolas Laprovittola #27 of the San Antonio Spurs drives to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the game on December 6, 2016 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Q: Apart from the presence of Ginòbili, what was the mark that the NBA has left in you? To what extent has it been an experience that enriched you as a player?

A: Having been a teammate of Manu and Garino was a spectacular, unforgettable experience. My NBA stint put me on another level. Not many people expected it, but I really wanted to be in that league. I was looking forward to making my debut, playing in the best league, with the best players in the world. I would have liked to stay a little bit longer, but today I am in a great place, where I always wanted to be. So, the NBA was a step that I made and now I watch it on TV.

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Nigel Hayes: Playing in the EuroLeague has given me the self-confidence I lacked in the NBA https://www.talkbasket.net/114460-nigel-hayes-playing-in-the-euroleague-has-given-me-the-self-confidence-i-lacked-in-the-nba https://www.talkbasket.net/114460-nigel-hayes-playing-in-the-euroleague-has-given-me-the-self-confidence-i-lacked-in-the-nba#respond Mon, 14 Dec 2020 10:09:29 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=114460 On December 16, Nigel Hayes is going to celebrate his 26th birthday. On his third year in Europe, the 6’8” forward that plays for Zalgiris Kaunas is demonstrating his improvement all over the continent. Not only do his numbers look better than last season, his first on the EuroLeague level, but also his contribution to […]

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Nigel Hayes: Playing in the EuroLeague has given me the self-confidence I lacked in the NBA

On December 16, Nigel Hayes is going to celebrate his 26th birthday.

On his third year in Europe, the 6’8” forward that plays for Zalgiris Kaunas is demonstrating his improvement all over the continent. Not only do his numbers look better than last season, his first on the EuroLeague level, but also his contribution to the Lithuanian giants has increased significantly.

A Toledo, Ohio native, Hayes had an outstanding college career with the Wisconsin Badgers, where he played from 2013 to 2017. He was part of the team’s two Final Four runs in 2014 and 2015, ending up as the fourth leading scorer in school history (1,857 points).

His first professional season included no less than four teams: a G League stint with the New York Knicks affiliate plus a total of 9 games with the Lakers, the Raptors and the Kings. At that time, Hayes was offered mostly 10-day contracts and never got to play consistent minutes or have a definite role on any of those teams.

In Europe, he had a very good year with Galatasaray in Turkey and the EuroCup, before moving on to Zalgiris. Sarunas Jasikevicius, one of European basketball’s towering figures, and Martin Schiller (one of G League’s most prominent coaches) are as different as “Antarctica and Malaga” and Hayes cannot help but point out the obvious.

For a team that started with 4 wins in a row and then got a taste of its own medicine by losing six games in 45 days, bouncing back had been an imperative for a long time. In the same vein, for one of the athletes who supported the Black Lives Matter movement before it came into fashion, his 14-point performance on 3/3 three-point shooting at OAKA vs Panathinaikos OPAP was a reminder of the qualities he had displayed early on in his career.

After an important win (69-81) over the Greek team, Nigel Hayes took some time for TalkBasket.net to weigh in on team’s performances, past and present coaches, NBA time, Draft prospect teammate Rokas Jokubaitis and -of course- Tyler Herro’s choice of college.

Q: How big of a win was this, in terms of psychology?

A: It’s good for our psychology and it’s also frustrating for the objectivity of the game, how it went and how we played. We know what we are capable of when we play as hard as we can, execute the game plan and the rules-decisions our coach has put in for us. It’s good that we were able to do that, but it’s also like “Hey, we didn’t have to lose six in a row”.

Q: Why did you lose six in a row?

A: We were just not able to finish the job. In order to win a game, you have to do almost everything perfect. We were a lot closer to that today than we were in the last six games.

Q: How’s the season been so far for you and Zalgiris?

A: It’s been good. New system, new coaching style and coaching staff. It almost seemed like last year, when we lost 9 in a row and I was kind of “Shit, let’s not do that again!”. Luckily, we were able to stop the bleeding at six and hopefully take the recipe from this game – the way we played- and carry it over going forth in the rest of the season.

Q: What’s the main difference between Sarunas Jasikevicius and Martin Schiller?

A: It’s as different as living in Antarctica and living in Malaga or Ibiza. But both coaches are great in their own right. I’ve said in a previous interview that there’s more than one way to coach and to play basketball. Not one style is right or better than the other one. We don’t play any worse or better.

Nigel Hayes, during the 2020/2021 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 13 match between Panathinaikos OPAP Athens
and Zalgiris Kaunas at OAKA on December 11, 2020 in Athens (Photo by Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Q: What’s the principle that has changed?

A: The first I would say is the obvious … you know. The demonstrative yelling and correcting in every game. Saras has Dixicon and I talked to him after our last game against Barcelona – he knows. That’s a style of coaching that you see a lot in Europe and it stems from his treaty of coaching with Obradovic. You see those who played for him and are now coaching, they all have the same style. It works, but there’s more than one way to win games. We’ve bought into coach Schiller’s style, but we have to play close to a 100 percent as well.

Q: Do you believe that if it hadn’t been for COVID, you would be playing in the NBA right now?

A: I felt like I was playing very well last year, towards the end of the season. It was around January-February. It was as if I hadn’t missed a shot in two months. Things were going great, exactly like in the game against Panathinaikos. But I can’t see the future. All I can do is be here where I’m at. My feet are in a Zalgiris jersey and I want to play as well as I can for myself and my family. I want them to be proud of me and help my team win games.

Q: In terms of your NBA experience, did you expect more than 10-day contracts?

A: No, looking back on it now, I’ve always worked hard. I just didn’t work right and I needed to have more confidence in myself and my abilities. That’s something I have gained now, playing in Euroleague. You see a lot of the guys that go from the Euroleague to the NBA talk about how much harder it is. Luka Doncic was saying that it’s easier to score in the NBA and it’s true. It’s very difficult here. I feel that the experience I’ve had will help me. If the opportunity presents itself, I will be much more prepared this summer.

Q: Is Rokas Jokubaitis NBA ready?

A: Absolutely. I talk to him all the time about trying to make sure that he does the right things. I’ve been there for a short period of time, but I was able to listen, see and learn a lot from other veterans. I’m trying to help him be prepared for that.

Q: Which was your best NBA experience?

A: Just meeting players and watching how people work, the way they go about business.

Q: Do you appreciate the NBA more after what happened in the summer, with players and the league expressing political views and even boycotting a game?

A: It’s always been the best league in the world and also the best job playing basketball. NBA players and the whole organization have always set the bar very high. I’m not at all surprised that those things happened.

Q: Did people at Wisconsin call you to say they’re mad at you for persuading Tyler Herro to try Kentucky?

A: No, it doesn’t matter if they did or not. I told him to do what’s best for him and at the end of the day, it worked. All the credit goes to him for his work ethic.

Q: Did you personally have a good time at Wisconsin?

A: Great time. It was the greatest college experience you could ask for. All I needed was a National Championship. I was very close, but … Fantastic time.

Q: Is your former teammate Ethan Happ Euroleague material?

A: Absolutely. He has one of the best motors you’ve ever seen; he’s very crafty, he can score in a million ways around the rim; he will hustle and never cheat you.

Ethan Happ #22 (L) and Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers cheer from the bench in the second half against the Prairie View A&M Panthers at
the Kohl Center on November 27, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

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Ronen Ginzburg says he is ready for a club job. But is there a club to fit in? https://www.talkbasket.net/114312-ronen-ginzburg-says-he-is-ready-for-a-club-job-but-is-there-a-club-to-fit-in https://www.talkbasket.net/114312-ronen-ginzburg-says-he-is-ready-for-a-club-job-but-is-there-a-club-to-fit-in#respond Sat, 12 Dec 2020 23:06:13 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=114312 Israeli coach Ronen Ginzburg is spending his eighth consecutive season at the helm of the Czech national team. Under his guidance, the country finally qualified for the World Cup, a tournament which hadn’t seen for almost 40 years, and claimed the sixth place there. It is the best result ever for the Czech team. In October, […]

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Ronen Ginzburg says he is ready for a club job. But is there a club to fit in?

Israeli coach Ronen Ginzburg is spending his eighth consecutive season at the helm of the Czech national team. Under his guidance, the country finally qualified for the World Cup, a tournament which hadn’t seen for almost 40 years, and claimed the sixth place there. It is the best result ever for the Czech team.

In October, Ginzburg’s contribution was recognized as he got a Czech passport to ease his travelling around Europe.

“I got a passport not because I speak the language or because I married a Czech woman,” he says. “Unfortunately! I got it because I brought some honor to the country, I am working with young coaches there, and they bring respect, too. People tell me that it is the first time when they see a good reaction on somebody getting a passport of their country.”

This pretty much says for itself: Ginzburg has earned recognition all over Europe with none or very little number of stars on his roster.

It is actually limited to just two players, Jan Vesely and Tomas Satoransky. Surprisingly, the coach, who has almost never worked with big players, gets along with them pretty well. How does he do this?

“I discovered that working with star players is easier than working with average ones,” he notes. “I think that days when coach could be a dictator are gone. People have changed, young players have changed, it is not the same environment anymore.

Like Rick Pitino said, today to have a knowledge is not enough to be a coach. So, I am trying to build good relationships with players and respect them, but, at the same time, I will never give up on my principles on and off the court.”

Among those principles, by the way, is asking for advice from his players. Ginzburg is sure there are times when players see the situation much better than any member of the coaching staff.

Ronen Ginzburg Czech Republic
Photo: FIBA Basketball

“With all the respect to us, coaches, sometimes we need to listen to our players,” Neno says. “A few years ago, I was in a clinic with Zeljko Obradovic, and he also said – listen to your players, there are times when they know better than you.

It is not like you listen to them all the time and do what they tell you, but there are some moments when another opinion is needed. We have the same target, it is to win games. For winning, I can do everything.”

Eager to win as many games as he can, now Ronen Ginzburg is openly talking about his wish to coach not only a national team. He says at first there was a restriction in his contract with the Czech team, but then Neno asked for a right to coach a club, and he got permission. Now, he is allowed to work for both a national team and a club and he would like to do so.

“I feel I really want to, because working only with the national team has you rusty, you need some time to come back to your shape, just like players,” Ginzburg says.

“That is why in the national team we always have friendly games, and if you think it is for the players – no, it is for me first of all. Sometimes throughout your career it’ is good to coach only at the national level, but it is not a long time usually,” he adds.

With his wish to coach a club, it should be a very good organization. Neno says he has offers every summer and during seasons, too, but, so far, every time something was not fitting the expectations.

It is very interesting if we are going to see him coaching a club in the nearest future, but one thing is clear: Ronen Ginzburg is ready for a new challenge. Is the challenge ready?

*The interview was conducted by Artem Komarov and was edited by the Chief Editor of TalkBasket, Yiannis Bouranis.

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Exclusive: NBA’s official highlight creator WSC Sports explains how its technology works https://www.talkbasket.net/112449-exclusive-nbas-official-highlight-creator-wsc-sports-explains-how-its-technology-works https://www.talkbasket.net/112449-exclusive-nbas-official-highlight-creator-wsc-sports-explains-how-its-technology-works#respond Mon, 30 Nov 2020 16:34:54 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=112449 The NBA bubble is no more, yet the memories created in that isolated location in Orlando won’t soon be forgotten – certainly not while the many highlights remain. As we all saw, the league managed to complete its 2019/20 campaign following a coronavirus-prompted shut down in March, and things look to be well on schedule […]

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Exclusive: NBA’s official highlight creator WSC Sports explains how its technology works

The NBA bubble is no more, yet the memories created in that isolated location in Orlando won’t soon be forgotten – certainly not while the many highlights remain. As we all saw, the league managed to complete its 2019/20 campaign following a coronavirus-prompted shut down in March, and things look to be well on schedule for a return on the proposed December 22 date.

The 2020 playoffs will go down as one of the most memorable in recent times. The Miami Heat’s improbable run, the Denver Nuggets coming back from 3-1 twice and, of course, the Los Angeles Lakers’ long-awaited return to the top of the totem pole. The NBA postseason was filled with unforgettable moments which were followed up by nifty highlights to speedy effect, much to the delight of the adoring public.

In case you were amazed at the fact that various social media outlets, apps, subscription services, and websites were able to distribute highlights so quickly after the plays actually happened, look no further than WSC Sports. The AI sports video provider, an official NBA partner, can boast having created 67,290 highlight clips from the playoffs alone.

Via WSC Sports

The footage, processed and analyzed mere seconds after various plays occurred, was created automatically, bereft of human interference. A total of 2,747 dunk highlights were singled out, packaged, and distributed across multiple platforms over the course of the playoffs, while 1,718 three-pointers (including that game-winner from Luka Doncic that brought a double-bang out of Mike Breen) were immortalized all via artificial intelligence.

WSC Sports now serves around 150 clients in total, lending its tech to media distribution outlets across the sporting world. Where the NBA playoffs are concerned, 30 of those clients used the company’s service to create a combined 67K+ of highlights.

You might be wondering how AI is able to determine which parts of a basketball game are actually highlight-worthy without the input of a human being. We were wondering the same – so we asked.

WSC’s Director of Marketing and Business Development Galit Shiri was happy to tell us how the company’s tech is able to fashion such noteworthy plays in so little time all on its own.

“Well, that’s the automagical part,” she explained. “We use advanced algorithms that analyze video, audio and data feeds to identify each and every action that occurs throughout a sporting event. Those algorithms determine the perfect “In” and “Out” points for each such action clip – as if a human video editor has cut it – and give a rating to each clip, determining the importance it holds in terms of interest and storytelling. It also includes all the metadata to each event, so that all the information is attached to the clip.

“While the game, match, or just plainly – the event is being played, the platform indexes the actions in this manner – which makes it possible to retrieve any action to compile any sort of highlight.”

Despite all of the excitement coming from the bubble TV ratings were actually down. However, just about everyone who paid attention is aware the NBA’s move to Orlando was a profound success. Given the advent of technology, television is hardly the sole resource for sports viewing in this day and age.

“TV ratings were reported to be down for all major US sports in the past few months, this could be for a number of reasons – a global pandemic is a significant one, for sure, but in particular the changing ways in which modern fans consume sports played a big part here. Leagues and broadcasters offer fans much more content surrounding games than ever before on more platforms and devices,” Galit explained. “For example, you’ll likely see short clips on Twitter, longer highlights on YouTube, and then vertical video highlights on Instagram stories. Not to mention footage shared on team and league apps and sports subscription services. Essentially each and every type of fan is being served the content they desire for the platform they use the most making up for any dip in TV ratings.”

Galit would not be drawn into discussing WSC’s contractual relationship with the NBA for professional reasons but it’s all pretty amazing how the company came out of virtually nowhere to secure a partnership with one of the most-watched leagues in the world.

Via WSC Sports

As you might imagine, WSC came from humble beginnings and, like an aspiring basketball prospect, worked it’s way up from the G League to earn a contract with the NBA (yes, literally).

“WSC Sports started developing its automation solution back in 2011,” the marketing director recalled. “The first stage besides building the technology was also getting right into the market to understand the real needs and use-cases, and finding product-market-fit – meaning to solve a real pain or problem that exists.

“In 2013 the company raised its first round of funding which, as most startups know, is as hard as can be, especially back in 2013 when sports tech wasn’t as popular and common a sector as it is today. By 2014 we’d already started utilizing the platform with Big East Conference and the D League (which later became the G League). Fast forward a year later and the NBA became our prized client, with which we continued to develop the technology and added various more functionalities to the initial content automation solution.”

As impressive as WSC’s tech already is, the folks over there are already working towards developing new products, improving the platform, and its offerings. They promise an even better 2021.

“Thinking of how we grew during 2020, both in terms of the business and products – 2021 is going to be just as impressive, if not even more so,” Galit assures.

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Jalen Reynolds has learned some lessons, but he will not curtail his celebrations https://www.talkbasket.net/112631-jalen-reynolds-has-learned-some-lessons-but-he-will-not-curtail-his-celebrations https://www.talkbasket.net/112631-jalen-reynolds-has-learned-some-lessons-but-he-will-not-curtail-his-celebrations#respond Mon, 30 Nov 2020 11:58:07 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=112631 Jalen Reynolds, currently on his second Euroleague season, looks in better shape than ever. The 6’10” center from Detroit has been playing overseas since 2016, but it is with FC Bayern Munich that his impact on team success has grown significantly compared to his rookie season with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Reynolds credits the Israeli giants […]

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Jalen Reynolds has learned some lessons, but he will not curtail his celebrations

Jalen Reynolds, currently on his second Euroleague season, looks in better shape than ever.

The 6’10” center from Detroit has been playing overseas since 2016, but it is with FC Bayern Munich that his impact on team success has grown significantly compared to his rookie season with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Reynolds credits the Israeli giants with giving him the first opportunity at the highest level of European basketball. However, in terms of playing time, true shooting percentages and points-rebounds averages, the 2020-21 campaign looks far more productive for him.

Jalen Reynolds played college ball at Xavier between 2012 and 2016 and then went straight to Italy, picked up by Recanati, a second division team. After four years and as many clubs, Italian coach Andrea Trinchieri welcomed him in Munich and the American center responded, assuming a starring role.

After a 83-76 loss to Panathinaikos OPAP in Athens, Reynolds had a quick chat with TalkBasket.net.

“Definitely, it was a tough game, but we knew it was not going to be easy. We kept fighting, but the better team won”, was his comment on PAO’s victory over Bayern.

Ben Bentil, the forward from Ghana, now with Panathinaikos, was one of four Big East players to have been selected in the 2016 NBA Draft and Reynolds knows it: “Definitely, I don’t take anything away from my brother. He’s a great player. I tip my hat to him and wish him all the best.”

Squaring off with Bentil was indeed something that he was looking forward to: “I played him in college. He’s very strong and athletic, a smart player. I love battling against my brother, but overall we will see them guys in Munich.”

Coming into that game, the Germans stood at 7-3, a tally unheard of in their recent history. However, self-complacency is not a feeling that holds sway in their locker-room: “Never be satisfied, always be hungry. Obviously, there’s a lot to be done. We have to stay together and climb this mountain”, Reynolds signals.

A real road warrior, Andrea Trinchieri’s team has registered lots of away victories: Fenerbahce, Anadolu Efes and Maccabi were some of the squads beaten by Reynolds and co. “Coach is always stressing defense. I think if we manage to do so, stopping easy plays, we can get the job done by any means necessary.”

For Jalen, this season is special. “It means everything to me”, he confirms. “It’s obviously difficult not having fans, but that’s my job. I have to make sure we win games and perform at the highest level.”

Jalen Reynolds played college ball at Xavier between 2012 and 2016 and then went straight to Italy, picked up by Recanati, a second division team. After four years and as many clubs, Italian coach Andrea Trinchieri welcomed him in Munich and the American center responded, assuming a starring role.

After a 83-76 loss to Panathinaikos OPAP in Athens, Reynolds had a quick chat with TalkBasket.net.

“Definitely, it was a tough game, but we knew it was not going to be easy. We kept fighting, but the better team won”, was his comment on PAO’s victory over Bayern.

Ben Bentil, the forward from Ghana, now with Panathinaikos, was one of four Big East players to have been selected in the 2016 NBA Draft and Reynolds knows it: “Definitely, I don’t take anything away from my brother. He’s a great player. I tip my hat to him and wish him all the best.”

Squaring off with Bentil was indeed something that he was looking forward to: “I played him in college. He’s very strong and athletic, a smart player. I love battling against my brother, but overall we will see them guys in Munich.”

Coming into that game, the Germans stood at 7-3, a tally unheard of in their recent history. However, self-complacency is not a feeling that holds sway in their locker-room: “Never be satisfied, always be hungry. Obviously, there’s a lot to be done. We have to stay together and climb this mountain”, Reynolds signals.

A real road warrior, Andrea Trinchieri’s team has registered lots of away victories: Fenerbahce, Anadolu Efes and Maccabi were some of the squads beaten by Reynolds and co. “Coach is always stressing defense. I think if we manage to do so, stopping easy plays, we can get the job done by any means necessary.”

For Jalen, this season is special. “It means everything to me”, he confirms. “It’s obviously difficult not having fans, but that’s my job. I have to make sure we win games and perform at the highest level.”

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Jalen Reynolds celebrates a home win of FC Bayern Munich against Olympiacos Piraeus. Photo: EuroLeague Basketball.

The Maccabi effect

If last year at Maccabi, the 27-year-old center had to fill Tarik Black’s shoes, this season he stood in for Greg Monroe.

“I just don’t think about it. I’m trying to focus on what I’m capable of. Greg Monroe is a really good player, but I care about what I can bring to the team. Being a starting center for the first time in my career feels good. It’s not about me. The situation is working for the team. Besides, I don’t only focus on starting. Whenever I come off the bench, I got to do my best.”

Last year, the Xavier standout had retired Euroleague legend and Maccabi Tel Aviv GM, Nikola Vujcic, show him the ropes at the low post.

I learned to stay solid, take my time and execute at the right time. He definitely helped me improve. Just to follow in his footsteps was important. He was a great player. I tip my hat to Maccabi, man. Shout out to the organization, staff and players. I thank them for allowing me to come in there and showcase my talent.”

His constant improvement over the years could open some NBA doors for him in the future. “Sky is the limit”, he comments. “I will never stop fighting and believing. As of now, I haven’t made any plans for next summer, in terms of camps and tryouts. I’m trying to get better here and now.”

Since graduation, Reynolds had been training in Texas. Although no NBA contract came along, the experience was well worth his while. “I had the chance to develop my body and stay healthy. That’s a big issue when the summer comes. A lot of people think that it’s time to relax, but for me it’s just to recover my body and prepare for next season.”

In college, he was whistled for nine technical fouls in one year, many of which were just for celebrating a basket or a good defensive stop. Now, on his fifth professional season, Reynolds says that if he was to curb his enthusiasm, that would lessen his desire for basketball.

“I still keep that chip on my shoulder, man. Playing hard and showing your emotions is a part of the game and that’s going to stick with me for the rest of my career.

It’s no secret that the Michigan native was named after Jalen Rose. However, the two of them haven’t even met. “I used to watch his games with my family when I was growing up. So, my mother named me after him”, Reynolds explains.

“We were training in the same facility because we’re both from Detroit, but I never got to talk to him. I texted him once, but he didn’t answer.

If the younger Jalen manages to build on his latest performances, who could bet against him getting an answer very soon?

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Tarik Black teamed up with his mother to broaden the perspective of US youth https://www.talkbasket.net/111786-tarik-black-teamed-up-with-his-mother-to-broaden-the-perspective-of-us-youth https://www.talkbasket.net/111786-tarik-black-teamed-up-with-his-mother-to-broaden-the-perspective-of-us-youth#respond Sun, 22 Nov 2020 16:17:31 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=111786 As the inaugural GLOBAL SPORTS TECH YOUTH CHALLENGE, Tarik Black Foundation’s annual Multicultural Event, is ready to kick off, TalkBasket.net caught up with Judith Black-Moore, the woman behind the project. Judith Black-Moore is the president and co-founder of the Tarik Black Foundation, an entity that aims to prepare the youth for the challenges of adult […]

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Tarik Black teamed up with his mother to broaden the perspective of US youth

As the inaugural GLOBAL SPORTS TECH YOUTH CHALLENGE, Tarik Black Foundation’s annual Multicultural Event, is ready to kick off, TalkBasket.net caught up with Judith Black-Moore, the woman behind the project.

Judith Black-Moore is the president and co-founder of the Tarik Black Foundation, an entity that aims to prepare the youth for the challenges of adult life.

Moore, mother of former Lakers center Tarik Black, helped launch the Foundation in 2017 fulfilling a commitment she made to her son, even before he signed his first NBA contract. Over the course of six years, the Memphis-born athlete did not only play in the world’s top league, but got to see the world outside the USA for one year and a half as a starting center for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel. Of course, he is still the founder and chief executive officer of the Foundation under his name.

An event for Memphis and Israeli youth

The upcoming (November 23-25) GLOBAL SPORTS TECH YOUTH CHALLENGE is a global sport tech development challenge for teens in Memphis and Tel Aviv. Memphis tech teams compete with their Tel Aviv counterparts in a sports tech innovation event.

Teenagers from the two cities will address social and business entrepreneurship challenges.​ Each team will comprise of up to five children. This virtual event for students aged 11-19 will assemble five teams in Memphis and as many in Tel Aviv, challenging each other to build businesses that bring together sports and technology.​ Students will participate in workshops on business modeling, prototyping, and pitching.

Each team will be scored by a panel of four judges, with winning teams being awarded prizes. However, the two winning teams will be given the opportunity to present their winning concepts at the International Sports Tech Nation Summit, held in Tel Aviv every year. This year it will take place on December 7. Children will get to meet global investors and people in the sport industry from around the world. Students will also engage in a number of cultural exchanges and learn about social issues in their respective countries.

In case one is not familiar with the term “sports technology”, Judith Black Moore is ready to provide a definition and one of the most recent examples: “Anything from the game board to performance technology which measures how well an athlete performs; even the fan experience itself. For instance, the NBA bubble used technology in play that gave players the feel that there were people in the stands. Everything now has a technical component. Our keynote speaker is the founder of PlayVision, which is an app that analyzes the performance of a player.”

There is a Tarik Black program called “From Israel to Memphis multicultural celebration”. In this regard, Israel was chosen because Tarik played for Maccabi Tel Aviv for two years. Maccabi’s Chief Technology Officer will also mentor challengers.

“Tarik played in Israel until the pandemic ended the season. When we started the Foundation in 2017, we would definitely do programming in Memphis and in any city that Tarik plays. So, we had activities in Los Angeles, in Houston and this event is part of the commitment to impact those cities”, Moore says.

Tarik Black dunks against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 30, 2017 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images.

The initiative is based on global awareness, wealth creation, technology and healthy habits. However, Tarik’s role in the event will be limited this year because of fatherhood. The newest addition to the Black family, Kiya Naomi Black, was born on Saturday, November 14, in Dallas, where he currently resides. As chance would have it, just one day prior to the event, the former Memphis and Kansas standout celebrates his 29th birthday.

“He hasn’t been part of the planning to this point, but because of him we have a relationship with Colosseum Sport, Google Tel Aviv and other parties. His vision towards the Foundation has brought in some of the relationships that he built while in Israel in order to benefit our program. We have talked a lot long distance and in the off-season. He’s around to provide input because he’s very good in articulating his vision. Our model is to work with other dynamic people and organizations to create unique programs that have some impact on the next generations of sports entrepreneurs.”

Future will be the keyword also in the Foundations’ name. Black-Moore explains how Taking Back the Future came to the forefront as the new trademark: “That’s the name we’re moving towards. TBF is the acronym for Tarik Black Foundation. So, we were trying to come up with a meaningful name, but also when you look at it, the writing (TBF) is very much like Tarik Black. Now, with the pandemic, this logo means so much more to people who feel that the future has gotten away from them. Personally, I didn’t enjoy the grandparenting experience because of the distance from my grandchildren. My mother is in long-term care and I haven’t seen her since March. We will have to figure out a way to make up for the lost time.”

Tarik Black of Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv during the 2019/2020 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 6 match between Olympiacos Piraeus and Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv at Peace and Friendship Stadium on November 01, 2019 in Athens, Greece. (Photo by Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

“Tarik is ready to play”

Amidst the 2019-20 campaign, the 29-year-old center parted ways with Maccabi to join his family in the States. Although he hasn’t signed with any team since then, Judith confirms that he’s willing to resume his career as soon as possible: “He’s ready to play and he’s been training. Free agency has started on November 20 and he would like to return to the NBA. To my knowledge, he’s not ruling out overseas options.”

Tarik Black moved from Memphis to Kansas in 2013, where he obtained his Masters degree three years later, while playing with the Lakers. Managing the Foundation and being away from her son for many years has been difficult at times, but Judith is positive that he will return to his hometown sooner or later. There is also another thing: Tarik Black has stated that by family, he means people of Memphis and not just his parents and siblings. Does this mean he’s going to return there at some point or even run for mayor? “I have heard that”, Judith replies after a short chuckle. “Time will tell. Memphis is home.”

Before joining the Lakers or even considering whether to pursue a hoop career, the young student got a glimpse of his own future. At age 15, it was a professional athlete that transformed his way of thinking about what success should mean. During an award acceptance speech, Tarik listened to former NBA player, Magic Johnson talk about using his NBA platform to serve humanity. It was at that moment he understood the power of professional athletes to influence young lives.

”Magic spoke and made a comment about how he was called for something more and bigger than basketball. Tarik was 15-16 and after the event he told me that he wanted to give back to young people and his hometown”, his mother recalls.

“So, the vision had started probably 5 years before 2017. He said: “I want basketball to be the hook to bring young people in, but I don’t want it to be focused on basketball. Players should recognize that they are more than that.” All of our programs throughout the years have focused on ways of building character. Our idea is to give kids real world experience, so that they are ready for the future”, she further adds.

A world traveler

Spending some time overseas turned out to be beneficial for the Black family. Not just for the main person involved, but also for his visiting mother who joined him on at least one occasion.

“He had the opportunity to play in so many different kinds of settings. At first, we were traveling around the country, which was eye-opening. But when he started traveling around the world, that changed his way of thinking. When you see a country for 15 seconds on a news report, your perspective is very narrow. Him going to Israel gave me the opportunity to travel there and my entire perspective of the country changed. I stayed there for five days, not necessarily as a tourist. We went to different countries and games. We stayed in Turkey for three days and then went to the Canary Islands in Spain. I’m so glad I made that journey”, Judith acknowledges.

As far as the basketball experience goes, Judith came to realize that in Europe “there is a different fanbase and energy in the game, in the way people cheer for the game. I imagine that for players who are in countries that don’t speak English at all, it will be an opportunity to learn a language or a way of thinking. You learn acceptance, to appreciate the other culture. Israel was where three major religions began. The NBA obviously is the pinnacle, but when it comes to life’s experience, being away gives you a broader point of view. Tarik was all over Europe and visited many countries. Because of this program, I had the opportunity to reach out to the Jewish community, so that we could take our programs to another level.”

Judith used to be marketing director at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Learning that her son decided to pick up a Masters program in African-American Studies at Kansas made her “very pleased. My father was an historian and made sure we all in the family knew history. I think that choosing African-American history was eye-opening for him and as he matured and got older, it has helped him with inter-cultural relationships.”

Choosing the basketball over the trumpet

Coming to terms with the realization that Tarik was not going to play the trumpet (the instrument he came to master at an early age in Middle School), but take up hooping instead looked like a bitter pill to swallow: “I didn’t come to terms right away”, Black-Moore admits.

If it hadn’t been for Tarik’s basketball prowess, his career could have taken a different path. Combining music and sports was a tricky task since the schedule didn’t provide much help.

“Because he started playing basketball so well, I accepted it. I wanted him to do both, but the school system wasn’t set up for him to be able to do that. He had to make a choice. The band was practising somewhere around the same time that basketball practices were taking place. Tarik told me that he felt like he wanted to play basketball because he hadn’t made his Middle-School team and wanted to try out again.”

However, it seems that the ex-Laker never really gave up on his other vocation: “In his first year in the NBA, he participated in the All-Star Challenge and actually played the trumpet in the talent competition. He came in third out of ten. A friend of his gave him a very nice trumpet for his 25th birthday and every once in a while he would pull it out. Now that he has kids, I’d say he will pull it out even more.”

Tarik has described his father Lawrence as a “freak athlete”, creating a strong contrast with his mother who “never really cared about sports”. Judith vehemently denies her son’s claims.

“I was very education-focused. I wanted Tarik to get his education and when he was at AAU camps, I made a deal with him”, she remembers.

“There was a science camp at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta that I wanted him to go to. Then, it turns out he signed off from that camp and received an invitation to join the NBA’s Top 100 High School basketball players camp. I was adamant in him going and we had a quarrel. In the end, we compromised. The basketball camp finished on Saturday and we drove back to Atlanta for him to attend the science camp. He may not understand why I forced him to do that, but he surely appreciates that I did. It was a meaningful experience because it allowed him to be more than a basketball player. I understood that sports was what he wanted to do and I would go along with that, but I wanted to make sure he got his education. I think the reason he finished his Masters was me wanting to instill in him the importance of education.”

The late Kobe Bryant with Tarik Black. Photo Source: Tarik Black Instagram profile.

Kobe, the financial counselor

Sports can provide a springboard to gaining valuable knowledge and insight. In that respect, sitting next to Kobe Bryant was also meaningful for Tarik, since the now deceased Lakers legend handed out free lessons on financial literacy to his teammate at the time.

“He told me about times they would go to dinner or lunch together”, Judith recounts.

“When Tarik became a Laker, he reached out to Kobe and asked him if he would mentor him – not about basketball, but life off the court: how to manage finance, family, fame etc. Kobe spent quite some time with him and called him his little brother. Kobe probably called a lot of people like that, but they really talked a lot about life beyond basketball.”

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Don Showalter on Jayson Tatum: “We knew he was eventually going to be an All-Star” https://www.talkbasket.net/110868-don-showalter-on-jayson-tatum-we-knew-he-was-eventually-going-to-be-an-all-star https://www.talkbasket.net/110868-don-showalter-on-jayson-tatum-we-knew-he-was-eventually-going-to-be-an-all-star#respond Tue, 17 Nov 2020 09:55:58 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=110868 Director of Coach Development at USAB and five-time gold medalist at the FIBA U17 World Championships and Jayson Tatum’s former coach Don Showalter was speaking during his online Q&A session this weekend, as part of the Jr. NBA Coaches – Online program, hosted on OWQLO. Subscribe now by downloading the OWQLO App. Q: How important are these […]

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Don Showalter on Jayson Tatum: “We knew he was eventually going to be an All-Star”

Director of Coach Development at USAB and five-time gold medalist at the FIBA U17 World Championships and Jayson Tatum’s former coach Don Showalter was speaking during his online Q&A session this weekend, as part of the Jr. NBA Coaches – Online program, hosted on OWQLO. Subscribe now by downloading the OWQLO App.

Q: How important are these Jr. NBA initiatives in helping young players and coaches to develop?

DS: They’re extremely important, they give coaches a sense of how and what to coach these young players but then it also gives the players a good chance to increase their skill level. The combination of what Jr. NBA is doing with these clinics is really important for the development of the players and the game itself in different areas of the world.

Q: What are the things you’re looking for in up and coming talent?

DS: For us there are five different buckets that we look at. Obviously skill level is a big one for us but there are a lot of skilled players around the world that aren’t necessarily good players for teams. Being skilled includes shooting, rebounding, footwork, setting good screens, ball handling and passing are some of the main ones there.

Secondly we look at toughness, can they make game changing plays, take charges, get loose balls. Third thing is they have to smart. How do they conduct themselves, making smart passes, taking good shots. Intelligence on the court is really important. If a player continues to make the same mistake over and over, then we start to think that that player isn’t being as good as they can be.

The last two things are being versatile and resilient. Being able to play in more than one position, being able to guard more than one position, an asset on the court no matter where you’re at. Resilience is how you react on and off the court when things don’t go your way and we want players who are very resilient and take ownership of their mistakes, don’t blame other people.

Q: Of the best players you have coached, what set them apart from other players?

DS: We’ve had a lot of good players play for us but I would say top of the list guys like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Green who’s in the G League, Justice Winslow, Colin Sexton and maybe the best player was Bradley Beal. They were all players who were high character players but also gave us those five DNA attributes that we look for: skill, toughness, smart, versatile and resilience. Tyus Jones is in that category as well. In fact we have seven or eight or our former players in this upcoming draft that fill that category as well.

Q: After coaching Jayson Tatum in his younger years, how proud of him are you to see how far he’s come today?

DS: I knew he was going to be a great player when he was with us as a U16 player, and 17, but I think he has made tremendous progress, more progress than I thought he would make in a shorter period of time. We knew he was eventually going to be an All-Star but he’s probably accomplished that feat in less time than we thought. One thing about him is his very high character, he’s got a great family around him that really support him. So, it’s not surprising that he’s reached a level, what’s surprising is maybe how quickly he has reached a very high level. Again, a lot of it goes to how he’s improved skill-wise, he’s smart, versatile, resilient – all those kind of things.

Q: How highly do you rate European basketball talent? Which European NBA players are you most excited about at the moment?

DS: I think Europe has a very high level of players. I think there are several countries that have really made a lot of improvement from the time that I started coaching our junior international team. I think France has done a tremendous job coming up – they have Killian Hayes who is going to be in there, we played against him in 2018 at the World Championship and he’s going to be in the draft. Spain is always good. I think what a lot of the countries that are making really good progress is they’ve really put time and effort, and probably some money, into their youth programmes. That’s where the Jr. NBA comes in, it’s really helped their progress with their youth and that’s really been an important part I know for a lot of the countries. Probably one of the best players that I know about, and I’m sure there’s obviously more, is the big kid from France Victor Wembanyama – he’s about a seven-footer that’s really going to make eyes turn when he develops into his full potential. We always look at players in Europe as being very solid and well-coached players.

Q: What have you enjoyed about the Jr. NBA experiences you’ve had? Do you think the level of coaching in European basketball is often underrated?

DS: That’s a great question. First of all the Jr. NBA has done a tremendous job in organising and putting together camps for both boys and girls to develop their skills and I just appreciate working with the Jr. NBA because I know they have really what’s best for the players. I think European youth programs to me are really where it’s at and they’re getting much, much better. I think overall you’re going to see a big increase in the level of skill that comes from the different areas where the Jr. NBA has been involved with. So, a lot of kudos go to everybody involved there.

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Vasilije Micic: “It’s not a dream to go to the NBA. I want to be on a team with a good system” https://www.talkbasket.net/110628-vasilije-micic-its-not-a-dream-to-go-to-the-nba-i-want-to-be-on-a-team-with-a-good-system https://www.talkbasket.net/110628-vasilije-micic-its-not-a-dream-to-go-to-the-nba-i-want-to-be-on-a-team-with-a-good-system#respond Sun, 15 Nov 2020 13:52:48 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=110628 Vasilije Micic has become a Euroleague star in his own right. At 26, he is considered as one of the best combo guards in Europe. What’s more, his performances over the last three years are vividly reflected on his teams’ results: Lithuanian giants Zalgiris Kaunas reached their first Euroleague Final Four in 19 years in […]

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Vasilije Micic: “It’s not a dream to go to the NBA. I want to be on a team with a good system”

Vasilije Micic has become a Euroleague star in his own right.

At 26, he is considered as one of the best combo guards in Europe. What’s more, his performances over the last three years are vividly reflected on his teams’ results: Lithuanian giants Zalgiris Kaunas reached their first Euroleague Final Four in 19 years in 2018 and the same can be said of his current team, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, which were competition finalists the following year.

Micic is used to breaking new ground, although he doesn’t seem to be at the apex of his career. A second-round NBA Draft pick in 2014, the Serbian guard has been a sleeper for the most part of his journey. A breakthrough season with Zalgiris (7.7 points, 4.4 assists on average) brought him to the forefront, while the 2018-19 campagin turned out as a stunning token of his potential. An All-Euroleague Second Team selection, Micic saw his numbers increase to 12.4 points, 5.5 assists in 2019 and 14.5 points, 5.8 assists on top of an incredible 96.4 percent from the free-throw line last season .

Although it’s impossible for his accomplishments to go unnoticed, a few years ago not many would have seen a future European star in him. When the Philadelphia 76ers selected the 6’6” guard with the 52nd overall pick, he was hardly known even across his own continent.

Over the last two years, Micic has been under extensive scrutiny in order to join the ranks of the 76ers, but his star presence with Efes and the pandemic, which impacted basketball on both sides of the ocean, have pushed back all discussions.

After an astonishing 33-point turnup at the game against Panathinaikos OPAP in Athens, which naturally resulted in both a career-high for him and another win for Anadolu Efes (77-80, their first in Athens after 14 years!), Vasilije Micic spoke to TalkBasket.net about the pandemic, his alter ego Shane Larkin and his future plans regarding the NBA.

Q: What did it take for Anadolu Efes to win the game against Panathinaikos?

A: First of all, we missed so many players. Although we have a very talented team, we can look a little bit different without them. The good thing is that we showed character even after we missed Rodrigue Beaubois. During the game, I was not even aware of the fact that he was not going to play any more. He is a very important player for us, but somehow we found the way to win. We struggled in the beginning and I am very happy for this victory.

Q: Did you have last year’s personal and also team’s performance in mind?

A: I don’t want to talk about that because I don’t care about what’s in the past. Many times, you can have a bad game and you just have to go on. It’s the same with life. I was ready to play this game and it was my day. Hopefully, tomorrow it will be also, but I don’t mind. I’m ready to do everything for the team. We have been together for three years and know everything about each other. I hope we can be more dangerous in the future.

Q: How are you dealing with the pandemic? How has the season been for you?

A: Honestly, I don’t think about it. It may sound a little bit strange, but that’s the way it is. I’m aware of everything, I know what’s going on; especially in my country. Turkey is different for me because I don’t understand Turkish and I can’t follow the news. We have a very good organization in the club because we all practice personal responsibility. We’ve had some cases in the team and probably there will be some more in the future, but we’re trying to go through the situation as positive as we can. We don’t talk too much about that and I don’t feel that currently something big is going on around us, but I know what’s happening in the world. It’s a very dangerous situation and I’m trying to stay focused.

Q: Shane Larkin has been absent for most of the time, save a couple of games. How is your chemistry this season?

A: Yes, but it’s ok. I like him so much because we click. Hopefully, we will click until the end of the year. We have found a rhythm together and I like playing with him. When he’s healthy and ready, we’ll be a better team. I am very happy that he stayed with us. This season, we’re still trying to find our rhythm because we didn’t start well and he also missed some games. He is the only player for whom I can guarantee that he will be in great shape quickly because he has that killer mindset. So, I’m not too worried about him.

Shane Larkin and Vasilije Micic celebrate after scoring during the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague game between FC Barcelona Lassa and Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Barcelona, Spain on April 24, 2019. (Photo by Lola Bou/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Q: Do you feel that not concluding last season was unfair for Efes?

A: No, I don’t feel like that. The virus was all over the place. Even if we missed a championship, looking at what was going on in the world, I can accept it. I would be happy if we could continue, but who knows? There’s so many “ifs” in the air. We just have to focus on this year.

Q: Did you have any discussions with the Sixers last summer?

A: We had some kind of discussions, but in the end it was really impossible to meet because the dates didn’t stay as we had agreed before. I had an option in my contract with Efes and I couldn’t get out of it after a certain point. I feel ok with that because I’m happy at Efes. We’ll see what happens in the future.

Q: Have you made up your mind on where you will be playing next year?

A: No, it’s still too early. I don’t think about that because in my career, especially in the last four years, everything has happened too fast. People didn’t even believe that I would get to a level where I am now, not to mention playing in the NBA. I want to go slowly.

Q: Last year, during the Acropolis Tournament with Serbia, you told me that you want a guaranteed role on an NBA team.

A: It sounds like I’m a little bit arrogant, but I’m not. I feel really well being a part of a good team and being able to play. At this point, we’re playing really high-level basketball in Europe and I’m not missing anything. It’s not a dream [to go to the NBA] and if I go there, I want to be a part of a team that has a good system. I don’t want to just say: “I’m in the NBA!”.

Q: Do you consider it a risk, leaving a pretty much safe situation and going overseas to an unknown environment?

A: Nothing is safe. I don’t think like that. Every year, since I came to Efes and also the year before at Zalgiris, people have doubted my abilities. I don’t listen to that kind of stuff. If it happens, I will go 100% with that decision and I will believe in it.

Q: You have gone a long way, from being a role player off the bench to becoming a starter and a star. How are you experiencing your transition?

A: I don’t look at it as something special. At an early age, I remember people talking about me that I would become a talented player with a good career. Then, suddenly, it didn’t work out that way. That’s when I realized how important it is to be in your own world, besides all the stuff going on around us. I don’t listen to what others think about me. I work really hard and that’s something nobody can take away from me. I will probably have ups and downs, but if you believe in yourself and have a good attitude, everything is possible.

Q: Do you believe that this season is or can be decided by luck to a large extent? I mean, players getting infected, games being postponed or held without fans etc.

A: We all have fallen victims to everything that’s happened. So, nothing can surprise us. Hopefully, they will find a way to finish the season. I am optimistic that it can happen.

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Ian Miller: “Promitheas is the first high-level team to allow me be myself. It’s easy for me to play in the NBA” https://www.talkbasket.net/109416-ian-miller-promitheas-is-the-first-high-level-team-to-allow-me-be-myself-its-easy-for-me-to-play-in-the-nba https://www.talkbasket.net/109416-ian-miller-promitheas-is-the-first-high-level-team-to-allow-me-be-myself-its-easy-for-me-to-play-in-the-nba#respond Sat, 31 Oct 2020 13:23:06 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=109416 Florida State standout Ian Miller had to reach his late twentys to make a name for himself in professional basketball. Now, at 29, he is playing with arguably one of Eurocup’s finest teams, Promitheas Patras. The Greek side reached the competition’s quarter-final phase last season, which ended prematurely due to COVID-19. Miller is leading the […]

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Ian Miller: “Promitheas is the first high-level team to allow me be myself. It’s easy for me to play in the NBA”

Florida State standout Ian Miller had to reach his late twentys to make a name for himself in professional basketball.

Now, at 29, he is playing with arguably one of Eurocup’s finest teams, Promitheas Patras. The Greek side reached the competition’s quarter-final phase last season, which ended prematurely due to COVID-19. Miller is leading the horde, amassing 19.3 points on 36.7% three-point and 95.2% free-throw shooting, plus 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Unfortunately, action in Patras has been put on hold since the club announced three positive COVID-19 tests on October 26.

A father of two children, Miller has dedicated his basketball journey to his father Julian who passed away in 2015, while his son was on his first overseas mission, Italian second division team Aurora Jesi. Ian stayed in Italy for a couple of years, before moving to Kazakhstan, Turkey, Israel and France. With the passage of time, he improved on his game, without renouncing his scoring instincts.

His performances this season, including an impressive late turnup at the Greek Super Cup Final which garnered Promitheas their first trophy ever, have whetted the appetite of a lot of teams across Europe, even China. However, the combo guard from Charlotte feels comfortable on his current team, coached by the gregarious Makis Giatras. The Detroit Pistons gave him a chance to make their NBA roster in the summer of 2014 – and Miller responded with solid games- but Euroleague and the Far East loom as the more lucrative options at the time.

The first question for Ian Miller after six years of playing overseas was about the scarse number of interviews he has done:“I’ve been sort of distant from the media people“, he concedes talking to TalkBasket.net. “I like to focus on my job and perform. Even if you see me on TV, I won’t even be looking comfortable talking into the microphone. I just want to stay focused on the game. In the summertime, I’d be chilling with the family and I’ll be handling no media. I don’t really answer the phone in the summer.

Despite the above statement, the phone interview with the 6’2” guard went quite smoothly.

Q: How are things in Patras and Promitheas?

A: Everything here is cool. Greece is beautiful and I love the country. We got a full roster now and it’s better for us. Mantzaris and Nico (Radicevic) are great additions. They help the team find easy shots and generate offense, giving us more depth with their experience. Right now they are definitely getting the job done.

Diante Garrett is very important and I think people forgot about him, but I’m ready for him to come back. That will make us one of the best teams in Europe. I think there’s a lot of teams in Eurocup that can compete with Euroleague clubs this year. Just because of the COVID situation and the paycuts, a lot is up for grabs. Teams that are normally dominating countries are not so dominant in their local leagues like in the past. I know how talented my team and Diante are. We just got to be patient and wait for him to get back healthy.

Q: You had no previous pan-European competition experience before coming to Promitheas. So, how is Eurocup for you until now?

A: Every night is a battle, there are no easy games. But all we want is to have a full roster. I feel we can do some things in Eurocup that people didn’t expect us to do. The goal is to win.

Q: Why did you sign with Promitheas last summer?

A: Because they’re playing in the Eurocup, for one. Some friends had played for them before me and told me about the situation and how players are taken care of. Langston Hall told me how professional the club is, giving him the chance to display his talent. I always wanted the chance not just to play in Eurocup or Euroleague, but to be myself. Players often get to bad situations, where they don’t perform lke they can because they are not accustomed to playing the way their coach wants them to. That was another reason I came to Promitheas. I’ve been in those situations, but I can play in any kind of system.

Ian Miller during a Promitheas Patras – Herbalife Gran Canaria game for the 2020-21 7DAYS EuroCup regular season. Photo Source: Promitheas Patras Official website

Q: Do you feel like Langston Hall’s successor in Promitheas?

A: I never really thought of it like that. I came here to write my own story.

Q: Let’s talk about that story, then. Not being drafted in 2014 took a toll on you? How did you handle it?

A: I was ready to go to the next situation. I’ve never thought bad about it, not at all. I stayed positive and went right back to working out that night.

Q: You actually joined the Pistons for the 2014 Summer League. How was the experience? What did you learn?

A: I learned that it’s easy for me in the NBA because there’s a lot of space and shots are not created off the dribble. I didn’t really learn a lot mentally; just wanted to showcase myself and I did that. I had really good performances and teams definitely wanted me to come to traning camp, but I wasn’t with that. A lot of people get stuck in the G League or in training camp and then they don’t get good jobs in Europe. I wanted to go straight to a solid situation and if the NBA wanted me, they would come and get me. So, I wouldn’t try a Summer League again. If I were to be in the NBA, I would play a Patty Mills or Jason Terry-type of role. I used to watch them while I was in college.

Q: It’s interesting that all Detroit Pistons guards at that Summer League (Peyton Siva, David Lighty, Markell Starks, DeAndre Liggins) are now in Europe, with only one notable exception. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went on to play with Detroit and later bacame an NBA champ with the Lakers. He was the youngest (21) player of you all at the time. What do you make of his case?

A: He’s a killer! He has accepted his role in LA, but real basketball players know Caldwell-Pope can do numbers easily.

Q: Stan Van Gundy was then both President of Basketball Operations and head coach of the Pistons. What feedback did you get from him?

A: Van Gundy loved me. He wanted me to go to the D League and get better at playing strictly point guard, but I didn’t want to play there. He told me I was a great guard and would spend time every day talking to me.

Q: Do you think you could have made an NBA roster? Are you going to pursue that goal?

A: Yeah, I believe I could play there, if the opportunity presents itself again. But I’m not chasing it because I got to handle what I have on my plate right now.

Q: If you were offered a two-way contract, would you go to the NBA?

A: It depends on the team and the situation. If I feel like I got a chance to go there and prove myself, yes. If I’m not on the court, I can’t do what I’m supposed to.

Q: In case things don’t work out like that, would Euroleague be your first choice?

A: It’s either Euroleague or China. They’re even for me. Money is good on both levels, but I like the style of play in China. Game is more like NBA style, up and down. Some of the best guards and scorers play there. It’s a five-month season and I will be able to spend more time in the States with my kids. I just want to find the best situation for me.

Ian Miller of Roanne and Dee Bost of Monaco during the Jeep Elite match between the two teams on October 5, 2019 in Monaco. (Photo by Pascal Della Zuana/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

Q: Where was the best situation for you?

A: In Patras and Kazakhstan. They let me showcase my abilities; my coach then was AEK’s coach Ilias Papatheodorou. I had a good experience and a good feel for the Greek people after playing on a team with a Greek staff and two Greek teammates (Leonidas Kasselakis and Dimitris Katsivelis). I like Promitheas because we work hard on the court, but our coach gives us freedom to get better. He’s always teaching us, while trusting me to make mistakes.

Q: Two years ago, Rick Pitino compared Makis Giatras to West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. Is that description accurate?

A: I don’t know, I never played for Bob Huggins. But coach Makis is a good coach. He’s energetic and gives you a chance to grow as an individual. Nothing is ever personal with him. Even when he’s serious, he’s always joking. It’s hard not to like a person like that. The only thing he likes to say in English is “good luck” before the games.

Q: You reportedly selected Florida State over many prestigious college programs, like Miami, Kentucky, Oklahoma and North Carolina. Why did you make that choice?

A: I felt that it was the best school for me at the time. They were also becoming a good basketball team and I wanted to be a part of their growth. We won the first championship in school history. In the end, college shaped me because it helped me become a man, grow up fast and do things by myself.

Q: Since you have dedicated your career to your father, what do you think he would have liked you to achieve in it?

A: Win more championships, leave a legacy in any organization I play for, make people love me – not as a player, but as a person. That’s the things my father would want me to do. Being the best person mattered to him more than basketball or any amount of money I could make.

Q: You grew up in Charlotte. There’s a video of you training with KC Rivers and other players. How is hoop culture over there?

A: KC is like a big brother to me. He likes to hellraise me in basketball. He helped me stay motivated because I wanted to be like him and other people while growing up. I’ve seen them get out of college, play in the NBA or in the Euroleague, like KC and a few others. My mind was always locked in on what those guys were doing; and then I started copying their moves.

Also, Muggsy Bogues is like an uncle to me. He has been there pretty much my whole life, since I was 4-5. Me and his son played on the same team (Charlotte Flames). There were athletes and celebrity-type people playing for that program, which was run by my grandfather. Me and Muggsy became best friends immediately. When I got to high school and he saw how serious I had become with the game, he started to train me in the mornings before class. At 6 a.m. we’d be on the court. We keep in touch all the time. Whenever I struggle with or have a question about anything in basketball and life, I ask him. I know his story, in and out.

Q: The late Michael Ojo, who passed away a few months ago, was a teammate of yours at Florida State. What do you remember of him?

A: That was my man! From the first day at school, we talked and hung out. A person like that you don’t meet often. You got to cherish the moments you spend around him because I don’t know if I’ll ever meet somebody as gentle, honest and trustworthy. That’s the way you’d want to live your life. I don’t think he ever had a problem with anybody. That’s hard to find.

Q: You were voted Sixth Man of the Year in 2014 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. How did you adapt to being the go-to guy in Europe?

A: I was the sixth man by choice. My team couldn’t afford for me to start the game in my senior year. So, it was best for me to come off the bench. It’s not really about starting, but about me playing the minutes I should be playing at a high level. Promitheas has suited me well because they give me trust and confidence. Kazakhstan, France and Greece are three situations that let me be myself. Italy wasn’t for me. In Jesi there was too much going on between management and players.

Q: Why did you start off your pro career with an Italian second division team?

A: I was supposed to go First Division, but they were trying to sign me early in the summer and I kept telling them I wanted to go to Summer League first. By the time I made my mind, it was too late to sign with a good team.

Q: Do you feel more comfortable playing at point or shooting guard?

A: I’m a combo because I can get 6-7 assists any time too. I consider myself a guard.

Q: Do you consider yourself a clutch player?

A: Very much so. Promitheas is the first high-level team to allow me be myself and part of that is being a clutch player.

Q: Who’s the best teammate you ever had?

A: Ousman Krubally and Ronald Lewis. Those were two big brothers to me. I look up to them and I also talk to them almost every day. But I never had any bad teammates.

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Al-Khor’s Ameer Jackson talks playing overseas, racism, who’s better between Michael Jordan & LeBron James https://www.talkbasket.net/109336-al-khors-ameer-jackson-talks-playing-overseas-racism-whos-better-between-michael-jordan-lebron-james https://www.talkbasket.net/109336-al-khors-ameer-jackson-talks-playing-overseas-racism-whos-better-between-michael-jordan-lebron-james#respond Fri, 30 Oct 2020 17:19:02 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=109336 Al-Khor’s American point guard Ameer Jackson is pretty excited to head back to Qatar again after landing a new contract with the Middle Eastern club and should be suiting up for the side by mid-November. The New Jersey native, 26, led the Qatari League in scoring during his last stint with Al-Khor and, having claimed […]

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Al-Khor’s Ameer Jackson talks playing overseas, racism, who’s better between Michael Jordan & LeBron James

Al-Khor’s American point guard Ameer Jackson is pretty excited to head back to Qatar again after landing a new contract with the Middle Eastern club and should be suiting up for the side by mid-November. The New Jersey native, 26, led the Qatari League in scoring during his last stint with Al-Khor and, having claimed to be in the best shape of his life after recovering from an ACL tear, expects do do even better this time around.

When I spoke to Ameer earlier this month, he wasted little time letting me know how keen he is to land a deal with an NBA team and was looking forward to putting in whatever work necessary to realize his dream. His story was intriguing enough to get us both to a point where we felt like there was a bit more to be said.

Prior to playing for Al-Khor in Qatar, Ameer had a run with Romanian outfit CN Aurel Vlaicu București. The cultures between countries are obviously different and the former Winston-Salem State University star pointed out that fans in Romania have a lot more love for the sport of basketball.

“Romania and Qatar are very different,” he noted. “Romanian fans and such really kinda take pride in basketball, Qataris do too but it’s more of a soccer country.”

Photo credit: Steven J. Gaither

As for the differences between being overseas and in the U.S as a basketball player with hopes of going pro, Ameer reckons it’s a lot easier to get scouted when abroad.

“The U.S has a lot of underground players nobody knows about, I can say there are millions of really talented players in the U.S but nobody knows,” he said. “Overseas it’s about business and coming to bring it each and every day to keep your job no matter where you at but the big difference between overseas and the U.S is you’d have a much better chance of getting noticed and getting a deal if you’re coming up overseas.”

Of course, we touched on racism again. In our previous interview, Jackson claimed to be numb to the plague after living in the U.S for most of his life. “Yes of course really all my life,” he replied after being asked if he’s experienced the pangs that pretty much come with being black in the U.S. “But I feel like this comes with being in America.”

Asked if he’s ever had to deal with it while abroad, his response was way more surprising. “No, never overseas. Never.” Ameer declared.

Playing overseas does have its perks, but the challenges are of equal measure. And, for Ameer Jackson, being a world away on his own has been one of his biggest struggles, although he loves living in Qatar.

“I love the adjustment and I love Qatar as well,” he remarked. “I got a girlfriend but she stays in the U.S for now. We’re thinking of having her do her schooling online so she can come live with me for a year.”

Video games have been his go-to when he isn’t playing or practicing. It does help with the loneliness.

“I’m a big online video gamer, play a lot of Apex Legends, 2k, and Call of Duty,” he revealed. “I also like to stretch and work on my body in my free time as well.”

The conversation eventually waded to the perennial GOAT debate. Ameer admitted Michael Jordan was the better player from a talent perspective but says he considers LeBron James to be the best-ever, claiming to have idolized the four-time champion while growing up. Houston Rockets star Russell Westbrook, though, has since taken over as his favorite player and the one he models his game after.

“I think MJ skill-wise is better but I’ma have to go with LeBron, and I did grow up idolizing LeBron,” he said. “I loved LeBron but then once I got older I really got in tune with Russell Westbrook… Russ took over since he made a name at UCLA. I could also relate to his aggression and confidence on the court.

“Me and Russell same height, play the same position but, between MJ and LeBron, I gotta go with Bron. Mike footwork was crazy, though”

You could check out our first interview with Ameer Jackson right here.

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Brad Kanis aims to prepare the next generations of American players in Europe https://www.talkbasket.net/109233-brad-kanis-aims-to-prepare-the-next-generations-of-american-players-in-europe https://www.talkbasket.net/109233-brad-kanis-aims-to-prepare-the-next-generations-of-american-players-in-europe#respond Fri, 30 Oct 2020 11:23:56 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=109233 For many American players who come to Europe at an early age, certain particularities surrounding the basketball reality in the “old continent” may seem odd. Transitioning from one style to another can take its toll, especially when it comes to athletes who sometimes miss basic elements needed overseas. Europrobasket International Basketball Academy promises to fill […]

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Brad Kanis aims to prepare the next generations of American players in Europe

For many American players who come to Europe at an early age, certain particularities surrounding the basketball reality in the “old continent” may seem odd. Transitioning from one style to another can take its toll, especially when it comes to athletes who sometimes miss basic elements needed overseas.

Europrobasket International Basketball Academy promises to fill in the gaps. The Academy is to be found in the largest and most technologically advanced basketball training facility in Europe, located in Valencia. It is called “L’ALqueria del Basket” and its owner, Valencia Basket, has made giant steps over the last years – as far as both the youth and the men’s team are concerned.

The complex made headlines last summer, when it hosted the ACB Liga Endesa 2020 Final Tournament. Valencia became the stage for 12 Spanish teams to play for the championship, not only because of the quality of their facilities, but also thanks to a project that emphasized its health plan, which was key considering the current COVID-19 pandemic. It was a plan that the NBA followed closely before deciding on a way to finish the season. This was only the beginning for an ambitious club and its owner, billionaire Juan Roig, who now aims to build a new arena with a capacity of 15,600 spectators for sporting events and a total of 16 basketball courts.

Europrobasket offers junior programs through a collaboration with Valencia Basket since 2017. The owner of the Academy is Brad Kanis, a retired basketball player born in Portland, Oregon. Kanis gathered heaps of overseas experience by playing in North and South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He even tried Europe, towards the end of his short-lived career: ”I played in Kosovo to keep with my conditioning, just for fun. But it definitely helped with meeting some coaches”, he remembers.

Then came Spain and Europrobasket. “I finished the season in Morocco and I came over to Spain to check out the market and try out with some teams. Then, I decided that I wanted to give opportunities to players to work their way up to higher divisions, teach European basketball to Americans and try to get them adapted to playing in Europe. Guys that maybe got overlooked, D1-D3 players that don’t have any agent. They pay a fee to come and train with us and they get the chance to play professionally in Europe.”

However, the first attempt was anything but idyllic: “In 2015, I started the Academy in Girona – where Marc Gasol first played- but I didn’t like the way things were going with their Academy. There was only one court and we had to share it with them. We didn’t get enough gym time and had to turn down teams that wanted to come.”

Brad Kanis and Marc Gasol in Girona (2015)

Moving out was an inevitability, but it turned out for the best. “In 2017, Valencia Basket invited us to come see their facilities comprising thirteen courts, nine of which are indoor. Next door they are building a new arena. So, we moved our program in Valencia. Here, we have a team from a University in Canada, three-four high school teams at the same time. Valencia Basket have decided to bring a more international exposure to their facility. At any given program, we can have players, coaches and staff from 12-16 different countries.”

The Academy requires players to be at least 18 years or older, although occasionally they may have some 16 or 17-year-olds, accompanied by an adult. Facilities are typically available only during normal practice times and not on weekends. Europrobasket mainly focuses on training and preparing players for overseas opportunities. A professional staff comprising strengthening and conditioning coaches from Spain and head coaches from all over Europe teaches the basic rules and systems of basketball in the continent.

Getting a contract is by no means guaranteed; however, players with talent, basketball IQ, work ethic and character will hardly remain unsigned: “Right now, we have about 14-15 players, boys and girls”, says Kanis. “There’s a few more still waiting on their visas. When they come to me, they stay for about 3-12 weeks. So, I get to learn what kind of person they are, their characters and personalities. Most of them will not have a long future playing basketball in Europe. But the fact that they can play for a couple of years, building some kind of resume, can change their life. That’s why I started this whole thing and that’s what makes me excited and proud. When I get a call from an agent, me and the players share the same feeling. I am pretty proud of all of them, although it’s hard to follow every single one.”

Exposure and visibility are factors to be reckoned with, since a variety of teams, managers, coaches, agents or scouts across Europe are monitoring the Academy.

“I’ve kept a lot of my contacts in the US and I’ve worked to create more. So, I started getting players’ interest through coaches and trainers. I would help them get on to a team and then, their friends would come. A lot of it is based on word of mouth. A successful player might bring another two. Obviously, we have a website and social media in order to grow our brand. When players come, we value their skills, attitude and work ethic. We recommend them to teams that have openings. Now, teams and coaches contact me whenever they have an opening. In Spain, it’s eight different divisions and we place players in all of them. I’m pretty good about judging where a player could possible be successful.”

After they leave the Academy, players usually end up in Portugal and Spain, or even Ireland, Germany, Bosnia and the Czech Republic. Europeans are easier to find opportunities for because they have the European Union passport and they don’t need work visas.

When a young player first joins Europrobasket, he learns that “it’s not easy, like winning the lottery. Players in Europe are very intelligent and American players have to adapt to a more team-oriented style. Around 70% of our players come from the US. No1 is the character of the player. Most teams in Europe would agree with that. They won’t tolerate those who don’t treat it as a job, don’t respect their teammates and get into conflicts with coaches.”

The percentage of players that land a pro contract with a team is inextricably linked to their level and attitude. Exceedingly high expectations and self-evaluation might blur one’s perspective: “We get a lot of players that believe they should be playing professionally. That should not be a matter of belief, but of talent level. Our program is pretty open for those who want to learn, make a career out of it or prepare for the season. Most people know that pays can be low, but it’s also difficult to be at a high level. Teams are expecting a lot, even from athletes who get a few hundred euros a month.”

In terms of placements, percentages vary across the gender spectrum: “95% of the players that should be and could be playing on teams, are already there. 30% of our girls have signed a contract, while the boys’ percentage is lower. Girls are more realistic about their level and that’s why there’s a lot of opportunities out there for them. Guys, on the other hand, want to be millionaires and dream big”, Kanis explains.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is brad-kanis-europrobasket.jpg

An article on Europrobasket website cites seven skills that all import players should have. Decoding what it takes to succeed in Europe is not that simple, especially for American imports, who are in a disadvantage compared to their European peers: “Some players who come to Europe at an early age, are missing important pieces in their game because when they were growing up, they used to play for their father’s or their uncle’s team. Their coaches had no idea what they were doing; they could be math teachers who had just read a book about coaching and then became coaches at an amateur level. That’s what happens in the US when you bounce around from AAU teams to high school teams without a structure. Playing against a very structured team like Zalgiris – who have a pro coaching staff, a sports director, a president – you understand that their players are learning what they should at each age.”

A common misconception among many US players about overseas basketball is simply based on ignorance. “Overseas” is a very broad concept which includes totally different styles and basketball realities. “That’s very true”, Kanis concedes. “In the US, there’s NBA, NCAA and there’s overseas basketball which can be Bolivia or 4th Division in Mexico. I’d like my players to know what the differences are; that there are higher and lower levels and that not all levels are respected as the same. For instance, I try to explain to my players that a First Division team in the Middle East, South America or Asia can be compared to a 3rd Division team in Spain. They have to understand that the basketball level in countries like Spain, Italy, France, Greece is very high.”

The facility in Valencia is the largest in Europe. However, homegrown players that make it to the Spanish club’s first team are few and far between. “Their priority is to develop Spanish players. It’s not like Barcelona or Real Madrid that bring players from all over the world. You don’t see as many big names coming from this club. But the first team is a different story. In order to compete, they’re going to need international players. For their Junior Program, they’re accepting kids only from the Valencia area.”

Nevertheless, the club is not actively involved in the project of the Academy, but “they’re open to collaborate with us. The type of levels that they are dealing with are way above the level of the players that are typically in our program.”

In the ‘90s and 00’s, Valencia hosted a great soccer team that played two consecutive UEFA Champions League finals. According to Kanis, basketball in the region has been getting some more ground over the last years: “I’ve only been in Spain for five years, but I know that Valencia is putting a lot of effort into basketball. Juan Roig, the main sponsor for the club, is building a new facility for their kids in order to have all of them in one place. They want to host big events and clinics. I have met him many times. His contribution to Valencia and the club is very important. The new arena could keep them in the Euroleague for a longer time, possibly getting them a 10-year license.”

Maciej Lampe, a veteran NBA and Euroleague player, has participated in several training programs. Brad Kanis says his presence in the facilties benefitted greatly Europrobasket and its players: “We had him in Girona. He hasn’t been to the facilities in Valencia, but having someone like him around is helpful as the program director and players get to see his work ethic and all the effort he puts in. His whole day revolves around maintaining his body and getting his workout, riding bikes and swimming. It was definitely a big bonus for our guys.”

Born in 1983, Kanis went undrafted, but joined the Houston Rockets Summer League team in 2008. How close did he get to playing in the NBA? “I don’t know if I had quite the level for that. I had some problems with my family growing up and I didn’t think I was going to play basketball; my sister passed away in high school. My main focus was school and when I played at college, I had a full-time job and it was difficult to focus on playing. When I did focus, I was 22 and I got the opportunity to train with the Houston Rockets for a summer. I was working with Yao Ming and then went to minicamp and the Summer League in Las Vegas. It was always my dream to play, but I wasn’t quite there”, he acknowledges.

Brad Kanis with Yao Ming in 2008

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JaJuan Johnson: “NBA is a dream that has to make sense to me at this point” https://www.talkbasket.net/108595-jajuan-johnson-nba-is-a-dream-that-has-to-make-sense-to-me-at-this-point https://www.talkbasket.net/108595-jajuan-johnson-nba-is-a-dream-that-has-to-make-sense-to-me-at-this-point#respond Wed, 21 Oct 2020 21:14:32 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=108595 JaJuan Johnson has turned into a veteran presence in European basketball. Having been been overseas since 2013, he got to play in Italy, Turkey and Russia over a span of seven years. Undoubtedly, his highlight was lifting the 2018 Eurocup title with a Darussafaka team led by former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, in addition to […]

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JaJuan Johnson: “NBA is a dream that has to make sense to me at this point”

JaJuan Johnson has turned into a veteran presence in European basketball.

Having been been overseas since 2013, he got to play in Italy, Turkey and Russia over a span of seven years. Undoubtedly, his highlight was lifting the 2018 Eurocup title with a Darussafaka team led by former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, in addition to being included in the All-competition Second Team.

A Purdue University product, Johnson established himself as a force to be reckoned with. The same can also be said about his current team, FC Bayern Munich. After a slow start in preseason games and a home defeat to Armani Milan, the German side took the best out of powerhouses like Maccabi Tel Aviv and Fenerbahce, not to mention country rivals Alba Berlin. Standing at 3-1 after four Euroleague games, Bayern has the outlook of the ultimate team to beat right now.

Before becoming a rookie in Europe’s premier competition, the Indianapolis-born forward got drafted by the New Jersey Nets with the 27th pick in the 2011 NBA draft. However, the Nets had other plans for him and Johnson moved to Boston. At the Celtics, a team full of HOF players way past their prime (Pierce, Garnett, Allen) that eventually reached the Eastern Conference semifinals, coach Doc Rivers used him in no more than 36 games throughout the course of the 2011–2012 season. Scoring 3.2 points in an average playing time of 8.3 minutes was not what he hoped for. As a result, right after he concluded his presence in the 2012 Summer League, the Celtics traded him to the Houston Rockets.

The 6’10” tweener spent the next season between three NBA Development League teams. His numbers were good, but the NBA doors did not re-open. Europe provided a variety of opportunities and JaJuan Johnson was eager to explore them. Now, at 31, he is squaring off against the best in the continent and would consider an NBA return only on the condition of a guaranteed contract.

I have a solid reputation in Europe and it would really have to be worth my while at this point“, Johnson told TalkBasket.net in an interview that revolved around his time and experiences on both ends of the basketball spectrum.

Q: I’d like your take on the recent developments in the Euroleague. Five games were supended this week and special regulations were modified to ensure that games will have more chances of being played and not forfeited. What do you think?

A: Right now, it’s an unprecedented situation that we’re going through. It’s going to take a lot of trial and error. Cities at risk may be taking proper precautions and tests, but when you travel there you can’t help but to interact with so many different people. So, I don’t know if there is an alternative; maybe a different arena or country where the situation would be a little safer. Obviously, there’s still work to be done. Since everyone is in different countries, regulations and rules, it’s hard to get them all on the same page.

Q: Are you optimistic about the Euroleague being played to the end?

A: I’m hopeful. If they find some different sites that are safer, they can get it to continue. But it’s hard to ask anyone to go to places that are at risk. Safety is the No.1 concern to everyone. Players have families and homes to go to.

Q: Bayern Munich is having a great season start, despite some poor performances in preseason. Three road wins in four Euroleague games is an impressive tally. How is that to explain?

A: It comes down to players giving it their all every day in practice, buying into what the coach says on a daily basis and focusing on defense. Coach Trinchieri asks focus, defense and proper execution. Everything will take care of itself then.

Q: Last summer, Bayern assembled a roster with a lot of athleticism: Wade Baldwin, Jalen Reynolds, Malcolm Thomas came in. Do you think all four of you got things to prove on the Euroleague level?

A: Definitely. This is my first experience. Jalen hasn’t had a lot of opportunities, Wade as well coming from last season, Malcolm too. We all have something that we want to give to the team and show that we can play at a high level.

Q: How did you become a Euroleague rookie at the age of 31?

A: Honestly, I had a lot of interest and offers along the years. But financially for me it just didn’t make sense at the time. Now, this is a different year with COVID. It was always a goal of mine to play at the Euroleague. So, it definitely comes as an adjustment, but it’s a good challenge for me and I’m trying to embrace it.

Q: How is Euroleague basketball so far for you?

A: It’s going pretty well. It’s definitely more tactical basketball. That’s the biggest difference from Eurocup and other competitions. The talent level is higher. But I’ve played against a lot of these Euroleague teams. So, there’s nothing I didn’t expect. Obviously, everyone is great players at this level. Each possession counts and that’s the biggest thing. The travel is also a little bit easier in Euroleague because sometimes in Eurocup you take long bus rides to get to different cities.

Q: You’ve said that David Logan was your connection when you first came to Europe in 2013. Who talked you into Bayern Munich?

A: I had some great conversations with coach Trinchieri before signing. I also had a few friends that had played under him and gave me the rundown on what to expect. They promptly said: “He’ll give you some freedom, you guys will definitely compete in practice”, which I don’t mind. He’s demanding, but that’s what I want for myself.

Q: What was so special about the Darussafaka team that won the Eurocup title in 2018?

A: That has been my biggest achievement in Europe. Everyone got along with everybody on and off the court. We adapted to our roles and knew what to expect. Our coach (David Blatt) was really big on defense each and every day. I see a lot of similarities so far with Bayern, even though it’s early. We emphasize defense and everyone has bought into the system. We believed in each other and that’s why we had success.

Jajuan Johnson in action during the 7DAYS EuroCup Basketball Finals game two between Darussafaka Istanbul and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar at Vokswagen Arena on April 13, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Rodolfo Molina/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Q: Although you’ve said that you enjoy being overseas, do you feel more mature now to pursue the NBA dream? Does it depend only on you being offered a guaranteed contract or are there any other factors?

A: Obviously, it’s a dream. But I believe that at this point it has to make sense. It would have to be a great opportunity, almost on the lines of a guaranteed contract. I have a solid reputation in Europe and it would really have to be worth my while at this point.

Q: What made you withdraw from the NBA Draft twice, in 2009 and 2010?

A: I just really had believed in my team in college. I felt like I had some unfinished business. The first time I did it was to put my feet in, compare myself to others to see where I was at. The following year, I was really close to deciding. But with the way our season ended, I thought I should finish it out with the guys I came in with. I wanted to get my degree. Looking back on it, I feel like I improved my stock that year and it worked out how it was supposed to.

Q: Does listening to people talk about the Celtics making a mistake in choosing you over Jimmy Butler in 2011 bother you?

A: No, not at all. After all, I didn’t ask to be drafted or anything like that ! (laughs) For me, he’s having a great career. He’s a great player and he deserves everything that he’s got. Even before me, there was a lot of teams that passed up on him, besides the Celtics. There’s different ways you can look at it. I was drafted by New Jersey and then got traded there. So, there’s a lot that goes into.

Q: Butler himself said that it made perfect sense back then because you had “a tremendous college career”. Do you think that had you not gone to Boston, you could still be playing in the NBA?

A: Possibly, yeah. I’ve had a lot of time over the years to think about that, but maybe I had to mature even more. At the time, it was hard to play behind veteran guys. Situations like that pretty much solidified this status in the NBA. You just never know what can happen. It’s kind of tough to say that now, honestly.

Q: Being compared to Kevin Garnett in terms of body type and shooting ability, has helped or hindered your career so far?

A: I don’t think it did anything honestly. KG was always someone that I looked up to and I enjoyed watch him play. I wasn’t trying to play like him and the comparisons never got to me. I always looked at the similarities that we have in terms of size and built, but I didn’t take it the wrong way.

Q: How was your relationship? What did you learn from him?

A: It was great. I sat next to him on the plane almost every day. When we were travelling, he would speak about the consistency and the work ethic that he put every day. He didn’t have to do a lot; he just had his routine and stuck with it. That was the biggest thing that I learned.

Q: At the Celtics, you had both Doc Rivers and Tyronn Lue as your head coach and Summer League coach respectively. How did you get along?

A: They were both great. Doc was a good coach and mentor to me. He was also part of the reason I think I got traded there. Ty Lue is definitely a players’ coach because a lot of them get along with him. Then, he was younger, a diferent voice and it worked for him as well.

Celtics rookie forward JaJuan Johnson is welcomed back to the bench by head coach Doc Rivers. He had career high 12 points, along with 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and a block. The Boston Celtics play the Chicago Bulls in a regular season NBA game at the TD Garden in Boston, on Feb. 12, 2012. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Q: Coach Rivers said back in 2012 that you not playing much had nothing to do with talent, but it was related to the mental makeup. Did you feel the same?

A: A little bit. I knew it wasn’t a talent issue, but different circumstances got in the way. I definitely believe it.

Q: After participating in the Summer League with the Celtics in 2012, were you surprised at getting traded to Houston almost immediately?

A: It was definitely shocking because it showed me that’s how the business is. I understood it because they were trying to make that last push at a championship back then. But it was tough and I was hurt for a minute. Now, I’ve learned that it’s part of the business and that’s how it goes.

Q: Did you watch the NBA playoffs?

A: I did, a little bit. Actually, I watched some of the finals. I wanted the Lakers to win and I was happy for LeBron to get another title.

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Basketball has taken U.S point guard Ameer Jackson all over the world, yet playing at home remains the ultimate goal https://www.talkbasket.net/108363-basketball-has-taken-us-point-guard-ameer-jackson-all-over-the-world-but-playing-at-home-is-the-ultimate-goal https://www.talkbasket.net/108363-basketball-has-taken-us-point-guard-ameer-jackson-all-over-the-world-but-playing-at-home-is-the-ultimate-goal#respond Sun, 18 Oct 2020 01:34:41 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=108363 Ameer Jackson tore up the Qatari Basketball League, then he tore his ACL. Speaking to the New Jersey-born point guard, it seemed like he would have been more surprised if everything had gone smoothly. Jackson, 26, has dealt with adversity all of his life. His latest injury wasn’t his first – he’s been through some […]

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Basketball has taken U.S point guard Ameer Jackson all over the world, yet playing at home remains the ultimate goal

Ameer Jackson tore up the Qatari Basketball League, then he tore his ACL. Speaking to the New Jersey-born point guard, it seemed like he would have been more surprised if everything had gone smoothly.

Jackson, 26, has dealt with adversity all of his life. His latest injury wasn’t his first – he’s been through some real off-court struggles, made a few decisions he wishes he could take back and, growing up as a young man of color in America, a life bereft of racist abuse was always going to be out of the question.

“I’m really numb to it,” Ameer told Talkbasket.net’s Lou Flavius during a phone interview. “It doesn’t get me upset or anything.”

The above speaks to Ameer’s character. He’s been through years of adversity and is prepared to take on a whole lot more while on the path to his ultimate goal. The 6.4 ft guard is excited to head back to Qatar after earning himself another contract with Al-Khor after starring for the side during the 2018-19 season. He averaged 24.3 points per game as the league’s top scorer that year but, as mentioned above, suffered a huge injury setback.

His journey would take him to Africa, where he would suit up for Ezzahra Sports Club in Tunisia before the COVID-19 pandemic sprang up just as he was settling in. As he has all his life, Ameer’s taken everything in stride and has come out of the period feeling optimistic. In fact, he says he’s glad he got sidelined.

“Honestly glad it happened. This is the best my body’s ever felt,” he declared. “And it let me think about the game in a different way and see in a different way.”

The American guard is champing at the bit to get back to Qatar and appears to be well on his way to becoming as traveled a star as he could have possibly wished for, having also played for Romanian club CN Aurel Vlaicu Bucuresti in 2017/18. He should have already been back in Qatar but is being delayed by a passport issue, as is soon-to-be teammate Quintrell Thomas, who was also signed by Al-Khor this year.

The overseas option has been snagged by many an American as it provides an avenue for the showcasing of one’s skill if not recognized at home. For Ameer, it was all about doing what’s best for himself and his family. He says he opted to go play overseas because he knew he could always go back to college but needed to put food on the table.

Of course, the NBA is the goal.

“Right now just want to provide for my family and build a strong CV overseas but I definitely want to play in a summer league, show my talents and hopefully land a contract,” Ameer explains.

The most recent NBA campaign proved especially motivational for Ameer as he watched Miami Heat rookies Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson come to the fore in a huge way after going undrafted. Nunn was in the running for Rookie of the Year and made the 2019/20 All-Rookie Team while Robinson, a former Division 3 player, is now recognized as one of the deadliest shooters in the league.

“Man that’s so inspiring to me personally,” he pointed out. “They worked hard for that position and it paid off.”

Ameer has a few friends in the NBA and would very much love to rub shoulders with them in future. Among those are Utah Jazz shooting guard Rayjon Tucker and Javonte Green of the Boston Celtics.

As for his aspirations for the season, and his career overall, Ameer Jackson envisions success alongside Thomas and, ultimately, realising his dream of making it to the NBA. He’s also not focused on chasing individual awards, he says he just wants to win trophies.

“Well we have another great import after signing Quintrell Thomas, good big man at Kansas and UNLV,” he said. “I want to win the regular season and at least one of the cups, this only thing I’m looking for. I want to play at least two or three solid years with good numbers and wins as a team then get my shot in the NBA. I don’t care about individual awards, I just want to win.”

The former Northwest Cabarrus star has accepted that it won’t be without a challenge, something he’s more than ready to take on. After leading the Qatari tier in scoring, the weight of expectation will fall squarely on his shoulders.

He already has one thing going for him, though; he loves Qatar. “I love the adjustment and I love Qatar as well,” Ameer notes. And, with a laugh, “I love overseas!”

Hardly means he’s planning to stay there, however.

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LeBron James on Anthony Davis: “He’s a warrior, man” https://www.talkbasket.net/107624-lebron-james-on-anthony-davis-hes-a-warrior-man https://www.talkbasket.net/107624-lebron-james-on-anthony-davis-hes-a-warrior-man#respond Sat, 10 Oct 2020 12:05:45 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=107624 The Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James answered media questions after his team went down against the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Q. What’s your Finals experience over the years taught you about how to respond to a game like this and how to put that out to the rest of […]

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LeBron James on Anthony Davis: “He’s a warrior, man”

The Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James answered media questions after his team went down against the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Q. What’s your Finals experience over the years taught you about how to respond to a game like this and how to put that out to the rest of your teammates?

LeBRON JAMES: I mean for me, I’ve always stayed even keeled. You know, throughout the highs, throughout the lows, you stay even keeled and get better with the process. You stay in the moment, which I am, and understanding that we can be better. And how we make the adjustments and how we learn from tonight, tomorrow in our film session and when we get together and prepare ourselves for Sunday, will show the difference.

Q. I was wondering if you could take us through that last minute of the game, the ups and downs, and your mentality when you were driving in. Frank described it as you were ready to take on the whole team and then you saw Danny open at the top?

LeBRON JAMES: Obviously it was back and forth, big play after big play. A couple, you know, questionable calls that swayed their way and put Jimmy to the free-throw line. Obviously, we can’t do that. He’s been damn near perfect at the free-throw line in the series.We just needed to get one stop. We felt like if we could get one stop, we could do something on the offensive end. But we got a hell of a look. We got a hell of a look to win the game, to win the series. Didn’t go down. And then we got the offensive rebound, we turned the ball over. I thought we had a lot more time than I think we even thought after the offensive rebound, and a pass wasn’t executed as we would like. But we’ve got to be better. We’ve just got to be better in Game 6 and close the series.

Q. You’ve obviously been on the other side of this coming back from a 3-1 deficit. Is there something about that experience that helps you understand what it will take to slam the door on Miami now that it’s been somewhat left ajar for them?

LeBRON JAMES: Listen, at the end of the day, you don’t predetermine anything and you take the game as it’s going and you play. You play each quarter, you play each possession and you live with the results. You don’t think about what could happen at the end of the game and things of that nature. You don’t get caught up in the aftermath. You have to live in the moment and prepare yourself each and every possession, because if you start to wander and your mind starts to go, you make a mistake. One thing about this team that we are playing, they make you pay for every mistake. It’s the same as when I was playing against Golden State all those years, you make a mistake, they make you pay. So we have to understand that.

Q. Two vets, Danny and Markieff were involved in that play. Is that a situation where you talk to them after a game like this or do you feel they have experience and they kind of know what it is and they will come ready for Game 6?

LeBRON JAMES: I mean, they’re vets. They’re vets. I don’t think too much need to be said to them. I believe they will be much better and I’m not saying they even played bad tonight. Everybody in the lineup tonight that got minutes gave the effort. We just had some mental breakdowns at times, and they make you pay for it, like I said. We’ve got to look at the film tomorrow and see how we can be better.

Q. From I think 2:52 remaining to 0:46 remaining, you and Jimmy went back and forth; there was six straight possessions where one of you scored for your team. And even with the questionable calls, you talked about Jimmy and his competitive nature, something that you relish. Can you take us inside what it’s like being in that battle with the game on the line?

LeBRON JAMES: That’s the beauty of the game, being able to compete at the highest level. You take those opportunities and you live in the moment. You’re trying to make plays for your team and be successful on both ends, and we were both just trying to do that and trying to will our team to a victory. You know, he was able to make one more play than I was able to make tonight and come away with a victory.

Q. Talking about calls, not trying to get you in trouble, but just from your vantage point on the last foul that got Jimmy to the line, AD looked like he went straight up. What did you see from your vantage point? I know you didn’t have a challenge but what was it like from your view.

LeBRON JAMES: I thought AD made a heck of a play at the rim. I felt he was chest to chest with Jimmy, making him change the trajectory of his shot and the call didn’t go our way. I felt like, you know, at that point in time, I think it was a tough call, but they made the call. We still had an opportunity to win. But we feel like, you know, with AD and with him at the rim and him contesting things like that, it could have swayed our way, but it didn’t.

Q. You talk about focus being so crucial down the stretch, AD seemed to hurt that left foot a little bit. For you, is it tough in that moment when you’re trying to figure out, you know, what can I do with him, what can’t I do with him, as he’s trying to fight through that?

LeBRON JAMES: Well, if he’s on the floor – I mean he’s a warrior, man. Just him being out there, hobbled, just brings a lot more confidence to myself and our team. We know the nicks and bumps and bruises he’s played through throughout the whole season. We have to pick it up for him and pick it up for any one of our brothers if they are hobbling or lobbying or not at their full strength. Just the makeup of our brotherhood.

Q. You’ve been in so many of these all over the years, going all the way back to throwing the ball in the corner to Donyell, Ray makes a three, Kyrie makes a three. Tonight Danny got a great look but didn’t make it. How do you live with make or miss at this stage of a season to determine winning and losing when you’ve put so much into it?

LeBRON JAMES: I’ve always played the game the same way since I was a kid and I’ve had success doing it. And I won’t let a play here or a play there change my outlook on the game and how I play the game. I mean, if you just look at the play, I was able to draw two defenders below the free-throw line and find one of our shooters at the top of the key for a wide open three to win a championship. I trusted him, we trusted him, and it just didn’t go. You live with that. You live with that. It’s one of the best shots that we could have got, I feel, in that fourth quarter, especially down the stretch with two guys on me, Duncan Robinson and Jimmy, and Danny had a hell of a look. It just didn’t go down. I know he wish he can have it again. I wish I could make a better pass. You know, but you just live with it.

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Pete Mickeal on beating the Lakers with Barcelona, individual play in Europe and success in the NBA https://www.talkbasket.net/107101-pete-mickeal-on-beating-the-lakers-with-barcelona-individual-play-in-europe-and-success-in-the-nba https://www.talkbasket.net/107101-pete-mickeal-on-beating-the-lakers-with-barcelona-individual-play-in-europe-and-success-in-the-nba#respond Wed, 07 Oct 2020 21:02:00 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=107101 “I own a sports agency. We have a beautiful facility in Miami”, Pete Mickeal describes his current occupation talking over the phone to TalkBasket.net. Moving into the agency business was a logical step for the former FC Barcelona great, who retired in 2017 at 39. Apart from having been a first-class small-forward for many teams […]

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Pete Mickeal on beating the Lakers with Barcelona, individual play in Europe and success in the NBA

“I own a sports agency. We have a beautiful facility in Miami”, Pete Mickeal describes his current occupation talking over the phone to TalkBasket.net.

Moving into the agency business was a logical step for the former FC Barcelona great, who retired in 2017 at 39. Apart from having been a first-class small-forward for many teams throughout his basketball career, Mickeal worked also as a scouter for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Washington Wizards.

A second-round Draft pick by the Dallas Mavericks in 2000, he never actually played in the league, albeit participating in several training camps and Summer Leagues. As has been the case for many aspiring athletes, Pete Mickeal got a good taste of the NBA only after his playing time was over.

Now, at 42, he puts his extensive knowledge of the game to good use in order to run a company that specializes in “taking the minor league players, but also the NBA player that doesn’t get any playing time, and sending them overseas“. Hence, Pete Mickeal is the right person to address issues and trends in world basketball: the NBA “copycat” teams, the Euroleague turning more into one-man shows and players having to settle for less in order to cross the ocean.

Moreover, the 2010 Euroleague champion with FC Barcelona recalls the Spanish side’s triumph (92-88) over the reigning NBA champs LA Lakers at the legendary Palau Sant Jordi on October 7, 2010. Mickeal registered 26 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists, as well as heaps of tenacity, in what is widely regarded as one of his career-best performances. Playing against Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace (then Ron Artest), Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol was a highlight in itself, but the Rock Island wingman was anything but intimidated.

In fact, when Kobe Bryant came by to say: “Hey, this game can take you to the NBA” , Mickeal readily responded: “If you think that, then put your money where your mouth is and play one-on-one and we’ll see where your game is at”. If being a fierce competitor on the court meant going up against the best, Mickeal -and that particular Barcelona team- were not going to miss out on their date with history.

All the details are included in the lines below.

Q: It’s been ten years since FC Barcelona beat the Lakers. Did you notice?

A: Know what? I didn’t even realize it was ten years ago. Time goes by so fast and it seems like yesterday. It was a very good and memorable experience for me and all basketball people in Barcelona.

Q: What was the main reason that made the game so important?

A: We were EuroLeague champs in 2010 and we carried that momentum into the next season. The team was together for two years and we knew each other very well. The most important thing is that we wanted to have fun, show our fans that we were ready to repeat as EuroLeague champs and that we were able to compete with any team in the world.

Q: Would you say that Barca was world champion back then?

A: No, it was a pre-season game. We had a huge advantage because we had been in preseason for over 45 days compared to the Lakers. My son was there to watch the game, which was very important. It was fun making history because when you’re playing the Lakers, they force you to do your best. You got to look at our roster. All of our team was filled with NBA Draft picks. We’re talking about high-level players and that’s what made us so special.

Q: How did the Lakers approach the game?

A: They obviously took the game seriously because I remember they were winning most of the time. They wanted to get in their rhythm. I think Pau Gasol helped them get ready. They were really talented and their size was just amazing. Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Kobe and Ron Artest were incredibly physically gifted.

Q: How big was the anticipation for you and the whole team going into that game?

A: I was super motivated because I knew I had to guard Kobe. Xavi Pascual was not going to put any other player to guard him; only me. So, I was mentally prepared. I’m a competitor. I took it personally and I was 100% focused on playing defense and scoring. It was a chance for me to show people back home in the States my all-around game and my versatility.

Q: What was the aftermath of that game? Did you get calls from friends, relatives or even offers from NBA teams?

A: In 2010, I turned down some NBA offers. It was just after we won the EuroLeague. In 2011, I was trying to build a momentum in order to land some bigger NBA contracts. The game was on ESPN, NBA TV and millions of people were watching. I got a call from everyone I know. I had maybe the longest blog in the history of HoopsHype, which went for about two years. When I was playing with Ricky Rubio, people in the States started asking who that Pete Maravich-like kid was because everyone was talking about him. I was able to market my teammate to the world. I thought the world of him as a person and I regarded him as a super good basketball player, especially considering his age. From there, my blog got really popular.

Q: What happened between you and Ron Artest during and after the game?

A: It started before. They asked Ron Artest: “What do you think about going to guard Pete Mickeal, one of the best players in Europe?” and he goes: “Pete who? I don’t know who that is”. That’s where it started. Every player has the scouting report of the opponent. You study that report, regardless if you’re the best in the world or you’re playing in a lower division. So, I took that as a form of disrespect and that really motivated to play against the Lakers. In the first play of the game I shoved my elbow in his face. That’s how I used to send a statement to a player throughout my whole career: “Hey, I’m the hardest guy on the floor- not you”.

Q: If you had him in front of you, what would you tell him?

A: I wouldn’t tell him anything. It’s just basketball. American players understand what I’m saying. There’s nothing personal. But once the game starts, I have no friends and I don’t care who you are. I’m going to destroy you. Whoever stands in front of me, I’m going to impose my will on them. I’m an asshole on the basketball court. When the game was over, I’m back to normal. Me and Kobe talked about giving me a jersey for my son and he told me: “No problem. Get in touch with my people in LA and I’ll send you one”. That was our last conversation. The truth is I never got in touch with his people, but I should have. Kobe had only good words to say about me and the same goes for me too.

Q: Did he know about you as a player?

A: I think he’s a different guy. He grew up in Italy, so he always respected Europe. I know that he loved soccer and I’m sure Pau gave some info on who we were. He was a good student of the game.

Q: Is it true that you challenged him to a one-on-one?

A: Yes, it is. The game was so competitive and Kobe roughed me up a little bit, putting his finger up to my face telling me to calm down. That was the turning point when I got really competitive and told him: “Anytime you want to play one-on-one, we can do it. And I guarantee I’ll win”.

Q: Do you believe that particular Barcelona team would have been able to compete in the NBA?

A: I most definitely do. If you look at how the NBA was ten years ago, it’s not the same as now. We had everything you need to play at that level: size and length, having N’Dong, Vazquez and Lorbek who were between 6’8” and 6’9”, and also players who could shoot the ball like Juan Carlos Navarro. I’m not saying that we’d be a play-off team, but we would definitely compete at that level; we would win games. I’ve been in the NBA as a front-office exec and I understand there’s more to it than just basketball.

Kobe Bryant competes with Pete Mickeal during the NBA Europe Live game between Regal FC Barcelona vs LA Lakers at Palau Sant Jordi on October 7, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Rodolfo Molina/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Q: You were drafted in 2000 by the Dalllas Mavericks. In 2013, HoopsHype reported that the Lakers were considering your case. Did you ever receive an offer from them?

A: That’s an interesting question. The NBA is always doing their homework on players, looking around if there’s some high-level player in Europe that’s willing to come over for the minimum. I was an NBA scout for years and I understand the process. Did I get to the point where they offered me a contract and I said no? The answer is negative. But, did other teams ever consider giving me a contract? Yes. The Lakers situation was different because I never had a formal offer from them, but I did have one from another team. I’m not going to say which one it was, but I’ll tell you that they play in the Eastern Conference and they were a really good team.

I felt comfortable being in Barcelona and it worked for me because my son was born there. It’s one of the places that I consider retiring in the future. My wife loves Barcelona and I can’t disappoint her.

Q: Having seen both Europe and the NBA, would you say that European teams get underpaid to release their stars?

A: There’s some guys with huge buyouts. To give you an example, I had a 3 million euro buyout in my contract with Barcelona. That was impossible for an NBA team to pay because all they could give was $750,000. If they wanted to pay more, they’d lose cap space. This is why teams want the players to pay it. It’s very difficult for top Euro players to go to the NBA unless they’re willing to take less money. The problem is that you have to pay your agent in the States, a buyout out of your contract and almost 40% tax of that money. Then, you have to pay for life expenses, like food, house, car etc. In the end, you don’t make that much money.

If you play on a top European team, like Barcelona or CSKA, you live a lot better and you save yourself a lot of money. So, guys who really want to play in the NBA, they do it. Because -win or lose- they think of themselves as NBA players. Guys like Vassilis Spanoulis could have played longer in the NBA. For Europeans, its’ a tough situation because they often don’t play much unless they’re a Jokic. If they don’t have star potential, they’ll be the 12th-15th man on the roster. In that case, they won’t play, won’t practice; instead, they get lazy and out of shape. It becomes very difficult to show what they can do when their call comes.

My situation was different because I had gotten to a place where I felt the most comfortable in my life. I met my wife there, won the EuroLeague and my life changed. The key for me was Barcelona offering a two-year contract. I never had a two-year deal in my whole career and I was looking for some stability. I didn’t want to go to the NBA for the minimum. You can’t control your playing time there. You have to get a promise that you’re going to get a certain amount of minutes or you don’t go. When you’re young, it’s easier. So, I don’t regret my decision because I made the right call for my career.

Q: If you had to choose one NBA team to play for, which would it be?

A: Right now, I’d play for the Miami Heat because that’s my style. They measure your weight every week; they take body fat tests every Monday and fine players who don’t have certain percentages; they have conditioning tests all through the season. They are more of a European than an NBA team. They have very good structure. People say: “I’m going to South Beach and play in Miami”. Well, it ain’t no South Beach when you get to Miami. It’s all work. There’s no party or fun time. As soon as you step in the gym, you’re held accountable for what you do off the court. They make sure that you’re eating and that you’re getting your rest. Those are the type of teams I wanted to play for because I know that every other player will be held accountable just like I am.

NBA teams obviously are not the same. Rules say that you have only one contact practice a day. In Europe, you might get two. There’s also a time limit in pre-season on how long a guy can practise. In Europe, you might run in the mountains, then come back and have a practice. I love toughness and when other players are willing to fight with me.

Q: How were things on the two teams you worked for, Minnesota and Washington?

A: Great. I got to work for two years for one of the smartest, most seasoned veterans in the world: Tom Thibodeau. If your first job is with him, I believe I’ve signed up for a very good career. He holds his scouts accountable just like he holds his players. He trusted that I was going to do the work to the best of my ability. The relationship we had when he was with the Knicks in 2000, when he worked me out in the two Summer Leagues I played for him, keeps up and I think he appreciates me a lot. I was very fortunate to get hired by that organization. There’s really good people there. Working with Johnny Rogers, one of the great players in Europe, was good for me because he was the one who talked Tom into hiring me.

Q: According to a recent survey, over the last twenty years there’s been a tremendous increase in the number of US players in the EuroLeague, as well as of non-US players in the NBA. How would you explain the trend?

A: That tells you that there are many high-level Americans playing in Europe, some of whom are either ex NBAers or former NBA Draft picks. Right now, EuroLeague teams can have unlimited number of Americans on their roster and every team has at least two. They’re looked at as some of the best in the world. Teams like CSKA have three or four of them and that’s why they’re always going to be successful. It’s a trend of more high-level players compared to before.

As far as Europeans in the NBA, San Antonio put the world on notice. They got Ginobili, Parker, Splitter and their best players were non-Americans. At one point, they created a dynasty. The NBA is a copycat league. After the Spurs succeeded, all teams got high-level European players. Golden State had a dynasty shooting threes, so now the whole NBA is doing the same- even guys who can’t shoot the ball well. There’s some teams that say: “No midrange; either three-point shots or straight to the basket”. Strategy-wise, Europeans have always been able to shoot and now it’s normal to bring over some of them.

Pete Mickeal competes with Josh Childress during the Euroleague Basketball Final Four Final Game between Regal FC Barcelona vs Olympiacos at Bercy Arena on May 9, 2010 in Paris, France. (Photo by Catherine Steenkeste/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Q: What’s the main feature of the EuroLeague?

A: EuroLeague has trends also. Now, there’s more individual play than in the past. I was in the Final Four of the EuroLeague in Vitoria last year and I saw more individual play than team basketball. Europe used to be “pass and play for the team”. Now, it’s like “give this guy the ball, let him play pick’n’roll, switch screens after they switch, take advantage of the mismatch and play one-on-one”. Before, if you didn’t make the extra pass, it was because you were not focused or didn’t want to be a team player. Even though you still see team basketball, I think that this trend is very good for the fans who want to see exciting basketball and individual athletic players who can shoot the ball. If you bring a player over and you pay him millions of dollars to play in the EuroLeague, you don’t want to take away from his game what he does well.

Q: What has your experience from both sides of the Atlantic taught you?

A: Playing in Europe teaches you to be tough because there’s no handouts. Europe is right now. Coaches want to win now and there’s no player development unless you’re a local player for a lower division team. When you’re an American and you play bad, then you’re out. In the NBA, if they give you a five-year deal, they might continue to pay your money in case you play bad. Two-way contracts are good if you can get your player a guaranteed number of games. If he’s not to play in the NBA at all, it doesn’t make sense putting him on such a contract.

Q: In the case of Luka Doncic, what made the difference? Was it the Mavericks organization or his readiness to respond based on his EuroLeague experience and excellence?

A: Everything he has, he earned. When he first came over, many didn’t give him respect because he’s a EuroLeague guy, he didn’t have 6-pack abs, he was not in great shape. He was more than ready for the NBA. I told everyone that when a player is EuroLeague and Spanish finals MVP in the same year at any age, that tells you he’s a rare, special talent. Even if he’s not that athletic, it depends on what system he’s in and on how he plays. Luka has great size, is crafty and nobody can stand in front of him. No one has been able to guard him one-on-one. He’s one step ahead of everybody when he has the ball in his hands. The Mavericks gave him help, signing Porzingis, and that team is fine for the future.

Q: Would you credit the Bucks for entrusting Giannis with their future?

A: They took the risk and bet on this guy. You got to give the scouts credit for telling the assistant GM to take a look at him. Giannis gets credit for developing his skill set and becoming a monster. He still can get better; he had the work ethic to do it and I don’t know if his future is going to be in Milwaukee or somewhere else. He has already made history, winning back-to-back MVP awards. I’d give the MVP to LeBron this year, but Giannis had a great year also. The team is doing everything they can to make him feel comfortable and stay. Giannis is one of those players that will stay with one team, creating his own legacy there. It’s easy to go to another team and ask for a trade, but he’s the type of guy that’s going to try and do it the hard way.

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Jason Thompson: “Obradovic would change his style if he was to coach in the NBA. I could definitely see Luka’s potential for greatness” https://www.talkbasket.net/105625-jason-thompson-obradovic-would-change-his-style-if-he-was-to-coach-in-the-nba-i-could-definitely-see-lukas-potential-for-greatness https://www.talkbasket.net/105625-jason-thompson-obradovic-would-change-his-style-if-he-was-to-coach-in-the-nba-i-could-definitely-see-lukas-potential-for-greatness#respond Wed, 30 Sep 2020 11:17:45 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=105625 In the second part of his interview with TalkBasket.net, Jason Thompson explores his overseas adventure with Euroleague powerhouse Fenerbahce in 2017-18, replacing former No 1 pick Anthony Bennett and Fener great Ekpe Udoh, being guided by coaching legend Zeljko Obradovic and witnessing Luka Doncic’s talents. After recounting his eight-year NBA stint, the No 12 pick […]

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Jason Thompson: “Obradovic would change his style if he was to coach in the NBA. I could definitely see Luka’s potential for greatness”

In the second part of his interview with TalkBasket.net, Jason Thompson explores his overseas adventure with Euroleague powerhouse Fenerbahce in 2017-18, replacing former No 1 pick Anthony Bennett and Fener great Ekpe Udoh, being guided by coaching legend Zeljko Obradovic and witnessing Luka Doncic’s talents.

After recounting his eight-year NBA stint, the No 12 pick in the 2008 Draft touched on several issues pertaining to the only experience he had in Europe, before joining Casademont Zaragoza last February.

The 34-year-old forward-center admits that he was unaware of the fact that Fener was going to dispute multiple competitions in the same season. He recalls watching Luka Doncic excel with Slovenia and Real Madrid, the teams with which the Dallas Mavericks star won both the EuroBasket and the Euroleague over a span of nine months. Futhermore, Thompson offers his perspective on whether Obradovic would succeed in the NBA and the reasons for Anthony Bennett not making it in the NBA.

Q: What do you make of your time in China, where you found many ex-NBAers again?

A: It’s a different strand of basketball; very similar to the NBA when it comes to high-scoring, run and gun basketball. Rules force every team to have up to two foreigners who can only play together in the second and third quarter. That was kind of new to me.

Q: I guess it was your brother Ryan who talked you into trying Europe.

A: Yeah, my brother has played in Europe for the past ten years. Regardless of someone telling you how European basketball is, you can’t really understand it until you experience it yourself. Ten months, two different leagues, some things were new and I had to adjust to them.

Q: Many US players coming from the NBA have a hard time adjusting to the concept of playing in two or more leagues at the same time. How did it work for you?

A: That year (2018) with Fenerbahce, we lost the Euroleague championship to Real Madrid. Regardless if we won or lost, I thought that the season would be over. When we finished the Euroleague, we had to into the Turkish League playoffs. I wasn’t used to having a championship game and still prepare for a playoff. That was weird for me. I thought that because the Euroleague Final Four is the highest level in Europe, after that it’s all over. Honestly, I can say now that I didn’t know Euroleague and Turkey are two separate competitions before I signed. I could have done my search and looked it up, but It’s not bad that I didn’t know either. Now, I can tell the difference for sure (laughs)!

Q: How was your transition to a different culture? I mean players close to each other like family, must-win games on any given night, not to mention a strong coaching figure?

A: It was definitely a learning experience, especially because it was my first. Being in a Turkish powerhouse like Fener turned out to be a blessing for me. Us and CSKA Moscow would go neck and neck as the No 1 and No 2 seed. We had a great record for the regular season and when we would lose a game, it was like crazy. That’s another difference between Europe and US. Yes, you don’t want and you’re not happy to lose, but you shouldn’t panic or be that upset about it. Especially when you’re a top team, you’re going to get the best of everyone each and every night.

Jason Thompson, during the Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul Arrival to participate of 2018 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague F4 at Hyatt Regency Hotel on May 16, 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo by Patrick Albertini/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Q: Coming to Fenerbahce, did you feel any pressure to replace Ekpe Udoh who had gone to Utah?

A: There’s always the scenario where the big replaces the big. Some guys adjust better to Europe or the NBA and vice versa. I never compare myself to another player and I don’t want someone to compare me to them. They had a heck of a season (in 2016-17), with other players on the team and then the Final Four in Istanbul. Circumstances were a little bit different and so were the teams. You can only judge a player from his body of work throughout the years.

Q: On the other hand, isn’t it somewhat ironic or funny that in 2016 the Raptors released Anthony Bennett to make room for you on the roster and about 1,5 year later you again succeeded him at Fener?

A: I never look at it like that. He had a heck of a year in college becoming the No1 pick. For me, it’s about making business decisions and it so happened that he was on a team before I got there.

Q: What do you think went wrong with him?

A: I’m not a scouter. Sometimes there’s different fits or an organization doesn’t have faith in a player. We’ve seen that over the years with No 1 or TOP 10 picks. The guy is talented. He’s done a lot of great things, but sometimes the pressure that you have for being the No 1 pick and all eyes are on you can lead to that.

Q: Some weeks ago, Ekpe Udoh became unpopular with Fener fans when he posted that Zeljko Obradovic, despite being the most powerful coach in Europe, wouldn’t like the NBA and wouldn’t be successful there because “a coach with his temper would get ran out”. What’s your take on that?

A: Oh man! After having played in the NBA, I had to adjust to Europe. I don’t think I have to answer for the coach’s perspective because I’m not a coach. College coaches may not adjust to the NBA. I don’t know if I fully agree with that (Udoh’s statement). I just think that coach would just change his style because of the type of players he might have in the NBA. You look at the success David Blatt had, but I don’t know if he changed his style when he was with Maccabi or with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Q: Apart from calling Obradovic an encyclopedia because of his knowledge of the game, what else is so special about him?

A: For me, he’s like the Phil Jackson of Europe. The amount of championships and wins speaks for itself. At times, especially if you’re not around a coach for a certain amount of years, you may not be on the same page with a lot of things, but you have to be able to adjust and hear from one that has had so much success. He is so well-respected. His style works for some; other guys may not like it, but if they win they will pick the reward. In one year I learned a lot from him and his style. If I go into coaching, I am definitely going to take some things from his style and how he approaches the game.

Zeljko Obradovic with Jason Thompson during the 2017/2018 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 23 game between Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul and AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan at Ulker Sports Arena on February 22, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Q: Is it true that Fenerbahce players were not allowed to use their phones during meals?

A: I don’t know if that’s the European rule or not. In Europe, you have teammates who are roommates, teams having dinners, lunches and breakfasts together. In the NBA you don’t have roommates and you can do whatever you want because that’s why you get paid to be a pro: someone who should be able to know what to do and what not to do, without letting anything affect them on or off the court. If that’s not the way in Europe, I’d like someone to correct me. I feel like it is.

Q: Which was the biggest adjustment you had to make upon taking the European stage for the first time?

A: Ι would say practices and how early training camps were. Going from Euroleague to Turkish League, you had maybe two games a week with a different basketball and rules. Every game means something, but you shouldn’t be upset or panicked if you lost one game after ten straight wins. Especially if you’re a top team, you’re going to get everyone’s best because they look up to you like you’re the best team in the world – which we were at the time.

Q: You got to see Luka Doncic’s potential first-hand. Were you convinced that he was going to rise that quickly?

A: I could tell that he had a lot of talent for the game at a young age. Being in a top team definitely helped him. I watched him win the EuroBasket with Slovenia in Istanbul (in 2017). I was there for the games and saw him and Dragic win gold. I thought: “This guy is ready”. When you’re on a team like Real Madrid – where there’s so much talent, everything is boxes and elbows and space is limited- you can think that he’s going to see the floor differently in the NBA, where you have more space. Not many people believed that he could become this great that quickly, but I could definitely see his potential for NBA greatness.

Q: How great can he get? Rony Seikaly said that he can be the best white player ever.

A: (laughs). Wow! A non-black person said that? Interesting. I’m sure Larry Bird is regarded as one of the best players of all time. But Doncic could be one of the all-time greats, even if I wouldn’t call him the best white player ever.

Q: He also said Luka is Larry Bird 2.0.

A: I could probably agree with that part. I don’t know about the first one. The organization has his back and the success that he’s had will keep going on. I feel like sky is the limit for him. Organizations know that the game is way more global now than it was 10-20 years ago. You see Luka, Jokic, Porzingis and the list goes on for top guys over the water that are top in the NBA too. Even in the Olympics, when you see the USA playing against other countries like Spain and Argentina, games are much closer than they were in the era of the first Dream Team. That shows the development of organizations.

Luka Doncic of Real Madrid and Jason Thompson of Fenerbahce Dogus in action during the 2017/2018 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 15 game between Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul and Real Madrid at Ulker Sports and Event Hall on December 28, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)
Luka Doncic and Jason Thompson in action during the 2017/2018 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 15 game between Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul and Real Madrid at Ulker Sports and Event Hall on December 28, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Q: You have initiated a non-profit foundation that raises awareness about heart disease in athletes. Myocarditis actually hit your former teammate at the Warriors, Brandon Rush. Did you know that?

A: No, I didn’t. It’s the No1 heart disease in the world. My cousin passed away from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and I just wanted to keep raising awareness and reduce cases for kids and young adults all over the world.

Q: In terms of life after basketball, are you set on becoming a commentator?

A: That’s something I want to do, but I could do coaching as well. I could start with college and get into the NBA. Teaching the youth is what I like most, but I want to try college instead of High School.

Q: What’s the word that best describes or sums up your career?

A: Ironman. Just for being able to play at a high level, even with bad luck in some teams and situations. I have been able to prevail, make money and play the game that I love the most since I’ve started when I was five years old.

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Jason Thompson on experiencing frustration in Sacramento and chasing glory in Europe https://www.talkbasket.net/105506-jason-thompson-on-experiencing-frustration-in-sacramento-and-chasing-glory-in-europe https://www.talkbasket.net/105506-jason-thompson-on-experiencing-frustration-in-sacramento-and-chasing-glory-in-europe#respond Tue, 29 Sep 2020 15:26:18 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=105506 Jason Thompson is in Athens, Greece. From September 30 to October 4, the Basketball Champions League (BCL), one of Europe’s elite competitions, will host the closing event for the 2019-20 season. The BCL and the NBA are the only leagues that have yet to crown a champion because of the turmoil the COVID-19 pandemic caused […]

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Jason Thompson on experiencing frustration in Sacramento and chasing glory in Europe

Jason Thompson is in Athens, Greece.

From September 30 to October 4, the Basketball Champions League (BCL), one of Europe’s elite competitions, will host the closing event for the 2019-20 season. The BCL and the NBA are the only leagues that have yet to crown a champion because of the turmoil the COVID-19 pandemic caused all around the (basketball) world. The novelty that the BCL was forced to introduce this year is related to the format. A Final 8, with back-to-back single elimination games over the course of five days, will decide the champion.

Thompson’s team, Casademont Zaragoza from Spain, is one of the three Spanish clubs to participate in the event. In fact, they will play against Tenerife in the quarter-final, to be held October 1 at an empty seated OAKA Indoor Hall in the Greek capital. The road to the trophy is paved with fearsome opponents for Zaragoza, something that goes also for the next (2020-21) campaign. BCL and Spanish League are very demanding competitions, but the team coached by Diego Ocampo is in a good position, having kept its core of players.

This is where Jason Thompson enters the picture. The 34-year-old NBA veteran has gathered tons of experience, including an enriching one-year stint with Euroleague powerhouse Fenerbahce of Turkey in 2017-18. When he was first signed by Zaragoza last February, it turned out to be too late. The pandemic broke out and action stopped. Thompson returned to the States, but Zaragoza was eager to bring him back to bolster its frontcourt.

Following an outstanding collegiate career with the Rider Broncs, the former guard from New Jersey eventually grew into an interesting NBA player. The 12th pick in the 2008 Draft had a strong start in the league, but the franchise that selected him was immersed in a problematic situation. It was a tough period for the Sacramento Kings, as coaches came and went, players followed the same path and the playoffs had turned into an infeasible goal. Nevertheless, Thompson managed to stay afloat, registering solid numbers in points and rebounds, thus securing the extention of his rookie contract.

In the summer of 2015, the Kings traded him to Golden State and the 6’11” player got to see the other side of the coin. The Warriors were the defending champs and Thompson could use as one of the last pieces to the puzzle- at best. The 2015-16 season proved to be unfortunate for him, as he was once again traded to the Toronto Raptors. Despite competing in his career-first playoffs and the team reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time, his future was not in the NBA anymore.

Thompson played a total of 2.5 years in China and another season with Fener in Turkey and the Euroleague, before deciding to settle down in Spain. For good? We’ll see. In any case, Zaragoza provides him with another shot at a continental title, previously lost out by a 5-point margin to Real Madrid in 2018.

In the first part of his conversation with TalkBasket.net, Jason Thompson reflects on his ups and downs in the NBA, the role he had on all of his teams, the players and coaches that helped him, as well as the BCL Final 8 challenge that lies ahead.

Q: What made you return to Zaragoza for a second stint?

A: I felt really comfortable with the teammates that I had. The coach and the system are the same. I thought of it as unfinished business because I wasn’t able to help them in the Spanish playoffs.

Q: How do you expect the season to be?

A: We should have a lot of humble expectations with the team. It’s always good to be able to play for a championship early on in the season, like the Final 8 in Athens. We’re going to raise the bar progressively because we want to be successful.

Q: Have you studied your BCL opponents?

A: We played against Tenerife in the Spanish League and we lost. The BCL and the ACB are two different things. It was our first game of the season, on the road. Athens will be a neutral site, so many things are going to be different.

Q: Have you gotten used to playing in empty arenas?

A: While with Fenerbahce, we had a few games empty-seated. I don’t think it’s ever going to get taken used to, but you just have to adjust and find your own motivation without the crowd effect. Some guys thrive off from the crowd and the energy.

Q: What do you expect from this Final 8?

A: All of us are expecting to win in advance. We’re not too cocky, but just confident getting into it. If you have the right game plan, you should be able to win. A lot of teams have upgraded, others have lost players. It’s do-or-die games, not a best-of-three series. The mindset is different because home court advantage is important in a series, but in such games you don’t want to have the “go home” feeling. You want to die for loose balls and do whatever it takes to not get eliminated.

Q: As an overseas player, do you feel safe in terms of having to travel constantly amidst the pandemic?

A: The virus is in every country. It started in China, then went to Europe and now it’s been all over. You just want to follow the rules and do the right thing. The ACB and the Champions League are doing a great job of making sure that we’re safe and get tested once or twice a week. It’s not just the basketball aspect, but mainly a question of health. I saw that the BCL reduced the teams in each group for next year. Personally, my only European experience has been with Fenerbahce in the Euroleague (2017-18). We didn’t have groups then and I’m not familiar with the system. Even if you don’t know the format, you must win games and let everything else take care of itself.

Photo Source: Jason Thompson Instagram page

Q: There’s a strong veteran presence in the Final 8. It includes Marcelinho Huertas, Jonas Maciulis, Keith Langford, David Holston, to name just a few. How does a player stay relevant or in demand as time flies?

A: It’s tough. It’s a blessing for them and for me to play basketball at a high level. This is my thirteenth year, since I started in 2008 and I’m still going. As long as we take care of our bodies and make sure that we’re good, it’s a great feeling to play against other guys that had been performing at a high level for so many years.

Q: You started out as a guard in college. How did you develop your post skills and eventually grow into a power forward/center?

A: I was undersized in college, but my game was still developing. Then, I grew three inches and put on fifty pounds a month to become a pro. Each year I wanted to get stronger, improve on my game. So, it became hard for guys to guard me. That’s very important, especially now when non-traditional basketball is in fashion: five men shooting threes and handling the ball, point guards posting up on mismatches etc. Skill is needed all throughout the world.

Q: How hard was it for you to prove to NBA scouts that coming off the Middle-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MACC) didn’t mean that you were going to wash out in the league?

A: I always had that chip over my shoulder, being an underdog in High School and becoming a big fish in a small pond in college. I had that work-hard mentality, regardless of me being the 12th pick. That’s why I was focused on getting a second contract even in my first year as a rookie. I wanted to help my team and improve. When you put all those things together, you don’t look at all the noise and the background.

Q: While at Sacramento, you had seven coaches and double as many losses than wins over seven seasons. Did you get the impression that the team was trying to tank? What made the Kings so dysfunctional at the time?

A: I don’t know what to say about the tank part. Seven coaches in as many years is definitely not the formula for winning. We also had a difficult situation with change of ownership and we didn’t know if the team was going to stay in Sacramento. There was a lot of things to worry about, even off the court. As a young kid in a young team that’s very tough to be around. As I look back at it now, I want to be able to win and succeed in an organization. Some of them, give second chances to their coaches, like the Sixers did with “Trust the process”. Overall, it was a blessing to be there.

Q: Nevertheless, you described your last season with Sacramento as a circus. What was going on?

A: (laughs) Hopefully, I didn’t say that! But yeah, it’s just a lot of things that as a pro I shouldn’t go through, on and off the court. There was a lot going on, from top to bottom.

Q: How do you explain the fact that your best performances came in the first two NBA seasons?

A: Maybe statistically they were the best. Who knows what would have happened if you had a legit coach, the same system, assistants and teammates for over two seasons? That’s why you see so many guys go out of the league at a young age: they are not around the right system or organization. Sometimes, it’s about luck as well. When I went to Sacramento, you had power forwards and centers playing with their back to the basket. Now, you have five men that are 6’5’’ or 6’4’’. When I was in the league, centers had to be at least 6’10’’. It’s a different generation of basketball.

Q: Would you say that your role changed since DeMarcus Cousins took over the frontcourt?

A: It was a lot. He was an All-Star and gold medalist. After Cousins got drafted, I still averaged double figures for most of the seasons. I mean, for sure when a guy wants the ball a lot and you’re in a similar spot, it’s going to change since we weren’t winning as well. So, it was frustrating, but that comes with the game.

DeMarcus Cousins (15) and Jason Thompson walk to bench during a Kings game against the Dallas Mavericks at the Sleep Train Arena on April 6, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./Sacramento Bee/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Q: You said that upon entering the league, post moves and mid-range shots were in fashion. How was it having to adjust to different requirements after a few years?

A: Some guys had that in their game, but the percentages in the shot taking and making were different back in the day. I don’t think guys took as many shots because it was more about post moves and mid-range. That’s where I tried to focus on at that time. Now, they shoot at high level, rebound the ball and that’s good for ratings and views.

Q: How did it feel having been the guy with the most regular season games without seeing the playoffs? Greg Monroe eventually surpassed you in that category, since you managed to break the “curse” in your final NBA year with Toronto.

A: It was frustrating, for sure. At times, you always question yourself. But you’re blessed to be in the NBA, a situation where you always wanted to be as a kid. It’s tough going into a season and not knowing if you’re going to make the playoffs. One year becomes two and then five. It took my eighth year to make the playoffs. For the most part, I was very happy to have finally broken the curse.

Q: Did your stint with Sacramento create some bad (losing) habits?

A: I wouldn’t say that because I had been around winning in High School and college. After a while, I would get upset every night. But you can’t have your body language be about that and let a game decide how you’re going to be in the next one. When you teach the young kids “It’s not OK to lose; don’t be happy or complacent about losing”, you should also say that it’s not the end of the world. You have to get ready for the next game in two days and be able to play better.

Q: Who’s the most difficult matchup you had in the NBA?

A: For me, being a starter for most of my career and playing the power forward -especially in the Western Conference- is like “pick your poison”. You had Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge. At the end of the day, you had to be able to go at them because they would defend and so they couldn’t go at you as hard offensively.

Q: What about the best teammate you had?

A: I’ve had so many… Francisco Garcia, former Louisville and Dominican Republic player, helped me out in Sacramento when he was a veteran and I was a rookie. He showed me what it takes to be a pro on and off the court; to not just focus on my rookie deal, but to worry about years later and get a second contract. I wouldn’t have been the player and the man I am today without his advice.

In Europe, I would say James Nunnaly, a really good dude who was with me at Fener. We ended up having mutual friends. I still talk to him during the day. He also invited me to his wedding when we knew each other for six months. He has a great family and has been a great player through all these years.

Q: Who was the best coach you had in the NBA, if you had to pick just one?

A: I would say between Mike Malone and Paul Westphal. You can see the success that Malone is having with the Nuggets right now. Paul Westphal had been successful over the years, being a Hall-of-Fame coach and player. I know he’s been facing some health problems and I wish him a speedy recovery.

Q: At the time you arrived in Oakland, the Golden State Warriors were the defending champions, but your playing time was minimal. Would you prefer to have been traded elsewhere?

A: I was traded to Philadelphia initially and then to Golden State. I was a focal point in Sacramento, but also unsure about the direction of the organization, a team with a lot of young guys not making the playoffs. Then, I went to a team that had just come off of winning the championship. Pretty much they were the same team. It was very new to me and I should have taken a better approach because it was the first time at any level that I didn’t get to play much. It was frustrating at the time, but also a learning experience.

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David Holston is small in size, but also a giant in disguise https://www.talkbasket.net/105140-david-holston-is-small-in-size-but-also-a-giant-in-disguise https://www.talkbasket.net/105140-david-holston-is-small-in-size-but-also-a-giant-in-disguise#respond Sun, 27 Sep 2020 10:19:52 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=105140 An undersized point guard and a formidable scorer, who overcomes his minuscule stature with heart and talent, reaching his prime well past the age of 30, is a combination hard to find anywhere. For David Holston, the ladder to success has been a rather long one to climb up. Coming off from a High School […]

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David Holston is small in size, but also a giant in disguise

An undersized point guard and a formidable scorer, who overcomes his minuscule stature with heart and talent, reaching his prime well past the age of 30, is a combination hard to find anywhere.

For David Holston, the ladder to success has been a rather long one to climb up. Coming off from a High School in Auburn Hills, where he earned all-county and all-state honors, Holston was not offered a single college basketball scholarship. Even when he embarked on the college venture with Chicago State University (CSU), it was for an institution with no athletic conference affiliation.

Being undersized is an understatement when it comes to one of the shortest players currently at work in Europe. Whether his official height is 5’6’’ or 5’7’’, top-level professional basketball has higher requirements, at least on paper. The court is usually a different story and David Holston knows that he can make history in the next few days, if JDA Dijon Basket wins a European title.

The French side is getting ready for the Final Eight of the Basketball Champions League which will be held in Athens between September 30 and October 4, 2020. The OAKA Indoor Hall, homecourt for previous winners AEK Athens, will be the venue. However, no fans are expected to attend. Their opponent in the quarter-finals, Turk Telekom from Turkey, has several former NBA players on the roster, like Kyle Wiltjer, Tyler Ennis and Sam Dekker.

“I’m just trying to prepare my mind for the Final 8. Athens is a nice city and I can’t wait to get back. It’s going to be cool, even without fans”, Holston told TalkBasket.net over the phone from his house in Dijon. A place he calls home, since he’s getting ready for his fourth season with the team, which most likely will not be his last.

Coach Laurent Legname has found a gem of a point guard, who operates both as a gifted scorer and a floor general when the situation calls for it. Holston’s latest “masterpiece” came at Dijon’s last game, a 81-74 win over Asvel Basket, reigning champions of the French LNB and Euroleague participants. With the visitors leading 12-0 after less than five minutes of play, Dijon evened the game in the second half and in the fourth courter the undersized American guard stepped in big-time. After all, that’s what he does best: 16 points, including four daggers and a total of 5 assists, proved enough to knock Asvel down for good.

That game was just the latest perl in the collection of great performances for the wondrous baller, who also led Dijon to the French Cup last February. Lifting the first trophy in his career whetted Holston’s appetite for more crowns. As chance would have it, his first and biggest goal lies ahead of him.

Besides, the 34-year-old veteran is no sleeper anymore. In 2019, he was named the MVP of the French League and is averaging 12.3 points – 6.9 assists on 40% behind the arc in the BCL. Holston finished his collegiate stint with 19.6 points, 4.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game. The 2009 NBA Draft came and went, thus paving the path to Europe.

Turkey and Germany were good, but France worked best for him. Holston’s 2017-18 season with Dijon pales in comparison with his achievements over the last two campaigns, but was enough to persuade him to come back to a city mostly famous for its mustard. Now, Dijon boasts a basketball team that aims to the top in every competition – and David Holston is one of the main reasons for it.

Q: How has the season been so far for you and Dijon?

A: Good. Our coach prepared us to be in good shape. We already played a game to qualify for the F8. We’re practising really hard and I think we’re going to be ready.

Q: What do you think of the BCL hosting a F8 to finish off last season?

A: It’s pretty cool, in order not to let the last season go to waste. We still got a chance to compete for a title. We did a very good job last year and being rewarded for it is very good. We have the opportunity to play on a big stage.

Q: I saw that you had a considerable crowd with you in the game against Nizhny. The question is: Do you prefer to have some fans at the OAKA Indoor Hall, even if they were only AEK Athens supporters, or is it better with no fans at all?

A: It’s tough… I think everybody would say that they want to have fans. AEK fans are some of the best in Europe. So, it would probably be better not to have them in the gym when we play against them. On the other hand, it would have been a good atmosphere.

Q: If you were allowed to borrow a player from a BCL rival, who would it be?

A: That’s a hard question. But I’d say that the season MVP would be (Keith) Langford from AEK Athens, one of the best teams in the competition.

Q: I know you’re a student of the game and that you spend many hours watching basketball. What’s your view on the other teams comprising the F8?

A: Turk Telekom is a really good, talented team and we’ve been talking about them a lot lately. The point guard (Keifer Sykes) that they got made them even better. They also have Tyler Ennis and Sam Dekker, a very good shooter. We have to come ready to compete. I saw the Tenerife-Zaragoza game for the Spanish league and both were playing well. We played against Zaragoza and the way they move the ball and play with each other makes them a very tough team. It’s hard to beat them.

Q: Is there any team that stands out?

A: If it wasn’t us, I’d have to say AEK Athens or Hapoel Jerusalem. They have what it takes to win it all. It will come down to the team that’s hot and executes the best.

Q: Your former teammate Rasheed Sulaimon moved to Zaragoza in the summer. Did you talk?

A: We did, but not a lot. I just told him: “Congratulations and see you soon”. We’re all competitors, but we played together last season – a great year- and I want the best for him. I bet I’ll see him soon on the court. We’re both excited to be in the F8 and he was happy that we won our third game against Nizhny.

Q: Until February 2020, you hadn’t won any major trophies in your career. Now, after your first French Cup with Dijon, do you think that the BCL F8 presents you with the biggest challenge ever?

A: Yes. It’s a great opportunity; all I’ve been looking for. We have three games to play to get the title. I already won a cup and I want to win another one.

Q: What made you renew with Dijon until 2021?

A: It’s true that I had higher offers than theirs, but at this point in my career I mostly want to be comfortable. I like playing with the coach and the way he plays on defense and offense suits me a lot. I want to stay in a system that I know, since I have a good relationship with everyone in the club. It was an easy choice to make. I would like to play with coach Legname for as much as I can. So, I might stay with Dijon for the rest of my career.

Q: Do you feel underrated?

A: I’ve spent my whole career since High School, when I received no scholarships to go to college, with a chip on my shoulder. I always have been underrated. It’s hard to say whether I could have drawn the attention of big teams in Europe or NBA clubs, but the truth is that no Euroleague teams saw any interest in me. Maybe it just wasn’t for me. There’s nothing I could do about it. I was blessed to be able to play in the BCL and I want to keep doing what I love.

Photo Source: @tmmhoops Twitter account

Q: Would you say you were bound for overseas since the beginning of your pro career?

A: Yeah, I had a couple of tryouts in the States, but I knew how things go and that my future was in Europe. Everything I did in my career was supposed to happen. I never look back.

Q: Apart of tons of self-confidence, what else does an undersized guard need to have in order to feel like a giant on the court?

A: A big heart. For me, that’s the main thing. You got to go out, fight every night and work hard.

Q: As a French league MVP at 33, would you call yourself a late bloomer?

A: I guess you could say that. I think I’m starting to get smarter, understanding the game a lot better and developing as a player. A lot of credit goes to my coach for helping me. I feel like the best years of my career are ahead of me. I still can play at a top level and take care of myself as best as I can.

Q: Why have you called Malcolm Delaney the best player you’ve faced in Europe?

A: Just because of the way he controls the game and handles every situation. He’s a big guard and a really great player. As far as Europeans, I like Teodosic and Campazzo, who is a short guy and will play in the NBA for sure. He has a good knack for the game.

Q: Your birthday is on January 26. This year you were celebrating, but I guess the mood changed upon hearing about Kobe Bryant’s death. How was it?

A: It was crazy! We were just finishing dinner, after celebrating a little bit. My teammates brought a cake and when they were about to leave, we all found out the news. We were in a room together, sad. It was a downer for everybody. After what happened, I didn’t feel like it was my birthday anymore. We were all shocked.

Q: You didn’t get to play against Kobe, but you faced off with Kevin Durant in college. What did you make of him back then?

A: That was a crazy experience as well, hearing all the hype about him and then seeing him on the court next to me. You could tell what kind of player he was going to be. It was a good experience for me because he’s the best player I’ve ever stepped on the court with, the best scorer I’ve seen up close and personal.

Q: Who was your role model as a player?

A: Growing up, I looked up to Lindsey Hunter, who played for the Detroit Pistons and the Lakers. He took me under his wings when Ι was little and worked with me.

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Lloyd Pierce: Atlanta Hawks “are ready to make a really big jump moving in to this third season” https://www.talkbasket.net/103156-lloyd-pierce-atlanta-hawks-are-ready-to-make-a-really-big-jump-moving-in-to-this-third-season https://www.talkbasket.net/103156-lloyd-pierce-atlanta-hawks-are-ready-to-make-a-really-big-jump-moving-in-to-this-third-season#respond Fri, 11 Sep 2020 14:17:32 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=103156 Lloyd Pierce was speaking ahead of his online coaching tutorial this Sunday Sept. 13, as part of the Jr. NBA Coaches – Online program, hosted on OWQLO. Subscribe now by downloading the OWQLO App. Q: Which coaches inspired you before you developed your own coaching style? LP: I’ve worked for four different head coaches: Brett Brown […]

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Lloyd Pierce: Atlanta Hawks “are ready to make a really big jump moving in to this third season”

Lloyd Pierce was speaking ahead of his online coaching tutorial this Sunday Sept. 13, as part of the Jr. NBA Coaches – Online program, hosted on OWQLO. Subscribe now by downloading the OWQLO App.

Q: Which coaches inspired you before you developed your own coaching style?

LP: I’ve worked for four different head coaches: Brett Brown in Philadelphia, Mike Brown in Cleveland, Keith Smart in Golden State, and then Lionel Hollins in Memphis. All four of those guys have been instrumental in helping me navigate my coaching path in the NBA. Another guy I need to include is Coach [Gregg] Popovich. I had the honour to work with Coach Pop for the USA national team and understanding that a lot of the coaches in the NBA have been influenced and worked under Coach Pop. You tie in Mike Brown and Brett Brown who both worked under Pop. You start to see that a lot of the expertise in the NBA comes from the San Antonio family and is truly linked to what Coach Pop has done. It’s more than the Xs and Os, it’s about the way you can connect with your players, the system you try and create. That’s what I’ve got from all of those coaches.

Q: You played overseas for several years. How did that help you to develop on both a personal and professional level?

LP: The advantage of playing in different countries is learning the culture. Understanding the game is still the same. There’s different ways of emphasising how you play the game but understanding the diversity of our sport and the fact that it’s played in every country and is played at a high level in every country. That allows you to understand different backgrounds and cultural differences.

When I was in Germany, we spent a lot of time getting in shape in that first month or two. They really pressed on us the importance of physiotherapy, conditioning, fundamentals, as well as understanding how much time was spent in a practice session working on shooting. I really appreciated learning that because in our league it’s not something you practice as much in the NBA. You get to see clear differences in how each country approaches the game. We play a lot of games in the NBA and you don’t play the same number of games in Europe so there is more time and opportunity to practise so you can work on shooting and fine tune your skills.

Q: What do you think is the most important quality a head coach can possess? What advice would you give young, up and coming coaches?

LP: the most important quality is your ability to lead – it takes on a lot of characteristics. Leadership comes in the form of setting the example. You need to be prepared for every meeting, for every game, for every practice that’s one form of leadership that I strive to.

The other form of leadership is the ability to inspire your players. You have to get to know your players, you need to know what buttons to push, how to connect with them so you get the best out of your players. If you can maximise what your players do on the court then that’s a form of leadership. You need to learn how to motivate them, how to push them so you get maximum performance from them.

The same applies to your staff as well, if you can delegate and empower your staff and your coaches to really excel in what they focus on whether that’s offensive end, the defensive end or the game-plan management that’s another form of leadership. As a head coach you just have to understand the values of leadership and how to get the most out of your players and staff both on and off the court.

Q: What are the pros and cons of coaching one of the most electric young players in the NBA in Trae Young?

LP: In general it’s not just about our player. In general if you coach in the NBA, you’re coaching some of the best players in the world and I have one of the best players in the world right now, especially in the point guard position who’s just 21 years-old, in Trae Young. The pro is you get to see how talented and how gifted a player like Trae is on a day-to-day basis.

The con is we’re still at the early stages of his development. He’s going to be so much of a better player in three, four, five years – that’s really when all players peak when they’re around 24, 25, 26 years-old and so you go through the growing pains of any young player still learning the level, learning the league, learning the game, learning their body – they’re getting stronger. So we’re still in the early stages of it and so you want that success and all of it to happen right away but you have to go through the growing pains. But to be around that greatness, to be around a high level player at such an early age, he’s averaging 29 [points per game] and 10 [assists per game] in just his second season so to be able to see that at such an early age, you just get excited for what else is coming in terms of his greatness and his ability to grow.

Q: How do you see the game evolving in the next few years and how do centers fit into the future?

LP: For the big men in our league, in our sport, the game has evolved. Three-point shooting has become a key feature in how the offensive game has developed and enhanced itself. Defensively, the ability to switch one through four, one through five and play position-less basketball both offensively and defensively, has been a major emphasis in our sport in the last couple of years but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a role for the big man. You’re seeing a lot of great passing bigs in our league. They’re playing above the floor, up the floor, outside of the 3-point line. We’re seeing bigs that are capable of shooting the three but we’re also seeing bigs who are capable of playing with dribble hand-offs in facilitating roles, whether it’s at the elbow or above the three-point line. But defensively it still remains the same, you’ve got to have an ability to protect the rim, you’ve got to have an ability to defensive rebound at a really high level. And that next phase is do you have an ability to switch and move laterally and keep the ball in front of you, keep the ball from getting to the rim using your length using your quickness, using your intelligence and positioning.

Q: With the draft coming up, what kind of players are you looking for right now that would fit your team?

LP: For us, its players that can come in and contribute right away. We have about 6 or 7 guys, pretty young guys, but guys that are really ready to take that next step. Trae Young and John Collins being our two leaders from a production stand point and all of them are ready to make a really big jump moving in to this third season here in Atlanta.

We add Clint Capela, we’re going to get some more experience in free agency, and then hopefully a young draft pick that can add to the talent level, but maybe show an ability to come in and contribute in some meaningful ways as well. The draft and free agency, when you combine the two and what we’re able to do with our cap space, it’s really can we make the next step, can we make a big jump in terms of including the guys we currently have and adding some pieces that complement and add to that picture as well. That’s going to happen in free agency and in the draft.

Q: You’ve put a lot of time in to Black Lives Matter and social justice and working with the Coaches Association to lead on some of those initiatives. Can you share your views on the players’ recent actions in support of social justice and what is your outlook on the future?

LP: It’s a very passionate and powerful plea by our players and our league as a whole to really stand up for equality. And that’s equality for people of colour, that’s equality for people that have come to our country, that live in our country, to have equal opportunity. That’s what we pride ourselves on here in the United States and we want to make sure we’re doing our part as a league to ensure that all of those things are being met.

We understand there’s a big disparity in a lot of economic and social justices in our country and as a league we’ve committed ourselves and positioned ourselves to not only stand up for but to try and address it so that equality truly is being met and satisfied whether it’s in the NBA, whether it’s in politics, whether it’s in criminal justice, whether it’s with police. Our players have a really huge platform and ability to draw additional attention to it and they can help to find a solution for equality in our country.

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Rony Seikaly (III): The “inflexible” coach in Barcelona and the Greek dreams that slipped away https://www.talkbasket.net/102809-rony-seikaly-iii-the-inflexible-coach-in-barcelona-and-the-greek-dreams-that-slipped-away https://www.talkbasket.net/102809-rony-seikaly-iii-the-inflexible-coach-in-barcelona-and-the-greek-dreams-that-slipped-away#respond Wed, 09 Sep 2020 12:57:42 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=102809 In the third and final part of his interview with TalkBasket.net, Rony Seikaly explores the last chapter of his basketball career: his return to Europe in order to bolster FC Barcelona’s roster in the 2000-2001 campaign. The diametrically different views on how the Lebanese/American center should be used by his coach, legendary Aito Garcia Reneses, […]

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Rony Seikaly (III): The “inflexible” coach in Barcelona and the Greek dreams that slipped away

In the third and final part of his interview with TalkBasket.net, Rony Seikaly explores the last chapter of his basketball career: his return to Europe in order to bolster FC Barcelona’s roster in the 2000-2001 campaign.

The diametrically different views on how the Lebanese/American center should be used by his coach, legendary Aito Garcia Reneses, caused intense and eventually irreparable friction between them that resulted in Seikaly leaving the team in November. That was the last the basketball world would ever see of him. Three Spanish ACB and four Euroleague games was all he got to play, including a win over London Towers that paved his way to the exit. Although he averaged 17.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in his first three international games with Barca, the fourth turned out to be a disaster: 12 minutes, 4 turnovers, 0 points led Rony to the bench – from which he was never to return- at the 22nd minute.

It was evident that from that point on, the 35-year-old had no intention of staying with the Spanish side. The club asked him to apologize, after failing to show up at one practice session and an ACB game. This was the end of a 12-year-long pro career for Seikaly, who would later go on to become a businessman and a world renowned DJ-producer. Recounting his days with Reneses in Barcelona, the retired player holds no punches with regards to being subjected to the demands of an “inflexible and stubborn coach”, who “was absolutely horrible for the way I played” and “treated his players like kids”.

Is that all? Of course not. Throughout his time in the NBA -and prior to it- the 6’10” center had been linked to various teams from Greece that were reportedly interested in him. Contrary to the popular belief, Seikaly reveals that the only official offer he ever received from a Greek club was AEK Athens in 1988, a few days before his NBA dream would come true. Panathinaikos BC had always been in touch with him, but the fact that Rony was on NBA contracts and the “Greens” used to rely mostly on bigs with European experience (Vrankovic, Radja, Rebraca) rendered the idea of signing him almost infeasible.

And if this particular goal he did manage to fulfill, the same cannot be said about his aim to wear the blue-and-white jersey of the Greek National Team. Rony had been practising for three years (1983-86) with Greece, but there were some insuperable bureaucratic procedures that sank the whole project of him obtaining the citizenship and being able to play with the team that won gold at the 1987 Athens Eurobasket. Apart from becoming FIBA World Champion as a Syracuse student in 1986 with the USA squad (featuring future NBA stars Charles and Kenny Smith, David Robinson, Sean Elliott, Muggsy Bogues and Steve Kerr), Seikaly also played for the Lebanese NT at the WABA Championship in 1999 with rather impressive results.

If the first part was about Lebanon and music and the second touched on current topics in the NBA, such as the GOAT debate and Luka Doncic, the third is all about the international basketball career that Rony enjoyed – to a greater or lesser extent.

In this respect, his view on Pau Gasol and especially Nikos Galis, is particularly relevant. Galis, a Naismith HOF member, is widely regarded as one of the best international players of all time who did not play in the NBA. He was the No.68 pick in the 1979, but the Boston Celtics never signed him, a fact that the legendary Red Auerbach reportedly called “the single biggest mistake in my career”. Galis and Seikaly never played together in an official game, but Rony found then-youngsters Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro (both 20) in Barcelona, plus an ever-ascending Sarunas Jasikevicius who recently came back as the team’s head coach.

Without further ado, we present you Rony Seikaly Part III.

Q: In an interview with a Spanish newspaper in 2000, you said: “If I were to compare the NBA to the Spanish League, I would drive myself crazy. They are two completely different worlds”. Do you have the same opinion now?

A: Yes, they are completely different because in the NBA players are treated as professionals. In the Euroleague, they’re treated as college players. They have to share the same room and always be together. There is no private jets. You just go back to the airport terminal like everybody else. It’s a different world. In the NBA, you’re responsible for your actions when you’re on the court, but outside of it you can do whatever the hell you want. Dennis Rodman would never be able to play in Europe because everything is so structured. When I went to Barcelona in 2000, being told that the team is practising twice a day was something I didn’t expect. In the NBA, you practise once a day, except if you’re at training camp.

Q: Did you get the impression that coaches in Europe are bigger than athletes?

A: I believe that they have more power than coaches in the US. They have a certain system in a certain way, regardless of what talent there is on their team. In the NBA, if you’ve got players that do things better than others, they will change the way offense is being set up or the way you get the ball. They will try to increase your effectiveness. In Europe, you’re just a number that has to fill the role in the system. That was the case when I played.

I had a coach in Barcelona who was absolutely horrible for the way I played. First of all, he treated players like kids. My strength was always to be under the basket and he wanted me to be by the three-point line. I had absolutely nothing to do over there because I’m not a three-point shooter, but an inside player. I went to Barcelona because I thought that the coach would use me properly, knowing that I had a broken foot – in the sense that he would get me into a position where I could help the team.

Those things happen if you are inflexible as a coach and very stubborn. Aito had a rotation, where every player got pulled out after 5-6 minutes, regardless of whether he was on fire. Sometimes, you need a couple of minutes to get going. If you get pulled out too early, you start losing your confidence because you’re not given the chance to redeem yourself. To me, he was super rigid and his system could work only with European players who understood it. For somebody who comes from the NBA, it seems like going back to the days of being a kid. It doesn’t really work. I would score three baskets in the first four minutes and then I would sit on the bench wondering why I got pulled out.

Q: Did you get any advice or info before signing with Barcelona?

A: The doctor told me that I couldn’t play basketball anymore. To him, a had a career-ending injury. I trained and kept working my ass off because I wanted to prove him wrong and come back. But the pain was so bad after games and practices that I figured that the only way was to go to a team in Europe. I wanted to go to a good one, so that I could be a piece to the puzzle and not have all the pressure on me; because I wasn’t going to be able to deliver. Two-three years before my injury, I could have gone to any club in Europe and take on the responsibility of carrying it through European Championships. When you’re going to a big team, you know that you’re going to play with other good players. In smaller teams, you have to do everything yourself because you are the superstar.

In Barcelona, I was never put in a position to succeed. I was really playing in pain and I thought: “If I can’t help this team, there is absolutely no reason for me to stay there”. It wasn’t worth the pain. I would wake up at night to go to the bathroom and I had to hold on to the wall because I couldn’t stand on my feet.

Even though I would have loved to play in Greece to finish off my career, I didn’t talk to any teams from there. I thought that this injury was so bad that I wasn’t going to be able to play. So, I figured I should try in Barcelona first and if things worked out, I could go to a Greek team or wherever. It was like a test for me.

Then, I saw Aito run Barcelona like a college team. I was playing next to Pau Gasol and other great players. I really loved playing with Pau. I could just tell that his basketball I.Q. is very high. He had great hands, he could shoot the ball and whenever we played together I knew what he could do. He knows Aito and his system. For me, going to Barcelona after the NBA is like Pau Gasol leaving the league now and go play with an Aito-kind-of-guy.

Q: What was the story of Greek teams trying to sign you? Several reports had you negotiating with PAOK (in 1985 and 2000). In 1988 -before joining the Heat- you received a lucrative offer from AEK Athens and ten years later (1998) you were at Panathinaikos’s pre-season camp, where you reportedly expressed your wish to play for them the following season (1999-2000).

Seikaly greeted by – now defunct – Panathinaikos BC Vice President Thanassis Giannakopoulos during the team’s inaugural practice session on September 4, 1998 at the OAKA Indoor Hall. Photo Source: Newsports.eu

A: All those stories are myths. Obviously, I always had an open door to come back to Panathinaikos. It was my dream to play for them. During the summer, when I returned to Greece, I would practise with Olympiacos, PAOK, Panathinaikos, just to stay in shape.

As far as contractual stuff goes, the only offer I got was from AEK’s owner, Makis Psomiadis, in 1988. I got drafted by the Heat, I went back to be with my family in Athens and Psomiadis came to my house for a visit to tell me not to play in the NBA and go to AEK instead. I said to him: “Thank you for the opportunity, but I’m looking forward to playing in the NBA”.

From there on, a lot of teams told me: “You should come play with us”, but it was never formal. I had only verbal offers, like an invitation to play for PAOK or Panathinaikos. We never got to the details of a contract. It was my personal goal to come back and play in Greece because that’s where I started playing basketball. But my experience in Barcelona and the pain in my foot were so bad that I didn’t want to end up as the player who just comes and collects the paycheck.

Q: Just to get the record straight, when did you move to Greece from Lebanon?

A: It was in 1976 or 1977. My family moved to Greece first and then I went to boarding school.

Q: Did it feel somewhat ironic that you won a gold medal with Team USA in 1986, although you had been training with Greece?

A: I tried to play with Greece, but I couldn’t get the passport. I trained with the NT for many years and I really thought that at some point I’d play with them. But they never got me my citizenship. Otherwise, I would have played with Greece and probably I’d still be with them (laughs)!

Q: In the documentary about you released last year, you quoted your agent saying that if the Hornets had picked you instead of the Heat, you would have gone back to Greece to play. Would you?

A: Yes, that’s true. I would have played for Panathinaikos.

Q: How did you manage to play with both the US and the Lebanese NT?

A: I have a Lebanese passport and although I always thought that you’re not allowed to play for two National Teams, they (the Lebanese) said they asked FIBA for permission. Imagine that I played for Lebanon with a broken foot (in 1999).

Rony Seikaly with Team USA during the 1986 World Championships. Photo Source: Rony Seikaly Instagram page.

Q: We all know you’re a die-hard Miami Heat fan. How about Europe?

A: I love good teams and watching good games whenever they come along. I don’t watch too much because it’s not interesting to see everyone play all positions. I liked when players had roles. The point guards- like John Stockton, Steve Nash and those guys- were supposed to set up the team. The power forward is the one who gets the rebounds, sets the picks and finishes – like Karl Malone did. The small forward was the guy that slashed. It was more of a structured game, where you could follow players and know their strenghts and weaknesses based on their position. Today, although they are more athletic, skilled and can play multiple positions, it would be more fun if they had a defined role.

Q: Did you actually say that Nikos Galis wouldn’t have succeeded in the NBA because he was one-dimensional?

A: Never. I think Nikos Galis is one of the best talents to have come out of Greece. Obviously not on the level of Giannis, but for Europe he was a scoring machine and a super talented basketball player. I just don’t think his size would allow him to have been an NBA player at that time. He was smaller than everybody else and you also had to play defense. In the NBA, if you play for the right team, you have the chance to become a good player. If he had gone to the Celtics back then, he wasn’t going to be a good fit.

It’s like me going to Barcelona. Had I gone to another team in Spain, maybe I would have played 4-5 years there or anywhere in Europe because the system works for the way I play basketball. If Galis had gone to a team who was after a scoring point guard, he could have played in the NBA. Nikos was such a great player in Greece, the king of basketball. For him to come to the NBA and be a secondary player, I’m not sure that’s what he wanted anyway. Even if he made a team and averaged 12 points a game, he wasn’t going to be the king, like he was in Greece.

Q: How did you experience the 1987 Eurobasket final, sitting next to the Greek bench?

A: The year before I had played with the USA and won the gold medal. When Greece went to the finals, I flew to Athens to give them my support. I was dreaming that I was on the team. It’s one of the dreams that I had and I wasn’t able to get. My loyalty basketball-wise goes to Greece because had I been anywhere else, I’m not sure I would have had the opportunity to play the game at all. I owe that to Greek basketball because they were the ones that basically brought me up and put me in a position to succeed. My basketball nationality is Greek.

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Rony Seikaly (II): “Luka Doncic is the best white player ever – LeBron more like Magic than Jordan” https://www.talkbasket.net/102549-rony-seikaly-ii-luka-doncic-is-the-best-white-player-ever-lebron-more-like-magic-than-jordan https://www.talkbasket.net/102549-rony-seikaly-ii-luka-doncic-is-the-best-white-player-ever-lebron-more-like-magic-than-jordan#respond Tue, 08 Sep 2020 12:51:36 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=102549 Apart from his connection to basketball and music, Rony Seikaly talked about some trending topics in the NBA in his interview with TalkBasket.net The GOAT debate, the Luka Doncic phenomenon, Europeans in the NBA and post players becoming extinct were some of the major themes of discussion. In particular, it is interesting that the words […]

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Rony Seikaly (II): “Luka Doncic is the best white player ever – LeBron more like Magic than Jordan”

Apart from his connection to basketball and music, Rony Seikaly talked about some trending topics in the NBA in his interview with TalkBasket.net

The GOAT debate, the Luka Doncic phenomenon, Europeans in the NBA and post players becoming extinct were some of the major themes of discussion.

In particular, it is interesting that the words of Kobe Bryant: “LeBron is more like a Magic Johnson” seem to resonate with Seikaly’s thoughts on the basketball identity of the 36-year-old superstar. Singing praises of Luka Doncic, on the occasion of his beyond-any-imagination NBA season, has become common practice over the last months. However, no one has gone so far as to call the Slovenian wonderkid an enhanced version of Larry Bird. Seikaly, having been a teammate of an early Pau Gasol at Barcelona, holds no reservations when it comes to the prospects of the Dallas Mavericks’ guard.

Moreover, the retired player refers to some of his best and worst experiences he got to taste as an athlete. The final game of the NCAA tournament in 1987, when Syracuse lost by one point (74-73) to Indiana in New Orleans, falls into both categories. Despite the fact that he did not get to play for a championship contender, Seikaly still wishes he could have relished the chance to be on a high-aspiring team, like the Chicago Bulls or the Utah Jazz.

Overall, for a guy who first touched a basketball in 9th grade and had never heard of a screen before he arrived at Syracuse, his trajectory definitely surpassed all expectations. Not winning a title or even an All-Star nod can be a bothersome mishap for an NBA veteran, who was the starting center in several teams and had to deal with the Hakeems, the Ewings, the Robinsons and the Shaqs that dominated the paint. But Rony had such a good time in Miami – where he stayed for almost half of his pro career- that no complaint can be uttered in this respect.

Q: Which was your best moment as a player and a DJ? Which one(s) would you call a nightmare?

A: Some of the best years of my life were the ones I spent in Greece as a young kid. Takis Koroneos got me to play in Panathinaikos. I haven’t seen him in the last 3-4 years, but he’s always in my thoughts. He’s the man who brought me to where I am. For me, practising with the team at such a young age and getting that experience set me up for my college and NBA years. Those years were amazing. Then, we got to the final game with Syracuse. Although the taste was bittersweet because we lost at the last-second shot, the journey to get there was one of the most amazing times of my life.

In the NBA, my years in Miami were amazing, watching the franchise grow, going to the play-offs against Michael Jordan and the Bulls. My worst years was when I was at the Golden State Warriors and everyone was injured. It was a waste of two years of my career because of all the injuries. The lowpoint of my basketball career was when I broke my foot during the Orlando Magic-Miami Heat game. I thought I was going to play another 6-8 years in the NBA and that was a career-ending injury.

Q: Is there really a GOAT debate for you or does Michael Jordan win all competition by default?

A: The GOAT debate is something that people have fun with, but when you’re comparing two great players of two different eras, it’s very difficult to make a call. We’re talking about two immensely talented players and we can go back and forth on who’s better, depending on whether you’re a fan of the 90s or of today. If you’re the latter, you probably don’t know what Michael Jordan did in the 90s and you would automatically think that LeBron James is the best player. If you grew up watching Kobe Bryant, you’d think that he’s the GOAT.

The debate is endless, but the only reason I’d give the nod to Michael Jordan is because he had more of an assassin mentality. If he smelled a little bit of blood, he would come after you and you were finished. It’s always the same with Mike Tyson. He was like a shark. LeBron is an extremely talented player, just as talented as Michael, but sometimes he’s more of a Magic Johnson when he has the ball; more of a facilitator and less of a finisher, like Michael Jordan was.

Michael Jordan tries to score against Rony Seikaly during a Miami Heat – Chicago Bulls game in 1990.

Q: Were you ever close to being traded from Miami to the Chicago Bulls?

A: Yes. It was just when Phil Jackson took over (1989). Had I gone to Chicago, I’d have six championships just by being on the same team with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. I had a great time in Miami and I don’t regret it at all, but looking back I wish I could have been on a championship team.

Q: In February 1998, your trade from Orlando to Utah seemed to be sealed. What happened next? Back then, you said Utah called the deal off because of your foot injury, they said you backed down.

A: I had broken my foot and I knew the damage that I did on myself. I knew that I couldn’t give them what they were looking for and therefore I told them I had lost almost half a second in timing. That’s a lot. I wasn’t physically able to help them. Otherwise, I would have gone there. But I didn’t want to cheat them. It was my decision.

Q: Apart from the lifestyle, what else attracted you to Miami?

A: The fact that it was a new franchise, the weather, everything that had to do with Miami. Sometimes, you go to a city and everything feels amazing. I had a connection with the city and I wanted to be there. It reminded me of being in Athens, next to the water. I love living near the sea.

Rony Seikaly with the Orlando Magic. Photo Source: exnba.com

Q: Which NBA or overseas player reminds you of yourself?

A: (sighs) I have no idea, honestly. No one plays with their back to the basket anymore. I played in an era when big men played like that and you got double-teamed. Now, it’s all pick’n’roll, face the basket and jumpshots. The only big that plays with his back to the basket is DeMarcus Cousins – and Joel Embiid a little bit. My forte was to eat up the guys inside, not to settle for jumpshots. I wanted to either get a foul or score a basket. For me, jumpshots are for guards. Hopefully, the game will go back to people dominating in the inside and passing it out for a wide-open three instead of big men shooting.

Q: Do you see Luka Doncic as the player capable of changing the narrative on Europeans in the NBA?

A: Luka Doncic is one in a million. I think that he’s the best white player to ever play the game, regardless of being European. Period. He’s Larry Bird 2.0. To me, LeBron James is Magic Johnson 2.0 and Luka Doncic is a more modern version of the way Larry Bird played. I’m talking about him as a basketball player and a pure talent, not in terms of wins and championships. Now, in order to be the best player, you’ll have to back it up with multiple championships, like Larry Bird has. To get into the conversation with him, you’d better have 4-5 championships under your belt. That would staple him as the best player in the world. I think Luka is a combination of Bird and Pete Maravich.

Q: Is his story really an example of how great overseas talent can be underestimated or overlooked by GMs, TV commentators, experts, scouters etc?

A: This is understandable because of all the European players that have been superstars in their leagues, but not as effective in the NBA. Pau Gasol was effective both in Europe and the NBA, but he isn’t mentioned in the same category as Larry Bird, as one of the best basketball players in the world. Even when I heard about Luka Doncic playing for Real Madrid, my first thought was: “He’s playing in Europe”. When he won the Euroleague with Madrid, I was like: “Wow, this kid is really good! I wonder what he will do in the NBA”.

Then, he came in and started playing exactly like he was playing in Europe- and even better. The game comes very easy to him. Regardless of who’s guarding him, he’s going to set himself up. I believe that if Luka wanted to score 30 points on average in Euroleague, he would do it. In Europe, it’s a different brand of basketball. You have to make 2-3 passes to get an open shot, whereas in the NBA you can go one-on-one a lot more.

Q: Who was the best European player of your time in the NBA?

A: I think (Drazen) Petrovic. But he was a one-dimensional player, an incredible scorer who could shoot the hell out of the ball. On the other hand, Luka is an all-around player who has made multiple triple-doubles in the NBA. It’s insane!

In the final segment of the interview, Rony Seikaly looks back on his international career with FC Barcelona, the US and Lebanese NTs, but not (alas!) with his favorite teams: Panathinaikos BC and the Greek NT.

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Rony Seikaly (I): “Playing music in Ibiza brought me back to my NBA days” https://www.talkbasket.net/102360-rony-seikaly-i-playing-music-in-ibiza-brought-me-back-to-my-nba-days https://www.talkbasket.net/102360-rony-seikaly-i-playing-music-in-ibiza-brought-me-back-to-my-nba-days#respond Mon, 07 Sep 2020 10:38:39 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=102360 Rony Seikaly is a busy man. The former NBA player, who always maintained a soft spot for music, has taken a place on the decks over the last twenty years, from the day he put an end to his basketball career. As a basketball star, DJ and businessman, Rony has enjoyed success in almost everything […]

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Rony Seikaly (I): “Playing music in Ibiza brought me back to my NBA days”

Rony Seikaly is a busy man. The former NBA player, who always maintained a soft spot for music, has taken a place on the decks over the last twenty years, from the day he put an end to his basketball career.

As a basketball star, DJ and businessman, Rony has enjoyed success in almost everything he set out to do. A longtime resident of Miami Beach, who loved the city at first sight, he had to change his schedule during the pandemic, but did not remain inert. Besides, he recently released a new EP on his label “Stride” named after his daughter Mila.

Apart from spending working hours in his studio, Rony also started a fundraising campaign for Beirut. The capital of Lebanon, where Seikaly was born in 1965, has been suffering from the aftermath of an explosion, which led to over 150 deaths, 7,000 injuries, $10 to $15 billion in damage and left an estimated 300,000 people homeless. Seikaly, who has contributed with $100,000, partnered with the NGO SEAL, a nonprofit organization founded in New York City by a group of Lebanese-Americans to take action against severe social and economic problems facing post-war Lebanon underserved communities. All funds raised by the campaign will be directed to shelter, food, medical support and rehabilitation in Beirut. The initial aim was to gather $1 million, but later the bar was set lower, at $600,000.

Rony was born in Beirut, but as an eleven-year-old child he had to move to Greece with his family because of the Civil War in which the country was immersed. At the age of 16, while attending the American School of Athens (ACS), he entered a shop owned by Panathinaikos BC great Takis Koroneos, who brought the young Lebanese to the attention of the Greek team. With the passage of time, Rony’s virtues on the court became apparent.

During a trip to the United States, he went in for a tryout at Syracuse University and ended up pursuing a professional career at the highest level on a sports scholarship. His future was in college and the NBA, despite different voices arguing that he stood no chance of making it in the NCAA. When all was said and done, Seikaly’s stint with Syracuse left an indelible mark. Before becoming a pro, he was a World Champion as a member of the United States NT in 1986.

Upon graduation, he had climbed to the first place in rebounds, second in blocks and fourth in total points in college history. At a time when not many international prospects triumphed in the States, Rony Seikaly saw the Miami Heat select him with the ninth pick of the 1988 NBA Draft. He was the first player in the history of both Lebanon and Greece to ever play in the league, in addition to being the first college draft pick of the Miami Heat. If history proved to be on Rony’s side, the same cannot be said about the injuries he had to endure throughout his career, especially in the final years of it.

In Miami, Seikaly found the perfect lifestyle and a team eager to give him the chance to flourish. From 1988 to 1994, he turned into a franchise player for a struggling team which had to wait until 1992 to clinch a playoff berth. In the meanwhile, Rony had already established himself as one of the dominant big men in the league, averaging steadily over 15 points and 10 rebounds per game.

On June 28, 1988 the Miami Heat made the first pick in team history, selecting Rony Seikaly with the 9th pick in the NBA Draft. Seikaly averaged a double-double in five of his six years with the team and won the 1990 Most Improved Player award. Photo Source: Miami Heat Instagram Page

In 1994, he was traded to the Golden State Warriors, an injury-plagued team at the time. His two years in Oakland were probably the worst he spent in any franchise during his prime in the NBA. Luckily, the Orlando Magic needed a starting center to replace Shaquille O’Neal and add more experience to a squad featuring veteran scorers such as Horace Grant, Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott. Despite turning in some of his best performances, Seikaly could not lead the 1995 finalists to the second round of the playoffs in 1997.

The NBA Most Improved Player Award winner in 1990 was once again traded amidst the season, this time to the New Jersey Nets. It was all downhill from there. A total 18 games played over two NBA campaigns was the result of a serious injury that Rony received playing for Orlando in 1998. The 6’10” center exited the league in 1999, holding career averages of 14.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. After taking a one-year hiatus, he returned to the basketball courts in 2000 for FC Barcelona, where he had a tumultuous relationship with coach Aito Garcia Reneses. This chapter of his career is analyzed in detail in the third part of his interview with TalkBasket.

In spite of his achievements in basketball, Seikaly has always had a flair and a passion for music. In all the cities where he lived during his time as a player, he had a music studio, where he created electronic themes. His love was Deep House and since he was a student in Athens, he knew that sooner or later spinning records and entertaining people with his tunes would be his future. Right after his retirement, Rony began to perform as a DJ, travelling to different parts of the world and gradually becoming a household (pun intended) name in another domain. At the same time, he broke into the real estate business as investor and developer.

Now, the 55-year-old recounts some memorable episodes and moments to TalkBasket.net. In the first part of our multi-faceted discussion, the retired player talks about his initiative to help Beirut stand on its feet, the political situation in his hometown, the recent NBA boycott and the way he experienced being on the court and on the decks for the most part of his life.

Q: How has the COVID pandemic affected you as a person and as a professional?

A: I’m tired, just like anybody else, of this situation. I’m hoping that we can get out of it soon. The first few months were good, since I got the time to sit back and do other things. It’s the first time that I couldn’t go to Greece in the summer, in 40 years. My sister has a house in Mykonos. Sometimes, I base myself in Mykonos and travel to other places from there. I miss having my life back.

Q: To what extent has it changed the entertainment industry, including music and sports?

A: The people that want to make money and live their life have been mostly affected. Others had the chance to sit out and be creative. The majority of the people have suffered, especially club owners.

Q: A month ago, you initiated a fundraiser to relief efforts in Lebanon. What’s the situation in Beirut right now?

A: The situation is terrible. My parents almost died, our houses are gone and there’s 300,000 people basically homeless. The government hasn’t done anything to help anybody. They’ve been in power for forty years. They run the country as if it were theirs. If the people in power shared a little bit of the aid they received from Europe instead of stealing the money that comes in, things would have been different. The government doesn’t want to step aside and let people who want to work for the country do their job. Right now, if I wanted to go to Lebanon, it’s difficult to do it because of travel restrictions. Of course, I don’t have a problem with anyone in the country.

Q: Are you satisfied with the response to the campaign until now?

A: Of course. I set a hard goal of $1,000,000 and right now we’re close to $550,000. I initially wanted to raise $ 500,000 but raising money is very difficult, especially since the country is very corrupt. It was a long shot, but until now about 800 people have donated money. It’s a wide range of very generous people that have nothing to do with Lebanon. We’re working with a group that makes sure that whatever is needed will go to the right persons.

Q: When will the funds be distributed to the NGOs? Is there a time limit for donations?

A: I left it open for people to donate in order to get as much as we can. I know many are suffering and it’s our duty to help. The main NGO that’s going to get the money in Beirut is in New York City. They have their own people in Beirut.

Q: Growing up in Lebanon during the Civil War, you had to deal with shooting, rockets and bombs exploding. How did that experience shape your personality?

A: This last bomb that destroyed our houses and almost killed my parents brought back memories of me growing up in the country. I almost died a few times in Lebanon during the Civil War. We used to go to Beirut with my family during the summer. If it hadn’t been for COVID, we would have been there this summer too. The bomb exploded less than a kilometer from my house and we could have been greatly injured. So, it hit home for me because it brought back ugly memories from the Civil War and the fighting. The unfortunate thing is that the same people who were in power then, are there now. We’re still stuck where we were forty years ago.

Q: What’s your view of the NBA temporary boycott and players asking for social justice? Do you think that the situation calls for radical action to take place?

A: This happened in the 60s, when athletes like Arthur Ashe, Kareem Abdul – Jabbar and Muhammad Ali stood up for equality. The players have done a great job of getting together, making sure that we don’t get stuck again for the next forty years. It’s time for people to be accepted, no matter what color skin they have. There are always mistakes and bad people in any situation. Some policemen are bad and racist, some are not. We just have to make sure that inequality stops. Being scared of getting stopped by the police is not fair to any human being.

Q: Do you think that basketball can promote changes that politics has been unable or unwilling to?

A: Absolutely. Sports and entertainment is always important in making sure that problems don’t come back again.

Q: Were you ever subjected to racism because of your origin? Do you have any stories to share?

A: Of course I was. Racism had always been thrown upon me throughout my NBA career, but that comes with the territory of not being a white or a black person. It’s an ugly and harsh reality that you have to deal with. I’ve had racial comments against me, like being called a terrorist, a camel jockey and anything you could ever imagine. I was a minority as a white guy playing in a black-dominated sport and also as a white guy. I’ve had it both ways.

Photo Source: Rony Seikaly Instagram Page

Q: How would you introduce/describe Rony the NBA player and Rony the DJ to those that don’t know you in either capacity?

A: It’s two different worlds. I’ve loved music since my days in Greece. I always had a club in my house and would play music for my friends, even for kids from other schools who were visiting Athens. I would charge them one-two dollars, so that I could buy a better sound system and put more lights. For me, sports and music went always hand in hand. Music was part of my life as an athlete. When I retired, I didn’t want the music side to be a public side because I play music for myself and my friends. I never wanted to be in the public eye for it. It took off on its own.

Music and sports are completely different polar opposites. Had I gone to music first, I would never have been an NBA player. However, the pressure of playing basketball has absolutely nothing to do with playing music in front of 5,000 people. In sports, you’d better deliver every night. There’s no choice of having a bad night, whereas in music you don’t have a press table criticizing every shot, rebound or play you make. In music, it depends on your feeling and what you think people are going to enjoy.

Q: For which of your accomplishments as an athlete and DJ do you pride yourself the most?

A: Playing at the highest level is an accomplishment itself. I’ll never forget the day I played against the Celtics and I saw Larry Bird and other players that I used to watch as a little kid. That was amazing. Before I became a DJ, I used to go to clubs in Ibiza and marvel at 5,000 people dancing. To come back and play music there brought me back to the days of playing in the Madison Square Garden, the Boston Garden or against Michael Jordan. That’s a blessing. Not a lot of people have the chance of accomplishing their dream.

Q: From your experience, which have been the most striking shifts in the way people enjoy (house) music in clubs and arenas over the last twenty years?

A: Over the last twenty years, house music has been fragmented to many different styles. Back then, if you played house you would satisfy a lot of people. Today, there are so many different genres within house music that people who are into minimal or techno won’t like the style.

Q: If “sports is love, music is passion” as you’ve said, one would think that after your career was over, you would become a coach, a manager, a GM or even an owner of a basketball team. Did the thought ever cross your mind?

A: Being an owner, yes. I loved playing the game and the actual competitiveness, but I don’t like anything else about it. Managing players and egos is not something I enjoy. As an owner, I would just be an investor, like a business transaction. I wouldn’t be on the hot seat again. For me, running a team day-to-day is not what I want to do.

Q: Former Miami guard Carlos Arroyo has taken a similar path as you, transitioning from basketball to music. He actually still lives in Miami. What piece of advice would you give to other ex-players who are aspiring DJs?

A: The most important advice I’d give them is “Be yourself”. If you copy somebody else, you won’t be anything. You have to be different and to play music that speaks to you. If it resonates with the people listening, that would be your style and people are going to start talking about you.

Dont’ miss out on the second part of the Rony Seikaly interview with TalkBasket, where the former Miami Heat star makes some bold comparisons between players of different generations.

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Eating like an NBA player in the “bubble”: A behind-the-scenes look on food delivery program in Orlando https://www.talkbasket.net/99232-eating-like-an-nba-player-in-the-bubble-a-behind-the-scenes-look-on-food-delivery-program-in-orlando https://www.talkbasket.net/99232-eating-like-an-nba-player-in-the-bubble-a-behind-the-scenes-look-on-food-delivery-program-in-orlando#respond Sun, 16 Aug 2020 21:37:22 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=99232 The NBA stood against racial inequality in different ways. One of those was cutting a deal with several minority-owned businesses in order to provide food services in Orlando. Various NBA players were upset over food on the Orlando campus, leading the NBA to make a deal in order to satisfy their needs in Orlando, Florida. […]

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Eating like an NBA player in the “bubble”: A behind-the-scenes look on food delivery program in Orlando

The NBA stood against racial inequality in different ways. One of those was cutting a deal with several minority-owned businesses in order to provide food services in Orlando.

Various NBA players were upset over food on the Orlando campus, leading the NBA to make a deal in order to satisfy their needs in Orlando, Florida.

Joshua Johnson, owner of the Seana’s Caribbean & Soul Food in West Orange County, spoke with Talkbasket.net about keeping pro-athletes well fed in Orlando campus, the process of delivering food inside the “bubble” and the role of the NBA players speaking against racial and social injustice.

The timing of the deal was pretty special, as Johnson opened his restaurant just a few months ago offering a great variety of home-made types of food. He is also using his place as a chance to bring people together with commune tables.

The NBA chose Seana’s Caribbean & Soul Food, along with nine other restaurants, to deliver food inside the “bubble”, since the season restart.

“When the players were upset over the food, an NBA official walked in and basically asked if we were interested in being a part of the delivery program,” Johnson said.

“Apparently they had secret eaters come in and eat our food and loved it. We said yes, then we were contacted by someone else to fill out restaurants information for the app the NBA bubble has, then just like that we were available for them to order from, and you most likely know they choose 10 minority owned restaurants.”

With the coronavirus pandemic still being in full effect, delivering food inside an isolated environment could have its challenges, but the personal communication with players is still an important factor for Johnson’s services.

“At first, I had my restaurant phone number on the app for them to call, but then I quickly switched to my personal phone number to give them a more VIP service, so basically they call from their personal phone to make an order, I ask, which hotel, what time, if their team/staff/media, I also give them the ability to just text me, which they absolutely love, the NBA has their own delivery drivers that pick it up it gets delivered, the NBA lets me know it’s delivered, then I text them it’s delivered,” Johnson mentioned.

Many players, journalists and coaches have used the app to order food from Johnson’s restaurant. Among them was the Dallas Mavericks and the Brooklyn Nets. But, what’s the most preferred plates that get ordered regularly?

“Red Snapper and Salmon, liquid gold Mac n cheese and greens,” Johnson told us. But, is there any difference serving food to pro athletes.

“Not at all,” Johnson replied. “The NBA is mostly African Americans that grew up on this food, which is a reason why we are so popular, not only do we serve their favorite type of soul foods, we have really good soul food.”

Since the season restart, the NBA made several moves to enhance the fact that athletes took a stand against racial inequality and social injustice, after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

The league gave NBA players the time and space to talk on Black Lives Matter protests, on police brutality and other urgent social matters.

And that’s really important for Johnson, as NBA athletes have the platform to forward the message towards a huge audience.

“It’s a relief, I do understand it’s not their job, I don’t have anything against the ones that chose not to say anything but the players that do are proving it’s more than just basketball for them, billions of people look up to them, they are literally changing the world by speaking out,” Johnson said.

Along with the players, the NBA followed their signal to support black communities in various ways. As a new black restaurant owner, Johnson believes that him working with the NBA shows that any business can come in and work together with a billion-dollar organization, if there is faith from both sides.

“I see it as really big faith and belief because our particular restaurant is very small and new (opened Jan 10th) and our first order was a team order, for the NBA to have faith enough to support our restaurant in that way is unbelievable, I am truly grateful.”

“It has huge impact,” Johnson continued on the impact the NBA has on the local community. “It showed our community that it’s possible for a billion dollar organization come in and work with you, it showed local customers they can indeed eat like LeBron James, it showed the community what listening, learning and growing can do for a business, it can get you on the radar of an organization like the NBA.”

At the end of our interview, the owner of the “Seana’s Caribbean & Soul Food” wanted to send his message to the Orlando community and the reason the NBA chose his restaurant to fill the players’ needs in Orlando.

“I believe one of the other reasons why we were choose, we always give back to the community, we feed the homeless, we had back bag drives, on the wall we have “bringing everyone together”, because I believe my restaurant brings everyone together to enjoy a good meal and just relax. When we feed the homeless, we are bringing people together, now we feed the NBA, we feel like we are bringing the NBA together as well,” Johnson concluded.

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Damian Lillard on Patrick Beverley and Paul George: Shots being fired in my direction, I’ma fire back https://www.talkbasket.net/98484-damian-lillard-on-patrick-beverley-and-paul-george-shots-being-fired-in-my-direction-ima-fire-back https://www.talkbasket.net/98484-damian-lillard-on-patrick-beverley-and-paul-george-shots-being-fired-in-my-direction-ima-fire-back#respond Tue, 11 Aug 2020 05:30:26 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=98484 Damian Lillard sat down with Chris Haynes and had some interesting words regarding Patrick Beverley and Paul George. He stated: “Teams are going to talk trash, but it turned into a taunt to me when they started tapping their wrist and waving way after the fact. Then, I was asked about it. That’s when I […]

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Damian Lillard on Patrick Beverley and Paul George: Shots being fired in my direction, I’ma fire back

Damian Lillard sat down with Chris Haynes and had some interesting words regarding Patrick Beverley and Paul George.

He stated: “Teams are going to talk trash, but it turned into a taunt to me when they started tapping their wrist and waving way after the fact. Then, I was asked about it. That’s when I was like, shots being fired in my direction, I’ma fire back, facts.”

Lillard began to ramble about sending Patrick Beverley and Paul George home before off buzzer beaters in the playoffs. Lillard backs down from no man and he lets his game do some talking as well. The day after Beverley and George’s antics, Lillard put up 51 points in a victory against the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Dame was ready for the smoke 😤 (Via @nbaontnt)

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Marco Vittorelli: “A salary cap in Europe could be a smart move. Convincing Scola’s wife to stay in Italy was key to signing him” https://www.talkbasket.net/96467-marco-vittorelli-a-salary-cap-in-europe-could-be-a-smart-move-convincing-scolas-wife-to-stay-in-italy-was-key-to-signing-him https://www.talkbasket.net/96467-marco-vittorelli-a-salary-cap-in-europe-could-be-a-smart-move-convincing-scolas-wife-to-stay-in-italy-was-key-to-signing-him#respond Sun, 26 Jul 2020 10:51:54 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=96467 Marco Vittorelli, President of the historic Italian club Pallacanestro Varese, discusses with TalkBasket.net the developments in the Serie A League, financing European teams and the background behind the deal with Luis Scola, which could be a win-win situation for both sides. Varese is a name that will always resonate with anyone interested in the history […]

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Marco Vittorelli: “A salary cap in Europe could be a smart move. Convincing Scola’s wife to stay in Italy was key to signing him”

Marco Vittorelli, President of the historic Italian club Pallacanestro Varese, discusses with TalkBasket.net the developments in the Serie A League, financing European teams and the background behind the deal with Luis Scola, which could be a win-win situation for both sides.

Varese is a name that will always resonate with anyone interested in the history of European club basketball. Although their last title came in 1999 and only twelve years ago (2008) they dropped down to the Italian second division for the second time, there is a silver lining that has kept the club afloat during hardship.

The team from Northern Italy boasts an unprecedented streak of ten consecutive appearances in a Euroleague final game, between 1970 and 1979. In a total of 5 continental cups won, plus 3 Intercontinental crowns, the third spot in the Serie A in 2013 and a lost FIBA Europe Cup final in 2016 look like a drop in the ocean.

Still, restoring the old glory days has been an ambitious goal for every Pallacanestro Varese administration, including the one presided by 62-year-old entrepreneur Marco Vittorelli. Mr. Vittorelli has been at the helm of the club since May 2016. In addition, he holds the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors at Openjobmetis, an Italian Employment Agency specialized in supply contracts, research, relocation and staff training. It’s the company that has been Pallacanestro Varese’s main sponsor since 2014, in an effort to revitalize its championship genes.

As far as the present goes, Varese – and Vittorelli- made many heads turn when Luis Scola took the stage. Scola, now at the age of 40, is a ten-year NBA veteran (Houston, Phoenix, Indiana, Toronto, Brooklyn) with 740 games under his belt and -most importantly- an Olympic gold medalist with the Argentine National Team in 2004, who covets his fifth Olympics before calling it a day. Many were surprised by the series of events that brought the former Baskonia and Armani Milano big man to Varese, but Vittorelli seems to deal with the issue in a more pragmatic way, recounting all the background stories that preceded a sensational signing that he hopes to benefit both the club and the player.

After all, we are amidst one of the most peculiar summers of all time in the European basketball market. COVID-19 has spread for good and right now, it remains uncertain whether and on which conditions the arenas will open their doors worldwide. Marco Vittorelli believes that the time for fans to return is not far away, something that can be said also about the resurgence of Italian basketball, which already displays Armani Milano and Virtus Bologna as teams capable of going all the way in European competition.

During his discussion with TalkBasket.net, the President of Pallacanestro Varese -among other pertinent issues- touched on the financial stability of clubs in Europe through the implementation of a salary cap according to NBA standards as a means to limiting the existing discrepancies.

Q: In March 2015, you joined the Board of Directors and next year became the twentieth President of Varese. What was your relationship with basketball? Which were the images and the players with whom you grew up?

A: In High School, I played basketball in Milan. It was with a team called Pavoriano, from which sprang Recalcati and Taurisano, the historical coach of Cantu. When I started college, I stopped playing American football. I’ve always been a Varese fan because as a kid, when Varese was at the highest level, you could always see the team on TV. It was the days of Dino Meneghin, Manuel Raga, Bob Morse.

In 2000, the company which I founded, called Metis, was contacted to sponsor Varese BC. We were main sponsors for two years. In 2003-04 there were still Pozzecco and DePaul playing. Our sponsorship was suspended shortly after, but in 2014 I was told that there was an opportunity to sponsor Varese again. I am a rare bird within the council because today there are some trusts that have 5% ownership of the club and also another group of medium-large companies that support basketball. They want to draw the lines for the future so that they can see the team at the highest level in the next three or four years. There are still things to complete: renovate the arena in common agreement with the Lombardy region. We want to complete the current tribune, create skyboxes, a small museum and bring the arena to Euroleague standards in terms of capacity.

Q: Are you hoping to be able to play the Euroleague in the next few years?

A: In my opinion, in 4-5 years’ time, television rights in Italy should reach such a level where at least a share should go back to the teams so that they will be able to participate in European competition. Today we receive practically nothing from television rights. More or less, each team receives from 100 to 150,000 euros. The basketball TV rights today are worth 4-5 million, while those of soccer more than a billion. The money basketball makes in Italy amounts to 10% of the sum derived from the paying spectators of soccer. So, the TV rights for basketball should be at least 10% of soccer’s TV rights , but even if they amounted to 5%, it would mean that teams would get 50 million instead of 5. I have no doubt that we’ll get there in 3-5 years. Basketball is a very televised sport, but it hasn’t been able to keep up with soccer because live broadcasting of games came late.

Q: When will you be able to know the usable capacity of the arena? What do you hope to achieve?

A: We don’t know yet, but we believe the minimum will be from one-third to 50% until Christmas. Then, it could go back to normal. I think one out of three fans will be there because family members can be seated next to each other. The important thing will be to manage entrance and exit in an orderly manner, creating a very efficient organization.

Q: What were the consequences of the early suspension of the league? Do you think it was a mistake to stop? Did it make people in Italy forget about basketball?

A: It was a very thoughtful decision because the problem is that many foreign players wanted to return to their countries and after the suspension they couldn’t. It would have been difficult to keep them in Italy. In addition, on June 30, all player contracts expired. There would be certain costs and the teams would go into a big economic deficit. There was no foundation to keep teams up. Some cities, such as Brescia, Cremona and partly Milan, have been hit hard. The pandemic was very strong and violent. Many people were taken away and buried without their relatives being able to see them anymore.

Q: What are the prospects for a season that will start with a big question mark?

A: On the occasion of the 75 years of the Italian League, we will have a Super Cup in September that should reignite attention and enthusiasm. All the Serie A teams will be involved in this competition that will conclude with a Final 8.

Q: How did the Final Phase in Germany and Spain respond to your expectations?

A: We followed the action from a little distance. Even in the case of Italian soccer, the fact of playing every three days, seen from a competitive standpoint , makes the sports result a bit questionable. Giving people a sense of normality by resuming play is nice, but I don’t know if the best team won.

Q: There is a provision for a COVID clause in players’ contracts. What do you expect to achieve?

A: In the new contracts, we have arranged for players to be paid for as long as they play, in the case of another suspension. It was a condition accepted by everyone. For now, all of our players have signed the COVID clause. It was not dictated by the league, but most teams included it into their contracts.

Q: Do you think Italian teams will have to overcome a certain prejudice about the country for having been the epicenter of the virus in Europe?

A: Maybe, for some American players. For Europeans, it’s certainly not true because they know the situation in a fairly detailed way. The only concern is for American players who might – whether for quarantine, transportation or family issues- face difficulties. Those worried about coming to Europe do not understand that the situation here today is better than in the USA.

Q: Shutting down the season in Italy was for the benefit of Armani Milano, as Massimo Zanetti, owner of Virtus Bologna, said?

A: In my opinion, no. The decision was made unanimously. We had various evaluations that expected us to be able to start again on May 15 or June 1, but the truth is that with the return of the players from abroad and the quarantine they would have to endure, the season could not have finished. Milano did nothing but acknowledge that by June 30 one could not play. Bologna has made a proposal to continue the season in the months of July, August and September, but it was a hypothesis that did not take into account the fact that contracts expired, players would not have been the same, many of them would not have had a break…

Milano has not taken a decision unilaterally, even if its weight and importance- as a team, city and budget- were important factors. I’m against making things personal. As in all situations, you have to look at the majority. Even if Milano said yes, the other 16 teams refused to continue.

Photo Source: Pallacanestro Varese official website

Q: What is Varese’s relationship with its historical opponent Cantu, not to mention Bologna and Milan?

A: It’s good, in general. Cantu, in addition to being our traditional rivals, emerges today as a competitor. I do not feel that the urge to win is the same when Milano, Cantu and Bologna play each other. Every win is important, regardless of opponent. I know personally and have excellent relations with Mr. Armani and Mr. Zanetti. Within the league, each team has different priorities, depending on whether it participates in the Euroleague or the Champions League.

Q: Having said that, what’s the budget range for most Italian teams?

A: Apart from the big ones, teams roughly oscillate between 3-3,5 million and 6 million euros. Then, there are some teams over 10 million, like Milano and Virtus, while Sassari is very close to that sum. The administrative costs for each club are about two million. Everything else is the budget for the players. If the television rights were to start funding the teams with a million or more, it is clear that the level would rise immediately because the money would go to the players.

Q: Do you think that today supporting a basketball team financially depends exclusively on the generosity of an entrepreneur or a group, as Luca Baraldi, CEO of Virtus Bologna, said?

A: If we’re talking about a budget like theirs, definitely. If we’re referring to the 3-6 million budgets, there are clubs that do it for passion, but also in order to gain visibility and contacts. It’s investment money. I was told that Giorgio Armani has made significant advertising profit in Euroleague games, which in the end is enhancing the visibility of the Armani brand. Having such a strong ownership and playing the Euroleague allows Armani, which is a world-renowned brand, to surpass all companies that do not “travel” all around Europe and are based in Italy. So, it’s not just about the strength of an important club, but about a brand that enjoys international visibility.

Q: Does it make sense to you that Massimo Zanetti has decided to personally pay off the damages for this season, in addition to increasing the budget for the next one?

A: I do not know the numbers: which part of the budget stems from the company (Segafreddo) and which sum goes to the staff. Mr. Zanetti has a great passion for sports, so his interest is also personal. No wonder. For me, it’s all for the benefit of Italian basketball.

Q: What’s your take on some Euroleague teams having almost unlimited budget?

A: These are very difficult rules to set. You can’t stop someone from spending. To impose a minimum of budget would be possible, but to limit the financial commitment of a group is impossible, although it would be nice. A salary cap could be a smart move. What was done in a rigorous manner in America could be useful in Europe too, so that smaller teams would be able to get stronger.

Q: Ιn general, how could potential and existing investors be encouraged to finance a basketball club?

A: In my opinion, the salary cap – if applied very well – could be interesting. To attract more investments, you always have to give visibility. The numbers of viewers in America are not comparable with the European ones. You have to work better in the marketing sector, like the NBA does. The Euroleague and the Champions League are organized very well, but the way they are being marketed needs to improve.

Q: Does the return of personalities like Messina and Datome, as well as the signings of Milano and Bologna, say anything about the dynamic of basketball in Italy?

A: It does, even in the light of the pandemic. These important developments are a sign of great will to revive the sport and the teams. We in Varese were lucky enough to attract Luis Scola, who is a very important player. These signings of Milano and Varese will certainly bring more spectators, attention and media to a sport that has the right to occupy more space in Italy compared to soccer.

Q: What does signing Luis Scola mean for Varese and how did the venture become possible?

A: He missed the opportunity to play his fifth Olympic Games this year because of COVID. Therefore, we knew he would be interested in playing for another season. He was feeling physically and mentally ready to face another year without the heavy Euroleague schedule that imposes three games a week upon the players. He contacted us for a first meeting with our coach and sports director through some Argentines who live in Italy, such as Javier Zanetti, the ex-soccer player who was Inter Milan’s captain. His role was very useful. The Argentine friends that Zanetti introduced me to tried to appeal to the emotional-human aspect of Scola’s character.

Zanetti is a good friend of his and he managed to schedule a personal meeting with Luis, in which I explained to him that it would be a great honor if he came to us. Surely, we would give him the opportunity to play and practise with a historical team that he knew very well.

From a logistical point of view, he confirmed that the only problem was to talk things over with his wife because she had been left with the impression that Luis would end his sports career in 2020. We did everything possible to convince her that it was a good decision for them to stay in Italy because the timing for a return to Argentina was less than ideal, since they are still having serious problems with the pandemic. Luis had promised his wife that they would go back to Argentina, but eventually talked her out of it. Varese is a very green and pleasant city. They found a nicer house than the apartment they had in Milan. Then, he found a European School for his children, which is always a helpful situation for an international player.

Luis Scola presented by Openjobmetis Varese on July 7, 2020. Photo Source: Pallacanestro Varese Twitter page

Q: How did you manage to combine the addition of Scola with a more or less limited budget compared to last year?

A: Luis had a discussion with us in which he said: “The economic part is not as important as keeping my family happy and living in a beautiful house that gives me peace of mind with regards to my sports activity”. The economic aspect was never a real issue. Luis wanted to stay fit so he could play the Olympics and keep his family calm and in line with his goal. Knowing a little about Argentine culture, I would say that Luis is going to have a very good time here because he will be surrounded by people that will make him feel at home.

Q: In his contract there is an option for the 2021-22 season. Why did you feel the need to include it?

A: You never know. He said he wants to play until the Olympics and that he really likes Varese as a city. The possible renewal of his contract is purely academic, a hypothesis that will be evaluated at the end of the season. There may be a chance to keep him after 2021, if he would like to stay in Italy. As soon as he gets to know the Varese fans, there will be no problem if he wants to continue. I don’t think he’ll change city if he decides to keep playing.

Q: Andrea Conti, the GM of the club, said that with Scola the Varese brand acquires added value. How far could this value go? I mean, what would his presence mean?

A: First of all, we have many young guys. Luis will definitely be the first one to show up in practice and the last one to leave. He is a rare case of a character: very determined and focused on his profession, presenting an unparalleled example for the young players we have signed this year. If they find the way to make the best of this example, it will be a means to improving their professionalism. If they are smart, they will learn a lot more this year than in the rest of their career. There is no need to do anything but observe what Luis is doing, in order to understand why he got there.

Q: In the future, would you consider having again Gianmarco Pozzecco as the coach?

A: We already had him for a few months (during the 2014-15 season), but never say never. Today he is doing very well in Sassari. Back then, the emotional aspect influenced him. I would not rule out his return; not in the near future, but at some later point.

Q: Why has basketball in Italy always been a case between teams from the North?

A: It has to do with the economy of the country. Roma had an ownership that led the club to important seasons in a certain period and the North was influenced by the presence of entrepreneurs who were doing business there. However, the passion for basketball is the same almost everywhere in Italy.

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Spanish ACB League leads the way, as interest in international basketball increases in the U.S. market https://www.talkbasket.net/95979-spanish-acb-league-leads-the-way-as-interest-in-international-basketball-increases-in-the-u-s-market https://www.talkbasket.net/95979-spanish-acb-league-leads-the-way-as-interest-in-international-basketball-increases-in-the-u-s-market#respond Wed, 22 Jul 2020 00:39:15 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=95979 For the majority of basketball fans across the world, the NBA remains the most voraciously consumed TV product. However, the American league is not the only one getting coverage in the United States. Recently, millions of US-based viewers had the chance to watch the Final Phase of the Spanish ACB League, which culminated with Kirolbet […]

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Spanish ACB League leads the way, as interest in international basketball increases in the U.S. market

For the majority of basketball fans across the world, the NBA remains the most voraciously consumed TV product. However, the American league is not the only one getting coverage in the United States. Recently, millions of US-based viewers had the chance to watch the Final Phase of the Spanish ACB League, which culminated with Kirolbet Baskonia beating FC Barcelona in a single final game.

Per ACB announcement, basketball in Spain had never drawn such interest. The concluding tournament, featuring 33 games in two weeks, was broadcasted to 125 countries and territories, with the USA being one of them. The merger of Eleven and ForTheFans (FTF) channels allowed the ACB to reach American homes through the country’s most popular platforms (DirecTV, NCTC, Verizon, ATT), through new forms of broadcasting such as Fubo.TV or Fanatiz and also through TV systems connected via SmartTVs and Playstation.

FTF/Eleven Sports, a multinational group of sports television channels based in the United Kingdom, had a live transmission of all games, with an uninterrupted schedule of more than eight hours a day. Eleven Sports has platforms across Europe and Asia including in Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Taiwan, Japan and Myanmar. It offers a range of live sports across its network with rights for the top-tier soccer leagues in Spain, Italy and Germany, plus F1, NFL and NBA. Live coverage of premium sports is provided in local languages, supplemented with news, comprehensive pitch-side and in-studio analysis, digital content and local programming.

Anthony Bailey, Senior Vice President and Managing Director in the area of North America at the Eleven Sports Network, discussed with TalkBasket.net the impact and popularity of European-based basketball in the United States market. Although not everything goes down to the ratings reached by the ACB coverage, the Spanish League remains a premium TV product in a somewhat uncharted territory for international basketball.

“What I can tell you is that we saw across all platforms around 59 percent during the timeframe of the ACB tournament, which we promoted heavily and we’re really proud of how well it did”, Mr. Bailey told TalkBasket before answering a variety of questions regarding the present and future of non-NBA basketball in the USA.

Q: In November 2017, Eleven Sports partnered with the ACB in order to livestream a Real Madrid-Barcelona game in several countries, including Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Taiwan and the USA. Is there an audience for non US-basketball in the States?

A: Because of the strong presence of US-based players in the league and how well the Spanish league had done over the past few years with the NBA draft and getting players to the NBA, it’s looked at as one of the top 3 leagues in the world. So, we thought it would be fit to promote it through the US-based players, so that people could recognize the quality of play.

Q: From a media perspective, why is the ACB way ahead of any non-NBA domestic competition in the world?

A: First of all, they did a great job of getting back to play pretty quickly. On the production side, they’re also doing a good job, supplying us with a lot of data around what’s going on. They are a good media partner.

Q: NBA TV in Belgium through Eleven Sports kept fans going during the quarantine period. Are sporting organizations willing to liase with broadcasters in order to supply content that would normally be exclusive to the league?

A: I can’t speak for the NBA, but a lot of leagues are trying to get the reach out. If you’re not a premium league, it’s very important to utilize content so that people know who you are. I believe that people in the ACB have done a really good job, as well as other leagues that are now looking at expanding beyond their borders and get a bigger reach.

Q: Recently, a large number of US viewers watched live coverage of the Taiwan Basketball League through FIBA. How was your collaboration with the International Federation?

A: We did the Taiwan Basketball League when they came back after quarantine. We didn’t have much time to promote it, but we managed to bring it to the States. The key is that we have a lot of people who love basketball in this country and to show them that there’s an opportunity to play abroad and follow American stars across the world will help the sport and the various leagues.

Q: Are you aware of the overseas US players’ following?

A: Yes, we are and we leverage this as much as we can. We did interviews with a ton of them during the ACB and the Taiwanese events.

Q: How large is the fanbase in the USA for those kind of events?

A: Fanbase in the US for basketball is probably a 100 million people. Our goal was to get a fraction of that, of course. We’re not really looking at the number of people watching, but at hours and minutes consumed- and they’re pretty high. We’re averaging about 87 minutes per viewer, which means that the majority of our viewers watched an ACB game from the beginning to the end.

Q: Did you do any particular research before buying the rights to the ACB? As far as fan engagement goes, is it true that in most countries Eleven Sports conducts regular polls asking people what they want you to air?

A: Correct. Basketball was something that we understood our viewership wanted to watch more and more. Our cable channel is available in 20 million homes, while our digital channel is available in 50 million. We were told that our fans wanted it and that’s what we want to procure. European basketball is starting to get noticed here, as is hockey and rugby. We have our own professional rugby league now.

Q: Any other basketball leagues or institutions you might be interested in?

A: Yeah, we’re going to be making some announcements soon. I can’t say anything right now, but in the next few days we’ll announce another two basketball leagues that we’re bringing over here. One is from Asia, the other is from Europe, both First Division.

Anthony Bailey, SVP and managing director for Eleven Sports in the U.S. Photo Source: elevensports.com

Q: How would you evaluate the broadcast landscape in the COVID-19 era?

A: During COVID-19 we’re finding, believe it or not, that our Prime Time has shifted a little bit. People are watching sports earlier in the day and then later in the evening. We call it “the Netflix effect” because we believe that people watch movies with their family at Prime Time. In terms of what I believe will happen after the pandemic, it will be a while before fans are allowed to the arenas. Delivering sports broadcasting will be extremely important and therefore we will be dealing with a bigger upkick in the post-COVID era.

Q: If the NBA was not to resume, which would the repercussions be for television?

A: I think here in the USA it would be huge. The country needs all four major sports right now in order for people to get their minds off from what’s going on and enjoy the competition again. Without these major leagues, it wouldn’t go well economically and socially.

Q: Do you believe the bubble in Orlando will work as well as it did in Spain?

A: I think the NBA is following a lot of what they did in Spain. I’m excited to see how it goes here. The facility they’re using is great and they hope to have very high viewership numbers. I think that the NBA will do just as good a job as what we saw in Spain, if not better.

Q: Apart from the ACB, which other Euro-basketball leagues could be of interest to the US market?

A: The British championship is quite interesting, as well as the Australian and the Chinese; the ones where teams compete well internationally. We have a strategy here about expats. If we can deliver their leagues to them and then fill the pudding with Americans playing in those leagues, it could be good for us. We want to build around specific sports and around specific leagues that we believe will have a good following due to the number of people in the USA from those areas. Our No.1 league is the NBA, of course, but outside the US we’ve had the ACB since our inception. They’ve been a very good strategic partner. One of the main reasons is the number of Spanish-speaking people in the States. The Chinese Basketball League interests us very much here.

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Perennial Murcia GM Alejandro Gomez explores his stint with the club and the future of European basketball https://www.talkbasket.net/93754-perennial-murcia-gm-alejandro-gomez-explores-his-stint-with-the-club-and-the-future-of-european-basketball https://www.talkbasket.net/93754-perennial-murcia-gm-alejandro-gomez-explores-his-stint-with-the-club-and-the-future-of-european-basketball#respond Tue, 30 Jun 2020 11:19:57 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=93754 UCAM Murcia CB presents a peculiar case in Spanish and European basketball. Founded in 1985, the club has seen considerable success over the last five years. In fact, since 2012, when the private Catholic University of the region took the reins, the fate of the organization residing in south-eastern Spain has changed. A Spanish League […]

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Perennial Murcia GM Alejandro Gomez explores  his stint with the club and the future of European basketball

UCAM Murcia CB presents a peculiar case in Spanish and European basketball.

Founded in 1985, the club has seen considerable success over the last five years. In fact, since 2012, when the private Catholic University of the region took the reins, the fate of the organization residing in south-eastern Spain has changed. A Spanish League playoff spot in 2016 and three consecutive participations in European competition highlight the progress made. The culmination came arguably in 2018, when Murcia qualified for the Basketball Champions League Final Four, held in Athens.

Over the course of the last decade or so, UCAM Murcia had the privilege of counting on the services of Facundo Campazzo, Vitor Faverani, Augusto Lima, Raul Neto, not to mention notable appearances by ex and current NBA players Marcus Fizer, Bojan Bogdanovic, Goran Dragic in the 2000s. All the signings made during that time bear the signature of the same man: Alejandro Gomez, General Manager of the club who took over in 2009 and has built quite a reputation for himself and UCAM Murcia for handling a modest budget for ACB standards in an exemplary way.

The 46-year-old executive has been trying to find stability in a project involving numerous coaches (with Sito Alonso being the seventh in an eight-year period for UCAM) and -mostly- US players on one-year contracts. The coronavirus pandemic may have suspended the team’s rather underwhelming 2019-2020 campaign, but the same does not apply to the ACB which will eventually crown a champion (FC Barcelona and Kirolbet Baskonia are the finalists). Managing difficult situations has turned into a way of life for Alejandro Gomez, who recently finalized a long-term agreement with the youngest member of the Antetokounmpo family, 18-year-old Alex.

The Madrid-born GM explained to TalkBasket.net all the facts and figures of his tenure with the club. In a conversation over the phone, Gomez referred to the present and future of UCAM Murcia and basketball in Europe, from the grassroots level to the Euroleague elite. He also recounted his own trajectory and the background surrounding some of the most prominent transfers and signings in the club’s history.

Q: You took over as general and sports director of Murcia in August 2009. To what extent has the entity been transformed since then and what are the steps you would want to see it make in the near future?

A: At first, I entered as a CEO. From the second year onwards, I took over the sports section. The important thing was to modernize the club in many ways. In terms of signings, that has been achieved because the club in these ten years has made many transfers of players, like Raul Neto, Joe Ragland, Augusto Lima and Vitor Faverani twice. Before coming here, the club used to sign one-year-contracts. In this way, we have tried to give the players continuity and also improve the club. For many people, being able to play in a European competition was a dream. We played in the Eurocup for a year, then two years in the Champions League and that’s something that had never been achieved before.

At the ACB level, the club wants much more growth to continue advancing in the next few years, even though at the budget level we are still one of the last teams in the league. The goal is to play in the European competition and be able to enter the play-offs or the Copa Del Rey. It’s more of a dream than an obligation because we lack the big budget and the history to put pressure on our shoulders. Our president is very ambitious, but we all know that we have to be humble.

Q: What is it like to see from the outside the continuation of the league? Are you satisfied with the level of basketball?

A: We’re an atypical team because we were so angry with ourselves for losing eight games in the last minute. We all wanted to play. The team remained in Murcia, working and hoping to be able to play again. It’s been pretty frustrating not being able to do it but overall the team worked so much better than the results it had. In April, the disappointment of not playing was replaced by the opportunity to get to work earlier than other teams.

We think it’s good for our league to keep playing and proclaim a champion. These are high-level games and it’s always good to play basketball. It’s a format dictated by circumstances and I wish Murcia could have finished the season. But it’s better to play in this format than not play at all.

Q: With almost all basketball action suspended, do you believe that the Spanish League could take advantage of the circumstance and gather more attention globally? What will the league gain from a more extensive coverage, which includes the United States and the Indian subcontinent?

A: It’s time to show that the ACB is the second best competition after the NBA. I think the NBA itself can see the resumption of the league as a successful experiment taking place in Valencia in terms of safety and as a proof of the ACB’s potential.

Q: You recently said that the club has covered its budget with income from fans, sponsors and the League. However, you added that a problem would arise should the competition not be completed. Do you think UCAM could avoid the economic problems caused by the COVID crisis if the team could play the final phase?

A: When I said that about UCAM, I was talking about all the teams. The entire ACB needed to play: sponsors, tv rights… There are many important contracts from a financial standpoint. Playing the final phase was important for all clubs, not only because of the numbers of this year, but also for the next one. It is important to show to the league’s sponsors that we are here and that they can count on us. The league’s own image to the sponsors is reinforced.

Q: What is the figure ACB clubs receive from television rights? I’m asking this because Rick Pitino used this argument to show why the NBA wants to resume the season anyway, while the Euroleague – which doesn’t distribute and doesn’t get as much money from TV rights – was more or less indifferent.

A: The ACB revenue budget this season was 35 million euros from television rights and sponsorships. 12 million euros were distributed to the teams for the whole season.

Q: Which are the difficulties facing ACB’s medium-low teams? You said that the budget for the coming season will be reduced by 20%. Which aspirations can an organization have in Spain with less than 1,5 million euros at their disposal?

A: We have to be creative, do different things, look for new sponsors and indirect sources of income. First of all, one must explore the market before anyone else. In April, the situation was complicated, as there were players who could accept lower offers because of the uncertainty surrounding the following season. Things could go wrong for us.

Q: Do you think next season is going to be transitional for European and world basketball, given that the pandemic could interrupt it again at any time?

A: I think that the crisis we’re facing in all financial and basketball sectors is also going to be an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. It’s the same with every crisis in human history: progress has been made and ingenuity has been implored in order to gain advantage.

Q: At the same time, do you see opportunities to sign players on multi-year, long-term contracts, promising them a stability hard to find?

A: That’s very important to me. I think going out on the market, offering maybe less money but with a sense of guarantee and stability for the player’s health and financial security, can bring good results. Being serious when it comes to paying the contracts and not having debt, is an important factor for this club.

Q: What can we expect from the market amidst the pandemic? In this sense, do you think that UCAM Murcia, receiving money from institutions, from the City Council and the General Administration of Sports and Tourism, is a unique case?

A: Our main source of income is the owner of the team, the Catholic University of Murcia. In terms of the financial assistance we get from the City Council and local authorities, we are not among the first teams in the league. It’s an issue we’re working on to improve and to have more institutional support. There are more than a hundred companies that contribute and sponsor the team. In addition, we’re dealing with the issue of our ticketing and season tickets revenue. It’s the most tricky part because we don’t know how things will turn out, but we have amassed an important number of supporters.

Photo Source: laverdad.es

Q: What do you think of the semi-closed Euroleague? Do you think potential investors are being discouraged? Are you concerned about Euroleague’s feud with FIBA?

A: I think it’s not good for basketball that this battle exists. It is amazing that in football, which handles a lot more money and the cake is much bigger, they have been able to share the wealth. In basketball, we have a smaller cake to share, but we have not been able to create a common calendar and clarify the competitions. The Euroleague has made a big impression on us for being such a strong league. I really like it, but I’d prefer less games. I think the number of games in the Euroleague, as well as the very long trips and distances, determine who can play there.

Q: Will UCAM keep playing in the Basketball Champions League?

A: Once we qualify to play in Europe, we will analyze the situation. We have played in the Eurocup and the Champions League, feeling very comfortable in both competitions. We will see which will be the most convenient. I would really like to see an understanding between FIBA and Euroleague in order to get all the European competitions re-evaluated. It will be easier for more fans to understand our sport.

Q: In 2011, I asked Ferdinando Minucci, then president of Montepaschi Siena who participated in the Final 4 held in Barcelona, which element he would “steal” from his team’s rival Panathinaikos. He replied: “I’d like only one thing theirs: the budget.” Would you tell me something similar if I asked you about the things you envy in Real Madrid or Barca?

A: Their budget is the main envy. I could name some of their players I like. Also, their history. Both Madrid and Barcelona are clubs with an incredible trajectory and since they represent such a large institution, they stand for something greater. Teams like ours have to create a style of play, an identity, so that in a few years we will have a history of our own too.

Q: If you had unlimited budget, who would you sign?

A: When I was asked this question 4-5 years ago, I said: “Bojan Dubljevic of Valencia Basket”. If I could choose a player right now, I’d sign Facundo Campazzo again. He was here for two years, and I’d like to have him. There are many players who have been with the team, whom we have trained and helped and who have gone to another club. It’s a most uncomfortable situation, even when we had to sell them. Having more budget would allow us to have players we can’t afford right now.

Q: As for Facundo Campazzo, did you expect his meteoric rise to prominence at the highest European level? Could he play in the NBA?

A: Yes, after two years of working with us, we knew the heart, the desire and the intensity that he puts to the game. We were aware that he might be able to dominate in European basketball, playing many minutes with Real Madrid, as he has done. That happened after Sergio Llull got injured and Sergio Rodriguez left. I’m sure that if one day he leaves for the NBA, he will be successful, as he already demonstrated against Kyrie Irving, a high-level NBA player. He’s able to play anywhere in the world. For me, he’s the best guard in Europe right now.

Q: Which of your signings or transfers do you feel more proud of?

A: Raul Neto’s transfer to Utah. We signed Raul at a time when he had left Gipuzkoa. It was a moment of doubt for him, but after playing incredibly with us, he went to the NBA and his career has been good ever since. In addition, I would single out the first time we sold Faverani to Valencia. We vouched for him when no one in the world would have. I consider him a totally determined player and we were able to get the best out of him. Joe Ragland also brought us a lot of money.

Q: This summer, UCAM signed Conner Frankamp, top scorer in the Greek League. You explained what qualities he has and how he could help the team. My question is: Why have you signed him for just one year? In Rethymno, he was on a 1+1 contract.

A: It’s very simple. With our economic potential, it’s hard to sign American players for more than a year. A player can make the leap if he plays very well. I wish I could have signed Conner for at least two years because we understand that he is a player who will adapt very well to the ACB and to the style of play of Sito Alonso. He’s someone we trust to make the difference at crunch time.

Q: Murcia is the Spanish team that feeds more than any other in the ACB of players from the Greek League: Giannoulis Larentzakis, Dusan Sakota, Delroy James, Charlon Kloof, Askia Booker, Ovie Soko. They’ve all played for UCAM over the last five years. Is there a special reason behind those decisions?

A: Yes, the reason is that I always liked Greek basketball. Greece was European champion in 1987 and since then I have felt sheer admiration for Greek basketball. I know a lot of people and watch many games because I’m interested in how the Greek teams work. I have great friends in Greece, important people like Kostas Papadakis and Giorgos Dimitropoulos. They’re agents who helped us locate players. Kostas Papadakis has been in business for all his life, giving us advice. Many times it is easier to ask for some players, as we did with Ovie Soko in Trikala or Delroy James.

The experience we had with Fotis Katsikaris was thrilling. We developed a magnificent relationship. We are still great friends with him and for me he’s one of the best coaches in European basketball.

In Murcia, we follow the Italian, the French and the German league as well, but we like players from Greece with a strong character, like Larentzakis. They have teams that always sign good American players, like Langston Hall. He was someone we liked and followed for a year, watching Promitheas Patras play in Eurocup.

Q: Don’t you think that the fast pace of the game in the ACB might put problems for players accustomed to the slower Greek League?

A: Dusan Sakota is an example of a veteran player dominating the competition in Greece, but it was very difficult for him to play with the speed and scouting we have in the ACB. We have experienced it first-hand with more complementary players in our competitions, like Ovie Soko.

Q: What was the exit agreement of Larentzakis? The 90,000 euros he leaves behind is intended for his buy-out payment or for his 2020-21 contract?

A: It’s the buy-out we had. He committed himself to paying it in full. There was no other option in the case of not fulfilling the second year of the contract. He is a very special person, with a big heart, who left many friends and money at the club before signing with Olympiacos.

Q: Last July, the Spanish press was talking about conversations you’d have with Olympiacos Piraeus that “were on the right track.” To what extent did those reports correspond to the truth?

A: We had an opportunity and a possible interest. I’m very proud of Olympiacos’s interest. They were planning ahead of a difficult year, as they were going to play in the second division of the Greek League and in the Euroleague. It’s a very important team because of its history. The timing was difficult for both sides. In my case, I think it was clear that my work in Murcia was unfinished and the option to continue is what I chose to do. I thought that in Murcia we can keep growing and in this sense I am really proud to be here. I like to have our president’s absolute trust every year. I feel very welcomed in Murcia because of the love, the people and the president of the club. He’s a person who is keen on sport and lets me work. I wish all the best to Olympiacos.

Q: Would you work outside of Spain?

A: At the moment, my only thought is to work at UCAM Murcia because I consider it more than a job. My relationship with President Jose Luis Mendoza is very close and we share a great deal of trust. I’m looking forward to the club growing, but we can never foresee the future. There could be something interesting in another league, like Greece for instance, but one must know the difficulties: the language, the idiosyncrasy of the people and what it’s like to work in those places.

Q: Who has been your role model of sports director and GM?

A: From the people I’ve met, I’d say Ramon Fernandez who worked at Fuenlabrada and Real Madrid. He was a pioneer, the towering figure of the GM in Spain, the man who professionalized this post in the country. Besides him, I quite enjoyed following Joan Creus’s career in Barcelona and the confidence he gave to Xavi Pascual. Currently, I got to know personally Maurizio Gherardini, who worked with Zeljko Obradovic.

Q: What has been your happiest moment in basketball, as an executive and as a spectator?

A: When we qualified for the Final Four in the BCL (2018) and the ACB play-offs (2016). It’s the most rewarding feeling and we want to keep working in a similar vein.

Photo Source: laopiniondemurcia.es

Q: Alex Antetokounmpo’s signing has been a media favorite. What was the project you proposed to him?

A: When we knew that the player was not going to continue in college and go to Europe instead, we thought he was going to Greece and asked the agents about it. We had meetings with them in order to find out what they wanted to do because we are interested in a player with Alex’s features. We have a working group in each of our development teams, in the junior and EBA (the fourth tier level in the Spanish basketball league system) categories. There are players who work with Sito Alonso and his technical staff every day to be able to evolve both physically and technically.

We knew there were other ACB teams -at least three- interested in signing him and we told him the truth. We considered registering him in the ACB but not in order for him to play there. He would train with the ACB team and get minutes with our development team. It is important that he gets playing time. We talked with Giannis, explaining to him the daily routine of our players. It was very easy to find common ground as far as money goes. Alex leaving his studies behind was not a problem because we are a club focused on teaching and education and in this sense we offered him a guarantee.

Q: Is it true that Giannis participated via Zoom in the meetings with you and Sito Alonso to close the deal and get information on how the youth project works?

A: Yes, it is true. He was up to date, listening to everything we had prepared for his brother; all the work he has to do every day in order to know that it’s not going to be easy. He listened and I guess that he talked to other teams before coming to UCAM Murcia.

Q: Giannis has commented that Alex could surpass him in the future. Do you agree?

A: It’s difficult. What he has to do every year is just be himself, without aiming to be like his brother. Giannis is a basketball beast, one of the best players in the world. Alex has to work hard to get better and time will tell where he can go. His last name works very well on the marketing level. We were surprised by the response we had from the media, but we hope that Alex will come to Murcia in August and prove his worth. During our talks, he has shown a great willingness to work. At no time did he have any doubts.

Q: Is it by chance that three Antetokounmpo brothers have signed with Spanish teams? Giannis never played in Zaragoza, but Thanassis did have a major impact in Andorra. What has been the factor that has attracted the three to the ACB?

A: I think ours is a very competitive and important league. Above all, it can lead to the NBA. I think that’s what most players have in mind and in this sense the ACB is very popular among NBA scouters. The evolution and maturation of the player is what matters to them. We explained to Giannis how Luka Doncic evolved at Real Madrid and he seemed to understand that many times a player who skips college, as is the case of Alex, can arrive just as prepared to the NBA. Doncic reached the NBA, having dominated the top competition in Europe. Pau Gasol was the first to demonstrate the model of the player who can reach the NBA with sufficient training. What Alex has to do is work, improve physically and technically, play with the development team in the EBA League and train with the ACB team. His potential and impact will be shown with the passage of time, starting from his second year.

Q: Murcia has always been a good place to learn. There were the cases of Facu Campazzo, Bojan Bogdanovic and Goran Dragic. Who will be the next player to emerge?

A: I wish I knew. When we sign a player, we are always thrilled, but in the end there are variables that cannot be controlled. In the case of Dejan Todorovic, we signed him too soon. He’s had an incredible season, being the best player on the team, but suddenly he broke his knee and got sidelined for six months. Sometimes season-defining injuries on a small team, like ours, make it difficult to regain control of the situation. I hope we’ll have another player making the leap from Murcia to the NBA.

Q: What is the reason for the poor participation of Spanish players in the ACB?

A: The overprotection of Spanish players makes each team obligated to have at least four homegrown athletes. Many teams sign players from other countries so that they can shape them. We have seen examples of the best generation of Argentine players in history, who emerged just when there was no limitation on Americans and foreign players of any kind. With or without quotas, players like Juan Carlos Navarro, Felipe Reyes and Pau Gasol would play the same.

We need the Spanish players to have some time to be evaluated. It is not an easy league for players coming in to losing teams, who might get relegated and deal with a lot of pressure. It’s easier to have young people who can progress to the NBA. In general, the transition from the junior to the senior category is intended only for the very talented players. For someone at the age of 20-22, the price is a little higher. In this respect, it is true that Spanish basketball has fewer high-quality players, but it is also true that they are able to compete, as we have seen in the last World Cup.

Q: In general, are you optimistic about the future of European basketball?

A: I’m always optimistic. I think that European basketball is going to grow. Its capacity and potential are yet to be found. Many times, because of egos and personal differences, we tend to look more at the particular interests. We need to look and learn more from what is happening in the United States. The NBA is not the best league making the most money just because it is more spectacular or because they play better basketball, but because they are all on the same page. That is what we have to do in Europe.

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Phil Handy talks about the NBA superstars that he’s worked with https://www.talkbasket.net/93049-phil-handy-talks-about-the-nba-superstars-that-hes-worked-with https://www.talkbasket.net/93049-phil-handy-talks-about-the-nba-superstars-that-hes-worked-with#respond Fri, 26 Jun 2020 16:10:14 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=93049 On a recent episode of The Lake Lake Show podcast, Lakers Assistant Coach Phil Handy discussed all the NBA superstars that he’s worked with throughout his career. To date, Handy has worked with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Anthony Davis. This has been through his two spells with the Lakers […]

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Phil Handy talks about the NBA superstars that he’s worked with

On a recent episode of The Lake Lake Show podcast, Lakers Assistant Coach Phil Handy discussed all the NBA superstars that he’s worked with throughout his career. To date, Handy has worked with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Anthony Davis. This has been through his two spells with the Lakers (2011-13, 2019-present), the Cleveland Cavaliers (2013-18), and with the Toronto Raptors (2018-19). He won 2 NBA Championships, with the Cavaliers in 2016 and with the Raptors in 2019.

“They all have different games.. but their methods are the same. In that, how they work. They’re very consistent in their work and they’re very committed to their work. Every day you see the similarities in how they approach taking care of their bodies. Their food. Getting rest. What they do on-and-off the court is at the highest level. They don’t skip corners. They don’t skip details and they really try and maximize everything they’re doing to where they can be the best athletes out there. That’s their drive and their motivation is to be one of the best. They do all of those things necessary to do that, and you see that in the results that come out when they play and when they step out on the floor. That’s why they’re so successful.”

Lakers Rumors: Kawhi Leonard's Uncle's Free-Agent Demands, Anthony ...
Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis Similarities:

Another question on the podcast episode presented Handy to talk about the similarities between Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. In terms of both players being traded to teams who propelled championship contention following their arrival. Leonard was traded from the San Antonio Spurs to the Toronto Raptors in 2018. While Anthony Davis swapped the New Orleans Pelicans for the Lakers this past off-season. Handy was on the coaching staff of both teams when the trades occurred.

“AD’s a very selfless guy. He’s very much into the team and so is Kawhi. Those guys are all about trying to win. Obviously AD hasn’t had the opportunity to compete for a championship yet, but that’s what he wants. His approach has been, hey coach, teammates, whatever you guys need me to do to help us win I’m going to do it. Kawhi carries that same attitude and approach. For guys being able to step into a new franchise with new teammates, it’s a great thing to see them come in with the mindset of whatever it takes. They’re both similar in that. They just try and give everything they have to the team, every night they step on the floor.”

Check out the full episode of Phil Handy on The Lake Lake Show below. Additional topics include his first spell with the Lakers (2011-13), the difficulty in leaving Toronto after the Raptors’ title-winning season. As well as Kyle Kuzma, and much more.

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Phil Handy on leaving the Raptors: “It was really tough. I really fell in love with Toronto” https://www.talkbasket.net/93047-phil-handy-on-leaving-the-raptors-it-was-really-tough-i-really-fell-in-love-with-toronto https://www.talkbasket.net/93047-phil-handy-on-leaving-the-raptors-it-was-really-tough-i-really-fell-in-love-with-toronto#respond Mon, 22 Jun 2020 15:58:10 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=93047 On the latest episode of The Lake Lake Show podcast, Lakers Assistant Coach Phil Handy spoke about his off-season decision to leave the Toronto Raptors. After winning the 2019 NBA Championship, Handy opted to rejoin the Lakers. Of whom he was a player development coach with between 2011-13. The 48-year-old described the decision as being “really tough” […]

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Phil Handy on leaving the Raptors: “It was really tough. I really fell in love with Toronto”

On the latest episode of The Lake Lake Show podcast, Lakers Assistant Coach Phil Handy spoke about his off-season decision to leave the Toronto Raptors.

After winning the 2019 NBA Championship, Handy opted to rejoin the Lakers. Of whom he was a player development coach with between 2011-13. The 48-year-old described the decision as being “really tough” and whilst he said it wasn’t an easy decision, Handy also mentioned that “it was the best decision of my career, at that point”. The move put him to the front of the bench, which was essentially a promotion for him.

“It was really tough. I really fell in love with Toronto in a short amount of time. You know, winning a championship, it obviously helped. But the city of Toronto is a great city. The organization is first-class. Me and Nick Nurse, obviously we got history going back to our UK days. I built a bond with a lot of the players. Regardless of Kawhi leaving or not, that was a tough decision for me because I felt like Toronto still had a lot of talent and they were going to surprise a lot of people. Just like they’ve done this year and how they’ve competed. It wasn’t an easy decision but I think it was the best decision for my career, at that point.”

Handy went into further detail, stating that moving back to the West coach moved him closer to his family. Before emphasizing that the decision made sense for his career moving forward.

“To be able to come back to the West coast, which is where I’m from. I have a son here. It puts me closer to my family a little bit. Then it was a move to the front of the bench for me. Which is a stepping-stone in my career. Although those things were there, a lot of positives, it was a tough decision for me to get up and leave Toronto to come back to Los Angeles.”

Phil Handy was part of a huge reshuffle in the Lakers’ coaching set-up last summer. Which saw Frank Vogel come in as Head Coach. Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, Miles Simon, Mike Penberthy, and Quinton Crawford, all arrived as assistant coaches. The new set-up has helped the Lakers shoot up to the top of the Western Conference with a record of 49-14, being led by superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Check out the full episode of Phil Handy on The Lake Lake Show below. Additional topics include his first spell with the Lakers (2011-13), LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, and much more.

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Phil Handy on Kyle Kuzma: “That kid has all the attributes to be an All-Star” https://www.talkbasket.net/92400-phil-handy-on-kyle-kuzma-that-kid-has-all-the-attributes-to-be-an-all-star https://www.talkbasket.net/92400-phil-handy-on-kyle-kuzma-that-kid-has-all-the-attributes-to-be-an-all-star#respond Mon, 15 Jun 2020 14:47:09 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=92400 On the latest episode of The Lake Lake Show podcast, Lakers Assistant Coach Phil Handy spoke about Kyle Kuzma. Specifically, his fit on the current roster, his struggles throughout the season, and what he’s seen behind the scenes. Kuzma went into the current campaign touted to be the third star alongside LeBron James and the recently acquired […]

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Phil Handy on Kyle Kuzma: “That kid has all the attributes to be an All-Star”

On the latest episode of The Lake Lake Show podcast, Lakers Assistant Coach Phil Handy spoke about Kyle Kuzma. Specifically, his fit on the current roster, his struggles throughout the season, and what he’s seen behind the scenes.

Kuzma went into the current campaign touted to be the third star alongside LeBron James and the recently acquired Anthony Davis. His numbers have taken a hit, but Handy was still full of praise for the 24-year-old.

Phenomenal talent. That kid has all the attributes to be an All-Star in the NBA very very soon. I think what people don’t understand, when there’s a shift in the dynamic of the team, a lot of things happen. You take a lot of the youth out, and the Lakers go from a team that was rebuilding, and they go to a team that’s competing for a championship, overnight. Those are two different teams. So that required that Kyle’s role changed as well. He’s really taken on the mindset that it’s not all about scoring.

“I think earlier in the year, I think guys struggle with that. Those are difficult adjustments. But Kuz has kept working, he’s kept studying the film, he’s always been active in trying to figure out where he can improve. You kind of see as the season went on, he got a little better. He was starting to be more comfortable in his role and be more comfortable with understanding where his shots come from.” 

Kyle Kuzma: Is He Any Good? | Pace and Space
(Image/Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Kuzma’s Reduced Role:

Kyle Kuzma averaged 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists, on 45% shooting (30.3% from 3) last season. This season those numbers have dropped to 12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. On 43.2% shooting from the field, 29.7% from downtown.

Handy acknowledged Kuzma’s struggles, but emphasized the difficulties he’s experienced due to the makeup of the roster drastically changing. Along with his role. With that, Kuzma appears to be putting in the work on a daily basis to adapt to his new surroundings.

He started out, probably not at the standards as most people would like to see. But he’s doing a lot of things to help the team win on both sides of the ball. Those are hard adjustments to make. People don’t understand how tough it is to go from maybe taking 15 to 16 shots a game, and now he might be taking 8 to 9 shots a game, in some cases, and have to be really efficient with that. Kuz has really been putting in the effort day-in and day-out to make sure he’s successful.”

Check out the full episode of Phil Handy on The Lake Lake Show below. Additional topics include his first spell with the Lakers (2011-13), the difficulty in leaving Toronto after the Raptors’ title-winning season. As well as LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and much more.

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Phil Handy describes LeBron James as being “very selfless” and “team first” https://www.talkbasket.net/92396-phil-handy-describes-lebron-james-as-being-very-selfless-and-team-first https://www.talkbasket.net/92396-phil-handy-describes-lebron-james-as-being-very-selfless-and-team-first#respond Mon, 15 Jun 2020 14:21:13 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=92396 On the latest episode of The Lake Lake Show podcast, Assistant Coach Phil Handy discussed the chemistry of the Los Angeles Lakers. Specifically between superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Handy was an Assistant Coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James, where he won the 2016 NBA Championship. He then moved to Toronto for […]

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Phil Handy describes LeBron James as being “very selfless” and “team first”

On the latest episode of The Lake Lake Show podcast, Assistant Coach Phil Handy discussed the chemistry of the Los Angeles Lakers. Specifically between superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Handy was an Assistant Coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James, where he won the 2016 NBA Championship. He then moved to Toronto for the 2018/19 campaign, picking up title number 2 in the process. This past summer, Handy returned to Los Angeles, where he was with the Lakers between 2011-13, to rejoin the team’s coaching set-up.

The chemistry has been amazing, from LeBron on down to the last guy on the roster. Him and Anthony Davis have done a great job of just leading the way. They’re really good friends and not just them two but LeBron has always been one of those guys that’s team first. He’s very selfless and he involves himself and engages himself with his teammates. So the chemistry there, I’m not surprised. I’ve seen and been with LeBron in Cleveland for many years and I’ve seen how he operates.

Analysis: LeBron James' legacy makes returns easier for Anthony ...
(Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Team Chemistry:

The Lakers to-date hold the second-best record in the NBA (49-14) and are 5.5 games clear of cross-city rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, at the top of the Western Conference. The chemistry on the team on-and-off the court has been clear to see this season. With the team being one of the favourites to win the 2020 NBA Championship. Upon the season’s return in Orlando at the end of July.

All of those guys on the team, they get along great. They go to dinners, they’re always hanging out together away from the court. Which makes it easier for them to get along and hold each other accountable on the court. I’m not surprised at the chemistry. It’s been great so far and that’s what you really need to go along with talent.

Check out the full episode of Phil Handy on The Lake Lake Show below. Additional topics include his first spell with the Lakers (2011-13), the difficulty in leaving Toronto after the Raptors’ title-winning season. As well as Kyle Kuzma, and much more.

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Michael Jordan Disrespected Mark Henry During The 96′ Olympics! https://www.talkbasket.net/92083-michael-jordan-disrespected-mark-henry-during-the-96-olympics https://www.talkbasket.net/92083-michael-jordan-disrespected-mark-henry-during-the-96-olympics#respond Fri, 12 Jun 2020 00:25:16 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=92083 During the 1996 Olympics, Mark Henry got the “privilege” to meet Michael Jordan. He describes his first encounter with MJ as “not too great” because of the fact that Jordan didn’t know who he was. He says Jordan’s tone was disrespectful and also thought Henry didn’t fit in with the basketball players. Mark Henry immediately […]

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Michael Jordan Disrespected Mark Henry During The 96′ Olympics!

During the 1996 Olympics, Mark Henry got the “privilege” to meet Michael Jordan. He describes his first encounter with MJ as “not too great” because of the fact that Jordan didn’t know who he was. He says Jordan’s tone was disrespectful and also thought Henry didn’t fit in with the basketball players.

Mark Henry immediately checked MJ and of course he apologized. I’m sure not even the greatest basketball player ever would want to mess with 418 pound Henry. Henry has professional wrestling, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and strongman on his resume. He says a fist fight between him and MJ “would have made world news” but “would not have been interesting”, hinting that he would have dismantled Jordan.

Him and Jordan later became companions on the other hand. Henry says Jordan “even invited him to his birthday party during the All-Star game!” Imagine if things would have gone sound in this confrontation.

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Thurl Bailey: “Change won’t come with violent acts. I’ve had more racist assaults in the USA than anywhere else” https://www.talkbasket.net/91329-thurl-bailey-change-wont-come-with-violent-acts-ive-had-more-racist-assaults-in-the-usa-than-anywhere-else https://www.talkbasket.net/91329-thurl-bailey-change-wont-come-with-violent-acts-ive-had-more-racist-assaults-in-the-usa-than-anywhere-else#respond Wed, 03 Jun 2020 21:39:56 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=91329 The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last week has brought thousands of U.S. citizens on the streets, protesting police brutality and racial discrimination. While in many cities throughout America, riots broke out causing police forces to intervene, protests taking place in Salt Lake City over the last days have been […]

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Thurl Bailey: “Change won’t come with violent acts. I’ve had more racist assaults in the USA than anywhere else”

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last week has brought thousands of U.S. citizens on the streets, protesting police brutality and racial discrimination.

While in many cities throughout America, riots broke out causing police forces to intervene, protests taking place in Salt Lake City over the last days have been mostly peaceful, according to local reports. Maybe that has something to do with Salt Lake’s and Utah’s population being predominantly white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As an article on the Undefeated succinctly emphasizes: “Of the 30 NBA teams, there isn’t a market that seems less conducive to an African-American player than Salt Lake City, the home of the two-time Western Conference champion Jazz”. It is true that the franchise has little history of signing prominent free agents since arriving to Salt Lake from New Orleans in 1980. Most of their notable players were selected in the NBA Draft, including Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone. However, the lack of black residents did not discourage a considerable part of NBA talent from playing with the Jazz or even growing roots there.

One of the most telling examples is embodied in Thurl Bailey, the now retired NBAer who works as a Jazz TV analyst, motivational speaker, singer and businessman. The former North Carolina State star arrived in Salt Lake City in 1983, after being selected with the No.7 pick that year by the Jazz. Bailey grew up in Bladensburg, Maryland and in 1963, at the tender age of two, his parents left him and his siblings with a babysitter so that they could hear Martin Luther King speak on the National Mall. That helped the 59-year-old create strong memories of how segregation worked in U.S. schools, but also made him realize King’s impact on society.

Since his puberty, Bailey devoted ample time to community service and even became the first black student to be elected president in Bladensburg high school. He won the NBA’s 1988-89 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, which recognizes NBA players’ contributions in community services. Over the last 36 years, he has directed basketball camps for young people, combining lessons about life and basketball.

Despite becoming a valuable unit on the Jazz roster, Thurl had to deal with racial prejudice in the realm of his personal life. His second wife, Sindi Southwick, is a white Mormon woman from Salt Lake City. Him being a Baptist and her being a Mormon was not the only issue the two had to sort out. Southwick’s family disowned her for marrying a black man (in 1994), but eventually Bailey’s in-laws came to accept their daughter’s choice.

The 1983 NCAA champ played eight full seasons with the Utah Jazz during his career, from 1983 through 1991, averaging 14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. After three years at Minnesota, the next stop was Europe. It was in Italy where Bailey decided to become a Mormon, during the 1995-96 season and while his wife was back in Utah.

In October 2017, the retired player showed his support to a youngster in Utah, who had been subjected to racial slurs as he walked home from school. The boy’s basketball coach organized an anti-racist, anti-bullying walk, in which Bailey participated.

TalkBasket.net reached out to him for an interview on the recent developments in the States and Thurl Bailey referred to the always pertinent and thorny issue of racism on and off the basketball courts. He commends NBA players Jaylen Brown and Malcolm Brogdon for protesting peacefully, remembers incidents of discrimination during his time as an athlete in the NBA and overseas and underlines that political activism -or the lack of it- is a choice athletes are responsible for.

Q: Normally, my first question would be about the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, but over the last week another issue has been making headlines: the George Floyd case. How are things in the States right now?

Α: Not so good. Even in Salt Lake City, there were riots and people showing their anger. Mr Floyd should still be alive today. It’s about accountability, recruiting the right people. There are bad people everywhere. On the other side, there’s other ways to protest and use your voice. Destroying cities, burning things and flipping over cars I don’t believe will get your message across. I don’t think violence answers violence and I hope that if people come to their senses and voice their displeasure, hopefully change will come in that way. But it won’t come with violent acts. I know that for sure.

Q: Do you think that we should expect the riots to escalate?

A: I don’t necessarily see the rioting and violence to stop. I know it hasn’t in certain cities. Here in Salt Lake there’s curfews that have been started.

Q: Do you think that the real question is about police abuse of power or about racial discrimination?

A: I think there’s some of all of that involved. There’s always been discrimination on the racial and other levels. Right when I think that things are starting get better, something like this happens, which proves that we have a long way to go. Abuse of power is another issue. It has to do with accountability and with people at the top making sure that those who are hired and recruited live up to the standards they preach: to protect and serve. I have a brother who just retired after almost 30 years from the police force here. He’s a great cop, although he is surrounded by a few bad apples here and there. All in all, police are doing their job, but there’s a select few that step outside those lines. It’s devastating for the force and for us as citizens.

Q: Are you content with the way the Trump administration is handling the situation?

A: Whenever I decide to talk about politics, I do it at the voting booth. I use my right to make a statement who I want in office. He’s our President and good or bad, he’s in office. Do I agree with everything he’s done? No, but I think he’s done some good things. That doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have handled other things differently. It’s also about what we can do as citizens. We have to our part to make sure that things happen the way we want. Everywhere in the world, people are struggling and leaders need to be held accountable.

Q: One of your occupations includes giving keynote speeches and blending motivation with entertainment. How would you address children and adults who are angry and vent their frustration for whatever inequality they see in society?

A: I’m hired to come in and hopefully inspire people. The best way anyone to do that is through their own stories and journey. We all have a lot in common. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t faced an adversity in their life. It would mean that they haven’t lived or haven’t tried to succeed. There’s always opportunities that you can create for yourself if you are surrounded by the right people. If you’re passionate about wanting to do something, then you can find that door to open and go through.

I grew up in Washington D.C. where not a lot of young people were making anything out of themselves. I was fortunate enough to have both my parents involved in my life, when a lot of kids didn’t have that. So, I took the opportunity, got a great education and didn’t squander it because I knew that at some point, I would need that education to communicate and help others. There’s a lot of young people struggling nowadays: with their identities, with addictions… The first thing I would say to them is to find help, people who can empathize with them and who have been on that journey as well.

Q: As a member of the Board of Directors of the NB Retired Players Association, I’d like your opinion on NBPA Vice Presidents Jaylen Brown and Malcolm Brogdon joining the peaceful protests in Atlanta. Will or would the NBRPA follow suit?

A: Obviously, if it has to do with any kind of a peaceful solution, the NBRPA would be a part of that. We encourage all of our members to use their voices and platforms in a peaceful way, in order to bring eyes to all issues. I commend those guys for using their platforms and names for a peaceful resolution.

Q: Were you ever discriminated against in the States or abroad? Did you ever have to deal with racist incidents?

A: Yeah, I did. I grew up during a racist time, in the 60s. Both my mom and dad were smart enough to teach us as kids what’s going on and how to react and treat people. I grew up right in the heart of the nation’s capital, where Martin Luther King gave his famous speech. My parents were there and so that was an education for us as kids. It was also a point at which we had to make a choice as to how we would handle the discrimination. It really is a choice. What we could do is use our education and make something of ourselves, so that we could bring notoriety to certain social issues with a voice of reason that people would listen to.

When I played overseas, even if I didn’t speak the language in the country I was in, there were comments by fans that I knew were discriminatory. We’ve had some of that here in the NBA, where fans get outrageous. In Salt Lake City, a fan was taunting Russell Westbrook and there were some issues where fans were banned for life. So, it’s not something new and it won’t ease up anytime soon. I really hope that the next generation will help solve some of that and I think in some levels they have. But it’s still an ongoing issue, exacerbated by the incidents recently in Minneapolis.

Q: Do you recall if those racist assaults took place in Greece or Italy?

A: I can’t remember exactly what country it was. I traveled so much. I just know that it’s happened. Here, in the United States, it’s happened more than anywhere else. Sometimes I try to write it off as people being overly fanatic in sports and finding something that will throw off the opponent. But in the end, if you’re hauling racial slurs, you’re racist. It really doesn’t matter where you are, in the arena or at home teaching your kids.

Former North Carolina State player, Thurl Bailey, gives President Barack Obama a jersey and gift, Monday, May 9, 2016, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. 33 years after their 1983 Men’s National Basketball Championship, the president welcomes the North Carolina Wolfpack to the White House to honor their historic win. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Q: You were a 6-foot-11 African-American, who grew up in a violent household in a tough neighborhood and married a white woman, before settling in Salt Lake City. How did you overcome those setbacks in your childhood and adult life, coming from humble origins and eventually becoming who you are? I mean, did you ever have to convince yourself or others that your background or your skin color will not get in the way of achieving your goals in life?

A: That was a part of me growing up. My parents taught me that, giving us all the confidence we needed. They were the ones who struggled so we wouldn’t have to; they went to the protest and had to go to the back of restaurants to order their food, couldn’t sit down beside white people on the bus. They went through all of that stuff and fought the battle to make it better for us. Even though I grew up and faced some of that, I was taught to take the high road at times and stand up for what I believe in; to protect myself, but use my voice.

If you go back in history and look at discrimination in sports, there are a lot of great black athletes that paved the way for me to have an opportunity to play in the NBA. I can’t forget those trailblazers who fought and gave their lives. Guys like Oscar Robertson, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali paved the way for us to have equality and freedom.

Q: Did being on a mixed marriage make things more difficult for you?

A: Love is love, dude. Love shows no color to me. I’ve been married a couple of times. My first wife is African American and it had nothing to do with color that we broke up. It’s marriage and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When I met my second wife, I didn’t seek her out because she was white. We fell in love, like anybody else does. Other people see that in different ways, but it doesn’t really bother me or matter to me. What matters is that I have a loving wife and we have a loving family, which is still going strong after 26 years of marriage. We can’t worry about what other people say. We will be better as people when those kind of questions don’t need to be asked.

Q: Even before you were drafted by the Utah Jazz, Jim Valvano, coach at North Carolina State, urged the franchise to use their first pick on you, arguing that your personality would serve both the team and the community. What do you think he saw in you to make that statement?

A: He saw me and knew me. He was my college coach and it was his job to get to know each and every one of his players as athletes and individuals. My work, upbringing and personality spoke for themselves. The Utah Jazz were a small-market team looking for great players, who could also live and contribute to the community. When a team are looking for players like that, sometimes they will take a less talented player who may be a better person. I was very fortunate to be selected by the Utah Jazz and after 30something years I’m still living here in Salt Lake City.

Q: Do you think that athletes, not to mention those who are role models to many, should raise their voice or be politically active?

A: That’s their choice. I’m not going to tell another athlete what he should or shouldn’t do with his voice, something he’s worked hard for. I’m only responsible for me and those around me, but it’s always a choice.

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Madonna Offered Dennis Rodman $20 Million To Get Her Pregnant! https://www.talkbasket.net/90991-madonna-offered-dennis-rodman-20-million-to-get-her-pregnant https://www.talkbasket.net/90991-madonna-offered-dennis-rodman-20-million-to-get-her-pregnant#respond Mon, 01 Jun 2020 00:12:41 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=90991 In an interview with the Breakfast Club, Dennis Rodman shockingly stated that Madonna once offered him $20 million dollars to be the father of her child. Rodman says he received a phone call while gambling in Las Vegas from Madonna stating that she was “ovulating”. Rodman told the guys to hold the table for him, […]

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Madonna Offered Dennis Rodman $20 Million To Get Her Pregnant!

In an interview with the Breakfast Club, Dennis Rodman shockingly stated that Madonna once offered him $20 million dollars to be the father of her child. Rodman says he received a phone call while gambling in Las Vegas from Madonna stating that she was “ovulating”. Rodman told the guys to hold the table for him, caught a flight, and went to see Madonna. The two never had the child, but Rodman recalls her telling him that if he got her pregnant she would “give him 20 million”. He added that “the baby would have to be born first” before she would get any money out of him!

Dennis Rodman on The Breakfast Club

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From CP3 to 3D: Julian Wright on playing in Europe and the two kinds of team leadership https://www.talkbasket.net/90692-from-cp3-to-3d-julian-wright-on-playing-in-europe-and-the-two-kinds-of-team-leadership https://www.talkbasket.net/90692-from-cp3-to-3d-julian-wright-on-playing-in-europe-and-the-two-kinds-of-team-leadership#respond Fri, 29 May 2020 11:57:35 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=90692 In the first part of his interview with TalkBasket.net, Julian Wright made a flashback to his U.S. career, including his time in college and the NBA. During the discussion, the retired athlete, who called himself undervalued for the most part of his trajectory, also recalled instances from his time overseas. From 2012, when he signed […]

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From CP3 to 3D: Julian Wright on playing in Europe and the two kinds of team leadership

In the first part of his interview with TalkBasket.net, Julian Wright made a flashback to his U.S. career, including his time in college and the NBA. During the discussion, the retired athlete, who called himself undervalued for the most part of his trajectory, also recalled instances from his time overseas.

From 2012, when he signed with Maccabi Rishon in Israel, until 2019, the year in which his time in France with Paris Metropolitans came to an abrupt end, the 33-year-old joined no less than eight European teams, in addition to his short stint in Puerto Rico in 2015. Wright had his probably best seasons in Italy with Trento and Pallacanestro Reggiana, but he was also solid with Trabzonspor in Turkey.

Nevertheless, the most prestigious and decorated club he got the chance to play was Panathinaikos from Greece. The six-time Euroleague champs were going through a process of reconstruction during the 2014-15 campaign. Montenegrin coach Dusko Ivanovic was at the helm of the Greens and picked Julian in order to enhance his team’s athletic ability. The versatile forward took his time in Athens, getting himself prepared and into shape, before eventually signing a short-term contract with the Greek team. The timing proved to be unfortunate because Panathinaikos would often struggle in the Euroleague, while the Illinois native wasn’t getting sufficient playing time. After having stayed in Athens for three months, Wright left the city on New Year’s Eve.

Having spent almost half of his career in Europe entitles the former Kansas star to ponder on the positive and negative experiences he had, which led him to some interesting conclusions. For instance, the No.13 pick in the 2007 draft proposes the implementation of a collective bargaining agreement in Europe, in order to avoid the time-consuming and ineffective decisions made by the Basketball Arbitral Tribunal. He also recalls dealing with financially irresponsible teams, which made him want to be an expatriate guide for overseas ballers. When it comes to choosing the best teammates he ever had, Julian’s picks can be rather unpredictable.

In the end, winning teams depend a lot on leadership. By describing the character of two influential players who dominated the game on both sides of the Atlantic, Wright offers some insights on diametrically opposed concepts of leadership: the quiet and the vocal, the tacit and the outspoken, the humble and the condescending.

Some would add: “the John Stocktons and the Michael Jordans of this world.”

This is Julian Wright, Part II.

 Q: In Greece we saw a considerably less athletic version of yourself. Panathinaikos coach Dusko Ivanovic had initially decided to let you go after you failed the medicals. How did you end up playing for Panathinaikos?

A: I was nursing an injury from playing in Russia during the 2013-14 season. Had a big bone bruise and didn’t want to come back too soon. I wasn’t in shape because I hadn’t gone into conditional running. I was starting to get in shape before I signed and then pulled my hamstring. Panathinaikos were about to sign somebody else and I asked to stay to rehab. After the first Euroleague game, I was fine, considering the way Ivanovic practices. It was a short-term contract and I heard from people it was a managerial decision to end it, even budget-wise. I had the rest of the year guaranteed on January 1. So, they let me go for that reason, but performance-wise, the coaching staff didn’t have an issue for me to leave. That’s what I heard. It’s business, but I enjoyed my time at Panathinaikos. I still get in touch with people who play for the team, coaches who are not there anymore, players and people from the community. My son was born in Athens, actually.

Q: How was Dusko for you? Did you get along? He is infamous for his excruciating practice sessions and for preferring low-post bigs to undersized centers.

A: A lot of times in my career, coaches and managers think that I’m capable of playing a certain way. i’ve always thought I’m best playing multiple positions. I practice and I prepare in my off-season based on how I think I will be used. My three-point percentage had been sub-30 in most of my career. So, I was not prepared to shoot five three-pointers in a game. One thing that I kept in mind with that coach is to not jump on pump-fakes. I used to always do that, until I played for coach Dusko. In terms of his practices, it was OK for me since I needed to be in shape. But I heard a few other players say: “I’ve lost two years of my career playing for him.”

Q: Who said that?

A: I cannot say. It’s almost consensus, but mostly U.S. players – not all. I’m always trying to get something from every coach and Dusko was a great basketball mind. Sometimes when it comes to some of the younger players, I tend to compare how they play with me, although it’s a different era.

Julian Wright, #21 of Panathinaikos Athens in action during the 2014-2015 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Basketball Regular Season Date 8 game between Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul v Panathinaikos Athens at Ulker Sports Arena on December 4, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Aykut Akici/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Q: Where you ever close to returning to Panathinaikos?

A: Yes, when I was with Trento in Italy I had a really good year in 2015-16. They were looking to buy me out, but I talked with the GM Salvatore [Trainotti] from Trento. We were playing well and I just thought I should finish the season there and see if Panathinaikos were going to keep calling. Obviously, there’s injuries and Euroleague teams try to sign people during the year. I just took it as a compliment, that I was playing well enough. But the GM decided to keep me because he couldn’t find a player like me in the middle of the season. I was focused on that year and that’s how we both talked about it. I just liked the fact that [Trainotti] could have said no and not communicate to me why. It’s not that I was mad. I didn’t have a buy-out clause, but if the teams agreed to it, I’d go for it. Most of the time, a team wants to negotiate something during the year.

Q: You never stayed with a team for more than one year. Where did you have the best time playing at?

A: I really enjoyed my time in Israel. It was great. I played for two different teams in two seasons. Most people spoke English, food was really good, I got to spend time by the beach, the weather was warm. Their league was not the toughest, but I knew I could play a lot more loose and that’s why I had a lot more fun. I also enjoyed Athens.

Q: Apart from basketball, which other adjustments did you have to make while being overseas, in terms of lifestyle, language, habits, teammates?

A: It was a smooth adjustment for me. I took everything in. I enjoyed playing in different countries, picking up language, food, culture. Most of the people my age, my teammates, spoke either perfect or decent English so that I could understand them. But I enjoyed the experience because I wanted to learn more about their language and food. So, I asked them things. Being in smaller cities was a bit tough for my family because they didn’t have a lot to do. For myself, there wasn’t anything like a culture shock or nervousness.

Q: In March 2019, you took to social media explaining why you left Levallois Metropolitan and accusing them of unethical treatment because they refused to pay for your daughter’s tuition fees. Have you worked things out with them?

A: No, I have not. I have moved on at this point. I’m not going to waste any more energy on that. I tried to speak with the management about it. So, we’ll just keep it at that. They didn’t do anything against me for leaving. For me, that feels as if they know they did something wrong because they didn’t take any legal action.

Q: Was that the only negative experience you had while in Europe?

A: Not really, but I can say that I enjoyed my time in France, apart from that issue. We were staying five minutes from Paris, had a lot do as a family, my daughter was in school and my son was learning French. The only negative experience has pretty much been late or no payment. BC Krasnye Krilia, based on Samara, Russia, folded as a team and owed me money. Same situation at Trabzonspor in Turkey. I sued them and won the case, but they folded as well. Other than that, living and playing in Europe was great. The fans and the environment, even if you’re playing away, are unique. There’s nothing like it, not even in the States. Maybe in some colleges, but over there it’s mostly fans screaming and jumping. You go to an arena in Europe and they’re all screaming and throwing things at you! It’s more passionate, but the management of financial things makes it a little tough at times.

Q: It’s kind of ironic what French media outlet “Le Parisien” wrote in an article published in October 2018: “Paris-based clubs try to lure foreign players they wouldn’t otherwise afford to sign, with fancy apartments or top-notch international schools for their children, in order to make up for lower paychecks.” You and then-teammate Roko Ukic expressed an opinion. How was the situation in France and other countries?

A: It’s an issue that a lot of players need to talk about and deal with. I would pose the question: Is a player comfortable with playing for less if they know they’re going to get all their money? That’s a tough thing for someone’s pride because some teams may not be able to pay them all their money. Some sign with one team, knowing that it’s not easy to find a decent job in the middle of the season. So, they pay you until January- February and then something happens and you got to get yourself ready for next year.

I think players should do their research as much as possible. Now, with social media, I reach out to players and ask those who played somewhere before. It’s kind of selfish that people from the generation before us didn’t warn us about things happening since the 1970s. My wife is a doctor in sports management. She has done interviews and people have admitted to these things. We can’t wait for the BAT (Editor’s Note: The Basketball Arbitral Tribunal: an independent body, officially recognized by FIBA, providing services for the resolution of disputes between players, agents, coaches and clubs through arbitration) to handle our cases. Players should have some kind of union, collective bargaining agreement. It’s important for players to get to the bottom of this and ask: “Can you pay me this amount for the whole year? I’ll take $80,000 less because I know I can budget accordingly.” That’s some of the things I’ve thought about since I retired.

Julian Wright of Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia (L) and Evgeny Valiev of Zenit St. Petersburg vie for the ball during the EuroCup Quarterfinals Round 2 basketball match between Zenit St. Petersburg and Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia at the Yubileyny Sports Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, March 09, 2018. (Photo by Igor Russak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Q: On your LinkedIn account, you wrote that your life lessons as an expatriate can guide athletes abroad or High School/collegiate players. Could you elaborate on this? Because apart from generic advice, like “Embrace the experience, be open minded,” we rarely listen to overseas ballers give more profound advice to their peers. What would you suggest?

A: It’s important for players to think about the place they would want to live. It’s ten months of your life. Sometimes they go for the money and end up miserable wherever they end up signing. So, I say: “Don’t just go for the money because you won’t get those years back”. A lot of times, people in the States don’t really think about these things. I want to help people think more about the experience and less about who’s the highest bidder.

Q: Drawing from your quote: “Unfortunately, it’s every man for themselves overseas”, how can players get help?


A: Even if half of the players started a union, that could change the whole ecosystem and the course of how things take place. A collective bargaining agreement could provoke some type of shift. Not necessarily a power shift asking for more money, but for regulations. Teams are not being regulated the best way. If they don’t pay someone, they get sanctioned and can’t sign anybody. That’s not really getting down to the situation.

Most times, people think they’re the best players in Europe and take their chances, hoping they will get their money. In this way, there’s no infrastructure for the next generation of players. FIBA sanctions is not regulation. it’s a slap on the wrist, like saying: “We know there are teams who operate in a foul manner and we’ll sanction them.” You wouldn’t say to an alcoholic that the next time he comes in drunk, we’ll just pour the alcohol out. He’s going to buy more. That’s not corrective behavior.

Q: Apart from a high salary, what can attract a player to the Chinese League?


A: I think there needs to be more player development in China. They compete really well and have great intentions, but there still needs to be the right approach to the development and players need to get coached. That would raise the competition level. They love basketball and have a lot of people interested in playing the game. I had a driver there who used to watch NBA games and lots of basketball clips. They bring in trainers and coaches from the US and Europe, but they don’t study the game the right way instead of watching the highlights. Young kids are watching clips of their favorite players, but that’s not field study; that’s not development. They will need to bring in the right kind of people, not just players.

Q: You once said: “I want to be one of the greatest teammates a guy could ever play with”. To which degree did you achieve that in your career? Did you ever feel you were a bad teammate?

A: I don’t feel like I was a bad teammate at all. My personality was to communicate with everyone. Not as an actor, but “read” different personalities. That’s part of leadership.

In Europe I was a leader in each team; not the captain, but a leader who had a lot of responsibility.  Of course, it wasn’t like that at Panathinaikos, also because I didn’t have the time. In the locker-room, it was about mutual respect: talking basketball and the management of personalities. I felt like a bridge between domestic and non-domestic players. In the beginning of practice, you usually see domestic and foreign players standing on different sides of the court. I thought I could bridge that gap by walking up and down, going to both sides and talking for three-four minutes. It’s not an experiment that always goes well.

I studied communication at University and tried to implement that in my time overseas. International and interpersonal communication has a lot to do with building trust in preseason. I was not always an extension of the coach, but I tried to lead by example. In the best teams, we always had the best chemistry.

Q: Who was the best teammate you ever had?


A: That’s a tough one. It’s hard to say because I didn’t have one bad locker-room. If I had to choose, I’d say Hilton Armstrong. He went to the University of Connecticut, then to New Orleans where we played together. He was a great teammate, very funny. The thing that I loved about him was that he was motivating other teammates, even if he wasn’t playing a lot. It was really contagious. We’d spend a lot of time together on the road, in food, going to the mall.

In terms of Europe, I’d say Anton Ponkrashov. He played for Unics Kazan last year. We were together at Krasnye Krylia and had many conversations because he used to show the foreigners over: where to stay, where to eat etc. He actually thought I should shoot left-handed.

I had a lot of great teammates in the NBA as well, who taught me things when I was younger. I played with Peja Stojakovic in New Orleans. I was always around him and although we played the same position, he didn’t see me as a threat. He’d teach me about the game.

Peja Stojakovic (L) of the New Orleans Hornets jokes with teammate Julian Wright (R) as he hosts his third annual Charitabowl celebrity bowling event on December 17, 2009 at the AMF All Star Lanes in Kenner, Louisiana. Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)


Q: How was Dimitris Diamantidis as a teammate in Panathinaikos?

A: When the issue is leadership, I bring him up. I believe he was a great teammate as well: down-to-earth, very humble. That’s what I took the most from him. I really enjoyed playing with him because he made the game easy for everybody else. Just playing with a living legend was great. He was professional and spoke to people when he was spoken to. Those things are always refreshing. Being a superstar is no excuse for acting in a certain way, thinking that you’re a better person than anyone else because you can score a basketball. People respected and listened to him. He was definitely a pleasure to be around as a teammate, but I saw him as a leader in my three months there.

Q: And Chris Paul, by comparison? You played with him for three years in the NBA.

A: I’d say his leadership style is different. You could see that in the “Last Dance” with Michael Jordan: some players who are that good tend to break other people down psychologically in order to help their team because their expectations are based on how they would do things. He was respected in the locker-room and was pleasant to be around as well. But when it came to certain things within the team, I think that passion got in the way at times. Based on him being a competitor, sometimes you got to take certain things with that. I think of him as someone who was genuine and sincere, but sometimes he was also tough on some people. I can handle it, but I think that some people were told certain things a lot. Everybody gets motivated differently. That’s the main thing.

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Devontae Cacok talks about playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis https://www.talkbasket.net/90688-devontae-cacok-talks-about-playing-with-lebron-james-and-anthony-davis https://www.talkbasket.net/90688-devontae-cacok-talks-about-playing-with-lebron-james-and-anthony-davis#respond Fri, 29 May 2020 11:33:55 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=90688 On the latest episode of The Lake Lake Show, two-way player Devontae Cacok spoke about what it’s like being around LeBron James and Anthony Davis on a regular basis. Along with the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers’ deep veteran roster. “Going straight to the Lakers organisation, it’s a whole different side to basketball. The […]

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Devontae Cacok talks about playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis

On the latest episode of The Lake Lake Show, two-way player Devontae Cacok spoke about what it’s like being around LeBron James and Anthony Davis on a regular basis. Along with the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers’ deep veteran roster.

“Going straight to the Lakers organisation, it’s a whole different side to basketball. The travel, the hotels, the food. Obviously being with the Lakers, LeBron, AD, JaVale, Danny Green, Jared Dudley. Like all these veterans that everybody in the world knows and I obviously know. It was very surreal for me to come from Wilmington and be able to see these guys, work out with these guys, and be on the same court as these guys. To practice with these guys. To just learn from them, I try to ask a couple of questions.”

“Me, Kostas, we played one-on-one with AD a couple of times. With DeMarcus Cousins watching us. I never would have thought a year ago I’d be saying that or had experienced that. Obviously I got to stay level headed. It’s a blessing to be around these guys, and learn from them.”

Devontae Cacok discusses his strong Laker bonds:

When asked about who “takes him under their wing” on the roster, Cacok discussed his strong bonds with both Quinn Cook and Alex Caruso. Who particularly supported him when he was waived by the Lakers following pre-season.

After impressing in the G League, the 23-year-old forward/center fought his way to earn a two-way contract in December. He has remained ever since.

“I would say back from pre-season, Quinn Cook and AC. Alex Caruso. Those two guys, they really helped me out. I went through a lot of ups and downs when I got waived from the Lakers, cause I thought I had a really good opportunity of getting that two-way from the beginning. I talked to Quinn and he gave me a lot of feedback. AC during the pre-season games, me and him played a lot together, we came off each other. Those guys I was able to really talk to and connect with them and ask them questions. They were able to give me a lot of knowledge.”

Check out the full interview of Devontae Cacok on The Lake Lake Show below:

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NBA prospect Anthony Watkins talks about declaring for the draft https://www.talkbasket.net/90571-nba-prospect-anthony-watkins-talks-about-declaring-for-the-draft https://www.talkbasket.net/90571-nba-prospect-anthony-watkins-talks-about-declaring-for-the-draft#respond Thu, 28 May 2020 15:00:40 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=90571 In a recent interview with nbacallups.com, NBA prospect Anthony Watkins talked about the process of declaring for the 2020 draft. As well as what lies ahead for himself. Including potential G League or overseas options, if the NBA doesn’t materialise. 19-year-old Watkins, who graduated from McCallie High-School in 2019, declared for the NBA Draft officially back […]

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NBA prospect Anthony Watkins talks about declaring for the draft

In a recent interview with nbacallups.com, NBA prospect Anthony Watkins talked about the process of declaring for the 2020 draft. As well as what lies ahead for himself. Including potential G League or overseas options, if the NBA doesn’t materialise.

19-year-old Watkins, who graduated from McCallie High-School in 2019, declared for the NBA Draft officially back in April. He spent the past season playing professionally in Germany. Where he represented Lowen and the Giessen Pointers, in the Pro B and Regionalliga, respectively.

“My plan was to definitely declare for the draft and test the waters. Get some feedback, because at this point in my career that’s all I want. It was definitely the plan to declare and go through as many workouts as possible, talk to as many NBA executives as possible. I sent in my stuff, sent in my paperwork, then got the call from the NBA, which I actually wasn’t expecting at all, just confirming everything.”

“If it’s meant for me to end up in the NBA, that’s going to happen one way or another. I’m just focused on being the best basketball player I can be and enjoying this draft process. It’s fun and a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.”

When presented the question of whether the NBA G League would be an option moving forward, Watkins stated his desire to take such opportunity. But then emphasized that he’ll take the best opportunity for himself. Whether that be in the G League, or overseas.

“Absolutely. If the best opportunity for me to develop my game as a professional is in the G League, I’m right there. If there’s a G League team in Alaska, I’ll be there. But the same goes for Europe, if I see the best opportunity for me to take that next step is in Europe, or Australia, or wherever, I’ll definitely take that opportunity.”

Furthermore, in the interview Anthony Watkins stated his modern NBA influences. Pinpointing Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart as being one of those that he looks up to.

“A guy like Marcus Smart, because I take a lot of pride on the defensive end. So I watch a lot of Marcus Smart. How he battles over ball screens, and just his engagement on the defensive end is something I really look at and study.. we’re built similarly and have, I think, the exact same size.”

You can watch the full interview with Anthony Watkins below:

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NBA hopeful Anthony Watkins explains passing on college to play overseas https://www.talkbasket.net/90567-nba-hopeful-anthony-watkins-explains-passing-on-college-to-play-overseas https://www.talkbasket.net/90567-nba-hopeful-anthony-watkins-explains-passing-on-college-to-play-overseas#respond Thu, 28 May 2020 14:35:58 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=90567 In a recent interview with nbacallups.com, NBA prospect Anthony Watkins explained his decision to pass on college. Instead choosing to play professionally overseas in Germany. The American born Germany U20 international graduated from McCallie High-School in 2019. Before playing in the Pro B and the Regionalliga for the 2019/20 season. He represented Lowen and the Giessen Pointers, […]

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NBA hopeful Anthony Watkins explains passing on college to play overseas

In a recent interview with nbacallups.com, NBA prospect Anthony Watkins explained his decision to pass on college. Instead choosing to play professionally overseas in Germany.

The American born Germany U20 international graduated from McCallie High-School in 2019. Before playing in the Pro B and the Regionalliga for the 2019/20 season. He represented Lowen and the Giessen Pointers, respectively.

“The decision process for me always comes down to, and always will come down to, where is my game going to take the next step. My dream was actually to play in the NCAA. For me personally, my experience with the national team just kind of showed me, my game is probably best served going here. Not only getting into that new environment, as far as play-style and learning the ins and outs of the professional and European game. But I think also in Germany there’s more of a focus on the skill. I want to develop my skill as much as I can and I just saw in Germany that opportunity was there for me. I just jumped at it.”

“Playing with some 6’9/6’10 guys, going up trying to finish against them in practice, it’s helped me bunches. Being trusted into that point guard roll for the first time in my career, on the professional level, is more than I could have asked for and definitely was the next step in my development.”

You can watch the full interview with Anthony Watkins below:

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Exclusive: One Man and His Shoes director fine with Michael Jordan & Nike no-show https://www.talkbasket.net/90319-exclusive-one-man-and-his-shoes-director-fine-with-michael-jordan-nike-no-show https://www.talkbasket.net/90319-exclusive-one-man-and-his-shoes-director-fine-with-michael-jordan-nike-no-show#respond Wed, 27 May 2020 14:03:18 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=90319 It’s been pretty difficult going about life without sports during this pandemic – although soccer’s started back up in certain parts of the world – but Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance captivated the basketball world for five straight weeks and is likely to continue to do so for many more as it’s quite possibly the […]

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Exclusive: One Man and His Shoes director fine with Michael Jordan & Nike no-show

It’s been pretty difficult going about life without sports during this pandemic – although soccer’s started back up in certain parts of the world – but Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance captivated the basketball world for five straight weeks and is likely to continue to do so for many more as it’s quite possibly the most talked-about content in basketball media at the moment.

It was truly saddening to see it end and it would be safe to assume even more so for Bulls fans, considering they had to relive their golden era coming to a close. On the back of that comes a new documentary, however, with VICE TV’s release of One Man and His Shoes following the culmination of the world-popular MJ docuseries. This newer documentary could even be called an extension to episode 5 of The Last Dance in which the mega endorsement came to the fore.

The film is directed by British filmmaker Yemi Bamiro, who insists the timing was purely coincidental, and focuses on the ever-present obsession that’s been a thing since Nike released the Air Jordan 1 in 1985.

One Man and His Shoes features interviews from former NBA Commissioner David Stern and Jordan’s former agent David Falk, among others, and debuted on Monday night. While focusing primarily on the Air Jordan’s unreal popularity, it also delves into the ugly side, noting the history of violence associated with the Jordan brand. It’s also given a voice to Dazie Williams, a mother whose son was brutally murdered over Jordan sneakers in 2012.

Nike and Jordan were unresponsive when Bamiro reached out regarding the documentary and their reasons are unknown. However, Peter Moore, one of the original Air Jordan 1 designers and Jim Riswold, a former Nike marketing exec who created the Jordan ads with Spike Lee, speak extensively.

Bamiro spoke to Talkbasket.net last week and admitted he would have liked for both Nike and Jordan to have had involvement.

“My entry point into this film was to tell the story of the sneakers and obviously I would have wanted people who work at the company to be involved,” he said. “We got a lot of people in the film and we reached out a few times and we just didn’t hear back. I’m sure they’re aware of the film and, in terms of the ending and what they might think of it, I’m not sure.”

“I wanted to tell the phenomenon of the Air Jordan sneaker,” he continued, “I didn’t want to divide or skip history. The violence which has surrounded the sneaker is an unfortunate part of its history so I felt it was important that we speak about it. As journalists and filmmakers, we’re just doing our jobs and just telling the story and I kind of feel that I always wanted to make the film really balanced and wanted to show everything in all its glory and its full context. I feel that we’ve kinda done that and in terms of what they might think of it and why they didn’t want to be in it, I have no idea.

“I think, if One Man and his Shoes does one thing, it kind of like shows how celebrated and how revered the sneaker is. Unfortunately, people sort of take it to the next level and we had instances like we had in the film. I think if we get into why that happened, who’s responsible, or corporate culpability, I think it’s a different film; I think it becomes a larger conversation. You’re talking American policy and economic stuff and that’s not what we set out to do. We just wanted to tell the story of the sneaker and, unfortunately, you know, the violence is a small part of its history.”

Despite the lack of input from Nike or Jordan, Bamiro says he’s completely satisfied with the finished product.

“Yeah, I’m definitely at peace with the film,” he declared. “I think we grappled for a long time with the ending and how we explore this massive canvas of sneaker violence, race, capitalism and consumer habit in the U.S. But, ultimately, I think the film feels balanced. It feels like a blow-by-blow account of the sneaker and there’s nothing I would change.

“I didn’t want it to be a fanboy film or for quote-on-quote sneakerheads. I wanted it to be accessible for people who are interested in pop culture, people who are interested in sports, people who are interested in the fabric of American culture in the 80s and 90s because those are all the things that I was interested in. I wouldn’t change anything and I’m completely happy with what we have and I hope people like it.”

Of course, we had to find out if Bamiro is a fan of the Air Jordans himself and it turns out he’s pretty big on Js, albeit claiming to have tamed his obsession over the years.

“I think I used to be a bigger fan than I am now,” he said. “I used to have a proper problem, nothing comparable to the collectors in the film, but I used to feel the need to have everything. But then I think it comes down to being practical like I don’t know where I’m gonna keep this stuff, I can’t wear all of this stuff, so I’ve definitely slowed down. But I think of the entry point as always being the phenomenon of the sneaker and why it’s so revered, why people are so passionate about it and I definitely think that some of that rubbed off on me over the years.”

You could watch One Man and His Shoes on VICETV.com and the VICE TV app.

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Exclusive: One Man and His Shoes Director has no idea why Sonny Vaccaro was snubbed in The Last Dance https://www.talkbasket.net/90317-exclusive-one-man-and-his-shoes-director-has-no-idea-why-sonny-vaccaro-was-snubbed-in-the-last-dance https://www.talkbasket.net/90317-exclusive-one-man-and-his-shoes-director-has-no-idea-why-sonny-vaccaro-was-snubbed-in-the-last-dance#respond Tue, 26 May 2020 19:34:18 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=90317 One Man and His Shoes director Yemi Bamiro says he has no idea why Sonny Vaccaro was snubbed in The Last Dance. Vaccaro, who is featured in the newly-released documentary, was the man behind Michael Jordan’s deal with Nike yet no mention of him was made in ESPN’s 10-part series when the formation of the […]

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Exclusive: One Man and His Shoes Director has no idea why Sonny Vaccaro was snubbed in The Last Dance

One Man and His Shoes director Yemi Bamiro says he has no idea why Sonny Vaccaro was snubbed in The Last Dance.

Vaccaro, who is featured in the newly-released documentary, was the man behind Michael Jordan’s deal with Nike yet no mention of him was made in ESPN’s 10-part series when the formation of the relationship between Jordan and Nike was detailed in episode 5.

In Jordan’s biography, The Life, author Roland Lazenby gave a lot of background as it pertains to the basketball icon’s Nike deal, revealing Vaccaro was the one who told the sportswear company to give all its money to a kid who hadn’t played a single NBA game. Nike co-founder Phil Knight was said to be skeptical and it took a lot of convincing on Vaccaro’s part, who replied “Yes” when asked if he was willing to bet his job on it by Nike’s Howard Slusher.

Back then, Nike was known for running shoes, and getting them to sign professional basketball players was a task in itself. The company had already secured college representation, with the well-connected Vaccaro paying coaches to have their players wear Nikes all across the U.S. The company was more comfortable with getting a number of NBA stars to represent its brand but Vaccaro convinced them to give all of the money to one player, a rookie whose North Carolina team hadn’t even made the Final Four the last two seasons.

Jordan, the third overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, was relatively unknown and wasn’t nearly as popular as he would grow to be in his first season with the Chicago Bulls, yet Sonny saw something in him no one else saw.

That’s why it was a complete surprise when The Last Dance failed to give him at least a mention. Vaccaro got plenty of recognition in One Man and His Shoes, though, but the director has no idea why he was completely left out of the preceding docuseries.

“I think there’s the saying:’Success has many fathers’. And I think in relation to Sonny, there’s been a little bit of back and forth over the years about who was responsible for what,” Bamiro told Talkbasket.net in an exclusive interview. “I really have no idea why they didn’t invite Sonny to talk as a contributor. I haven’t seen all of The Last Dance but I know the whole series is not all about sneakers. There is one episode about Jordan becoming a brand and all of that stuff. So, I don’t know. Perhaps they didn’t feel like he fit in the film in any way but I don’t know the ins and outs of it and I think I would be speculating if I spoke on that.”

Knight does mention Vaccaro in his memoir, Shoe Dog, but it’s pretty brief.

The relationship between Nike and Sonny Vaccaro ended on a sour note in 1992 and he would land the likes of Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady for Adidas a few years later. Of course, Nike got Kobe in 2003 but T-Mac remains under contract with Adidas to this day.

Vaccaro also famously struck a deal with LeBron James’ high school St. Vincent-St. Mary, paying just $15,000 to have the school bear the Adidas logo on its uniforms, giving the company lots of publicity as LeBron was already immensely popular. However, Nike swooped in and signed LBJ when he got drafted because Adidas’ bid was too low.

Sonny Vaccaro: Confessions of a sneaker pimp | CBC Radio
Via CBC.ca

It’s highly unlikely that Nike would become the biggest fish in the pond without that Jordan deal happening back in the 80s, a deal Bamiro says was a match made in heaven.

“I think it was a match made in heaven if I’m completely honest,” he remarked. “I think if you look at the history of Nike, they’re just genius marketeers. They’re a marketing company that strictly sells sportswear but I think, first and foremost, they’re just genius marketeers.

“I think if you take an athlete who was as incredible as Michael Jordan and you pair him with a company that’s genius at marketing, then you’ve got a match made in heaven. I think one of the things that I was obsessed with was the blueprint of this, the blueprint of the Nike and the Jordan collaboration and endorsement deal because it was the blueprint for everything that has come after it.

“You wouldn’t have a David Beckham, you wouldn’t have a Tiger Woods – they wouldn’t have gone so hard on LeBron James or Zion Williamson. If they have an inkling you’re gonna be as good as that, they will bet it all and it’s paid off on so many occasions. But I think it’s been the blueprint for other athletic brands to follow. I don’t know how it would have worked without one not being there. It was the perfect harmony and the perfect relationship.”

Sonny Vaccaro Michael Jordan Nike | Sole Collector
Via solecollector.com

As for Vaccaro, he’s now 80 and retired. But he was one of the people who fought for college athletes to get paid and the fruits of his labor are slowly coming to the fore.

His war with Nike could be the reason for his snub in The Last Dance, and Jordan – known for being fiercely loyal, especially to the company that has made him most of his millions – may have simply been following suit.

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Exclusive: One Man and His Shoes director says film wasn’t timed to tune of The Last Dance https://www.talkbasket.net/90316-exclusive-one-man-and-his-shoes-director-says-film-wasnt-timed-to-tune-of-the-last-dance https://www.talkbasket.net/90316-exclusive-one-man-and-his-shoes-director-says-film-wasnt-timed-to-tune-of-the-last-dance#respond Tue, 26 May 2020 15:23:53 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=90316 If you thought Michael Jordan’s gripping recollections from The Last Dance was about all the MJ action you’d be getting this month, think again. Coming fresh on the back of ESPN’s hit series is another documentary about the global icon, but one centered on the phenomenon of his Air Jordan brand and its facilitator, Nike. […]

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Exclusive: One Man and His Shoes director says film wasn’t timed to tune of The Last Dance

If you thought Michael Jordan’s gripping recollections from The Last Dance was about all the MJ action you’d be getting this month, think again. Coming fresh on the back of ESPN’s hit series is another documentary about the global icon, but one centered on the phenomenon of his Air Jordan brand and its facilitator, Nike.

One Man and His Shoes premiered on VICE TV on Monday night, only one week removed from The Last Dance‘s finale, and is an excellent watch featuring interviews from Jordan’s former agent David Falk, former NBA commissioner David Stern, sports journalist Jemele Hill, sports writer Scoop Jackson, and the man who made it all happen, Sonny Vaccaro (a surprising exclusion from The Last Dance).

Basketball fans were thoroughly entertained by the 10-part docuseries and can’t be happy that it’s over; fortunately, there’s already something else to check out.

The timing really couldn’t have been any better – yet, according to the film’s director Yemi Bamiro, it’s totally coincidental.

Talkbasket.net caught up with the British filmmaker for a chat about the release and the inspiration behind it. Bamiro claimed it took him over six years to complete the documentary because there were several shifts in focus over time.

“It took that long because originally I wanted to tell a story about Jordan collectors. I was interested in exploring their obsessive nature, why they’re so enthusiastic about this specific brand,” he explained.

“I tried to make that story about a year but then quickly realized I didn’t know how interesting that story was and I didn’t know if that could sustain a feature-length duration of a film. So then I started to think about the phenomenon of Air Jordan and sort of like how it happened, how Nike basically bet the farm on Michael Jordan, and how the deal happened. And then that kind of like took me on in the direction that basically the film goes in.”

Bamiro claims the timing of the premiere had nothing to do with The Last Dance and he had expected it to be way ahead of the Chicago Bulls documentary. He isn’t mad about how things turned out, though.

“It’s a massive coincidence,” he said. “It looks like really good timing given that it’s coming up right behind this mammoth 10-part series on Michael Jordan but it was a complete coincidence and it’s funny how stuff works out sometimes.

“Like I said, we’d been making the film for almost seven years and I think I heard about The Last Dance maybe three years ago, so I knew it was in production. I knew it was coming but I always imagined that we would be quite clear off down the road by the time it happened. I think life has a funny way of scuppering your plans.”

One Man and His Shoes is now available to watch on VICETV.com and the VICE TV app.

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Julian Wright wants to make sure versatile players like himself get the attention they deserve https://www.talkbasket.net/90262-julian-wright-wants-to-make-sure-versatile-players-like-himself-get-the-attention-they-deserve https://www.talkbasket.net/90262-julian-wright-wants-to-make-sure-versatile-players-like-himself-get-the-attention-they-deserve#respond Tue, 26 May 2020 14:05:35 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=90262 Julian Wright recently turned 33. In some cases, that’s the age for a center to reach the apex of his maturity as a player. Not the case for the former Kansas standout, who later became a first-round NBA draft pick. The coronavirus pandemic that initially swept China before spreading all over the world essentially eradicated […]

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Julian Wright wants to make sure versatile players like himself get the attention they deserve

Julian Wright recently turned 33. In some cases, that’s the age for a center to reach the apex of his maturity as a player. Not the case for the former Kansas standout, who later became a first-round NBA draft pick.

The coronavirus pandemic that initially swept China before spreading all over the world essentially eradicated Wright’s wish to stay active. There was no basketball after that, which is true to this date, since the Euroleague season has been canceled and in the NBA balls will not bounce till mid-June at best.

Talent and versatility were some of Julian’s features that brought him to play at the highest level, albeit not consistently and not long-term. During a bright two-year college career at the University of Kansas under coach Bill Self and alongside future NBA champs Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush, the Illinois native won many accolades even without scoring too much.

His overall presence allowed him to be selected with the 13th pick in the 2007 NBA draft by the New Orleans Hornets. By the time Wright completed his rookie NBA season averaging 3.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, Kansas had already celebrated the NCAA title without him. On the basis of performance, his second season in New Orleans was his best out of the three he got to play there.

Following an underwhelming year at Toronto, Wright won his first title: the NBA D-League Championship with the Austin Toros in 2012. An NBA comeback was not in the cards, though, but another career path had opened for him overseas. Israel, Russia, Greece, Italy, Turkey and France were his next destinations. His stint in Paris was marked by the fallout with the local team’s management and that was the last Europe saw of him. In the summer of 2019, Wright participated in Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 BIG3 League, along with some of his former Kansas teammates.

However, his main venture for the time being is A.D.A.P.T. Basketball, a Charlotte-based player development company which aims to provide minors and adults with the tools to cultivate and expand their talent: training, workouts, assessment and consultation, shooting sessions and online classes are some of the methods used, despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

In this interview with TalkBasket.net, divided into two parts, Julian Wright talks about his career in the States and overseas. It all started from choosing Kansas, his “first grown-up decision” as he calls it. His refers to his teammates, recalls how tough it was to contain Kevin Durant and explains why he’s not an advocate for the college sports system. Wright also recounts his days in the NBA and what transpired at a Toronto Raptors game, which marked his presence in the league and signalled the beginning of the end for him.

Above all, the 33-year-old retired player-turned-entrepreneur analyzes what it means to be a versatile player in modern basketball. Playing different positions for different coaches, in sometimes diametrically opposed styles, and also reponding to the requirements had always been Wright’s task to fulfill. In this respect and according to his personal experience as a pro athlete, “ADAPT” can be the key to unlock many doors.

This is Julian Wright, Vol.1!

Q: First of all, I’d like you to confirm your status. Have you officially retired from pro basketball?

A: Yes, I’ve officially retired from five-on-five basketball. I still look to do 3-on-3 pro basketball, as I played in the BIG 3. Ice Cube is one of the main founders and a lot of NBA and international players are there. They want to expand on a global level. So, I thought it would be a great way to stay in shape, motivated and compete.

Q: Which reasons led to that decision? You said that many people come out of retirement. Does this mean that anything is possible?

A: It could be possible because my season was cut short this year. I was in China and they gave me a few weeks to get in shape because I hadn’t played since February 2019. Then, the coronavirus started. In the back of my mind, I’ve retired because I’m ready to move on to my next station, which is to be an entrepreneur. I want to give back to the game, while I still have a healthy body. I’m only 33. A lot of times, players with expertise and great basketball minds play past their limits and can’t demonstrate things to others because of injuries. I think I had a great career for 13 years. I enjoyed every one of them.

Q: In the summer of 2019, while playing in the BIG 3, you said that your goal was to show the NBA execs that you’re a capable player and added that you don’t plan on going overseas again. Do you still want to prove yourself? Why did you rule out the overseas option?

A: It’s been a lot with my family traveling. We have three kids. I played almost ten years overseas and I don’t have anything to prove over there. But competing in the BIG 3 shows that I still got the talent and the respect of my peers. I’m past the notion that I should have stayed in the NBA.

Q: You recently got into the player development business. Why did you choose the acronym “A.D.A.P.T.”, which stands for “Athlete Development and All-Purpose Training”?

A: I started the business in February 2019, after coming back from France in the middle of the season. Back then, I didn’t think I was retired at all, but in the back of my mind I asked myself: “What can I do after basketball that I would enjoy?”. I didn’t want to coach and travel again, professionally. I reached many people in Charlotte and globally. It has to do with how I was developed through coaches. I played for a Hall-Of-Fame coach in the State of Illinois, for another HOFamer in Bill Self at Kansas and for some tough coaches in the NBA and overseas. I’ve trained with Tim Grover, who’s from Chicago and mostly known for being Michael Jordan’s and Kobe Bryant’s trainer. I learned a lot along the way as a player. Now, I’m working on sports performance, which is athlete development, and on a lot of skills, giving players things to get better at.

Q: Do you believe that the NBA game facilitates all-purpose players to showcase their talents? I get the impression that most coaches ask their players to be good at one or two things only, unless we’re talking about superstars like Doncic, Jokic, LeBron etc.

A: Instead of Doncic, I would throw Giannis Antetokounmpo in there. It’s interesting because I’ve seen the game evolve as well. I think coaches didn’t have the eye for those kind of players. Now, coaches welcome players who are all-purpose. If you were 6’7’’ and you were a good rebounder, you would get called a tweener. Now you got players who play different positions and you don’t know what they’re going to do on offense or defense. Not all superstars are all-purpose; they just do a couple of things really well. It’s more important for the general managers and the coaches to do the work in order to find the all-purpose players that can complement a superstar.

Kansas forward Julian Wright was pumped after a dunk against Oklahoma. Photo:Sue Ogrocki, AP

Q: Growing up in Chicago, did you use to watch the Bulls play? What do you make of the “Last Dance”?

A: I think it’s raw; it’s a lot of emotion, like everything happened yesterday. I really liked showing the persons’ initial reactions to what they read or saw. I was only ten years old when the Bulls won their sixth championship and I didn’t understand the management of superstars like Jordan, Pippen and Rodman. I learned a lot about sport management in terms of managing the egos. Even if there was a lot going on in the locker-room and behind the scenes, they were all professional and did what they had to do to win those championships.

Q: How did Bill Self persuade you to come to Kansas, since at one point all communication between you and the college had broken down?

A: He was at the University of Illinois, actually, before I went to Kansas. I was already familiar with him. I had a surgery and one of the assistant coaches who was recruiting me, got a head coaching job. It was a bad timing. I had a good junior year and became a TOP-10 player in the nation. Over the time, I had to really think about what’s most important. I can’t be piffle and my mom urged me to sit down and talk to them. I had my heart softened when they told me what happened and I thought I can’t let pride get in the way of me playing for coach Self. It was my first grown-up decision that was going to affect my whole life.

Q: Did you learn the news about Bill Self and his assistant Curtis Townsend being accused of illegal recruting?

A: I heard about the investigation, but I don’t know what took place. It’s unfortunate.

Q: How heavy was the burden on your shoulders to keep up Kansas’ winning history?

A: I came in as a freshman and we had a young team. There was a lot of leniency because there was myself, Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush, also some up and coming players. I didn’t feel so much pressure because I was amongst other people who worked hard. Didn’t know what pressure really was. I was assigned to play. In my sophomore year I thought: “Now, we have a whole year under our belt. We need to do something.” We got one win from getting to the Final Four and then I went to the NBA.

Q: In retrospect, had you stayed with Kansas, you would have won the NCAA title. Do you ever think about that?

A: One of my reasons for leaving was because I thought they would win anyway. We had a really talented team. Had I stayed, I would have had the same stats and I would have played the same way. I went from point guard to power forward in college and I didn’t think I was going to be able to play either of those positions being drafted. So, I chose to leave my sophomore year before people say I didn’t shoot many three-pointers or that I wasn’t a good ball handler. It was another grown-up decision because I thought my stats would have dropped a lot. If I were five years younger, it would have been different. A lot of talented athletes who go to college try to buy into the team and school culture. It’s important for players who’re getting looks from NBA teams to start thinking differently.

Q: How did you feel when Mario Chalmers hit the three-pointer to force overtime in the final game against Memphis? You were sitting in the first row.

A: It was a great feeling. I was able to be there for that moment. When he lift his hand, I knew it was going in. He also said that. You got to have some type of confidence. I had some coaches telling me not to contest shots, but try maybe to rush an opponent’s shot. Once we went to overtime, they were running out of energy and two of their players got fouled out. It was a good experience and I’m thankful for being there. They were first-class. They let me come in the locker-room, in the hotel.

Q: It’s a pretty standard question: Were you NBA ready in 2007, after two years with Kansas?

A: Yeah, I felt NBA ready. I had a lot of skills that I hadn’t been able to show. I did alright in my workout, but I showed I was little rusty as a perimeter player. It was just a learning curve.

Q: I’ve read an article on Bleacher Report about the stories and the background surrounding a Kansas-Texas game for the 2006-07 season. The focus was on getting yourselves prepared to face Kevin Durant and several of your ex-teammates, including Darrell Arthur, Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush spoke about it. Chalmers in particular described his reaction upon listening to Bill Self telling you to guard Durant. He said that you’re a great defender, but added that you also get lazy at times. Durant spoke also, saying that you started off on him, but later Kansas switched to Rush and Jackson. KD finished the game with 32 points, only 7 of which in the second half. You had 17 points and 13 rebounds, in addition to sealing the victory for Kansas with a free-throw and a block. What’s your story from that day? How did you experience it?

A: It was a big game for us. We knew how great Kevin Durant was playing already. It’s so funny to see how his career makes sense and what a gifted scorer he still is. I played some of the best defense that I could have played on him and he scored 8 points on me and then we started to switch. it didn’t matter who was guarding him. There’s a photo surfacing of me like high-fiving his hand. I was all in his face and he was making shots! Coach Self is a motivator and he knew I was taking my job guarding him seriously. But sometimes with great scorers you just got to try and give different looks. They can catch every small habit and expose it. If it hadn’t been for his ankle injury, he would have scored 50 that night. He was keeping them in the game, but we were still playing well as a team. The next time we played Texas, we beat them and Durant was healthy.

Kansas’ Julian Wright attempts to block the shot of Texas’ Kevin Durant at Allen Fieldhouse on March 3, 2007. Photo by Thad Allender

Q: Did you keep in touch with Durant?

A: It’s been a while since I’ve seen him. I was living in Los Angeles for a while. In 2014 was the last time we spoke, but I’ve known his parents. We played against each other in High School. I just haven’t been around him for the past five or six years.

Q: Over a period of seven years, Chalmers and Brandon Rush won a combined three NBA titles. Did you keep up with what they were doing and did you expect them – especially Chalmers, a second-round pick at No34 – to reach such heights?

A: I think so. It’s something in the University of Kansas pedigree: they’re well-coached, balanced, disciplined and winners. It made sense that they took their confidence from winning championships to their NBA careers. Regardless of their pick, management is doing the best they can to draft different guards. [Chalmers] being selected at 34 doesn’t mean he’s not a capable player in the NBA. He and Rush knew that if they got a chance, they would be able to impact any team in the NBA.

Q: Paul Pierce picked for his All-Kansas team Chalmers, himself, Manning, Embiid and Chamberlain. Which are your picks?

A: Haha! I saw that, it’s a good one! I’d say: Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, Paul Pierce, Aaron Miles and Mario Chalmers. That was tough! I didn’t try to do different than Pierce. I just thought those were the TOP 5.

Q: How is there to explain that, apart from yourself, many Kansas players (Aaron Miles, Keith Langford, Thomas Robinson, Chalmers and Rush more recently) have ended up in Europe?

A: It has to do with the NBA. It’s hard to make it and stay there. I think that more players have gone and played overseas. It’s great to say that you’ve played in the NBA but if your profession is being a basketball player, that should be the main thing. It shouldn’t be a disappointment to play in Europe or Asia; it’s an opportunity. Basketball is a global sport and people should look at the opportunities and continue to play even if it isn’t in the NBA.

Q: What’s your take on the the college basketball system and the way it is set up? Some say it is exploitive and profits from unpaid talent who make a lot of other people rich, while others maintain that the experience can be beneficial (academically, socially and competition-wise).

A: I’m not a big fan of the NCAA system and college sports. In college basketball and football they know where the money is. Times have changed. Even with social media, people are able to get their own following. Anyone who works for a corporation should be able to negotiate what their worth is. Something should change, maybe some type of regulation. Even the NBA has a salary cap. Nowadays, with the G League allowing players to come straight from High School, I think the NCAA is going to be professional.

I didn’t have a campus life. We were busy, having two practices a day and we were traveling. I saw it as a job but I wasn’t getting paid. The NCAA should look at some type of social events, like autograph signing, and get sure players get a percentage. People still follow NCAA just for the sheer spirit of hoping to see their school win. But in terms of money, it’s in the NCAA interests to consider that aspect. Many good players have started to go overseas, like LaMelo Ball, or to the G League, like Jaylen Green.

Q: The New Orleans Hornets have gone through the Chris Paul, the Anthony Davis and now the Zion Williamson era. Which are the main features of each one and how will Zion respond to the challenge of being a leader?

A: Chris Paul did a lot for that city, offering hope and relief at a time when the hurricane that happened in 2005 got the team displaced to Oklahoma City. He gave other players a consistent comfort about coming in because of the culture he created and being a franchise player. When Anthony Davis was drafted, everyone thought that he did the right thing staying there, being a leader. But it’s business.

Zion is coming to a great situation. Anthony Davis losing in the play-offs against the Warriors and not being able to advance (in 2018) shouldn’t get anyone mad at the organization or the city. Players have the desire to compete and get the most out of their career. If someone is that good and they have the potential to carry a team to the NBA championship, they should put themselves in the best situation possible. I think Zion won’t have so much pressure. It’s like Oklahoma City, with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. They are a young team and as long as they keep the joy in the game, they will do well.

Q: Do you think that the incident you had with Raptors coach Jay Triano during a Golden State Warriors game, when you refused to play in garbage time, irreparably damaged your chances of finding another NBA contract?

Head coach Jay Triano of the Toronto Raptors instructs Julian Wright during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on November 5, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

A: I think it had a big thing to do with it, but mostly I didn’t get the chance to show what I can do in my four years in the NBA. It happened in the end of my contract year. I wasn’t feeling that well, I was a little frustrated. Didn’t get the chance to sit down with the coach and talk. I went to the locker-room and came back before anything happened. At that time, there wasn’t the norm to use social media to tell your side of the story. I got fined, but my agent could have easily informed teams of what happened so that they could make their own decision. I was playing like 15 minutes a game and couldn’t show my skills. I think about it as a tool that might help other players who deal with similar things in their career.

Q: Your choice not to seek a contract abroad during the 2011 lockout was because you wanted to support your peers as a players’ representative or was it related to your wish to stay in the NBA?

A: It was a little bit of both. I also didn’t have a lot of knowledge about overseas. I read that Deron Williams went over in Turkey. I didn’t want to get into a contract having some buy-out issues. I just thought it was safer to stay back in the States, hoping I would get some workouts as a free agent.

Q: Despite winning the G League with the Austin Toros in 2012, you never made an NBA comeback. Which factors played the most part? How close to a comeback were in 2017, when you played in the Summer League with Utah?

A: In 2012, the season was short. I was in a good shape and playing well. There were a lot of players on our team that were getting call-ups. By the time I got on the team, I was pretty much at the end of the deadline for call-ups. It was good to win the championship. I was going to do Summer League in 2012 with the Brooklyn Nets. At this point, I reconstructed my shot with the help of the Austin Toros staff. I had some issues with my shin splints and I didn’t get the chance with the Brooklyn Nets. It was a major setback because I was feeling confident, but that led me to go overseas as I got healthy.

Q: Do you believe that big men who can’t shoot well from distance are not popular in the league?

A: I think they’re not popular during the regular season, where teams don’t scout that much, but they’re popular during the play-offs, where you need rebounding and toughness. There is still going to be place for players who don’t shoot too much from the outside, but do have height, size and strength. In the playoffs, teams tend to get bigger on the court.

Q: You played the point guard position in High School, became a point and power forward at college and a center in Europe. Where did you feel most comfortable playing at and which adjustments did you make in order to meet the requirements?

A: I was most effective playing power forward or center overseas because I played defense against people bigger than me. I was switching on guards in the last seconds of the offense. Was able to be effective on both sides, attack, run the floor, rebound, take a coast to coast for a lay-up or dunk or pass the ball. Even though I was the center, I was rolling up in order to help the team.

Q: Do you think that your qualities as a player could translate better in Europe than stateside?

A: I actually think that in the NBA I could be ideal. The game is more open, without the defense standing in the paint for more than three seconds. That has always been my style of play. It took me 10-12 years, but I got to a point where I had a pretty solid shot percentage in France before coming back to the States. I feel like if I were still playing, it would be easier to score in the NBA. In Europe, it’s more difficult.

Q: If you were to put a title on your career, what would it be?

A: I’ll say one word: undervalued. That doesn’t mean that I had a bad career in my own eyes or that I don’t appreciate my career and everything I’ve achieved. Now coaches can see the value of a player who plays multiple positions and does different things. Also, I feel that throughout my career, I was put in boxes I was too big for. I don’t say I could have been a superstar or anything like that, but I didn’t manage to show how much I could do based on what I was given. I tried to do enough to be effective.

Some people play for three years in the NBA and then they can’t get another job there. I was able to play continuously and enjoy my career. But even in Europe, when it comes to signing players, you think that teams would look at film. I feel that a lot of times they thought that regardless of where they’d put me, I’d do something, but no coach ever told me: “We have this in mind for you because we know all the skills you have.” Overall, my career turned out how it was supposed to. It was not easy to bounce around different positions and be asked to produce. So, I got to the point where I said that every game is like a new day. The challenge for me now is to do coaches’ clinics and try to encourage coaches to embrace players who are like I was.

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Jonas Valanciunas on Ja Morant: “He will go far and achieve a lot” https://www.talkbasket.net/90093-jonas-valanciunas-on-ja-morant-he-will-go-far-and-achieve-a-lot https://www.talkbasket.net/90093-jonas-valanciunas-on-ja-morant-he-will-go-far-and-achieve-a-lot#respond Sun, 24 May 2020 16:04:27 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=90093 Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas talked about staying in shape during quarantine, possible NBA return, his team’s chances this season as well as rookie sensation Ja Morant in an interview with Lietuvos rytas TV. “Practices are individual, one-on-one with a coach, shooting, weight room, some stretching. Nothing too serious. We cannot practice as a team […]

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Jonas Valanciunas on Ja Morant: “He will go far and achieve a lot”

Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas talked about staying in shape during quarantine, possible NBA return, his team’s chances this season as well as rookie sensation Ja Morant in an interview with Lietuvos rytas TV.

“Practices are individual, one-on-one with a coach, shooting, weight room, some stretching. Nothing too serious. We cannot practice as a team but at least we returned to the gym,” JV said when asked what practices look like at this time. “We are slowly getting in shape. We are waiting for when we will be able to practice together as a team, I think that then we will get in shape.”

“We were told that a decision [on this season] will be made in 2-4 weeks. We already went through one week so there are three weeks remaining,” the 28-year-old Lithuanian international expects clarity on the future of this season soon.

Valanciunas also remembered the time he learned about the suspension of the NBA season: “To be honest, there was no anticipation [of season suspension]. It was quite a shock because I heard about it over the news when we were in Portland… I didn’t even hear it from team but from ESPN news I think. It was a shock, I never had an experience like that. I called the coach and asked what to do.”

“It was a pity [that the season got suspended] because the season was not a bad one,” the Grizzlies center said. “Really, no one expected us to go that far. Playoffs were in sight and the mood was quite good. And we sort of had a goal to play against the Lakers, to be the 8th seed.”

Valanciunas also spoke highly of his rookie teammate Ja Morant: “For sure, a kid who has extraordinary abilities. His physical abilities as well as his basketball IQ. Really, not low. You can only be happy that he plays on your team and you don’t have to guard him.”

“He’s rather quiet,” JV said about the Grizzlies rookie outside of basketball court. “Really hardworking kid. He accepts criticism, wants to learn, wants to be better than he was yesterday. I think he will go far and achieve a lot if everything is the way it is now.”

Memphis is currently in the eighth-placed in the Western Conference and would face the Lakers if the playoffs began now.

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Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois reveals his favorite NBA player https://www.talkbasket.net/89828-real-madrids-thibaut-courtois-reveals-his-favorite-nba-player https://www.talkbasket.net/89828-real-madrids-thibaut-courtois-reveals-his-favorite-nba-player#respond Fri, 22 May 2020 14:19:27 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=89828 Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is a big NBA fan and misses the games during the lockdown. He was asked to name his favorite NBA player ahead of the NBA 2K20 Sunday game against Formula One driver Pierre Gasly who is a fan of the NBA. Courtois’ pick is Luka Doncic who came through Real […]

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Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois reveals his favorite NBA player

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is a big NBA fan and misses the games during the lockdown. He was asked to name his favorite NBA player ahead of the NBA 2K20 Sunday game against Formula One driver Pierre Gasly who is a fan of the NBA. Courtois’ pick is Luka Doncic who came through Real Madrid’s basketball system to become and NBA superstar.

What do you love most about the NBA?

Courtois: “The NBA is the athleticism, the playoffs, how the NBA works, with the salary cap, the Draft… I think it’s really exciting.”

How much have you missed them during the lockdown?

Courtois: “We were getting to the end of the regular season and then the playoffs, which is the most exciting time of the season, but obviously health comes first. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season when it can start again.”

Which of your Real Madrid teammates would make the best NBA player and why?

Courtois: “I could say is Isco because he has some really good technique in three-point shooting, so probably him. Sergio Ramos as well because he plays basketball at times, Modric or Areola – he also has a nice shooting technique. There’s many NBA fans in the Real Madrid locker room.”

Who is your favourite NBA player and why?

Courtois: “At the moment, I’d say Luka Doncic. He comes from Real Madrid, he’s a young European. He’s dominating quite well with the Mavs; I really like him. But I also like Giannis, LeBron, Harden… I don’t really have a favourite player, but I know Luka quite well, so maybe him, I enjoy watching him play a lot.”

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F-1 driver Pierre Gasly: “I really like LeBron James, as an athlete and as a person” https://www.talkbasket.net/89826-f-1-driver-pierre-gasly-i-really-like-lebron-james-as-an-athlete-and-as-a-person https://www.talkbasket.net/89826-f-1-driver-pierre-gasly-i-really-like-lebron-james-as-an-athlete-and-as-a-person#respond Fri, 22 May 2020 14:11:42 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=89826 Formula One driver Pierre Gasly is also a big fan of NBA. He talked about his favorite NBA team and player ahead of the NBA 2K20 Sundays game against Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. It turns out the Scuderia AlphaTauri driver is a Lakers fan and an admirer of LeBron James. Are you a big […]

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F-1 driver Pierre Gasly: “I really like LeBron James, as an athlete and as a person”

Formula One driver Pierre Gasly is also a big fan of NBA. He talked about his favorite NBA team and player ahead of the NBA 2K20 Sundays game against Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. It turns out the Scuderia AlphaTauri driver is a Lakers fan and an admirer of LeBron James.

Are you a big NBA fan?

Gasly: “I really love the NBA. Most of the time I try to go and watch games when there are races in the US, so I went to see Houston, I spent some time in Miami and I managed to see a couple of games there. I went to see the Raptors once, Lakers… I just love the atmosphere. It gives you goosebumps just watching it and the level of the athletes is also really impressive – it’s completely different from F1.”

What’s your favourite NBA team?

Gasly: “I would say the Lakers. I really like LeBron James, as an athlete and as a person. His charisma, his attitude, he’s a great leader.”

Who do you think could win this season?

Gasly: “I think the Lakers look pretty strong. I’ll be happy for LeBron to get the title because going to the Lakers wasn’t easy, it was a big challenge… but looking at the results, I think they’re in a really good shape, but you never know what to expect in the playoffs.”

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Alton Byrd on British basketball: “I think there’s been a missed opportunity” https://www.talkbasket.net/89186-alton-byrd-on-uk-basketball-i-think-theres-been-a-missed-opportunity https://www.talkbasket.net/89186-alton-byrd-on-uk-basketball-i-think-theres-been-a-missed-opportunity#respond Mon, 18 May 2020 14:49:43 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=89186 In a recent interview with NBA Call-Ups, Alton Byrd commented on the current state of basketball in the United Kingdom. Byrd is the Vice President of Business Operations of the Long Island Nets. The G League affiliate franchise of the Brooklyn Nets. Byrd had a fruitful playing career in the UK between 1979-1997. Where he […]

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Alton Byrd on British basketball: “I think there’s been a missed opportunity”

In a recent interview with NBA Call-Ups, Alton Byrd commented on the current state of basketball in the United Kingdom. Byrd is the Vice President of Business Operations of the Long Island Nets. The G League affiliate franchise of the Brooklyn Nets.

Byrd had a fruitful playing career in the UK between 1979-1997. Where he represented Crystal Palace, Murray International, Manchester Eagles, Glasgow Rangers, Kingston Kings, and Guildford Kings.

He was also the General Manager when at Murray International. Leading the team to 4 British championships, 5 Scottish championships, and the team’s first-ever appearance in the second round of the European Champions Basketball Cup.

Byrd’s Comments on Basketball in the United Kingdom:

“Obviously I played in the UK for 18 years, 19 years. I’ve had a chance to observe the league while I was there, then when I left, and now years after I left. I think there’s been a missed opportunity. I think our generation in the 80s and 90s created 100s of kids with British descent who played college basketball. Including a few that have played in the NBA. Like Luol Deng. Like Pops Mesah-Bonsu. There’s probably over 100 kids of British descent playing college basketball now in the US.

I’m saddened to see that the league isn’t more competitive, isn’t more financially sustainable, and quite honestly isn’t more commercially successful. I don’t quite understand why. Other than the fact that, and I’ve said this before, to have commercial success you got to have people who are commercially focused on creating a league that can sustain itself financially. What you have is some teams that do very well on a local level, Leicester, Newcastle. There are probably 3 or 4 teams that compete very well. Then the rest of the teams kind of tread water. Then there’s some teams that just can’t survive. I’m disappointed because I think that this league, especially in Britain, has every chance to be very competitive on the European landscape, and has missed the boat. Because, frankly, management, or because we have administrators with no commercial sense of what it’s going to take to make it work.”

Check out Alton Byrd talking about his role with the Long Island Nets here. As well as the operations of the franchise and the business side of the G League.

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Dennis Rodman contemplating suicide? Jason Caffey doesn’t think so https://www.talkbasket.net/86243-dennis-rodman-contemplating-suicide-jason-caffey-doesnt-think-so https://www.talkbasket.net/86243-dennis-rodman-contemplating-suicide-jason-caffey-doesnt-think-so#respond Thu, 14 May 2020 13:41:09 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=86243 During his in-depth interview with TalkBasket.net, former Chicago Bulls forward Jason Caffey referred to Dennis Rodman and one of the incidents mentioned in an episode of the “Last Dance” docuseries: the star’s near suicide attempt in 1993. Before we go into what Caffey said about his Bulls’ teammate case, let’s make a flashback: In September […]

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Dennis Rodman contemplating suicide? Jason Caffey doesn’t think so

During his in-depth interview with TalkBasket.net, former Chicago Bulls forward Jason Caffey referred to Dennis Rodman and one of the incidents mentioned in an episode of the “Last Dance” docuseries: the star’s near suicide attempt in 1993.

Before we go into what Caffey said about his Bulls’ teammate case, let’s make a flashback:

In September 2019, Rodman told Bleacher Report that in 1993 he felt “betrayed” by Detroit, since the Pistons dynasty had started to fall apart, having lost almost all of its protagonists. The Hall of Famer talked about his emotions and the events leading up to his decision to nearly pull the trigger.

I wrote a note and went to the parking lot of the Palace. I had a gun rack and a gun in my car. I had the gun in my lap and, next thing you know, I fell asleep listening to Pearl Jam. Then I woke up, and all the cops and everyone was there. I totally forgot I had a gun in my hand. They got me out of the car. It wasn’t about the game of basketball. It was about feeling betrayed, because I wanted to be loved so much in my life. And when I got to the NBA, I didn’t expect the NBA to be like that. I didn’t expect teams to just trade players and you say, “OK, this is a business”, and forget about it. That was what drove me to that point“.

Rodman went on to explain: “I wasn’t trying to get attention. I needed help at the time”.

Three years earlier, in 2016, the late NBA broadcaster Craig Sager recalled the incident in an interview with Sports Illustrated. Sager said he knew Rodman was contemplating suicide and essentially talked him out of it. In particular, he described how he followed him into a strip club to tell him how stupid his action would be. When Sager passed away in 2016, the “Worm” thanked the deceased reporter for saving his life. It should be noted that after his time in Detroit, where he won two NBA championships, Rodman continued his career with the San Antonio Spurs and later won another three titles with the Chicago Bulls from 1995 to 1998.

Now, let’s get back to the present. Taking all of the above into account, one would expect from Jason Caffey, who played alongside Rodman in Chicago from 1995 through February 1998 (when he got traded to the Golden State Warriors), to share some sinister stories about his ex-teammate. However, the 20th pick in the 1995 NBA draft and two-time NBA champion, gives a completely different perspective:

“I think Dennis was bullshitting. I don’t think he was really going to do it“, the 47-year-old told TalkBasket.net after the first four episodes of the “Last Dance” were aired.

Caffey strongly disagrees with Rodman’s and Sager’s version on what the retired player’s intentions really were. The Alabama native is a man who has struggled with mental illness himself, retiring from professional basketball at the age of 30 and dealing with a series of financial and personal problems that escalated after his time in Chicago. Thus, he has reason to believe that he knows a few things more about troubled athletes.

Caffey futher explained that -to his knowledge of Rodman’s character and also from personal experience with people who have committed suicide- his future teammate and friend would never reach a point of no return:

“It was more of an attention-seeking thing. People who really want to kill themselves don’t think about it; they do it. I say that because I know some people who have killed themselves, whether they would be pills or shot gun. I don’t think Dennis was so far out that he was ready to do that; at least, not the Dennis I know. We’re talking about one of the shyest, humblest guys you’d ever want to meet. I don’t think he had it in him to take his own life. I’m just being honest about that”, he said.

So, what was the story all about then? “I definitely feel like it was a cry for attention“, Caffey repeated. In addition, he laid out why he’s so skeptical about Rodman’s alleged self-destructive feelings. According to the player who averaged 7.3 points per game during the Bulls’ second consecutive championship run in 1996–97:

“The man I played with in the Chicago Bulls, who lived with so much spirit, so much life and joy … I don’t see him taking his life, especially after winning two championships with Detroit. And now that all of the sudden, that’s coming to an end … you want to show up in the parking lot with a gun? I just don’t buy in to that”.

Jason added that Rodman “never expressed disappointment or frustration. I never saw him depressed; if he was, I couldn’t tell by his actions. He is a great guy to be around and it was fun to hang out with him. We had nothing but good times together. Dennis seemed to love life while in Chicago. I never saw him depressed when I played with him”.

Craig Sager interviews Dennis Rodman after a Chicago Bulls game. Photo source: basketballnetwork.net

In terms of whether he thinks Sager’s account could be exaggerated or false, Caffey responded:

“I can’t say. Craig was a great guy and well-liked by the players. He was always fun to be around. I used to see him in Atlanta at his sports bar, “Jocks and Jills”. He always gave positive advice”.

One thing is for sure: “Craig was no liar”, the ex-Bull clarified. “However, was Dennis truly considering suicide? That’s the question that needs to be answered. I can’t answer it because I didn’t know him during his time in Detroit when all of this transpired. I’ve hung out with him and his crew on several occasions and in different cities. The time I spent around Dennis, he was fun, loving and in great mood”, Caffey remembered.

The two men seem to have maintained a long-standing friendship from 1995 to this day. Asked by TalkBasket if he keeps up with the NBA, Jason Caffey responded dropping the name of his former teammate: “Yes, I love watching games. I watched one with Dennis right before the coronavirus pandemic. The Houston Rockets were playing the Lakers”.

The last game between the two teams took place on February 6, 2020 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Here is an audio excerpt from Jason Caffey’s interview with TalkBasket.net, where the retired player is referring to Dennis Rodman:

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Abdel Nader: “I am super excited for the opportunity to wear my country across my chest” https://www.talkbasket.net/85896-abdel-nader-i-am-super-excited-for-the-opportunity-to-wear-my-country-across-my-chest https://www.talkbasket.net/85896-abdel-nader-i-am-super-excited-for-the-opportunity-to-wear-my-country-across-my-chest#respond Tue, 12 May 2020 17:21:36 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=85896 Oklahoma City Thunder forward Abdel Nader could be the missing piece for the Egyptian national team that takes them to the next level. Nader has never represented Egypt on the national level, but he hopes that changes. He knows that donning the prestigious Pharaohs jersey brings a feeling of fulfillment, national pride and a sense […]

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Abdel Nader: “I am super excited for the opportunity to wear my country across my chest”

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Abdel Nader could be the missing piece for the Egyptian national team that takes them to the next level.

Nader has never represented Egypt on the national level, but he hopes that changes.

He knows that donning the prestigious Pharaohs jersey brings a feeling of fulfillment, national pride and a sense of belonging.

“I remember the beautiful Mediterranean that runs all around my city of Alexandria filled with passionate people and delicious Egyptian food that my Mom always cooks for me when I am home in Chicago,” Nader said in an exclusive interview with FIBA.basketball. “Unlike other cities in Egypt, basketball is the number one sport in Alexandria.”

The 26-year-old stays in touch with his country and is invested in inspiring the next generation of players.

“I have been in close touch with the coaches and the federation for the last several years,” Nader said. “I speak to the vice president of the Egyptian federation Mohamed Abdelmotaleb regularly and follow top young Egyptian players in the states and Europe regularly to support them and continue to help grow the sport in Egypt.”

Nader is also currently mentoring a player named Yasser Mohab who he believes is going to be “a superstar soon for Egypt and Africa. This kid is special,” Nader said.

Egypt was drawn in Group E of the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers alongside rival Morocco, Uganda and the winner of the last Pre-Qualifiers involving Cape Verde, Liberia and South Sudan.

The top three teams from this group qualify to the FIBA AfroBasket 2021.

For world events, Egypt last qualified for the FIBA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 1988.

“I can’t wait and I am super excited for the opportunity to wear my country across my chest on the court,” Nader said. “It feels great and it is an honor to be able to represent my country of Egypt in the NBA. I receive so much love from all Middle Eastern and North Africans as the only Arab player in the NBA and I take this responsibility very seriously.”

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Last Dancer in the dark: Jason Caffey presents his cautionary tale https://www.talkbasket.net/85568-last-dancer-in-the-dark-jason-caffey-presents-his-cautionary-tale https://www.talkbasket.net/85568-last-dancer-in-the-dark-jason-caffey-presents-his-cautionary-tale#respond Mon, 11 May 2020 13:02:00 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=85568 Mobile, founded by the French in 1702, is Alabama’s oldest city and a major port facility for the region. It’s also the birthplace of Jason Caffey, the 6’8″ former NBA power forward with many interesting stories to tell, most importantly his own. Caffey played collegiately at the University of Alabama and was selected by the […]

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Last Dancer in the dark: Jason Caffey presents his cautionary tale

Mobile, founded by the French in 1702, is Alabama’s oldest city and a major port facility for the region. It’s also the birthplace of Jason Caffey, the 6’8″ former NBA power forward with many interesting stories to tell, most importantly his own.

Caffey played collegiately at the University of Alabama and was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the 20th pick of the 1995 draft. That was the start of a career that spanned two decades (between 1995 and 2003) and culminated in Windy City. The year Caffey entered the league, Michael Jordan returned to the franchise he had led to one three-peat, only to be at the forefront of another historical accomplishment: a second three-peat and the consolidation of a basketball dynasty the NBA had never seen.

Despite not playing much, Caffey most probably felt he was dealt the right deck of cards. A few NBA rookies could ever imagine that they would win back-to-back championships upon setting foot on the league. Although Caffey was fortunate enough in his first 30 months in the NBA, it was all downhill from there; but not necessarily from an athletic standpoint. Through the 1996-97 season, the Alabama native averaged 7.3 points per game during the Bulls’ second consecutive championship run.

Before being able to co-write the closing chapters of “The Last Dance”, the dynasty’s final season, Caffey was traded to the Golden State Warriors. For many people on the team, it was one of Jerry Krause’s totally unexpected decisions. The cunning GM wanted to allocate more playing time to Dennis Rodman and Toni Kukoc, thus preventing his other big man from eventually winning a third championship ring.

Caffey compiled 10.9 points and 5.9 rebounds in 25 minutes per game with Golden State, which signed him to a seven-year/$35 million-dollar deal in the summer of 1999. While Caffey was thriving in Oakland, back in Chicago Phil Jackson welcomed Dickey Simpkins -again- with open arms. In keeping with his first season’s promises, the ex-Bull averaged career-highs of 12.0 points and 6.8 rebounds during the 1999–2000 campaign with the Warriors.

However, his days in Golden State were counted. The next stop for him was Milwaukee, where the Bucks offered another long-term, multi-million contract. The dynamic forward stayed in Wisconsin for three years, which proved to be his career-last seasons. The end of his playing time coincided with and was largely triggered by a series of personal problems, including an anxiety attack and an assault charge.

Caffey has pretty much stayed away from basketball ever since, with the exception of coaching the Mobile Bay Hurricanes for a while. The 47-year-old, a father of 10 children with 8 different women over a span of 9 years, has now come to realize that money, fame and a troubled childhood can take a toll on one’s future. Over the last decade or so, Caffey has been trying to rebuild broken relationships with his children and at the same time tying up loose ends with all their mothers, at least from a legal standpoint. All this has resulted in him claiming to be a changed man, having finally understood the reasons for everything he did.

Jason has turned into a businessman who opens homes for mentally ill men, persons with no place to go, famished and in need of care. He also hosts basketball camps and speaks to young males regarding puberty, informing them of the pitfalls of the streets and educating them in the areas of college preparation, financial literacy and safe interaction with police officers. In 2019, Caffey co-authored a book aimed at youngsters from 9 to 12 years old with a view to helping them “find answers about adulthood and the physical and mental problems that may arise”. The preface of the book was written by another of his Bulls’ teammates: Steve Kerr.

TalkBasket.net had a long and interesting discussion with the two-time NBA champion (1996, 1997), who ended up averaging 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds for his NBA career. Caffey recalled memories from his time in Chicago, the interaction he had with his teammates and the front office, as well as his battles with feelings of self-hatred due to wrong decisions.

“Coming from a very dysfunctional community and neighborhood, I really felt that guys like Jackson, Kerr and Michael, who had been raised right, could help me as a man in the long run. Going away from those guys led me to make some unfavorable decisions,” he admits.

Jason Caffey with the Chicago Bulls vs the Milwaukee Bucks. Photo Source: theportrop.com via Getty Images

Q: Do you believe that “The Last Dance” has been the only good thing to come out in 2020? So far, we’ve had the deaths of David Stern and Kobe Bryant, as well as the coronavirus pandemic that stopped the action worldwide.

A: It’s definitely been the only positive, good thing we had to look at. Starting with the death of David Stern, a great man who turned the NBA around, a big loss. Then came the tragic death of Kobe Bryant who lost his life with his daughter and other people. Now, we’re suffering to the pandemic virus. It’s probably been the worst year in my 46 years on this earth, my friend. It’s really bad. Many people are losing jobs. It’s just sad.

Q: How are things for you right now in Alabama?

A: I’m blessed because my business has not stopped. I own group homes for mentally ill men and my cash flow has not shut down because our business is government-funded. In that sense, I’ve been lucky.

Q: Which memory do you cherish the most and came back to you after watching “The Last Dance”?

A: Just the camaraderie of being with that group of gentlemen. It was not one particular moment; I love the whole two and a half years that I spent in Chicago. I had the opportunity to learn from the best that had ever done it: Michael Jordan. Dennis Rodman was probably the best rebounder and defender ever and Scottie Pippen one of the best second-men you’ll ever see in the world. Phil Jackson … If I had to do it all over again, I would do it the same way because of the camaraderie of the men.

Q: You won two championship rings with the Bulls, but didn’t get to finish off “The Last Dance” season with them. Do you believe that the organization owes you another ring?

A: I don’t feel like the Bulls owe me anything. It was a blessing to be drafted by them and to win two rings. Jerry Krause and I had fallen out in the end and he traded me. It had nothing to do with my teammates not wanting me on the team. So, as long as I know I didn’t let my teammates down, I can accept having two rings, even if I should have been there for three.

Q: In one of your interviews, you said: “It’s a wonder we could work through the egos clashing, fighting over money and still win championships”. To which extent did you feel part of the process on the Bulls team and how did the team manage to overcome inner conflict?

A: Well, being there, now that I look back on it in retrospect, I never saw any of the conflict just because the gentlemen I played with were so professional. Scottie came in with great attitude every day and worked hard, other than the time he took off from when he was supposed to have a surgery. Dennis and Phil were always solid. To be honest with you, the front office had their game going on and we had ours down there on the court, which is where it really mattered.

Q: How did you deal with Krause’s sarcasm and at the same time with MJ’s and Pippen’s treating of rookies and teammates?

A: The treating of the rookies, carrying the bags and doing things like that, was what I needed. You’re coming from college and now you’re playing with the greatest player that ever played and possibly the greatest team. You have to go through some ups and downs, learn some things and not have the big hit because clearly I came into that position out of college as one of the best players and found myself at the bottom of the totem pole. So, it was a humbling situation.

As far as the front office, I didn’t deal with them. I stayed away from Krause as much as possible. He was a very sarcastic man. Once, myself and Michael were on the elevator. I didn’t get engaged in conversation with him, but he said something very sarcastic. It takes a lot to tick me off, but whatever he said, he pushed my buttons and I found myself moving towards his neck with my hands. Michael Jordan jumped in between us and told me: “Jayson, don’t do that. You’re going to end your career. Let me deal with him, verbally”. From that point on, Michael verbally assaulted him and “killed” him. He was like the laughingstock when Michael was around.

Q: I asked Dickey Simpkins the other day about who he thought the best teammate on the Bulls team was. He referred to Toni Kukoc being the most underrated player. What’s your view?

A: OK. Toni was one hell of a player. I can’t say he was the best teammate, but he was a great guy. But as far as that killer instinct, if it wasn’t for Michael who wanted to dominate every time on offense and play defense on the best player of the other team, we wouldn’t have been where we were.

Q: Do you think that Kukoc’s fame of being a Jerry Krause favorite took something away from him?

A: Yeah, it definitely did because it sparked fire between Michael and Scottie against Toni. They felt as if “we’ve been winning championships before you get this guy. Now you get this guy who’s foreign”. I respect foreign players, they’re great. But Toni couldn’t do the same things that Michael and Scottie could do. Krause’s praising him above these two superstars created a lot of animosity between them. It was a shame to see that because Toni was a great guy and he didn’t deserve that. But Krause kind of put that on him with the way he showed his favoritism towards him.

Marcus Fizer #21 of the Chicago Bulls along with Toni Kukoc #7 and Jason Caffey #35 of the Milwaukee Bucks battle for a rebounding position during the game at Bradley Center on January 10, 2003 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bucks won 93-85. Copyright NBAE 2003 (Photo by Garry Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

Q: Did you get along with Kukoc in Chicago and for a year in Milwaukee (2002-03)?

A: I did. Toni was my friend and we talked. I liked him. I had no problems with him whatsoever. He was one of the best sixth-men you’d ever want to see. He could have been a starter on any team. Great player.

Q: Phil Jackson, referring to you getting traded, said that it was a good opportunity for you to go. Was it obvious back then?

A: Of course. I hated to part ways with such mentors that I had in Phil Jackson, Jordan and Steve Kerr. I had had enough of Krause’s BS and sooner or later I knew I was going to snap with him. It was the best decision that I went on my way.

Q: Regarding trades and transfers, what was the saying that Jordan and Jackson had during those years?

A: I was really the only one that was shipped off during that time. The other guys weren’t there on long-term contracts. They had like 10-day contracts here and there. The nucleus of the team didn’t get shipped off. Some guys knew from the get-go that they were not going to be there for three years and that they were interchangeable pieces.

Q: How easy was it for you and for other bench players not to get upset by little playing time and remain focused?

A: It wasn’t easy. Michael Jordan didn’t care if you were the sixth or the twelfth man on the team. Every day in practice you had to give 110% just to be there with him or he was going to get you run off that team. A lot of us were nowhere in comparison to the athlete Michael and Scottie were, but as far as our focus, determination and work ethic, we had to give just as much as those guys did or we would have gotten run off from day one.

Q: You signed a multi-year contract with the Warriors in 1999. The next season was probably your career-best. Why did you leave Golden State in 2000?

A: I was able to go on and play for possibly the worst team in the league. I got a decent contract that was good for me. But Golden State and I didn’t really see eye to eye. I always thought of myself as a power forward, who plays defense and rebounds. I can also score some, but that’s really not my thing. I’m not looking to take 15-20 shots a game. I didn’t think we could win like that. I was looking to get 10 shots a game, get 10 rebounds and play great defense. They signed me to that kind of money and expected me to average 20 points and 10 rebounds and that’s not my game. I’m more of a 12/8 guy who’s going to play solid defense. We parted ways and I went to Milwaukee after that.

Q: Would you have given up on that big contract in order to have been able to stay with the Bulls for a more modest paycheck?

A: I would, because coming from a very dysfunctional community and neighborhood, I really felt like guys like Jackson, Kerr and Michael, who had been raised right, could help me as a man in the long run. Going away from those guys led me to make some unfavorable decisions. So, yeah, I would have passed that money to have stayed to Chicago.

Scottie Pippen with Jayson Caffey. Photo Source: Jason A Caffey Facebook page

Q: You have attributed to your teammates the fact that you’re alive and able to provide for yourself. Which personality traits did you pick up from each one of them?

A: As I made the decisions to have the amount of kids I did and I did get married, a lot of negatives came about with lawyers and my kids’ mothers. I’ve always been a businessman. However, when I lost those investments, I went back to the basics, the things I had learned from Michael Jordan: “Never give up, always believe in yourself and continue to fight”. Through that, I was able to acquire more businesses and get back on my feet financially. I’ve been able to sustain that for the rest of my life. This “never quit” attitude pushes me every day.

Q: Had you stayed with the Bulls for more years, do you think your life or career would have been any different?

A: I can’t say yes or no. I just know that when I was around Michael and Scottie, there was such positive influence that I never got into trouble or made bad decisions. When I got away from them and I ran into a lot more money, that’s when the bad decision-making process started. I would like to think that if I had stayed with them, I’d possibly be in a different position today.

Q: You reached the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals with the Milwaukee Bucks. It took the franchise 18 years to repeat that accomplishment. Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell gave way to Giannis, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe. First of all, do you think Giannis is the future of the league and secondly, can the two teams be compared?

A: If Giannis doesn’t have to shoot threes and gets a fluid 18-feet jumpshot, he will definitely be the future of the league. He’s the most athletic guy out there already. A guy that can have his 30 points all off driving to the basket, that tells you how athletic he is. Nobody can stay in front of him. If he adds a jumpshot to that, his average maybe goes up another 5-8 points because people will respect his shot.

I don’t think the two teams can be compared. There’s a different dynamic. We had some great offensive players who wouldn’t mind to play defense. Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson were two of the best jump shooters inside the three-point line in the league; Tim Thomas was one of the best athletes and was compared to Kobe when he came out of college as one of the next big stars; Ray Allen was a three-point specialist who could do a lot of things. Had we played defense like we did in Chicago, we could have beaten Philly in that Game 7. We had already swept the Lakers in the regular season because we simply had too many jump shooters for them to deal with.

Q: Starting 2002, a series of personal problems stepped in, resulting in the end of your career in 2003. How did you come to that decision? Did you consult anyone?

A: There was no one to consult. I just came to the conclusion that I had accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in basketball. I knew at the age of 18 that I wanted to be a professional player and I knew at the age of 30 that I wanted to retire and be a businessman. Although I had two years left on my contract with Milwaukee, I was ready to walk away from the game. I never looked back or attempted to go back. The lifestyle was too fast for me. I wanted some more slow pace and not have a target on my back anymore.

Q: Over the course of some years, your personal life was highly exposed to the media. Your earnings, investments, assets, child support, divorce alimony became all public. When was the turning point for you? When did you really admit to yourself that you had hit rock bottom?

A: The turning point came probably in 2019. Around 2010, when I came into the group home business for the mentally ill men, I had to put aside the sorrow that I was holding inside for myself for making idiotic decisions. I thought I got to have a higher purpose in life. My calling is to help these mentally ill men that can’t help themselves. I went back to the Lord with that because he dropped that business in my hand. So, it was a very humbling experience that has held me humble to this day. I love what I do.

Q: Do you believe your story is a cautionary tale for pro athletes who often pay a heavy price for ignorance, lack of experience and financial knowledge, increasing income or bad company?

A: Definitely. I actually use my story to teach from it today. I do basketball camps, where I only use the basketball to get the kids there. I also come with an ACT (“American College Test”) prep lady who is one of the best in the whole country. These kids can go to college for free if they get a high score in the ACT test. I bring a financial literacy person to the camp as well and also police officers to do use intervention. A lot of kids are being killed these days because they don’t know how to handle interaction with police officers.

Q: Is it so tough for ex-athletes to adjust to the post-NBA life?

A: It wasn’t tough for me because even though I lost a lot of my businesses, I had invested well and was still making six figures. So, it wasn’t hard for me. I went through bankruptcy with over a million dollars in assets and we were looking at liquidation. With all the negative publicity, the business was never able to get off the ground the right way and that did actually affect me.

Q: You once said that money gave you a fake sense of power and that the NBA lifestyle was getting the best of you. Over the last years, did you get in touch with other retired players dealing with the same issues?

A: No, I never talked to anyone about it. People like me hold it in until it’s too late because they’re too proud to let you know what they got going on. I didn’t have a clue of what was going on with the anxiety attack and I just thought I was crazy. I couldn’t get over it until I checked myself into a 45-day program, talking to people. I think professional athletes have to carry that load on their shoulders and are too proud to tell people about that.

Q: Drawing from your experience and any conversations you might have had with other players, how can a young athlete find answers about adulthood and handle the problems that occur in professional/high-level sport?

A: You got to go back to the basics: prayer. I put a lot with the Lord because I don’t really talk much to people anymore. Prayer helps me navigate through my life now and I would like to think that had I had the same relationship with the Lord back then, he would have helped me navigate through those tough times. There are only sharks out here in the water and pro athletes have targets on their back. The minute they sign that contract, people are working against them to steal their money. So, to them all I can say is: “Surround yourselves with nothing but class-act people that are doing the same things you want to do in the future, keep your circle small and pray”.

Photo Source: Jason A Caffey Facebook page

Q: You recently wrote a book directed to 9-12 year-olds, titled “Richard and the boyz”. What is it about?

A: It was written by psychiatrist and doctor Nadine Pierre Louis and myself. She came to me and let me read it. I found there a lot of the stuff that I went through growing up as a young male. I had a family, but at that age you’re shy; you don’t understand things going on with your body’s changes and you’re afraid to ask questions about it. That’s the tendency leading some children to be gay these days because they see their chest expanding. This book gives young men all the information on their body in a slang-tongue that they can understand, so that they don’t have to panick or go out and get bad advice from people in the streets, like I did. I was getting advice from older men who were womanizers and many other things. I didn’t want to see another kid going through what I went through. So, we compiled this book and put it out for children to learn from it.

Q: Have you ever thought about writing a book for pro athletes?

A: I have not. I’m actually on my second book for kids, but I’m not going to stop writing because I have a lot of information that I want to put out. Eventually, I’m going to do a book for young African-Americans because they are the ones who populate the sport. Most of us come from impoverished areas, we’re not coming from a lot of money. In our society, we’re told to hold things in instead of venting out and talking about our problems. That’s why we came up with the slogan: “Real men talk”. If you open up to someone who has better insight on what you’re might be dealing with, you can change your whole life for the better.

Q: Do you keep up with modern NBA? Do you watch games?

A: Yes, I love watching games. I watched one with Dennis Rodman right before the coronavirus pandemic. The Houston Rockets were playing the Lakers. The Pelicans stadium is close to me in New Orleans. I watch a lot of their games and i still see Scottie, Dennis, Steve Kerr. So, I’m very much still involved in the NBA.

Q: Would you consider assuming a role on a team?

A: No, I have no interest in that at all. The NBA is a very time-consuming thing and people don’t understand that. You’re training for eight months straight and I have no problem with that. But if you want to break away and see your family, you might get one day off. You can’t even fly home from one city to another and get back the next morning for the 10 A.M. practice in one day. I don’t care to live my life like that anymore. I like to remain an entrepreneur.

Q: If you were to refer to one thing that you would like to have done differently in your life or career, what would it be?

A: I wouldn’t take back any of my kids because I love them all. I wish that instead of starting to invest in businesses at the age of 30, I would have started to invest at 25. Had I done that, I think I would have missed the financial curve of the amount of kids that I have and the problems I went through. You want to get money and invest it, so that you can make more money. If I had figured that out at 25, it definitely would have changed me.

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Larry Nance Jr.: “I used to go to LeBron’s high school games. I’m his biggest fan ever” https://www.talkbasket.net/84548-larry-nance-jr-i-used-to-go-to-lebrons-high-school-games-im-his-biggest-fan-ever https://www.talkbasket.net/84548-larry-nance-jr-i-used-to-go-to-lebrons-high-school-games-im-his-biggest-fan-ever#respond Mon, 04 May 2020 16:45:04 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=84548 Cleveland Cavaliers’ Larry Nance Jr. was speaking as part of the NBA 2K Sundays with Thibaut Courtois initiative, which sees the Real Madrid goalkeeper take on a different sports star, celebrity or influencer every week on a game of 2K as a part of the #NBATogether initiative. The 27-year-old forward commented on growing up in Akron, Ohio, […]

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Larry Nance Jr.: “I used to go to LeBron’s high school games. I’m his biggest fan ever”

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Larry Nance Jr. was speaking as part of the NBA 2K Sundays with Thibaut Courtois initiative, which sees the Real Madrid goalkeeper take on a different sports star, celebrity or influencer every week on a game of 2K as a part of the #NBATogether initiative. The 27-year-old forward commented on growing up in Akron, Ohio, as a LeBron James fan as well as on playing with LeBron and Kobe Bryant.

Larry also gave his predictions for the remainder of the season, saying he thinks Giannis Antetokounmpo will win regular season MVP and Ja Morant will win Rookie of the Year over Zion Williamson.

On keeping fit for the rest of the season

Larry: “I would definitely need some training. While you’re at home it’s so hard to get into game shape that I think we’d all need a little bit of time. But I’m doing the best I can.”

On growing up as a fan of LeBron James

Larry: “Growing up I used to go to LeBron’s High School games and watch them play all the time. So I was a fan of his even before the NBA, which is really cool. Then, I got drafted into the NBA and I got to go to The Finals with him and the Cavaliers in 2018. It was just a dream come true, one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Just the kind of leader he is, it’s just so impressive. I mean he’s just from top to bottom, he’s awesome to play with.”

His prediction for the remainder of the season

Larry: “I think Giannis Antetokounmpo was going to win MVP. The Bucks were going to come out of the East to play the Lakers probably. Ja Morant is going to win Rookie of the Year just because he played the whole year.”

On playing with LeBron and Kobe

Larry: “Getting to play with two of the top five players of all time was just… I feel like I’m super fortunate to be able to have done that. There are not many people that have gotten to do that, so, you know, Kobe, obviously… Everybody knows Kobe, like he’s just the legend you know, when you shoot paper into a trash can, you say “Kobe!” That’s who we grew up watching and so, you know, getting to play with him was just so cool because when he walked in a room everybody, everybody looked at Kobe. He didn’t even have to say anything, it was just like you felt him walk in the room.

“And the LeBron. I grew up going to his high school games and being his biggest fan ever, so when I got traded to the Cavs and I got to play in the finals with him that was just, that was really cool as well. I mean it’s, I’ve gotten very lucky with the guys I’ve gotten to play with. I mean LeBron was, he worked so hard. I mean he was always the first one at practice and the last one to leave. And just to see him doing that was just so crazy. There are rookies that don’t work that hard.”

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Dickey Simpkins reflects back on his time with the Bulls, Krause’s advice, overseas career https://www.talkbasket.net/84133-dickey-simpkins-reflects-back-on-his-time-with-the-bulls-krauses-advice-overseas-career https://www.talkbasket.net/84133-dickey-simpkins-reflects-back-on-his-time-with-the-bulls-krauses-advice-overseas-career#respond Sat, 02 May 2020 13:51:50 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=84133 “The Last Dance” series has shed more light into the Chicago Bulls dynasty, exploring the background behind the franchise’s two three-peats under coach Phil Jackson and star players Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Without a doubt, Dickey Simpkins was among the less-heralded players of the Bulls team in the ’90s. His NBA stat line is […]

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Dickey Simpkins reflects back on his time with the Bulls, Krause’s advice, overseas career

“The Last Dance” series has shed more light into the Chicago Bulls dynasty, exploring the background behind the franchise’s two three-peats under coach Phil Jackson and star players Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

Without a doubt, Dickey Simpkins was among the less-heralded players of the Bulls team in the ’90s. His NBA stat line is far from impressive (4.2 points, 3.6 rebounds), but being part of the NBA’s “Winningest Team Ever” in the 1995-’96 season and staying there for six years, including his six-month stint with the Warriors in 1997, is no small feat.

A Providence College graduate in 1994, Simpkins was drafted 21st overall by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA draft that same year. When his time in Chicago was over, he packed his suitcase and traveled all around the globe. By 2006, when he retired, the forward-center from D.C. had played professional basketball in various countries and regions including Germany, Greece, Lebanon, Lithuania, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Russia and Spain.

Over the last decade, the now 48-year-old has served as a Charlotte Hornets/Washington Wizards Scout, TV Analyst and Public Speaker. In 2006, Simpkins founded Chicago-based “Next Level Performance”, a basketball skills development training organization, giving young student-athletes the opportunity to showcase their skills and obtain a college athletic scholarship.

After the first four episodes of “The Last Dance” were screened, Dickey Simpkins discussed with TalkBasket.net his experience of playing with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan’s attitude, Toni Kukoc’s underrated talents, the advice that the late Jerry Krause gave him, his views on modern NBA and his memories of international basketball.

“Last Dance is a good docuseries. It’s good to see the world in the early and mid-’90s; what it took to win championships and get a chance to see the best player who ever played the game; see Phil Jackson and how he coached. So, when everybody is dealing with the coronavirus it’s good to see a documentary like that,” Simpkins comments.

Q: To what extent is “The Last Dance” similar or different to your experience and recollection of the facts?

A: So far, everything has been pretty accurate to my recollection of the facts, from the post that I was involved with the Bulls. I enjoy watching it. The last episodes were kind of funny about Dennis Rodman going to Vegas. There were times when Phil, MJ and Scottie would have talks with Dennis, so that he could be himself, but also understand that he needed to care of business, which he did.

Q: Knowing that the 1997-98 campaign was going to be the last one for Jackson and the main core of players, how hard was it for you to deal with it?

A: I started off the season in Golden State. I was traded in September 1997 for Scott Burrell. Halfway through the season, the GSW waived me. My agent called me and said Jerry Krause called him and told him that Phil and MJ wanted me back. When I got there, Phil met with me and caught me up to speed with the Last Dance. He showed me everything and it kind of blended back in like I never left. Everybody was focused, embracing our last moment all together and making sure that we stayed focused on the common goal: winning the championship for the last time.

Q: Did MJ’s use of language and the way he was getting on at temmates ever bother you? Did it come across as bullying?

A: No, there’s a price to pay to winning. In order to win an NBA championship, your leader has to set the tone. MJ was not only our leader, but is and was the best player to ever play the game. When he performs at practice and games, you just have to make sure you do your job. That’s the price that comes with being a winner, a championship team.

Q: Do you believe that competitiveness in practice lacks in modern NBA? Has the game become less physical over the last years?

A: I think there’s a decrease in the physicality of the game. The biggest thing is back then MJ held everybody accountable. Accountability in today’s game is lacking. Players shy away from it or they get mad. Nobody wants to be held accountable. Back then, you had no choice when you played for the Bulls. The game now is more fluent. Furthermore, the competitive mentality amongst the collective group of guys on the court seems to not be at the same level as it was. The result is teams and players don’t achieve their potential a lot of times.

Q: What was the “breakfast crew” that Bill Wennington refers to in his book?

A: MJ would have guys over to his house to work out. Mostly Scottie and Ron Harper would go over there and they would grab breakfast after the workout. On occasions, I’d meet them for breakfast before we went to practice. They did it most of the time and every once in a blue moon I would meet them.

Q: How did it feel being so close to finishing the season and suddenly getting traded before the dynasty’s final run?

A: I was young in ’96 and ’97. Phil and management made the decision to go with more veteran players for the play-offs, something I had to deal with and -being a team player- I understood. I did my role, helping the team prepare for each opponent. It felt great that I had matured. Phil and MJ had confidence in me, knowing that I knew the triangle (offense) and played my role to the best of my ability. In 1997-98, I was still young, but I had seen and experienced that environment. The grass is not always greener on the other side. So, I left for a little while, seeking for an opportunity, but that didn’t actually happen. Things changed when I was in Golden State, which was a different environment. It was actually the season that Sprewell choked Carlesimo. I was gone for a short time, but I appreciate the fact that Phil and MJ respected my abilities and my work and wanted me to come back.

Q: More than 20 years after the second three-peat, how would you describe your presence and your role with the team to your children or to someone who knows nothing about you as a player?

A: I would describe myself as a team player who did my job: rebounding and playing defense. When I had the opportunity to score, I tried to score. I would explain my role as a loyal teammate who did whatever needed to be done. I understood my role, embraced it and tried to star in it, which is what MJ wanted everybody to do. I was one of the youngest guys on three championship teams. I listened, I played and learned my role.

Photo Source: marketplace.beckett.com

Q: The 1998-99 season was a strange one: the lockout, Tim Floyd stepping in and star players gone. Does the 13-37 record reflect what the Bulls team was back then?

A: No, I wouldn’t say it necessarily reflects what the team was. Like you said, it was a strange season. There was the lockout, then we went right into playing 50 games. The team had been dismantled. At that point in time, there was a few veteran players. The organization had made the decision to rebuild the team and it was a transition year that involved a shortened season and a new coach who was learning his way in the NBA. I wouldn’t say our record reflects the talent, the professionalism or where we were.

Q: If someone was to ask you about the overall appreciation and legacy of the Bulls phenomenon, how do you think that “The Last Dance” series will do justice to it?

A: I think the younger generation now will get to see the competitiveness of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson and everybody who was on that team; the focus and the desire to finish off what was going to be the last season; and see history. It will help the younger and the older generation get a perspective on the debate they always have about who’s the best player that ever played the game. I think the documentary will do justice and it will go down in history like those championship teams have.

Q: What’s your take on the GOAT debate?

A: I had the opportunity to see LeBron play. He’s unbelievable. I played against Kobe. He was probably the closest anyone has ever come to MJ. I just think this documentary does not intend to define whether MJ is the greatest of all time, but it does a great job of giving a perspective to his mindset.

Q: Who was the best teammate on the Bulls team?

A: We all kind of vibed together. The team was mostly veteran players that had been in the NBA for a while. We all understood each other on and off the court. Everybody was a good teammate, but I think that Toni Kukoc might be the most underrated star on those championship teams. That’s because of all the things that he brought from a versatility standpoint: scoring, passing, just being an unbelievable teammate. I don’t think he gets talked about enough. When the other stars were gone, he was able to show his ability to be the main guy. It was fun playing with him.

Q: You were fifteenth on the Bulls’ salary cap breakdown in the 97-98 season, receiving a five-digit paycheck. Did it bother you?

A: That was because I was still under contract with the Warriors. I got a pro-rated minimum contract. When you come back to a team in the middle of the season, that’s pretty much how it works. So, it didn’t bother me at all.

Q: Is it true that Tex Winter valued your basketball I.Q. because you understood the triangle offense?

A: (smiles). Yes. Tex appreciated my ability to pick up the triangle offense pretty well and have a very good basketball I.Q. and I think Phil Jackson valued that also. That made it easy for me to come back. I could read plays, react and make passes.

Q: Although you didn’t get to play for the Lakers in 2001, how was seeing so many familiar faces again, like Jackson and Winters?

A: I was there for training camp and everything was familiar. At the end of the day, Mitch Kupchak was the general manager and decided to go in a different direction. But it was a good experience and got to spend some time around Shaq and Kobe who asked me questions about the Bulls. So, it was cool.

Q: However, Bill Wennington wrote in his book that by 1997, you were bitter about your Bulls experience, playing behind Rodman and Kukoc. What’s your view?

A: Naw, I wasn’t bitter. I just wanted to find an opportunity to expand my role. That’s a part of the business. I communicate with Phil on a regular basis from time to time.

Q: After the 1998-99 season, when you posted career-highs in playing time, points, rebounds, did you ever think that your NBA time would practically include one more year?

A: No, I actually thought that I had gotten the opportunity to show what I can do. Coach Tim Floyd gave me the chance to perform. He appreciated my hard work and professionalism. I thought my NBA career would expand for longer, but sometimes in life it doesn’t work like that. I still was able to play six years in Europe as a professional.

Q: How was it playing for Providence after the Rick Pitino era, which lasted until 1987? Would you trade the Big East championship for a Final Four appearance?

A: Playing for Providence was great, coming in after Rick Pitino had built some buzz about the college. It was in the Big East, which is where I always wanted to play. Playing for coach Barnes, we grew and learned. We came in as one of the top recruiting classes in 1990. To finish up with the Big East championship that Providence had never won before -and winning it at the Madison Square Garden- was a great feeling.

Photo source: Dickey Simpkins Twitter page

Would I have given that up for a Final Four? As a kid, you always dream of making it to a Final Four in the NCAA. I don’t know if I’d give it up because I really enjoyed the experience of playing with those guys at Providence. People always ask me would I’ve given up on NBA championships to play more in the NBA and I say: “No, I’ll take championships any day”.

Q: Working as a college basketball TV analyst, what do you think of top High School players flocking to the G-League instead of going to college?

A: I think it’s good. It gives High School kids another outlet and another opportunity to explore what they’ll make after they leave High School. You can either go to college or not go and try a Post-Grad High School and play one year. Now that you have the G-League as an opportunity, there’s five different options that you can choose from for your path to the NBA. So, I just think it’s great to bring another option that they can explore. Obviously, it’s going to be the first year of this and we’re going to see how it plays out. You’ll see changes in decisions that parents and High School kids are making now, as far as their future. It’s a fluent evolution of how people can get to their ultimate goal of playing in the NBA. There’s a big difference of physicality and experience from the High School to the G-League, but now players have another path to the NBA.

Q: As a Charlotte Hornets scout from 2010 through 2018, how was teaming up with Michael Jordan again? Which are his trademarks as an owner?

A: It was great. He called me one day, talked to me on the phone and said he wanted me to come work for him in Charlotte. He’s as competitive an owner as he was as a player. He wants to have a winning team and everybody to do their role and be good at it. If you do your role, he’s going to appreciate your hard work. My friendship with him continues to be strong and good. I appreciate him calling me to work for him.

Q: Being an NBA scout reminded you of Jerry Krause’s role? Were you influenced or inspired by him in any way?

A: That’s funny … I guess (I was influenced) a little bit by some of the things that Jerry would tell me, as far as how he evaluated a player or looked at him. I remember Jerry sharing a couple of stories with me back in the day. I remember having a conversation with Jerry Krause a year before he passed away. It was about growing in the front office business. We talked for a good five or ten minutes. He gave me a couple of perspectives on growing into business. It was good. That was my first time talking to Jerry in a long time. 2006 or 2007 had been the last time before that.

Q: Nevertheless, you were not quiet at all talking about him in 2000, when you left the team. “Now we can see what he’s made of. He could have made sure that guys who did their job well were taken care of. Players don’t feel he’ll be loyal to them”, were some of the things you said. How did you feel back then?

A: Yeah, I kind of remember some of that stuff. I expressed my thoughts and feelings. As I matured, I did understand he had to make the business decisions that he felt were best for the organization, regardless of whether they were popular or not. At that time, I didn’t understand why I wasn’t treated with what I thought should be fairness. But not everything in life is fair. Growing up, I understood it was just business and nothing personal.

Q: Let’s get to the overseas chapter. How did the offer from Greece and Makedonikos come about?

A: It just came out of the blue. My agent called me and said: “There’s a team in Greece that would like you to come and play”. I was open-minded to coming and playing internationally in Europe. I had heard so much about Europe. It was a young team trying to stay in the top division. The coach and the owner were cool. My career in Europe went from there. One of the things that made an impression was the pastry that I used to eat every morning when I drank coffee. It had cream inside and it’s called “bougatsa”. I love it! In terms of basketball, I loved the competitive fire in the fans. They loved their teams. Those are the things that I remember the most.

Q: How did you manage the transition from playing for the Bulls to trying help a little-known team in Greece avoid relegation?

A: It was tough at first because I had to figure out how to make the transition to playing in Europe, which was a different situation. I learned it was more mental than physical playing internationally. It was tough at first because I’m a competitive person. So, I was trying to do everything I could to help the team stay up, but it was also good to learn quickly in my first experience how to operate playing basketball in Europe. I had to adjust as far as environment, language, practicing twice a day, style of basketball and the refereeing.

Dickey Simpkins dunks during a Makedonikos-Iraklis BC Greek League game. Photo source: in.gr

Q: Were you aware of the fact that another Bulls ex-player, David Vaughn, who didn’t finish “The Last Dance” season with the team, was also playing in Greece at the time?

A: Yeah, he was with the Bulls for a couple of days. They let him go and I came in. That’s all I remember.

Q: What did you pick up from playing in different places?

A: I remember winning the FIBA Cup North title (with Unics Kazan in 2003) and having a very good team. Lithuania was nice, playing for Rytas. Euroleague, Spain, Germany and the Philippines was a good experience. All in all, I enjoyed seeing different cultures.

Q: Do you wish you could have played the Euroleague at a younger age instead of 34?

A: No, I’m happy I was in the NBA when I was younger. The Euroleague is a very good, competitive league and I enjoyed playing in it while at Bamberg. I’m fine, comfortable and happy with how things played out for me.

Q: In your short stint with Maroussi BC in Greece in 2002, do you remember a young guy named Vassilis Spanoulis?

A: No, I don’t really remember anyone except for the American guys: Jimmy Oliver, Patrick Burke and Martin Conlon, who played at Providence before I got there. But I don’t remember that other guy.

Q: Right now, he’s considered one of the top players to have come out of Europe over the last 15 years.

A: Oh, OK. Didn’t know that.

Q: Do you follow the Euroleague and international basketball?

A: A little bit. We have international scouts on our team (Washington Wizards) and they keep us updated on Euroleague and what’s going on.

Q: If the NBA season was to resume, who would win the championship and who would get the MVP award?

A: Hmm, the championship would probably be between the Lakers and the Clippers. One of those two would win it. The MVP would be LeBron. He’s been playing at an unbelievable level for ages. He’s proven that he can carry a team. Whatever team he’s on, he makes them a title contender. He was showing that this season again, until the shutdown. In my opinion, LeBron is the MVP of the league.

Q: Do you think Giannis Antetokounmpo deservedly won the award last year?

A: Yes, I think he deserved it. The “Greek Freak” is evolving as being the next big star LeBron will pass the torch to.

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Former 76ers GM Brad Greenberg reflects on Jerry Krause’s impact on Bulls https://www.talkbasket.net/83754-former-76ers-gm-brad-greenberg-reflects-on-jerry-krauses-impact-on-bulls https://www.talkbasket.net/83754-former-76ers-gm-brad-greenberg-reflects-on-jerry-krauses-impact-on-bulls#respond Thu, 30 Apr 2020 14:45:03 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=83754 Jerry Krause didn’t draft Michael Jordan in 1984. Rod Thorn, Krause’s predecessor, did. It turned out to be the best draft decision of the 1980s, giving the Chicago Bulls their franchise cornerstone for six NBA championships in the ’90s. But three years after Thorn’s history-changing decision, Krause made a pair of shrewd draft-day decisions of […]

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Former 76ers GM Brad Greenberg reflects on Jerry Krause’s impact on Bulls

Jerry Krause didn’t draft Michael Jordan in 1984. Rod Thorn, Krause’s predecessor, did.

It turned out to be the best draft decision of the 1980s, giving the Chicago Bulls their franchise cornerstone for six NBA championships in the ’90s.

But three years after Thorn’s history-changing decision, Krause made a pair of shrewd draft-day decisions of his own. The longtime Bulls general manager traded Olden Polynice to the Seattle SuperSonics for Scottie Pippen, the No. 5 pick, and before the momentous day was done he selected Horace Grant with the 10th pick in the 1987 Draft.

Pippen and Grant became fixtures in Chicago’s starting lineup, key players during the club’s first three-peat.

Krause died in March 2017 at age 77.

Reacting to Krause’s death, Pippen tweeted: “He helped me realize the dream of playing in the NBA and more than I ever could’ve imagined. … Jerry and I didn’t always see eye to eye but I knew he just wanted to win. He surrounded MJ and me with the right pieces not once but twice.”

Back in the spotlight

Jerry Krause’s life and legacy are back in the spotlight as “The Last Dance,” the 10-part ESPN documentary series about the final season (1997-98) of the Bulls dynasty, which attracts major attention around the world. ESPN aired episodes 3 and 4 on Sunday.

In an interview with Talkbasket.net this week, Brad Greenberg, a former Philadelphia 76ers general manager and vice president of basketball operations, offered some insights about Krause’s basketball acumen and undeniable skills as a talent evaluator.

“Jerry was a scout at heart,” said Greenberg, who has coached the Israeli Basketball Super League’s Maccabi Ashdod since 2017. “Loved trying to find a hidden gem. Liked to be on the road hunting out a player from a smaller school, lesser division … the proverbial sleeper.”

Exhibit A: Pippen (University of Central Arkansas), who’ll forever be linked to Jerry Krause.

Longtime Bulls GM Jerry Krause, who was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017, in a 2003 file photo. Credit: Chicago Tribune

Insights on Jerry Krause

Any quick description of “The Last Dance” will label Michael Jordan as the hero and Jerry Krause and the villain. The latter, of course, was contemplating how to wanted to rebuild the Chicago Bulls even as they were two-time defending champions heading into the 1997-98 campaign.

Was Krause misunderstood?

“Yes. You can’t win a popularity contest vs. Michael or Phil (Jackson) and Jerry is partly to blame for this,” said Greenberg, who as Sixers GM selected Allen Iverson No. 1 overall in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft. “But he made a lot of really good decisions for the Bulls.

“From bringing Phil on board to roster moves that helped build their championship teams. One of his nicknames was ‘Sleuth’ and his feeling that scouting info should be protected made him an aloof character and some took that the wrong way … perhaps interpreted as arrogance. But if you got to know him, he was a good guy.

“I got along with him and respected his work ethic. We crossed paths on the road a fair amount and had mutual respect.”

Greenberg praises Krause

Brad Greenberg, now 66, served as a Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach (1984-86), then held the same position with the New York Knicks (1986-87). From 1987 to 1995, he worked in the Portland Trail Blazers front office, coinciding with the rise of the Bulls from mediocrity to title contenders to three-time champions.

In that time span, Greenberg was reminded time after time that Jerry Krause was a good pro basketball team executive.

“The record speaks for itself!” Greenberg declared. “Having the best player in the league sure helped and he was there before him. But he surrounded MJ with the right pieces and he orchestrated Phil eventually becoming the coach surrounding him with great support staff (assistants).

“No denying he was a good exec.”

Interacting with Krause

What was it like dealing with Jerry Krause?

“I got along with Jerry,” said Greenberg, who served as a scout, director of player personnel and vice president of player personnel for Portland.

“While with the Blazers we played them in the (1992) Finals and we crossed paths a lot. I would say we had a solid relationship and probably more so than many others in the league.”

‘Unhappy with his seat location’

In thinking back to the early 1990s, Greenberg recalled that Krause was a stickler for details. He always wanted things done a certain way.

To illustrate that point, the Maccabi Ashdod bench boss provided a classic example.

“During the NBA Finals in Portland versus the Bulls, he had a seat that wasn’t to his liking for a game,” Greenberg said of Jerry Krause. “He was very particular about his seat for games whether at a college arena or pro game. He would often create a bit of a scene if the seats provided for him or other scouts wasn’t conducive to doing the job, especially if we had all traveled a great deal to a location for a college game.

“Upon him being unhappy with his seat location in Portland for a game, I was able to find him a much better seat close to the court and he was most appreciative. It probably helped cement our relationship. He always remembered me helping him. He was particular about things like that.”

Parting thoughts

“I am watching The Last Dance and like (Toni) Kukoc has commented … some of the comments and portrayal of him are ‘small’ and a bit unfair,” Greenberg commented on Jerry Krause. “He made so many strong ‘championship’ decisions. Unfortunately, he will always be the target for how things ended with Phil, etc…”

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Johan Roijakkers on Talkbasket: “Teams won’t be the same anymore since some players already returned home and won’t come back” https://www.talkbasket.net/82444-johan-roijakkers-on-talkbasket-teams-wont-be-the-same-anymore-since-some-players-already-returned-home-and-wont-come-back https://www.talkbasket.net/82444-johan-roijakkers-on-talkbasket-teams-wont-be-the-same-anymore-since-some-players-already-returned-home-and-wont-come-back#respond Wed, 22 Apr 2020 14:31:52 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=82444 Bg Goettingen head coach Johan Roijakkers became steadily a household name in Germany by taking one step at a time, after his career as a player came to an end while playing for teams in his home country and Belgium. The Netherlands native started his journey as a coach by working with youngsters in the- […]

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Johan Roijakkers on Talkbasket: “Teams won’t be the same anymore since some players already returned home and won’t come back”

Bg Goettingen head coach Johan Roijakkers became steadily a household name in Germany by taking one step at a time, after his career as a player came to an end while playing for teams in his home country and Belgium. The Netherlands native started his journey as a coach by working with youngsters in the- then- Belgian league powerhouse, Bree B.B.C..

At the age of 23, he became the interim head coach in Bree’s men basketball department, before returning to the assistant role the next season(2005). Roijakkers’s coaching experience in the young departments of the Netherlands and the Belgium national teams armed him with knowledge about growth and learning in the game.

Roijakkers was ready to make his next leap in his career in 2012, after working for one season in the G-League being a member of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers staff in 2011. The next season, he returned to Europe and led BC Prievidza to its first title in 17 years (2011). Roijakkers’ success in Slovakia gave him the chance to become the head coach of German Budesliga side BG Goettingen.

Photo: Zdroj, IVAN VALKO

The promising head coach is one of those rare cases in Europe being the “man behind the sidelines” for 8 consecutive seasons in the German club. Goettingen is a “university city” in the lower Saxony with the city’s men and women teams having a constant presence in the first tier leagues in the last 15 years. The men’s basketball team has competed in the German league for 11 of the last 13 years. The team was in the playoff race this year, before the season was put suddenly on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Roijakkers helped BG Goettingen achieve pretty impressive results with the team enjoying success against some prolific opponents having also the 9th best record in Budesliga. In particular, Goettingen prevailed against EuroLeague sides ALBA Berlin and Bayern Munich in its home ground , while maintaining an impressive record at home with just one loss.

Roijakkers talked to Talkbasket.net about BG Goettingen’s culture, the NBA G-League, the way German League was able to establish its presence in the European basketball and how head coaches and players are dealing with an unprecedented situation like the coronavirus pandemic.

Q: Being in Gottingen for 8 consecutive seasons, not many head coaches come to mind, that remained for so long in a team. How does that benefit you and your team?

“Our consistency off the court makes it easier for players to come to Göttingen, do well and make their next step in their careers. Not only me, but also my coaching staff and medical staff have been working here for many years. In those 8 years in Göttingen we have been able to create a culture on and off the court that helps us to win games. Every day we are trying to get better on the court but also improve the organization off the court. We never stand still here, we are an ongoing process that is trying to improve where ever we can each day. If a player comes back after a summer break, he will notice small things were changed / improved. All with the same goal to perform at our best, which makes us win games.”

Q: What’s the difference from working on a club for one season like you did in Slovakia with BC Prievidza?

“It was not a big difference. Also in Prievidza we tried to win today, but improve for tomorrow and built a program that would win longer than just one year. It was 17 years ago that Prievidza won a championship when we came there in 2012. I was happy to see that after we left, Prievidza was able to continue to build on our success and was able to win more championships and cups in the years after.”

Q:Talk to us about your experience in the NBA G-League. In general, the European style of basketball was always pretty different from basketball in the States. What are the differences between those two “worlds” right now in your opinion?

“The G league and Europe are a complete different animal. The space on the floor, the rules and the athletism of the players makes the G league way more open than the game in Europe. For me it was a great experience where I still benefit from each day. I was able to learn a lot from advanced stats and how to use them for your team. Also learning a different style of basketball makes you a lot more complete as a basketball coach.”

Q: The German Budesliga is on the way of becoming one of the best leagues in Europe with multiple teams in international competitions. How these achievements came to life the last 7-8 seasons?

“The German league did a great job of forcing teams to invest not only in players but also for example in office personnel, youth coaches and to a practice facility where you have access to for 24 hours. With all these license requirements that Bundesliga teams need to fulfill, it generally pushes the basketball to a higher level. Obviously German teams always paying their players on time, makes it an interesting league for players to play in.”

Q: You get to play against some great and really talented players like Greg Monroe. In what way these kind of players benefit the league and the European basketball in general?

“Monroe is obviously a big name and draws right away a lot media attention which any league can benefit from. But also as a basketball coach he makes you better, since he is such a dominate threat inside but with great court vision and passing abilities. With him out there, you will need something extra on defense to stop him.”

Q: Is it easier to contain post players in this era of basketball, in which the three point play dominates the game?

“I don’t know if it makes it easier to contain post player these days. In Göttingen we are trying to focus on stopping what ever makes the opponent win. Sometimes this is 3pt shooting, sometimes this is stopping teams in their inside game.”

2019-09-01 BG Goettingen – Leuven Bears

Q: Your team is shooting 29.2 attempts per game getting the third most attempts in Budesliga. Is it almost obligatory in this era to shoot a lot of threes in order to remain relevant with the game and ensure that the team will play the “right type” of basketball?

“We are trying to take mostly 3s, lay-ups and FTs since those shots give us the most PPP. The 3pt shot is obviously a very important weapon these days in basketball. But it is not all about shooting 3s, but about taking the most efficient shots on the court. And that is the lay-up, the 3 and the FT. If we would get all our shots directly at the basket, then we would take those as well. We are trying to stay away from mid-range shots. Further more the 3 and the lay-up is also the best shot on the court to get offensive rebounds on. We believe that creating a lot of catch and shoot open 3s gives us a better chance to win.”

Q: After BG Gottingen returned to the first tier league of the German Basketball in 2015, the team was having one of the most successful runs this season. How important is for you and the team to be in the playoff conversation this year?

“It was very important for us to be in the play off hunt. Last year we did not have a good season, so it was important for our fans and sponsors to have some success again. Göttingen is a city with a big basketball transition and always has had great fan support. Our fans deserved the success this year more than anybody.”

Q: The season violently put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak. Can you tell us how Budesliga came to that decision and how did you experienced it?

Photo: .goettinger-tageblatt.de

“Obviously we were not able to play and practice anymore since the government shut everything down. At the moment we are waiting to see what the league will decide on the 27th of April. There will be the chance to play the rest of the season with a short play off format without crowd or to end the season at this point. I think it will be good for everybody if next week there will be a decision, no matter what the decision will be.”

Q: How do you deal with a situation like this as a head coach of a team?

“I think it gives you time to work on stuff you never have real time for during the season and in the off season. For us as coaches this can be a good time to work on our game in the video room.”

Q: Is it really possible to be prepared for a return, let’s say in summer, and continue play from where the season stopped?

“Obviously the sportive aspect will be gone. Teams won’t be the same anymore since some players already returned home and won’t come back anymore. If we start playing again all teams will need many weeks to get full fit again, otherwise the risk of the players getting injured will be too big.”

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Paul Zipser: “I had a little of bad luck in the NBA. But if you take the chance, which I did, you’ll be a better player” https://www.talkbasket.net/81792-paul-zipser-i-had-a-little-of-bad-luck-in-the-nba-but-if-you-take-the-chance-which-i-did-youll-be-a-better-player https://www.talkbasket.net/81792-paul-zipser-i-had-a-little-of-bad-luck-in-the-nba-but-if-you-take-the-chance-which-i-did-youll-be-a-better-player#respond Sat, 18 Apr 2020 13:59:16 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=81792 FC Bayern Munich may not have done so well in this Euroleague season, whose future is still to be determined, but for Paul Zipser that’s another story. The versatile and athletic forward, who played a total of 98 games with the Chicago Bulls between 2016 and 2018 averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in 17 […]

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Paul Zipser: “I had a little of bad luck in the NBA. But if you take the chance, which I did, you’ll be a better player”

FC Bayern Munich may not have done so well in this Euroleague season, whose future is still to be determined, but for Paul Zipser that’s another story. The versatile and athletic forward, who played a total of 98 games with the Chicago Bulls between 2016 and 2018 averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in 17 minutes of action, returned to the club and the city that had virtually initiated his career. Over 28 Euroleague games, he showcased career-best numbers in points (8.5), rebounds (3.4) and PIR (8.1), albeit obviously lacking consistency as he had quite a few bad nights.

Zipser played for Bayern from 2013 till 2016, his stint coinciding with now FC Barcelona’s coach Svetislav Pesic. However, when Pesic was asked in the summer of 2019 by German website SPORT1 about his ex-player’s choices, he replied: “Zipser returned where he belongs. He doesn’t belong to the NBA. As soon as he let me know about his intention to go there, I told him: “You’re happy now, but I’m not. Stay [in Europe] for a year or two”. He’s one of the greatest talents in Germany, but he must stop thinking about the NBA. FC Bayern Munich is the NBA for Zipser and he should look at it this way”.

Regardless of anyone’s opinion about him, Paul Zipser matured into a BBL and national player before he was picked 48th by the Chicago Bulls in the 2016 NBA draft. Last season, the now 26-year-old played for Burgos in the Spanish ACB after an injury break in January.

The Heidelberg native sat with TalkBasket.net for an interview that took place last January, long before the coronavirus pandemic. His return to Munich, Pesic’s remarks, his personal development as a player and an outline of his NBA experience were among the topics of discussion.

Q: Do you think that Bayern Munich has become the focal point for all German players? The club seems to have built bridges to the NBA, bringing players like Derrick Williams, Josh Huestis and Greg Monroe to Europe for the first time.

A: In general, last summer a lot of former NBA players went to Europe and the Euroleague. Of course, Bayern did the same and that’s very good for the international and European basketball.

Q: Was it an easy decision for you to return?

A: It’s never easy, but as soon as I saw it as a future opportunity, I was really looking forward to this. I felt homey at first when I came here. So, coming back, having so many friends here and knowing the club, definitely makes it feel like this.

Q: Before going to the NBA, did you use to watch Dirk Nowitzki with Dallas?

A: Of course. Everybody did. Actually, I came to basketball pretty late and my family is not so big in the traditional sense. However, as soon as I started playing and watching a little bit of basketball, I realized that Dirk is a hero in Germany. He has a lot of things that inspired me.

Q: In one of your interviews, you referred to some frictions between yourself and the Chicago Bulls’ doctors, concerning your injury. In 2018, you told German outlet “Sport Bild” that there was virtually no trust left in them and that you erroneously believed that because the NBA is the top league, the coaching teams and the medical staff would be perfect. What do you think of the matter now?

A: I talked about a lot of stuff. If you want to talk about this, I had so many interviews about it, especially this and last summer. So, you can quote me on those. I’m not saying anything more about this. I said a lot already.

Q: What didn’t go well in your NBA experience?

A: Wherever you go, it’s a new continent, a new culture. You like some things, you don’t like other things. It’s the same when a Serbian player goes to Italy or an American goes to Europe. One example is that the whole sports culture in America is very big. Emotions are big and everybody knows basketball on a certain level, average. That’s what I really liked in America.

Q: How different is sports culture in Europe?

A: Kids grow up in America playing basketball and everybody knows how to play the game. It’s a lot of one-on-one, talent, the game is quicker with many possessions and high scores. So, the value of each possession is not as high as in the Euroleague.

Q: Were you feeling NBA ready in 2016 when you joined the Bulls? Your ex-coach with Bayern, Svetislav Pesic, expressed the opinion that you could have played another couple of years in Europe.

A: Yeah, I was ready. That’s why I went there. You never know what could have been the best for you in the past. You always know it better afterwards. So, I think every summer I had to make a decision, I made a really good one. I live with the results.

Q: Do you see yourself in Europe permanently?

A: The last two years were wild for me, with many injuries and changes. Right now, I feel very comfortable in Munich, having more and more fun on the court as we grow as a team or if we keep growing. I don’t think about any summer decisions, wherever I go. I’ve signed with Bayern for two years and we’ll see what happens.

Q: Pesic also said that Bayern Munich should be the NBA for you. Do you feel that it is?

A: First of all, I don’t know what he means by this. So, I can’t really answer anything about it. I was in Bayern. I think I did a good job, worked every year. Then, my next stop was in the NBA, where I worked on a lot of stuff. I had a little of bad luck.

Q: Being back to the Euroleague after three years, how does the competition feel?

A: I think that the Euroleague grows very fast. Ever since I left, a lot of changes have happened. The level has grown, rules have changed and that’s a good thing. I’m trying to evolve as a player and a human being every summer and it only seems natural that I have become a better, more complete player. Also, basketball in Munich is getting bigger and bigger every year.

Q: What does it take for a player to evolve in Europe?

A: You just got to work hard, wherever you go. Both in Europe and the NBA you have so many chances to evolve. It’s not the same. As a European in the NBA, I worked on a lot of things. I can’t talk about US players that come to Europe, but in the States you’ve got so many opportunities, guys around that want to work with you and if you take the chance, which I did, you’re going to get better.

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Lakers’ Alex Caruso discusses staying in shape during hiatus https://www.talkbasket.net/81582-lakers-alex-caruso-discusses-staying-in-shape-during-hiatus https://www.talkbasket.net/81582-lakers-alex-caruso-discusses-staying-in-shape-during-hiatus#respond Fri, 17 Apr 2020 00:52:09 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=81582 With the NBA season suspended, players like Alex Caruso don’t have full gyms or courts at their homes, so they find new ways to stay in shape. Caruso recently spoke to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com about the topic, mentioning that his garage has turned into his workout space. Caruso on working out at home: “I […]

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Lakers’ Alex Caruso discusses staying in shape during hiatus

With the NBA season suspended, players like Alex Caruso don’t have full gyms or courts at their homes, so they find new ways to stay in shape.

Caruso recently spoke to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com about the topic, mentioning that his garage has turned into his workout space.

Caruso on working out at home:

“I do workouts at home in my garage … it’s pretty old school. Just a bunch of body weight stuff, some jump rope, and I have a good hill by me that I run up and down.”

What he has at his disposal:

“The physical equipment I have at my house is: four NBA basketballs; a jump rope and a multitude of resistance bands. I’m considering getting some free weights, but you can get done what you need to do with dribbling a basketball and using some resistance. It’s just a different lift. Everybody knows the normal use of weights, getting on a squat rack, or grabbing dumbbells. This is the same thing but just using a band. With the basketball, just maxing out dribbles by pounding the ball with resistance and the muscles react after a whole bunch of reps. The biggest thing about now is that nobody is going to be where they were at when we stopped playing. It’s about staying as close to normal as you can.”

Caruso on feeding himself:

“I’m doing my best. The hard thing is, we have such good food at the training facility, I naturally eat very healthy at the gym. Now without that, I’m having to find more meals, either making them or ordering food. Going to the grocery store and finding things is harder right now too, with everybody wiping through there. I’m also not burning as many calories as I typically have at this time of year, so it’s a little easier to maintain – I don’t have to eat as much food. So, just staying hydrated, and staying on as much of a normal diet as possible.”

“It’s been a split for me in going to the grocery store, of getting pickup or delivery and cooking. Switching that up is going to get me through this period of being inside and the redundancy of daily life. One of my go-to options is True Foods – their rosemary red skin potatoes are phenomenal. And then I just buy simple groceries to get me by; I don’t have a chef like some guys on the team might. Chicken, grilled veggies, rice pilaf, mashed potatoes, stuff like that. My level of skill is average. I’m not making some bomb Italian dish or anything, but I can make food that tastes good and is edible.”

Caruso on sleeping:

“I’m definitely sleeping in a little more. I’m not waking up quite as early I would have had to go to the gym or get to practice or shootaround. I’m probably sleeping 10 hours. Usually I’ll go to bed around midnight at the latest, and then I’ll sleep until 10 a.m.; so that’s part of the give-and-take of living by yourself. You might get lonely but you get some free time.”

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Kanye West claims Lakers legend Kobe Bryant inspired him https://www.talkbasket.net/81324-kanye-west-claims-lakers-legend-kobe-bryant-inspired-him https://www.talkbasket.net/81324-kanye-west-claims-lakers-legend-kobe-bryant-inspired-him#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2020 16:43:30 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=81324 In his recent interview with Will Welch of GQ, rapper Kanye West talked about how important the Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was for him on a personal level: “This is a game-changer for me. He was the basketball version of me, and I was the rap version of him, and that’s facts! We […]

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Kanye West claims Lakers legend Kobe Bryant inspired him

In his recent interview with Will Welch of GQ, rapper Kanye West talked about how important the Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was for him on a personal level:

“This is a game-changer for me. He was the basketball version of me, and I was the rap version of him, and that’s facts! We got the commercials that prove it. No one else can say this. We came up at the same time, together.

And now it’s like, yeah, I might have had a reputation for screaming about things – but I’m not taking any mess for an answer now. We’re about to build a paradigm shift for humanity. We ain’t playing with ’em. We bringing home the trophies,” Kanye said.

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Donald Sloan: “You can’t have guys like LeBron speak for all players. Got to ask the guys on minimum contract” https://www.talkbasket.net/80061-donald-sloan-you-cant-have-guys-like-lebron-speak-for-all-players-got-to-ask-the-guys-on-minimum-contract https://www.talkbasket.net/80061-donald-sloan-you-cant-have-guys-like-lebron-speak-for-all-players-got-to-ask-the-guys-on-minimum-contract#respond Wed, 08 Apr 2020 13:35:32 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=80061 Over ten years as a professional athlete, basketball has taken Donald Sloan almost everywhere. After not getting selected by an NBA franchise in 2010, he began his journey with the Reno Bighorns in the G-League, to which he returned twice. However, his career took an interesting turn very soon, as not one, but three NBA […]

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Donald Sloan: “You can’t have guys like LeBron speak for all players. Got to ask the guys on minimum contract”

Over ten years as a professional athlete, basketball has taken Donald Sloan almost everywhere. After not getting selected by an NBA franchise in 2010, he began his journey with the Reno Bighorns in the G-League, to which he returned twice.

However, his career took an interesting turn very soon, as not one, but three NBA teams asked for his services during the 2011-12 campaign. The Atlanta Hawks, the New Orleans Pelicans and the Cleveland Cavaliers offered Sloan the chance to showcase his talent, but it was in his three-year stint with the Indiana Pacers and the Brooklyn Nets that he had the most success. Coming off the bench, the Texas-born point guard put up some of his career-best numbers and performances between 2014 and 2016.

China holds a special place in his path, as Sloan lit up the Chinese Basketball Association with the Guangdong Southern Tigers as many as three times. Although many European teams approached him, the once Texas A&M standout repeatedly chose other destinations. In fact, if it wasn’t for the COVID-19 pandemic, which stormed over China last winter, he might never have come to Telekom Baskets Bonn from Germany. It is somewhat ironic that Sloan barely showed his talents in a third continent, as he got to play only three games with the German side, the last one being Bonn’s farewell to the FIBA Champions League. AEK Athens, featuring seasoned veterans like Mario Chalmers, Nikos Zisis and Keith Langford, swept the series (2-0) and sealed the ticket for the tournament’s Final 8, scheduled for next September.

TalkBasket.net had a 70-minute discussion with the 32-year-old guard, in which Donald Sloan expressed his opinion on a variety of topics.

First on the list was the status with the coronavirus pandemic in the United States and its potential repercussions on the NBA, including players’ contracts. Following Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard and vice president for the NBA players association CJ McCollum, who estimated about one third of NBA ballers are living paycheck to paycheck, Sloan made a similar reference in this interview, explaining the implications and the background of the lockdown.

The interview is divided into three parts. The first is about the COVID-19 situation, the second is devoted to Sloan’s NBA and college years and the third deals with his past and future plans. To facilitate the reader, a summary of the most important quotes has been placed above each segment.

“I’m good. I’m trying to stay active as much as I can, running outside, watching a lot TV. Other than that, we’re pretty much locked down. In the States, numbers still seem to be rising. They said they’re going to wait for another three weeks to see if they will go down to change some restrictions, but right now there’s a lot of cases every day”, Sloan recounts from his Dallas residence. The USA -and New York, in particular- have been plagued by the pandemic, which has cost thousands of lives.

Part I: “President Trump could have taken the virus a little more seriously. The cancellation of the season is inevitable. If the top names in the league would have been OK, the owners would have the games played behind closed doors. LeBron and Durant will be fine even with a 50% cut, unless they’re willing to give up money so that other players can get more percentage. I will understand if players get a 20, maybe 25% cut on their salaries. A lot of guys live paycheck to paycheck and it’s going to be tough for them.”

Q: As an American citizen, are you content with the way President Trump has been handling the COVID-19 situation?

A: I feel he hasn’t done the best job of getting in front of it, as he could, but I guess he’s trying. Maybe in November or December, when they talked up the coronavirus for the first time before it got crazy in China and before it started spreading in January, he could have passed a couple of bills. He dismembered the Centre for Disease, a group of doctors that worked under the government, just a month before the pandemic got pretty bad. He could have reacted sooner, he could have taken it a little more seriously. In the beginning, many thought that the virus was going to stay in Asia or be as it is in Greece, Mexico and other countries right now, with low numbers.

Q: When did you get back to Dallas?

A: About two weeks ago. We stayed in Bonn for a couple of weeks, trying to figure out if we were going to play any more games, after our last one against AEK Athens in Germany. After that, we had a day off and there were rumours about the season getting postponed because of the virus or games being played with no fans. After the games were suspended, we had a week off, when we practiced once. It would have been OK to stay and wait in Germany, but they closed the facilities. So, there was no point in being there. A lot of guys decided to go home.

Q: What’s your status right now? What did they tell you in Bonn? The only thing we know it that the German League won’t be played at least until the end of April.

A: The GM of the team told me that clubs will be talking about the league in the next weeks. A couple of owners want to finish the season, whether that be with no fans or start again in June. The majority of the teams want to cancel the season, keeping as much revenue as they can and trying to focus on the next year. My position now is that the cancellation of the season is inevitable, no matter how much the teams will fight for the opposite. They will just come to the realisation: “Hey, let’s just cancel it”.

Q: Do you think the NBA reacted quickly enough to prevent games behind closed doors and an even worse scenario?

A: I know many teams which make a lot of money from sponsors, ticket sales, merchandise. In the NBA, money is being paid upfront, through the channels broadcasting the games. They have sponsors that have paid them already. So, I think NBA acted quickly enough, trying to do it with no fans, but once players like LeBron, Steph and a lot of big names stepped in and said: “No, we don’t want to play without fans”, things changed. If the top names in the league would have been OK, the owners would have the games played behind closed doors. It’s a players’ league. Players don’t have much say-so in Europe.

Q: Do you agree with the Basketball Champions League hosting a Final 8 tournament in September to finish the season?

A: Yeah, I heard that they’re going to do that and then they’re just kind of roll into the next season. It’s going to be tough for guys playing on all eight teams because they will have to go back a lot earlier than what they normally would, so that they can play all three games. Overall, I agree with this decision. It’s single elimination games and you play only three times, so it’s not too bad.

Q: In terms of players’ salaries, it seems that there is contradicting information about what’s going on. For instance, NBA teams reportedly intend to withhold up to 25% of players’ money if the season gets cancelled. Which would be the most fair or viable solution to you?

A: There’s a lot of money that’s going to be missed and not paid. NBA teams make money and a large sum is paid upfront anyway, as half-partnership or sponsorship with the team. It’s not like they’re going to give it in the end of the season. So, sponsors will probably be mad if their brand isn’t exposed, but due to the virus there’s no basketball being played. Money is already out and I think they should give the guys what they’re owed. I think that a normal salary should be paid because it’s agreed upon before the virus, but to protect the owners I will understand if players get a 20, maybe 25% cut on their salaries. A lot of guys live paycheck to paycheck and it’s going to be tough for them.

At the end of the day, you can’t have guys like LeBron, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul speak for the NBA players. They have many endorsements and commercials. You got to ask the guys on minimum contract that get $100,000 for the year or make $3,000,000 in two years. You can’t ask LeBron and Kevin Durant because they will be fine even with 50%, unless they’re willing to give up money so that other players can get more percentage. I’d want more money, only because it’s not the same like Europe. In the NBA, if you find a $1,000,000 contract, with taxes and all that you’ll probably get only $500,000.

Q: What happened in Germany?

A: They said everyone is going to get 20% less: staff, front office, players who accept the cut and are willing to stay there and wait what will happen with the season. Me and a couple of other guys knew that they’re going to cancel the season and there’s no reason to stay in Germany. So, I just agreed to the buyout and got my March payment.

Q: Are you a free agent right now?

A: Yes, I haven’t received my termination papers. Potentially, I could explore new opportunities. My agent believes that the league is going to start anytime soon and once they do, there’s going to be a lot of rushing, like trying to find and sign players to finish the season.

Q: In your first NBA season, back in 2011 when you split time between three teams, you witnessed the lockout. To what extent would you associate today’s lockdown to what happened then?

A: The last lockout was about who gets the majority of the pie, but guys were speaking for players who are already had a lot of money. So, they hurried up and signed the deal to end the lockout just because most players needed some type of income coming in. That’s why they ended up signing the deal they didn’t want to sign. Guys were becoming a bit hasty.

The only difference now is that it’s not our choice. I’m sure that 70-80% of the league would have been OK playing with no fans, but the big names wouldn’t play without them. I don’t think this is a majority-decision-type thing. It came from the 20% of the players who are the face of the league, who met with Adam Silver and made the final decision to cut it until everything is under control. There’s a few front office people doing a great job, making sure those people are tested, not showing any signs or symptoms.

Q: Do you believe players’ salaries will be reduced next season?

A: Yeah, the cap is going to be down because they depend on the revenue from this year. That’s how they set the cap. All the money teams thought were going to have for free agency is way lower now. There will be a lot of good guys taking less money or a lot of guys taking minimum deals, so that they can sign the big names they want to. It’s a change, for sure. The NBA is already talking about the league going from December to August. My idea was: Why not scrap this year and start again fresh in September-October? This will be an asterisk year. The only problem with that is guys trying to salvage the season so that they can still get paychecks.

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Photo Source: Aggie Fan on Pinterest

Part II: “In terms of franchise, Indiana was the best place for me. China was a financial decision. There wasn’t room for me in the Wizards because Satoransky showed that he had grown as a point guard. I didn’t see an All-Star in DeAndre, but I knew Europe was going to be tough for Jimmer. He’s not a physical player and Europe is very physical, but referees in Europe choose when they want to let you play like that.

In the second part of the interview, Donald Sloan refers to players: the ones that he looked up to, played with and against, or the ones that stood in his way to an NBA comeback.

Q: Being undrafted in 2010 delayed somewhat your NBA career?

A: No, I wasn’t ready yet. I thought I was because I felt confident at the workouts, but when I actually played Summer League and went to camp with Sacramento I realized I wasn’t ready. So, I played in the D-League to get better and gain confidence. I needed that year of development, before anything else was going to happen. By 2011, I was ready to go. Didn’t get to play right away, but I was good enough to beat a lot of guys who were drafted or were in camp.

Q: When you were playing alongside DeAndre Jordan in college (Texas A&M), did you see a future NBA All-Star in him?

A: He was only 17 at the time and he was a freak athlete. I didn’t see an All-Star, but a potentially good, solid NBA player who can rebound, box out etc, but then he kind of surpassed that. He’s having a great career. He was the No.35 pick in the draft, but had he stayed for another year (in college), he would have been in the TOP 20. He did what was right because he was able to play a lot.

Q: Coming from Dallas, who were your favorite players?

A: Probably Deron Williams, Steve Nash once with the Mavericks, Nick Van Exel. I didn’t really watch a lot of Jason Kidd. When he was in Dallas and they won it that year, I was rooting for Miami actually. Back then, I was a fan of LeBron and Wade, plus Bosh is from Dallas. So, I was kind of rooting for his hometown.

Q: Who’s the most fearsome point guard you’ve ever played against?

A: I’d probably have to say either Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker and I can’t forget Damian Lillard. All those guys, when I played against them, they were hard to stop. I played very well against anybody else: John Wall, Steph Curry, Rajon Rondo, Baron Davis.

Q: Which of your five NBA teams would you go back in a flash if you could?

A: Probably Indiana. I had a lot of success there. They were a pretty tight-knit team, with a winning culture. The city was easy to manoeuvre around and the fans were great. I’ve been to Atlanta, New Orleans, Cleveland, Brooklyn. Atlanta and Brooklyn are great cities, but in terms of franchise Indiana was the best place.

Q: After your probably best NBA season in 2016 with the Brooklyn Nets, you moved to China. Did you have no NBA offers at the time?

A: It was a financial decision. I had the option to go to Detroit, Chicago and San Antonio. All three were trying to get me on another minimum deal at around $1.2 million. After tax deduction and agent fees, there would be something like $700-800,000. In China, the team I played in 2013, made me an offer to come back and play with Yi Jianlian. Me and Carlos Boozer agreed to go over there and the money was great. China came with $2.7 million and tax-free. I was 28 at the time and I had the chance to sign my biggest deal so far. So, I went there, got to the finals and lost. After that, I had no real looks at getting back in the league. I’ve been in camp with some teams, but nothing happened.

Q: In 2017, Wizards coach Scott Brooks said they might keep you for the season. Were you disappointed by the way things turned out?

A: Supposedly, they needed another point guard and I was the one. So, I said: ”Let’s do it!”. But when I got there, the team already had John Wall and Tim Frazier, while Thomas Satoransky was supposed to strictly play at the “2” (because playing him at the “1” didn’t work out in the previous season) and coach told me that I’d probably be playing with him. I was cool with that, but when in camp they were really trying to push him at the “1” and there wasn’t any room for me because he was playing well enough to show that he had grown for the position. So, they stuck with him; John Wall plays 40 minutes a game and Tim Frazier was there in case anybody got hurt.

Q: How was your European debut with Telekom Baskets Bonn?

A: Good. Intense, physical, everything that I had imagined, pretty much. The BCL is a good competition, really controlled. It’s grown-men basketball. This is my first experience in Europe and I wish it could have been better. I was definitely looking forward to playing some pretty good games in the German League. We were going to play against Bayern Munich, Alba Berlin, Bamberg. But what can you do?

Q: For a guy that has excelled in China, how hard is it to adjust to another style of basketball? I was also thinking about Jimmer Fredette’s case and how he seemed to struggle in the Euroleague.

A: No, I think it depends on who you are as a person. Since he was in Middle school, Jimmer used to shoot crazy shots, dribble a lot, have the ball in his hands. He wasn’t used to a “real team” concept, a European, Spurs-style of basketball. China is perfect if you want to shoot the ball many times and you have only one other foreigner on the team. He proved he was a scorer in college, but when the time for the NBA came, they gave him a year and he didn’t show that he can do all that at a higher level. So, teams gave up on him pretty early. If he had played better in the Summer League, guys in the NBA would have thought that he should just get more comfortable. But he wasn’t able to do it in the Summer League either.

NCAA Playoffs: Texas A&M Donald Sloan (15) in action vs Brigham Young Jimmer Fredette (32). Philadelphia, PA 3/19/2009 CREDIT: Al Tielemans (Photo by Al Tielemans /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

He’s not really a point guard, but a scoring guard. In Europe, it worked in some cases because certain things allow a player to dominate the ball and shoot a lot, but for the most part of the year that’s not going to pan out. With the team that he’s on (Panathinaikos OPAP), he can’t do that. His game doesn’t fit the team’s style of playing. That’s why it seems that he can’t do what he’s supposed to do. He’s still the same player, but on a different system. In the Euroleague, it’s tougher to score, but if he adapts, the more he will be able to play his game. He’ll adapt if his coach is willing to wait for it to happen. Teams in Euroleague want to win now and expect him to make all these threes, but Jimmer is not a physical player and Europe is very physical. He’s not used to physicality, size and style of play. I knew that it was going to be tough for him when he signed.

Q: How about yourself?

A: I’m more adaptable. I don’t have to take ten or twenty shots a game. I play my role, I try to see what’s going on throughout the game. It’s funny because in our last game against AEK Athens in Germany, as I was just getting adjusted and comfortable, ready to show what I can really do, I started getting these crazy foul calls. I’ve literally been in foul trouble two times in the past eight seasons. I don’t foul. I play aggressively, make a charge here and there. The most fouls I’ve gotten was two or three. For me, to be on the bench in the first quarter with two fouls and still seven minutes to play, it felt differently.

Q: That rings a bell. It reminds me of what Brandon Rush said about the impossibility to be physical in Europe at a time when physicality is a necessary condition.

A: (laughs). Yeah, exactly! They (referees) pick and choose when they want to let you play physical or when they will call a foul. I scored 14 points in maybe 11 minutes, but I was going to use that game as a statement: “Here I come, it’s time to do what i do”. I’m comfortable with helping my team win. I used to score 26 points in China and I don’t care if I average 10-12 in Europe. I think that if you expected a guy like Jimmer Fredette to average 20 points in Europe, for anyone who knew the league and how the game is played, that was going to be impossible.

Q: How were things in China?

A: Once the virus hit, everything went on lockdown. We were in the Chinese New Year, so there weren’t any games being played until February 1st. When my agent told me one morning that I had to get out, I hurried up, got on a flight and flew back home. Since then, there’s been no real communication on when the league is supposed to start back. So, I thought: “That’s done. It’s time to go to Europe”.

Donald Sloan with the with Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association. Photo Source: www.bestchinanews.com

Q: How about the CBA?

A: Not everybody can go to China because they don’t need so many foreigners on each team. So, you see it as an opportunity to earn a lot of money in a short period of time. In China, once you’re registered with one team, whatever happens -say you get hurt and you’re out for one or two months- the team can keep you there, bring somebody else and then deactivate your contract. In this case, you can’t go back to China for the rest of the season. It’s not like Europe, where they cut you and you can go to another team, getting your letter of clearance. This means that because I was registered with the Beijing team in the beginning, now that they are trying to resume the season, a couple of teams that were interested in me can’t sign me. So, even for China, I have to wait until next season. Rules are a lot different, the money is good, but the league is nowhere near as good as it is in Europe.

Part III: “I probably should have come to Europe a little sooner. There were some teams that had contacted my agent over the years, like Maccabi and Olympiacos. After COVID-19, I could return to Europe as a starter or just work out for a couple of NBA teams and wait for free agency. China is still an option. Europe in 2016 would have been great and I think I’d probably be a starting point guard in most teams, but I had to secure as much money as I could.”

In this third and final act of the interview, Donald Sloan talks European teams’ efforts to sign him and his plans as soon as the pandemic goes away.

Q: You came to Europe for the first time at the age of 32. How did this decision come about?

A: I just think that it was an opportunity that presented itself over the years. I always ended up in Asia. I’ve had a few offers to go to Europe at different points, even at the end of my Chinese seasons. A couple of Euroleague teams wanted to finish the season strong, but at that time I may have been a little banged up. My family needed me to go home in Dallas. But other than that, I’ve always had my eyes set on -eventually- stepping over here. I’m not sure which league -of course I ended up in the Champions League and Germany- but at some point, for sure I knew I had to come.

Q: What do you make of Europe now?

A: They welcomed me with love, open arms, with really detailed, very physical, intense basketball. That’s what I’m used to. Playing in China over the years, I got away from that. There’s really no comparison between Europe and China. It’s night and day. You got some great players over here. Not that China doesn’t have great players, but every team here has guys who are capable.

Q: Were you prepared for that?

A: Mentally I was. I used to watch European basketball. I got a lot of friends and former teammates playing in Europe. I had to lock in and pay attention. There were some teams that had contacted my agent over the years, so I kind of looked at those teams and did a little homework because I knew that eventually I was going to end up coming. I had been trying to get used to the playing style and in my first days with Bonn, we had to go on the road against a tough Greek team. I knew it was going to be loud, calls may not go my way and I may miss shots. I was prepared for turnovers, missing lay-ups, but physically I had to get into the rhythm of a new team. Guys practice differently than what they play. So, when the game started speeding up, they were doing different things, out of character. I was trying to figure people out and at the same time find my own spots on the court. It was a close game and guys played hard. I kept trying to maintain the game flow and keep everybody poised.

Q: Did you expect to meet a player like Mario Chalmers overseas?

A: No, I didn’t expect that. Once they told me who we were playing in the first round of the play-offs in the BCL, I had no idea he was in Greece. I’ve been knowing Chalmers for a while. I had played against him in college when he was at Kansas and also in the NBA. We talked with Rio before the games against AEK. Of course, I didn’t tell him I was rooting for Miami in the 2011 NBA Finals because they beat us in college, so any time I played against him I wanted to win.

Even Keith Langford, who’s a Dallas guy and whom I’ve known when I was in Middle school and he was in High school, I didn’t know he was on the same team. So, I knew those guys before I even knew who we were playing. You know, basketball is a small world. It can take you anywhere.

Q: You’ve also been to the Philippines, apart from the US, China and Europe.

A: I’m making my round. It’s been great. I’m a journeyman. I like putting my footprint on different continents and styles of basketball: NBA, G-League, Europe, Asia.

Q: Were you ever tired of the back and forth between the NBA and the G-League?

A: It takes a strong person, mentally and physically, to endure it. The back and forth, the uncertainty, being on or off the team. I know a lot of guys that attempted to keep trying, pushing, pursuing and then they just stopped, like: “I’m down with you. I can’t keep doing that”. But if you stick with it long enough, you’ll get what you want.

Q: Is the NBA dream so alluring for an athlete so that he can easily give up on what other leagues may offer: money, role, playing time, wins?

A: You don’t play so many minutes in the NBA. Teams are stacked with superstars. You come to Europe and set the tone. You want as a player to be yourself. At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for your career.

Q: Do you wish you would have come to Europe earlier?

A: Certainly. I probably should have. I could have explored Europe a little sooner, but I do think that I’m more open now. Nobody can call anywhere and say I’m a problem to the team. Everywhere I’ve been, teams have always wanted me to come back.

Donald Sloan Telekom Baskets Bonn vs s Oliver Würzburg , Main Round 21 Matchday Photo Credits: wolterfoto.de via www.imago-images.de

Q: What was the story of European teams trying to sign you?

A: I’ve had options to go to Europe, several times, but I stayed the course and did what I thought I should do. Maccabi Tel Aviv offered me a contract for the 2016-17 season, but I ended up going to China.

Next season, I had a team from Russia -it wasn’t CSKA, it could have been Khimki- and I decided to go to the Wizards training camp. They told me they wanted to keep me as the third point guard, but of course they didn’t. After that, I went to the D-League (which later became G-League), because I wanted to wait and see if the Wizards would do something. I stayed there for three months and then got back to China.

After that, Olympiacos tried to get me in the end of the 2017-18 season, March or April, but they had six or seven games left. I was like: “Ah, let’s go home”. It had been a tiring year already because I’d started out with the Wizards, twisted my hamstring and sat out for a month, got back playing really well, went to China.

The next year, after I went to camp with Denver, Maccabi came again. I said: “Nah, I’m going to wait on China”. The money they offered me was good, but it wasn’t China-good. I had the choice to spend a partial year in China or give Maccabi the option to keep me the next year as well, but I didn’t want to give them that much leverage. That’s why I went back to China.

Then, I came home and last summer I had an offer from Bayern Munich. My agent told me they were offering something like $500,000 and we kept trying to get them up. It didn’t work and I decided to go to China again. Once I came back, past February, my agent told me there were offers from Joventud Badalona from Spain, as well as Hapoel Tel Aviv and another Israeli team. I ended up going to Bonn because of the head coach (Will Voigt).

Q: Now what?

A: I predict, depending on what happens across Europe (if they continue to play or not), a lot of teams are going to need a guard. So, I could possibly return (to Europe) as a starter or just work out for a couple of (NBA) teams this summer and wait for free agency, which I know this summer is going to be messed up due to the NBA suspension and Summer League cancellation. Things are going to be different this year, so I’m expecting a lot of different opportunities.

Q: Does this mean that you haven’t ruled out an NBA comeback?

A: No, probably not. Maybe two years ago, but the way that the league is now makes anything possible. Honestly, if I chose to go to a G-League team, I would probably get a call-up from them in order to lead them to winning games and be a good mentor to the young guys playing. But that’s not what I want. I want something substantial. I wouldn’t settle for a G-League contract. There’s too much basketball going on around the world. China is still an option. Once you win a championship over there and you go to the finals three-four times, then you’re always welcome.

Q: In terms of how your game translates to Europe, do you think that you would have been a great fit had you made the decision to play overseas in 2016, after your season in Brooklyn?

A: Yeah, that would have been great. I think I’d probably be a starting point guard in most teams. If a team in Europe had wanted me, I don’t know how much they would have paid me or wanted to. But let’s say about $800,000, three or four years ago. I could get that, but instead I went to China for three times that. I’ve never signed a deal for almost $3,000,000. I’ve signed for $700-800,000, even a million. So, that kind of jumped out for me more than the style of basketball or where I’m going because guys in Europe make $3,000,000 in three seasons. I was able to make it in one. You never know what happens in your career: you break a leg, have a career-ending injury. So, I had to secure as much money as I could. If I was 21 or 22, it would have been different. I’m already 32 now and then I was 28 and I had to do the best financially. You love the game of basketball and you’re passionate about it. It means the most to you, but you can’t do it for free.

Editor’s Note: The interview has been edited for length and clarity, although this Q&A reflects almost the entirety of the word-for-word conversation that happened.

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Pelicans’ Josh Hart talks about getting into soccer, becoming a Chelsea fan https://www.talkbasket.net/79346-pelicans-josh-hart-talks-about-getting-into-soccer-becoming-a-chelsea-fan https://www.talkbasket.net/79346-pelicans-josh-hart-talks-about-getting-into-soccer-becoming-a-chelsea-fan#respond Fri, 03 Apr 2020 14:21:57 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=79346 Josh Hart of the New Orleans Pelicans featured in last week’s Chelsea Mike’d Up podcast to discuss his passion for Chelsea, including how he got into being a Chelsea fan, his first experience at Stamford Bridge, his thoughts on this season. On how he’s become a Chelsea fan Josh: “I got into it in college. When I […]

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Pelicans’ Josh Hart talks about getting into soccer, becoming a Chelsea fan

Josh Hart of the New Orleans Pelicans featured in last week’s Chelsea Mike’d Up podcast to discuss his passion for Chelsea, including how he got into being a Chelsea fan, his first experience at Stamford Bridge, his thoughts on this season.

On how he’s become a Chelsea fan

Josh: “I got into it in college. When I was younger I would only watch England… like Peter Crouch, Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Frank Lampard and obviously some of them played for Chelsea so I just went with Chelsea. Then in college I really started to like it and when I got to Los Angeles, Larry [Larry Nance Jr.] was there and he was a big Chelsea fan, so I was able to talk to him more and more about it and I was able to learn from him, but I couldn’t really watch much of the game, because it would come on at 4 or 4:30 in the morning. Now that I’m in New Orleans, the time difference is a little bit better, so I can get up at 7 or 8 o’clock and watch the game.”

On his first experience at Stamford Bridge

Josh: “Me and Larry were talking about going to London a couple of years ago, but what Larry didn’t understand at the time was that I was a rookie so I hadn’t had my first pay check yet… so Larry told me ‘we’re going to London in three days,’ and I had to say ‘I don’t have the expenses to do this…’ so I had to put that trip on hold, but we’re still planning that trip together.”

“My first trip was amazing. I went there with my girlfriend. We saw them play the first league game against Manchester United at Old Trafford – unfortunately that was not a good game – and then we saw them draw against Leicester City at Stamford Bridge. It was cool, the environment was amazing, the passion something that I had never seen before and that made me love Chelsea and European football even more.”

On the 2019/20 Chelsea season

Josh: “I was pleasantly surprised with just how well they started, how well they’ve been playing. I am excited about the young guys. Chelsea is a big club and there’s a lot of pressure, so I was pleasantly surprised with how well they’ve been doing.”

On his favourite moment this season

Josh: “Probably the Tottenham game. Coming up with a win was huge. I really wished they won the first game against Leicester because I was there and they had started off so well.”

On Christian Pulisic

Josh: “Happy with how he’s playing. Some ups and downs, great performances, injuries and then you’re just waiting week after week after week to find out if he’s fit and if he’s going to play.”

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Cavaliers’ Larry Nance Jr. on how he became a Chelsea fan https://www.talkbasket.net/79345-cavaliers-larry-nance-jr-on-how-he-became-a-chelsea-fan https://www.talkbasket.net/79345-cavaliers-larry-nance-jr-on-how-he-became-a-chelsea-fan#respond Fri, 03 Apr 2020 14:07:13 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=79345 Larry Nance Jr. of the Cleveland Cavaliers featured in last week’s Chelsea Mike’d Up podcast to discuss his passion for Chelsea, including how he got into being a Chelsea fan, his first experience at Stamford Bridge, his thoughts on this season and other football fans in the NBA. On how he’s become a Chelsea fan Larry: “For […]

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Cavaliers’ Larry Nance Jr. on how he became a Chelsea fan

Larry Nance Jr. of the Cleveland Cavaliers featured in last week’s Chelsea Mike’d Up podcast to discuss his passion for Chelsea, including how he got into being a Chelsea fan, his first experience at Stamford Bridge, his thoughts on this season and other football fans in the NBA.

On how he’s become a Chelsea fan

Larry: “For me it was the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. My favourite team was that Samuel Eto’o Cameroon team – I just loved the way they played and at that point I wasn’t that big into the club game. I just loved Samuel Eto’o and at that point Eto’o was on Chelsea, so I just followed Eto’o right to the Blues and then from there it was ‘who are all these geniuses?.’ The I got in college, still a fan of the Blues and that’s when some major triumphs happened for us and then once I got to the NBA I had the chance to meet Thibaut Coutois, Eden Hazard and build a relationship with these guys… so I’ve been a Blues since 2010.”

On his first experience at Stamford Bridge

Larry: “I had seen Chelsea that summer, they were in their US tour and I got to see them play Arsenal at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. It was very cool, but Hazard wasn’t there and all of the big players weren’t there. So I decided that summer that I had to go to London and, unfortunately I didn’t get to see them in Stamford Bridge, but I got a tour of the stadium with Thibaut [Courtois], who showed me around, took me pitch side, we swapped jerseys, so it was really cool. In the same trip I went to Newcastle to see them play Newcastle and it was unbelievable. I got to see Chelsea win there, Hazard scored a penalty, which I caught on my phone and watched it over and over and over. On the same trip, I caught two other games, but I don’t even remember what they were. I’ve been over four times now and I always try to see as many games as possible.”

On other NBA players that support Chelsea or other teams

Larry: “John Henson [Detroit Pistons] is a Chelsea fan, Kendrick Nunn [Miami Heat] got into it through FIFA… Alex Caruso [Los Angeles Lakers] is a Manchester City fan, Josh Richardson [Philadelphia 76ers] is an Arsenal fan, Luol Deng growing up in London is an Arsenal fan, Tristan Thompson [Cleveland Cavaliers] is a Manchester City fan, obviously LeBron owns some of Liverpool… so there are guys that are starting to stepping into the realm.”

On the 2019/20 Chelsea season

Larry: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this season, because going into it I was like ‘new manager, lost our best players – the best player in the Premier League at that time – new striker, we are completely new, we are playing the babies,’ so I was ready to settle for top six if we can get some experience and then fight for it. But we started so hot and some players like Mason Mount started so unbelievably well that I think we unrealistically got our hopes up or me at least. At this point, I have an exorbitant amount of patience and confidence in these guys. I love Frank [Lampard], I like Mason [Mount] – I met him a few times and he’s a great guy – big fan of Tammy [Abraham] as well, Christian [Pulisic] it goes without saying although I wished we played him more. I think Christian is going to be great.”

On his reaction when Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard left

Larry: “It’s impossible to deny that Hazard deserves a statue one day, he’s unbelievable. Seeing him go was one of those things that, being involved in sports, I understand. Even with basketball, we have a cap, so all teams must spend the same, but it’s not like that in football. Leaving Chelsea to go to Madrid, I get it… it’s a bigger pond – it’s a little sad, but at the same time I respect his decision. Same with Thibaut, I’m pretty sure his family was in Madrid so that’s where he wanted to go, so I get that.”

On his favourite moment this season

Larry: “I went to the Liverpool game at Stamford Bridge this season. The experience of just getting to be there, even though we lost, was great. The atmosphere when Kante banged that improbable goal home was awesome, plus as a football fan Trent’s [Alexander-Arnold] free kick was unbelievable. From a football fan’s perspective that game was great.”

On rivalry with other London teams

Larry: “London has to be blue.”

On his passion for Football Manager

Larry: “I play Football Manager religiously. I won a Champions League with Bournemouth, so now I’m trying to take Watford there. I also play Fantasy Premier League… I have a Champions League spot… I started this last year with some buddies and had an absolute blast doing it, so I’ve expanded this year and invited Josh [Hart], Josh Richardson, John Henson, Luol Deng, Stu Holden [former football player].”

On waking up early to watch Chelsea

Larry: “Waking up early to watch games to me that’s fandom. I’m not just waking up to see the 3 o’clock game against Manchester City once a year, that’s not fandom. It is supporting your guys at 7 in the morning or 8:30 in the morning for every game.”

On Christan Pulisic

Larry: “I’m torn. Being American, he’s our baby and I want him to get all the experience in the world, but at the same time being a Chelsea fan, I’m a big Mason guy too.”

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Greg Monroe: “Fans in Europe are great. I understand their culture, but racial assaults on players happen all the time in the NBA as well” https://www.talkbasket.net/78701-greg-monroe-fans-in-europe-are-great-i-understand-their-culture-but-racial-assaults-on-players-happen-all-the-time-in-the-nba-as-well https://www.talkbasket.net/78701-greg-monroe-fans-in-europe-are-great-i-understand-their-culture-but-racial-assaults-on-players-happen-all-the-time-in-the-nba-as-well#respond Mon, 30 Mar 2020 19:45:29 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=78701 In July 2019, when FC Bayern Munich announced the signing of NBA veteran Greg Monroe, the main question was: How would he fare in the Euroleague game? His strengths and weaknesses were readily apparent to those who had watched any of his 632 games in the league, where he averaged 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds. […]

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Greg Monroe: “Fans in Europe are great. I understand their culture, but racial assaults on players happen all the time in the NBA as well”

In July 2019, when FC Bayern Munich announced the signing of NBA veteran Greg Monroe, the main question was: How would he fare in the Euroleague game? His strengths and weaknesses were readily apparent to those who had watched any of his 632 games in the league, where he averaged 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds.

In an article for TalkBasket, Alexandros Tsakos predicted that “Bayern found a player that can change the balance of their offensive plan and improve their hopes of entering the playoffs in a very competitive season in the EuroLeague”. While the first part of the sentence was true, as Monroe was one of the most dominant big men in the competition, the latter turned out problematic.

Over 28 Euroleague caps, the former Georgetown standout registered 12.9 points on 52.3% FG and 74.7% free-throws, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals for a Performance Index Rating of 16.8. Not bad at all, especially taking his consistency into consideration. Monroe had double-digit PIR in each of his 12 last appearances, while also scoring in double digits in nine out of those twelve games.

The downside of his performances, however, was Bayern Munich’s terrible balance of 8 wins and 20 losses that crossed out the German hopes for a play-off ticket early in the season. A season which probably will never resume due to the pandemic, but in any case -even if Bayern win all their six games left to play- game’s already over for them. After a promising 3-2 start, Monroe and his teammates suffered a 1-7 losing streak, from which they never recovered.

TalkBasket.net met Greg Monroe in Athens in mid-January, long before any coronavirus incident was registered in Europe. The 30-year-old center talked about the background of changing continent after nine NBA years, in which his game shares were becoming smaller and smaller, the possibility of getting a foreign passport and his views on fan culture in Europe, including some racist incidents.

Q: What did you know about the Euroleague before coming to Europe?

A: I had played with players that played in the Euroleague; with teammates I had in college and I also grew up with some people. There’s guys in Europe who I keep up with their play here, like Bo McCalebb, Mike James, who I’ve played with in the past and is with CSKA right now.

Q: Not Derrick Williams, though.

A: I didn’t talk to Derrick Williams. I competed against him, but I don’t know him personally. However, I did talk to some other players that had played in Bayern Munich before. So, when I did start to make the decision to come here, they would definitely give me as much information as they could.

Q: Bayern Munich GM Daniele Baiesi said that there were no real negotiations with your side and that it was more of a “take it or leave it” situation. Was it so?

A: (laughs). I mean, yeah. When me and my agent started exploring options here, I was already familiar with the GM Daniele and from there it was more about being the right situation: good club, good players. Munich is a great city. So, that was really it. We explored some other options in the Euroleague, but once talking and feeling comfortable with them, I felt it was the right situation.

Greg Monroe Bayern ALBA
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball

Q: Do you think post play is not in fashion anymore, especially in the NBA?

A: I think it all depends on the situation. There’s guys that still play the post and post up, but it’s more about how the team will set you and what else they want from you. In the Euroleague, obviously it’s more post up, more traditional basketball. NBA is a different game, but there are roles for post up over there as well. It’s just not at a high frequency.

Q: Growing up, which player did you look up to?

A: I was huge fan of Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and also of the big guys that went to Georgetown, like Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo. The lineage that all those guys had at Georgetown, definitely played a part in me going there. I definitely felt comfortable with (Georgetown) coach John Thompson, seeing how he coached the game and how the system was run. When I went on a visit there, it was a no-brainer for me. I felt comfortable with the city of DC, the campus was great and it was an easy decision to go there.

Q: Did you regret signing with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2015? You had to sacrifice a bigger role and more playing time compared to Detroit.

A: No, I don’t regret it at all. When I went there, I knew where I had based my decision on. I thought about it clearly and going there was no regret. The fans and my teammates are great. That’s a wonderful organisation. The owners are among the best in the league, I believe. With all that, I definitely didn’t regret it.

Associated Press
Photo: Associated Press

Q: Some ex-NBAers, like Shane Larkin and Derrick Williams, are willing to apply for or have already obtained a European passport in order to be able to play in the Olympic Games. Would you do the same?

A: (laughs). Yeah, I would consider it for sure. If I had the opportunity, that’s something that you dream of as a player. You want to compete at the Olympics, the World Cup, represent a country. But I don’t know if I’m eligible for that. I guess that if I get a passport, I will be. That’s something I would consider, for sure. I wouldn’t mind it. Obviously, anybody would love to compete in the Olympics.

Q: Did you actually take legal action against an Alba Berlin fan for insulting you racially last December?

A: No. I didn’t realise it at the moment. It was brought to me after the game, but obviously it’s something that I believe shouldn’t be tolerated and that’s what people in Alba Berlin did. I appreciate the team and the Berlin police department for not tolerating and wanting to do process. Honestly, I was focused on the game and I tried to block out fans as much as possible.

Q: Was it the first time that something similar occured to you?

A: Nah, it wasn’t the first time. It happens in the NBA, for sure. Racial assaults on players happen all the time. You have fans that heckle you. I don’t think that the place for that is sports or anywhere in the world, period. But it’s a game in the end of the day. We’re here competing, trying to have fun. I don’t think it’s that deep, especially from the fans’ perspective. Fans are great here in Europe. I can face the culture and understand that you want to support your team. Going on the road and then Munich it’s fun to see the fans in action, but that part of it is just unnecessary. You know, I’m just playing basketball. That’s all.

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Alex Len discusses confusion over trade to the Kings https://www.talkbasket.net/77812-alex-len-discusses-confusion-over-trade-to-the-kings https://www.talkbasket.net/77812-alex-len-discusses-confusion-over-trade-to-the-kings#respond Wed, 25 Mar 2020 16:02:38 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=77812 In an interview with The Athletic, Alex Len discussed wanting to stay with the Atlanta Hawks and being confused over his trade to the Sacramento Kings. Len signed a two-year deal with the Hawks in 2018 and had expressed interest in re-signing with the team. “One-hundred percent — I wanted to stay,” Len said. “I […]

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Alex Len discusses confusion over trade to the Kings

In an interview with The Athletic, Alex Len discussed wanting to stay with the Atlanta Hawks and being confused over his trade to the Sacramento Kings.

Len signed a two-year deal with the Hawks in 2018 and had expressed interest in re-signing with the team.

“One-hundred percent — I wanted to stay,” Len said. “I like the coaching staff. I liked my teammates. Everyone was cool. It really had a family feel to it. Last year, you could see the trajectory was going up…This season didn’t work out as planned, so they had to make changes. It’s a business, so I understood they had to do it.”

Len was traded to the Kings along with Jabari Parker in exchange for Dewayne Dedmon and a pair of second-round picks.

The fact that Dedmon had already played for the Hawks and they already had Clint Capela, left Len confused as to why the Hawks would trade him for another center.

“They didn’t want to pay [Dedmon] in the first place, so it didn’t make sense to me,” Len said. “If they wanted him, they could have just paid him. So they get him as a backup now and end up paying him anyway.”

Len also admitted that he didn’t know what to expect when he got to Sacramento.

He mentioned that the experience playing with the Kings was a “pleasant surprise” and how the Hawks and Kings franchises differed.

“There was a whole different mood and vibe around the team because we were going for the eighth spot,” Len said. “When I was (in Atlanta), it’s tough to play knowing you’re not making the playoffs. You go into the game, and guys are thinking about their points and themselves. (In Sacramento), it’s all about team and winning. Guys don’t care how many points they score; it’s all about winning. Everybody was playing a lot harder. We were playing all five guys on a string. It makes your job easier because everybody else is a lot better.”

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Ross Kreines artfully analyzes the game one tweet at a time https://www.talkbasket.net/77067-ross-kreines-artfully-analyzes-the-game-one-tweet-at-a-time https://www.talkbasket.net/77067-ross-kreines-artfully-analyzes-the-game-one-tweet-at-a-time#respond Sat, 21 Mar 2020 11:57:03 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=77067 Ross Kreines dishes out keen insights about the game via Twitter. Indeed, it’s an acquired skill. Scroll down his Twitter feed for an illuminating summary of how/why players and teams succeed. From players with surnames from A to Z, Kreines dutifully provides educated opinions on their strengths, while preaching positivity along the way. In this […]

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Ross Kreines artfully analyzes the game one tweet at a time

Ross Kreines dishes out keen insights about the game via Twitter.

Indeed, it’s an acquired skill.

Scroll down his Twitter feed for an illuminating summary of how/why players and teams succeed.

From players with surnames from A to Z, Kreines dutifully provides educated opinions on their strengths, while preaching positivity along the way.

In this era of instant information and short-attention spans, Kreines has carved out a niche. Give him his props.

Twitter is his landscape, which he uses to break down the game with intelligent, enthusiasm and expertise.

Developing a following

Kreines has developed a following as a respected, astute observer of the game at the highest levels. His name isn’t tossed out there next to many of the high-profile analysts, but it’s clear he knows the game. His viewpoints illuminate what statistics tell us. And he provides a broader view.

In short, Kreines sees the intricacies of individual and team tendencies. He notices what players do on both sides of the ball and how they impact the game.

How did Kreines develop these skills? How did he became an authoritative observer?

Without hesitation, Kreines, who is in his mid-40s, credits his high school mentor, Fred Grasso (more on that below).

Rapport with a legend

Pro basketball savant Peter Vecsey, whose Hoop Du Jour column was required reading for decades for anyone interested in knowing what was really happening in the NBA, developed a friendship with Kreines in the early years of the 21st century.

It began with an email, both men recalled in the years that followed.

It was in 2003, Vecsey noted in one of his Patreon columns in December 2017.

“I had written a column about Alonzo Mourning’s kidney transplant and it understandably touched him,” Vecsey wrote.

Forming a friendship

Eventually, Ross Kreines’ name began to appear in a few of Vecsey’s New York Post columns along with his astute observations of the game.

For example, from a February 2011 column, Vecsey included Kreines’ insights for a section about the Celtics after Kendrick Perkins was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“You don’t suppose the Celtics (or Magic or Knicks; they need him now more than ever) will take a shot on Eddy Curry once the T’Wolves waive him?” wonders column contributor Ross Kreines. “If anyone can motivate him it’s K.G.”

From an NBA first-round playoff preview in April 2012, Kreines’ comments were included in looking ahead to the Heat-Knicks matchup. “The Heat cannot settle for long jumpers,” advocates Kreines. “They should be in attack mode and let Chris Bosh catch the ball elbow-extended as he can take most bigs off the dribble. This will give them more spacing. Additionally, Erik Spoelstra needs to play LBJ more at the four.”

Overcoming huge obstacles

Ross Kreines’ Twitter intro (@rosskre) gives a glimpse into the huge obstacles he’s overcome in life: “Played bball, until a car accident broke my neck C6-C7. Dr’s said I would not move from neck down, proved them wrong. Now breaking down the game at a high level.”

He had been named the Jericho High (New York) School boys varsity team captain for the 1990-91 season before the life-changing automobile accident in October 1990. He was coming off a junior season with a respectable scoring average of about 16 points per game. Indeed, a future as a college player was far from a preposterous idea.

Vecsey’s aforementioned Patreon piece dug deeper into Kreines’ story.

A living miracle

Indeed, the odds were against him.

“I had to wait four days until I underwent surgery, so they screwed my head to the wall-halo,” Kreines told Vecsey. “Doctors told my mom I would never move from the neck down.

“Ross refused to accept it,” Vecsey wrote. “Neither did his mother Sandi, his most powerful ally and staunchest supporter.

“Coach Grasso was another vital backstop. His belief Ross would one day walk never wavered.

“ ‘When he saw me in the hospital, I told him I would move, he believed me,’ Kreines was quoted as saying. ‘So many others quit on me but not coach Grasso (or his two sons) Jared or Matthew.’ ”

Added Kreines: “Coach Grasso taught me about loyalty. He gave me hope in darkness.”

Becoming a motivational speaker

Eventually, Kreines used his life experiences as a springboard to help others. He became a motivational speaker, visiting hospitals in New York.

In a Long Island Business News article from February 2003, the publication reported the following:

“Kreines also connects one-on-one with patients at hospitals where he gives motivational speeches. ‘People are familiar with my story and get my number. I tell them not to give up and continue to exercise. After what I’ve been through, if I can’t get people into the gym, no one can.’ ”

Analysis from Ross Kreines

Exhibit A on March 10 regarding Toronto Raptors macho forward Pascal Siakam: “(He) continues to do a great job using his length/athleticism on both ends of the floor to go along with his ability to stretch the floor, take his man off the dribble, find the open man, rebound and operate with his back to the basket. He can also guard multiple positions.”

Exhibit B on March 6 about one of the Los Angeles Clippers’ unsung heroes: “When Montrezl Harrell: steps on the court, he leaves nothing in the tank with his big time motor, toughness, effort and the will to not get outworked. He also is active on the glass, sets hard screens, runs the floor hard and makes all the extra effort plays. Skills you can’t teach.”

Exhibit C on March 1 about a rookie playmaker on the Memphis Grizzlies: “Ja Morant is so tough and explosive off the bounce whether he is creating his own offense or creating for others. He also does a great job forcing his tempo, competes hard on both ends of the floor, makes others around him better along with unreal athleticism.”

Exhibit D on Dec. 7, 2019, about a pair of elite head coaches: “Erik Spoelstra and Brad Stevens put their players in position to compete and win every night with solid adjustments, sets, use of their bench and truly understand how to use their players’ strengths.”

An interview with Ross Kreines

In a series of emails in recent weeks before and after the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Talk Basket interviewed Ross Kreines about his love for basketball, his mentor at Jericho High and how following the game occupies his time.

How did you learn the game? And how do you follow the game nowadays?

I had played the game before being a passenger in a car accident and was able to obtain some scholarship offers. My high school coach Fred Grasso saw the game and taught the game better than anyone. He taught fundamentals at the highest levels and his basketball IQ was off the charts and he would visit me at the hospital every week with his sons and then later at home and on the phone.

When the doctors told me I would never move from the neck down, he was one of the few that believed and stuck with me. He taught me more about the game and he was family to me. I also learned the game even further through going to Bob McKillop, Five Star, Rick Pitino (and others’) camps. I had even learned more about the game through a friendship with Willis Reed after my accident.

I love studying a players’ strengths, weakness, adjustments, activity/effort, the eye test. I also like watching how a player adjusts. If he is struggling with his jumper, is he looking to attack and get to the hoop, create contact to get to the line so he can see the ball go through the net, creating for others? Defending and activity and effort should always be there.

Take a shooter like Duncan Robinson on the Heat. He can flat-out shoot the ball, but what makes him even tougher to defend is his constant movement off the ball, the way he squares quickly, utilizes screens and always knows where his feet are as he rarely shoots long 2s.

What else do you enjoy as an avid viewer of college and pro hoops?

I also love watching some fundamentals — player catching in triple threat using shot fakes, jab steps which all help create space and even make you more of a weapon or watching bigs catch and recognize how their defender is playing them before putting the ball on the floor and using drop steps, baby hooks, up-and-unders, recognizing a double and passing out for a better look along with the Sikma Move.

I do like breaking down NCAA players. As Peter will tell you, we had talked about Jimmy Butler’s talent at Marquette, (Malcolm) Brogdon at Virginia, John Collins at Wake (Forest), Bam (Adebayo) at Kentucky … so many more along with Serge (Ibaka) when he was not getting much run with the Thunder, etc. …

I had always wanted to work in a front office. … I had always followed Peter and he let me make small contributions to his unreal column. I am very fortunate to consider him a good friend.

Good timing to showcase players on Twitter

Elfrid Payton and Terence Davis were your Twitter subjects for Feb. 3. Why Payton and Davis on this day?

The reason why I believe I tweeted about Elfrid and Terence that day is as far as Elfrid, he was playing a tremendous floor game that night, believed he picked up a triple-double. He was making others around him better, rebounding, defending, getting in the lane and also making winning plays. Terence impressed me with his ability to come off the bench and change the game.

When I say change the game, he came off the bench and provided instant offense, got you all the 50-50 balls, forced steals, guarded multiple positions, rebounded and believe was the reason for the Raptors coming back and winning that game. In certain players it’s not all about numbers.

More insights from Ross Kreines

When did you start using Twitter for this type of succinct analysis?

I believe I had started using Twitter in 2012 and watch a ton of games, so it’s rapid thoughts at that moment or maybe later.

I do watch a ton of college basketball and especially Bryant (University) as Jared Grasso (son of Fred) who I consider family is doing a great job and will continue to.

Scouting report on Kobe Bryant

Let’s flash back to, say, 2000. What would you have penned in a tweet about Kobe Bryant, if Twitter existed then?

If I was to write a tweet about Kobe. He can flat-out score the ball and beat you in so many different ways along with an unreal skill set, basketball IQ/determination, passion and the will to never quit.

Ross Kreines’ parting thoughts

One keen observer noted that “Ross is always so positive and selfless, so I don’t know if he’d answer truthfully… but I’d want to know how frustrated it must be to regularly recognize college talent underrated or overlooked by pro scouts and GMs. Year after year he sees promise in players the experts miss.”

How do you respond to these statements?

Honestly, very frustrating.

During these uncertain difficult times when almost everything is on hold or canceled, how do you sum up your appreciation for “normal” times when you dissect the game and dish out analysis for people who truly follow basketball?

I always loved and appreciated the game, but after my accident the love was even greater and you could say the same with the game being on hold. The game is so special and really enjoy sharing any thoughts that I may have. I really was lucky that I was coached by Fred Grasso. The way he saw and taught the game was off the charts … and then going to camps like Five Star and Lu-Hi (Long Island Lutheran High School, New York) along with talking with Willis and then Peter just increases your basketball IQ and deepens your love for the game.

I love talking the game, breaking down the game in any aspect. The game brings so much of us together.

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Olivier Hanlan: “The goal is to get on an NBA team, but I keep the doors open for China” https://www.talkbasket.net/76954-olivier-hanlan-the-goal-is-to-get-on-an-nba-team-but-i-keep-the-doors-open-for-china https://www.talkbasket.net/76954-olivier-hanlan-the-goal-is-to-get-on-an-nba-team-but-i-keep-the-doors-open-for-china#respond Fri, 20 Mar 2020 20:09:57 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=76954 Canadian combo-guard Olivier Hanlan was having a good season with Iraklis BC in Greece, leading his team in most statistical categories. Past tense is necessary here, since the 2019-2020 campaign seems very difficult to resume in the following weeks. Up until the break, Hanlan averaged 16.3 points, 3.55 rebounds, 3.45 assists and 15.5 PIR over […]

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Olivier Hanlan: “The goal is to get on an NBA team, but I keep the doors open for China”

Canadian combo-guard Olivier Hanlan was having a good season with Iraklis BC in Greece, leading his team in most statistical categories. Past tense is necessary here, since the 2019-2020 campaign seems very difficult to resume in the following weeks. Up until the break, Hanlan averaged 16.3 points, 3.55 rebounds, 3.45 assists and 15.5 PIR over 20 Greek League games with the team from Thessaloniki. Iraklis BC currently ranks seventh, which means that if there is still a season, they could secure a play-off berth for the first time in sixteen years.

Hanlan played college basketball for the Boston College Eagles of the NCAA and was selected with the 42nd overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Utah Jazz. His unimpressive turnup at the 2015 NBA Summer League could not land him a contract, but Europe has proven more generous. The Quebec-born player took a good taste of Euroleague action with Zalgiris Kaunas, tried also the French League with Le Mans, had another shot at the NBA through the Spurs-affiliate team in the G-League and returned to Europe for Telekom Baskets Bonn in Germany. This is quite a journey for a man at the age of 27, who’s still waiting for an NBA job to come his way.

About a month before the coronavirus pandemic brought almost every sports competition to a halt, TalkBasket.net spoke with Olivier Hanlan in Crete, where the Canadian guard participated in the Greek All-Star Game. The 6-foot-4 guard took the time to talk about his prospective career destinations, which do not exclude China, his impressions from playing in Greece and his potential return to the Canadian NT after almost three years.

“It’s always fun to come to an event like this, where there’s not too much stress going on and you can enjoy it, see all the top players in the league and just have fun. I’m looking forward to finishing the season in the play-offs”, Hanlan said in the beginning of the conversation, unaware of what was about to follow a few weeks later.

Q: How is your season in Greece?

A: I think it’s going pretty well. Every team has ups and downs. We have some more games to play in the regular season.

Q: How did Iraklis BC come along?

A: It was more of a basketball choice, in terms of being able to play my style of basketball and demostrate that for a full year. I mean having the ball in my hands, being aggressive and having the freedom on the court to use my instincts.

Q: Would you compare Iraklis fans to the Zalgiris crowd?

A: They’re very similar. Both have many fans, although Zalgiris has amazing fans and the environment over there is pretty crazy. The country is small, but everyone knows basketball over there. Greece is the same thing. Fans show up in every game, no matter if we play the first or the last team. They send me thousands of messages on Instagram to support me. They’ve been good to me and hopefully we can finish on a good note.

Q: Competition-wise, how’s the Greek League?

A: I feel like there’s a lot of good teams and players. It’s one of the leagues where there’s many good guards, especially from Panathinaikos and AEK Athens. I’ve played four-five years in Europe and I’ve always bumped into Tyrese Rice throughout the process. But just seeing him be so consistent these last years he’s been playing, is pretty incredible. He’s still really good. I respect his game, his journey and his career.

Q: Are you going to participate in the next Summer League?

A: I’m not too sure what I’m doing in the summer yet. I’m trying to focus on this season; finish it as good as possible on a group and on an individual note. Sometimes, playing overseas is up and down, but as long as you stay steady and consistent throughout the season, you’ll be alright.

Q: Do your NBA rights still belong to the San Antonio Spurs?

A: No, after last summer they don’t belong. Last year, I was waiting to sign in Europe to release my rights. Now, I’m just focused on making the playoffs. NBA is always the ultimate goal, right? So, I leave it up to my agent and try to focus on the basketball aspect of things. I feel like this year I’ve been pretty consistent with my play and I just need to finish this X amount of months and games to get to the playoffs, which is very important for me. I feel that it’s another opportunity to showcase your abilities and all eyes are watching you.

Q: How was your experience in the 2015 NBA draft?

A: It was good going through that draft process. I think I worked out for 20 teams. So, it was a pretty crazy process, but it’s part of basketball. There’s so many things throughout a career. Everybody has different journeys, but overall it was interesting.

Q: Did you keep in touch with the Utah Jazz organisation after they drafted you?

A: Yeah, throughout my years in Europe. But every summer I play a good amount of time in the Summer League. I’ve always bumped into people and most of the time it’s easy to keep in contact with them.

Q: You managed to win a G-League title in the States with the Austin Spurs in 2018. How was that?

A: We had a pretty good run and it was nice what we did with that group of players. Sometimes, the G-League can be a tricky thing, but we had a really good team and group of coaches. That’s why we ended up winning.

Q: Would you rather play in the G-League again or would you explore European options?

A: I will never play in the G-League, starting with a G-League contract. That’s for sure. I’d always pick Europe. But some of the two-way contracts are getting interesting because they’ve started to pay players more and more money. For sure, it would be something interesting, but the goal is to get on an NBA team. If I don’t feel the need to go back to the G-League, I could make a good amount of money in Europe too.

Q: Would China be considered an alluring destination or not anymore?

A: My agent has always brought the Chinese League to my attention. Especially for a guard like me, who likes to score, it would be a pretty interesting situation. The season is a little shorter and they have a lot of money over there. So, I’ve always told him: “Keep the doors open for that!” (laughs).

Q: Do you believe that you deserved an NBA opportunity?

A: You know … it’s never given, you got to earn it. I know guys that right from the draft have an immediate role and others that go to the NBA, stay for two years and then get overseas for five or six years before they get a chance. So, I just keep on working and hopefully a chance comes up.

Q: Did you pick anyone’s brains regarding career opportunities during the Greek All-Star Game? There were some very accomplished guys present, like the NBA champ Brandon Rush.

A: No, it was just a chance for all of us to have fun. I feel like sometimes us as athletes are so serious, stressful, always worrying about our next job and staff like that. So, for once it was the complete opposite. You just try to forget about all the important things, have fun, get to see some familiar faces from the NBA or overseas.

Q: What will you do after your contract with Iraklis BC expires?

A: It’s too early to say anything. Most of the time, that’s not my job to focus on. I think that sometimes when you’re too much focused on what’s ahead, you start getting distracted. Now, all my energy and my thining is to win the games left with the team to go to the playoffs.

Q: Are you going to play with the Canadian National Team again?

A: I was. I still have really good communication with them throughout the years, but now it gets a little tricky with the timing. Communication with the National Team is still there, but we’ll see what happens. They have the Pre-Olympic Tournament next summer and I wasn’t able to join them in their last games. It’s always an honour to play for Team Canada. It’s like an All-Star Game. You see so many good players and I’ve been playing with the NT since I was 17. We’re a team with a lot of potential, but some times it takes a little more experience to win those kind of games.

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Leanne Barrett: New Zealand’s first FIBA agent https://www.talkbasket.net/75334-leanne-barrett-new-zealands-first-fiba-agent https://www.talkbasket.net/75334-leanne-barrett-new-zealands-first-fiba-agent#respond Wed, 11 Mar 2020 06:58:30 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=75334 Leanne Barrett is a people person. In particular, she enjoys the camaraderie that sports brings to individuals’ lives. She enjoys helping people, too. Just ask her. The first FIBA-certified agent from New Zealand detailed her journey from working in aqua aerobics and aqua jogging for a decade and a half and retail jobs to setting […]

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Leanne Barrett: New Zealand’s first FIBA agent

Leanne Barrett is a people person. In particular, she enjoys the camaraderie that sports brings to individuals’ lives. She enjoys helping people, too.

Just ask her.

The first FIBA-certified agent from New Zealand detailed her journey from working in aqua aerobics and aqua jogging for a decade and a half and retail jobs to setting her sights on a job in basketball in an exclusive interview with Talk Basket.

The 56-year-old mother of two sons (the eldest is a Florida-based professional singer; the youngest is employed by the Fletcher Group of Companies in New Zealand) says she’s been “happily married for 25 years.”

As an adult, the Auckland resident has gained a wide range of skills from her various jobs. She spelled it out this way: ”Formerly in administration and marketing of shopping malls such as Westfield in Australia and New Zealand and the Greenfields construction administrator of the Botany Town Centre, I also was marketing manager for Caltex Oils for a time, and taught aqua aerobics and aqua jogging for fitness for 15 years.”

And then in her mid-50s, Leanne Barrett pursued a new path.

Leanne Barrett and one of her clients, Dom Kelman of the New Zealand Basketball League’s Southland Sharks. 

Getting to know Leanne Barrett

So why did you decide to become a basketball agent? How did it happen?

I decided to sit my FIBA Certification to achieve my license last year in 2019 as I was helping friends and basketball associates’ children get into USA colleges at all levels from JUCO to Division I and then helping them get professional gigs, for the love of it. Everyone said, you should get paid for this, so I studied, paid for the trip to sit the test, paid for the test, paid for the flights and accommodation, passed the character assessment, the test and then paid FIBA to certify me.

You must pay FIBA every year, it is expensive, and you must attend a FIBA Agents conference at least every two years, wherever in the world they decide to hold it at your own expense!

At the time I sat FIBA I didn’t realize there were no others certified in New Zealand, so it was a pleasant surprise to be the first! It worked in well with the new FIBA ruling on our tournaments in Australia and New Zealand as they will only work with FIBA Certified Agents now.

Nowadays, what is your long-term goal as an agent?

(My) long-term goal is to try to become a NBA players’ agent.

What do you consider the most satisfying aspects of your work as a FIBA agent? And what are the most challenging parts of the job?

Most satisfying is the fact that I’m helping young adults play the sport they love and travel the globe at the same time.

Since my certification, the good ol’ coronavirus has hit the globe big time and I have had players in comfortable-paying teams, be sent home with no income ongoing and less and less leagues staying open to place them into.

The work of an agent

According to your entry on the FIBA Agents directory, you are representing 20 basketball players. Are you seeking to expand step by step or perhaps have incremental targets over five, 10, 15 years?

I keep a book of 25 players, as I place a player I replace them with a new athlete. Once the player has commenced his playing contract with his team, I start collecting renewed footage and highlight videos from them and promoted them for their next team once they complete the contract they are in. I also represent players that I have not contracted and will not unless I can find them a job, then I will sign them for the length of the contract only.

As I am a one-man-band, so to speak, I will always keep a small book of players, that enables more personal and reliable attention.

Additional insights

What’s the best advice you’ve received from a past or current agent about the keys to success on the job?

I have not received advice from other agents. I’m finding most of them very financially oriented, whereas I choose to be motivated by the athletes’ success and happiness, and placing them in good teams with good people.

Approximately how many hours do you work in a “typical week” as a FIBA agent in 2020?

I work around 15 hours per day most days, Monday in New Zealand is Sunday over in Europe and USA so it is my quiet day and I catch up with administrative stuff.

Agent Leanne Barrett and basketball-playing siblings Shane Temara (left) and younger brother Troy Temara, both of whom play for the NZBL’s Manawatu Jets. 

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Darrun Hilliard: “Back to the NBA? Only with a guaranteed contract. But I see myself with CSKA long-term” https://www.talkbasket.net/74133-darrun-hilliard-back-to-the-nba-only-with-a-guaranteed-contract-but-i-see-myself-with-cska-long-term https://www.talkbasket.net/74133-darrun-hilliard-back-to-the-nba-only-with-a-guaranteed-contract-but-i-see-myself-with-cska-long-term#respond Fri, 06 Mar 2020 14:45:09 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=74133 On one of their most impressive nights ever, reigning Euroleague champions CSKA Moscow hammered hosts Panathinaikos OPAP at the OAKA Arena by 97-66 last Thursday (March 5, 2020). European club history was written in the Greek capital, since the Greens had to endure their worst home defeat ever, while the final margin (-31) was the […]

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Darrun Hilliard: “Back to the NBA? Only with a guaranteed contract. But I see myself with CSKA long-term”

On one of their most impressive nights ever, reigning Euroleague champions CSKA Moscow hammered hosts Panathinaikos OPAP at the OAKA Arena by 97-66 last Thursday (March 5, 2020). European club history was written in the Greek capital, since the Greens had to endure their worst home defeat ever, while the final margin (-31) was the biggest since the Euroleague was initiated, back in 2000!

Of course, the main credit goes to the eight-time continental champs, who turned a theoretically dangerous game into a kind of training session, making many of the almost 8.000 PAO fans to seek consolation elsewhere five minutes before the final buzzer.

Former NBA player and G-League winner, Darrun Hilliard, played a huge part in the Russians taking over Athens. The 27-year-old swingman is 10 for 17 from downtown over the last three games, but against Pana he tied his second-best scoring performance, pouring 21 points on 5/9 threes. 77 games with Detroit and another 14 with San Antonio over three NBA campaigns most probably did not mark or shape his course, which seemed to be destined for Europe, but they definitely helped Hilliard decide on his career priorities.

Last year with Kirolbet Baskonia, the Villanova standout had a more than decent rookie Euroleague season (9.4 points), but this year -playing for a real powerhouse, as he tells TalkBasket.net- he has every reason to believe that he can deliver at any level.

Q: I must tell you this: Panathinaikos has never suffered so big a defeat -especially at home- in their Euroleague history. So, I guess it’s something that you can pride yourselves on.

A: Oh, I didn’t know that. For sure, it’s not easy to win here. They’re a great team, they’ve got great fans and I think that we should feel proud.

Q: What gave you this easy win?

A: I think it was our mindset. As soon as we landed in Greece, we minded our own business. During the game, we took care of the little things: rebounds, 50-50 balls.

Q: Were you upset after losing to Panathinaikos in the first round?

A: Yes, because it was a different type of game. Technically we weren’t at home and it was a game that came down to the wire. Calathes hit a big shot. We were pretty upset and so we came in here trying to prove a point.

Q: What’s different in the Euroleague now that you’ve already played one full season?

A: I think the competition is high. More guys are coming over to the Euroleague, both from the NBA and other places. Just the talent is higher and I think it’s going to get even better in the years to come. That’s the biggest difference.

Q: Last year, you told me that European basketball had surpassed your expectations. How about this season?

A: I said that because I had never experienced or heard about it. I think that’s fair to say because I had never been here before. It’s still living up to my expectations, but there’s one thing: tonight, I wanted to see some “crazy” crowd or something like that. I was expecting the fans to be like that. That was something I really wanted to experience this year and the years to come. Hopefully, I can get that experience in the future. I’ve seen videos of Panathinaikos fans on Youtube and people have told me about the fires and the flares. Honestly, I hope that one day I can see all of that. I thought that there’d be a little more people here today, a lot more fans. The crowd was great, don’t get me wrong, but I expected more of them to come.

Q: The game itself didn’t help them, for sure.

A: Yeah, that’s true. But it is what it is.

Q: Is playing in Europe still helping you improve, as you stated last year?

A: For sure, you can definitely become a better, a more well-rounded player and that can lead to other things. People perform here at a high level. I think that stands out. It speaks volumes for your game and can lead to better things. Last year, I was coming to Europe unknown. I don’t think anyone knew who I was when I came to Baskonia. I think that this year I got a litte bit of a name. I’m just coming into my own a little bit more. It’s my second year and I got more experience. This and last year were totally different realms.

Q: Do you see yourself in Europe long-term?

A: I don’t know. I see myself playing for CSKA. I really love playing for them and if they would have me long-term, then we can talk business.

Q: What’s so different compared to Baskonia?

A: It’s a big difference. CSKA is CSKA. The first and foremost thing is championships, titles. CSKA has more titles and is definitely a powerhouse. No disrespect to Baskonia at all. I love them, but I think that CSKA is one of those teams where expectations are very high in each and every game and practice. You always got to deliver.

Q: What’s your contract status with them?

A: It’s for two years, not a 1+1. I’d love to stay with them. My family is loving it, as well. My wife has settled down in Moscow. We’re raising a son and I don’t want to move around anymore.

Q: What does it take to succeed in a team that aspires to the top and not just to the play-offs?

A: Mindset. Every player is talented and good, but you got to have that mindet that you’re going to win, you’re not going to fail. You expect to win every single day.

Q: Do you miss a Final Four?

A: Yes, that’s the goal. I’ve never been to a Final Four and hopefully I can get this year.

Q: Have you embraced your role with CSKA?

A: You got to make an adjustment and do what’s right for the team, whether it’s shooting, rebounding or passing or whatever the case may be. You got to figure that out and do your best.

Q: If you were to go back to the NBA, on which conditions would it be?

A: Guaranteed contract, for sure (smiles). Only. But I’m cool with CSKA right now.

Q: Where did you enjoy the game more, Detroit or San Antonio?

A: Oh man, that’s a good question. Detroit was nice because they drafted me, they took a chance on me and that was nice too. But San Antonio was kind of like up and down, with two-way contract and so forth. I really liked Texas, though.

Q: How is it to explain that players even on the same team show different levels of adjustment to European basketball?

A: It’s a different game. It takes a lot of time for you to dig a hole to that. It’s a different type of playing style, coaching, environment. First, you got to be willing to adjust, willing to change to what’s best for the team. It’s a team thing in Europe. For certain players, it can be difficult to accept because they’re coming from a situation where they’re “the guy” or “the man” and they get all the shots or whatever the case may be.

Q: Do you believe that many of them ultimately settle for less, trying to stay in the NBA instead of pursuing a career overseas?

A: That’s just whatever the player prefers. If they prefer to stay in the United States because they are from the United States, that’s their choice. Everybody has a choice. I’ve made up my mind on this, but hopefully it’s a long career. You never know what happens.

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Ron Baker: “If there were any Kobes in Europe, they should be playing in the NBA” https://www.talkbasket.net/73778-ron-baker-if-there-were-any-kobes-in-europe-they-should-be-playing-in-the-nba https://www.talkbasket.net/73778-ron-baker-if-there-were-any-kobes-in-europe-they-should-be-playing-in-the-nba#respond Thu, 05 Mar 2020 11:24:41 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=73778 Ron Baker was one of Euroleague champions CSKA Mocow’s most prominent signings last summer. The (almost) 27-year-old guard sought a different style of basketball and probably a slightly different role compared to the one he had in his two and a half years with the New York Knicks (2016-18) and his brief stint with the […]

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Ron Baker: “If there were any Kobes in Europe, they should be playing in the NBA”

Ron Baker was one of Euroleague champions CSKA Mocow’s most prominent signings last summer.

The (almost) 27-year-old guard sought a different style of basketball and probably a slightly different role compared to the one he had in his two and a half years with the New York Knicks (2016-18) and his brief stint with the Washington Wizards that lasted roughly a month. Baker had been a free agent since January 7, 2019. Seven months later, CSKA came in with a contract and brought the former Witchita State star (2012-16) to Europe.

However, adjusting to the Euroleague and to the requirements of one of its top clubs is no easy feat for anyone, even for someone who kept grinding throughout his career. Making the NBA was one important goal for Baker, but getting more playing time with CSKA Moscow has been proven almost as difficult. So far, he’s been averaging less than 12 minutes per game, while posting modest numbers: 2.6 points, 1 rebound, 0.9 assist in 26 games with the Russian side that’s still trying to secure its Euroleague play-off spot.

TalkBasket.net had the chance to discuss with Ron Baker many topics, including his presence in the NBA, getting over defeat on both sides of the ocean, Conner Frankamp’s potential, Rick Pitino’s tweets and the elements that he thinks make the Euroleague a special competition. If anyone ever doubted whether a few months ago he knew who Alexey Shved was or not, the answer is simple: Of course he did!

Q: How is the season going for you and CSKA?

A: Obviously, we’ve had a couple of hiccups here and there throughout the season. We’re still in the TOP-8, which is important. In the play-offs, I think we’re going to be a team that’s going to be tough to beat out. Play-offs are the first call and obviously we want to get to the Final Four and get the championship. At times, the team shows that we can play at high caliber. On a personal level, it’s my first time playing in the Euroleague, so I’m sure that it is as expected. I came in pretty open-minded and CSKA treated me with tons of professionalism. I’m starting to find a little groove, as far as playing 12 or so minutes a game. I’m just trying to play hard with the opportunities I get.

Q: Would you say that CSKA resembles an NBA team in terms of organisation?

A: Absolutely. The people that helped me get there are organised, very professional and easy going. The President (Andrey Vatutin), Natalia (Furaeva, Vice-President), the GM are doing a great job, making sure that we have everything, regardless of the hiccups in my transition. I spoke to Kyle Hines and coach Itoudis before getting there. Kyle being from New Jersey was familiar with the New York Area and was telling me how the situation was going to be. Obviously, he’s a legend over here. It was easy to listen to the things he was telling me about this league (the Euroleague) and how things are in CSKA. That was the determining factor after I talked to him.

Q: Did you get any info from Conner Frankamp, your ex-teammate at Witchita State , who’s also playing in Europe?

A: I’ve heard he’s in Greece.

Q: He’s playing for Rethymno, in Crete.

A: Really? That’s awesome! I could say a lot of good things about him and go on and on. He was a great teammate at college. I’m sure he tunes into our games every now and then. I also know his agent, who talks highly of him. I think Conner’s ceiling is very high. He can do some dangerous things in the Euroleague as well.

Q: Do you believe that he’ll be playing in the Euroleague anytime soon?

A: I think eventually, yeah. Without a doubt. All it takes is a couple of good seasons. This Greece (Euroleague) teams might pick him up.

Q: By the way, CSKA has lost all three games against Olympiacos and Panathinaikos this season. How do you explain that?

A: I didn’t really think about that until you told me. I’m new to Europe, so I get a little confused when I look at the standings and try to remember games. It’s a shame being 0-3 against Greek teams and those are games that can change our outcome, but Greek basketball is obviously high standards.

Q: Is there really a big difference between Europe and the U.S.A. in the way defeat is perceived?

A: The thing about the U.S. is that you’ve got 82 games. Some guys are playing four games a week. Instead, here in Euroleague you might play one or maybe two a week. So, the turnaround is not as quick here. Sometimes, it’s a thorn inside for a couple of days when you lose a game. It’s a bad taste in your mouth, while in the NBA you play again the next night or the night after. So, you’re kind of a clean slate after a loss.

Q: Have you adjusted to that?

A: (sighs) I’m trying my best, yeah. It’s just a little different, especially for me because I’m just playing Euroleague and not VTB League. I’m trying to stay positive and take days one at a time. After a tough loss, the only thing we can do is stay together, watch film and learn from it.

Q: How did President Vatutin react after another defeat to Olympiacos?

A: Obviously, as he should be, very disappointed. He’s been in this business a long time, he puts a lot of heart and desire in his job. He has the right to be upset with the loss. Everyone is upset. He’s a guy that we should really be playing every game as hard as possible for. He got us all here, he respects us and we’ve got to show more effort and attitude for him.

Q: How was your time with the Knicks?

A: Playing in the NBA was a privilege. I took every day as an opportunity. I really enjoyed it. Obviously, being on a team that’s battling for a first-round pick is kind of tough, but I had no complaints with the organisation. They treated me very well. As a kid coming from Kansas, I could never have imagined a better start to a professional group.

Q: Being undrafted in 2016, did you expect to play in the NBA eventually?

A: In college, when I had a good season in my sophomore year, I really had dreams of turning an NBA career to reality. I kept working hard and the Knicks gave me a partially guaranteed contract after I wasn’t drafted. I continued to work hard with the player development guys and eventually made the roster.

Q: Nicks coach David Fizdale said he was sorry to let you go. Did that statement provide some sort of consolation?

A: Yes, that’s how the NBA works. You can have only a fifteen-men roster, you can only dress thirteen and I was kind of the odd guy out. It had nothing to do with my professionalism, my day-to-day activity. I just wasn’t performing and the club had to make a decision. No hard feelings against the Knicks. NBA is a business and that’s how the chips fall.

Q: Is it true that you were a players’ favourite in the Knicks locker-room?

A: Yes, I really hang my hat high on that. When I go places, I like to treat others with respect, being one of the best teammates I can be. If I can retire tomorrow, I’d want everyone that I played with to say that I was one of their favourite teammates.

Q: What do you cherish the most about the NBA?

A: Well, it’s one of the best leagues in the world. So, playing with guys that are averaging 30 points a game, some really skilled individuals that eventually are going to be legendary, I can look back and say I’ve played with Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony. Tell stories for hours at the dinner table with my family. Just create stories like that from hard work and from dedicating your heart to the game. It’s surreal.

Q: How did you react on the news of Kobe’s death?

A: Very sad, especially for all the victims involved. Kobe’s impact on the game was hard to explain to people. I didn’t have the privilege to play against him. I missed him by a year as far as the NBA career, but growing up watching him I’d say that he was the closest thing that a player will ever get to Michael Jordan. His legacy will be forever.

Q: Do you see any Kobe Bryants in Europe? I mean players who can really make a difference.

A: If there were any, they probably ought to be in the NBA, to be honest. I think there’s very few guys that can be compared to Kobe. It’s him, MIchael Jordan and a few others that you can throw up there. What’s really special about the Euroleague is that you have a good player perform on any given night. I think it’s very balanced. Probably the most surprising thing to me has been going into a game, focusing on a couple of guys that are averaging certain numbers, but any guy off the bench might drop in 12 points. That’s what makes the Euroleague kind of special to me: you just never know who’s going to have a good game. For instance, in our game vs Olympiacos, all their players outhustled, outrebounded us on offensive glass. Hustle plays are always going to win games. They make a difference, regardless of what league it is.

Q: Talking about difference makers in Europe, Rick Pitino tweeted that he’d like to see your teammate, Mike James, with the Knicks.

A: (smiles) Yeah, I’m sure Rick is throwing out some good quotes out there. The truth is that Mike is a very skilled player and he does have a lot of potential.

Q: So, would you agree with Pitino on James being a good fit for an NBA team?

A: I mean, I don’t always agree with Rick, but I respect his opinion. I played against him in college. His son Richard coaches at the University of Minnesota with one of my assistances for college. Rick would text me in the summer a couple of times. I’ve heard great things about his family and it’s a good connection to have.

Q: In an interview you gave in Russia, before season tip-off, I read a quote of yours about Alexey Shved. Did you actually say: “I don’t know him and I have no idea what kind of player he is” ?

A: No, I don’t think that’s true. I knew Alexey. I just never played against him in the NBA because he was already back, playing in Europe. Obviously Alexey is a very skilled individual.

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Jimmer talks Jimmermania, responding to pressure and playing ball in three continents https://www.talkbasket.net/73131-jimmer-talks-jimmermania-responding-to-pressure-and-playing-ball-in-three-continents https://www.talkbasket.net/73131-jimmer-talks-jimmermania-responding-to-pressure-and-playing-ball-in-three-continents#respond Mon, 02 Mar 2020 20:14:41 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=73131 When Panathinaikos OPAP announced the signing of former NCAA scoring ace Jimmer Fredette, only an underwhelming minority of basketball fans didn’t know what to expect. Known for his outstanding shooting abilities and range, Fredette quickly made a name for himself. In fact, the name itself prevailed completely over his surname, partly because the so-called “Jimmermania” […]

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Jimmer talks Jimmermania, responding to pressure and playing ball in three continents

When Panathinaikos OPAP announced the signing of former NCAA scoring ace Jimmer Fredette, only an underwhelming minority of basketball fans didn’t know what to expect. Known for his outstanding shooting abilities and range, Fredette quickly made a name for himself. In fact, the name itself prevailed completely over his surname, partly because the so-called “Jimmermania” had taken U.S. hoops by storm in the early ’10s. Fredette was voted the 2011 National Player of the Year in college basketball after ranking as the leading scorer in the NCAA during his senior season for the Brigham Young University Cougars.

That has probably been the exceptional part of his career so far, the one that provoked President Barack Obama’s and Kevin Durant’s praise. The former called Fredette the “best scorer obviously in the country”, while the latter went even further, maintaining that he was “the best scorer in the world”. Those statements were hardly verified when Jimmer, selected with the 10th pick in the 2011 NBA draft, took the big stage. His underwhelming physical presence did not help him much nor did his defensive skills. Thus, he saw little playing time across four teams over five NBA seasons. He spent two and a half seasons at Sacramento, where he had probably his best games, but his presence with the Bulls, the Hornets, the Knicks and the Suns did not him or the franchises.

After the NBA, Fredette moved to China, where he took the nickname “The Lonely Master” and hoops in Asia soon caught fire. In the Chinese League, he was both the leading scorer and the MVP in 2017, averaging 37.6 points per game. Euroleague giants Panathinaikos OPAP had already started to knock on his door, but to no avail. However, in the summer of 2019 Jimmer relented to the Green’s call, bringing his talents, his nicknames, his fame and of course his family, to Athens, Greece.

It goes without saying that the Euroleague is a competition as demanding as any in the world, but overall the experienced guard who recenty turned 31, has been putting up good numbers in the 2019-2020 season: 13.6 points on 42.7% three-pointers and 96.5% free throws (best percentage by any PAO player in many years). His team is conversely presenting a mediocre 14-12 tally, so far good enough for a play-off berth, but certainly well below their fanbase expectations.

Jimmer Fredette talked to TalkBasket.net about his rookie Euroleague campaign, the way he deals with pressure and the diverse basketball worlds he has met in his professional journey.

Q: Jimmer, have you figured out what it takes to be successful in Europe and what distinguishes a good from a top player over here?

A: I think like I’ve played pretty well this season. With the time and the opportunity given, I feel like I’ve done some really good things. I continue to get better each and every day. Obviously, it’s a different game than where I’ve come from, whether it be the NBA or China. In the NBA, the spacing is a lot different, the three-point line is farther, the defensive three seconds … all these things. It’s much more free flowing, one-on-one basketball, very three-heavy oriented at this point, analytics-driven. It’s very different than European basketball, which is a little bit more tactical. In Europe, you can pack the paint and you’ve got to get ball movement. Then, Chinese basketball is different than that: the ball is in one guy’s hands a lot all the time, meaning they make decisions. They play super physical over there and really beat you up. So, they’re all different kinds of basketball, but at the same time they’re all fun.

Q: Which were the factors that facilitated your adjustment?

A: I’ve had some good people that helped me acclimate to the Europen game quicker. Nick (Calathes) and Tyrese (Rice) taught me a lot during this time. I can keep getting better every day as a player, but so far it’s been good.

Q: Do you think that a third NBA opportunity could be in the cards for you in the near future?

A: I don’t know. I have no idea at this point. I try not to be worried too much about it. Just playing this game and getting prepared for what’s going on this season.

Q: Did you enjoy playing for the Sacramento Kings?

A: Yeah, for sure. I had a great experience playing for the Kings and for all the teams I’ve played for. I’ve played for several different teams in the NBA and I obviously had some great times and also some bad times throughout my career, but I wouldn’t change anything. It’s been a really great ride.

Q: Panathinaikos had tried to sign you in the past. Why didn’t the case go any further?

A: Yes, they were trying to get me there for quite a while. It wasn’t anything that did not go well. I just felt like I had some other opportunities at that point. I was in China for three years. That worked really well for myself and my family and that’s what we decided to do at that time. It was the best situation for us. Then, this year, we felt like Panathinaikos was a good situation to be able to come in and try this out. We’re having a good time so far.

Q: Did you know you were one of PAO’s owner favourite players?

A: Haha, that’s good. No, I didn’t know that, but it’s great.

Q: How did you respond to the “Jimmermania” that surrounded you since High School?

A: I know, but I don’t worry about it too much. I don’t put too much expectation on it. Just go out there and have expectations for myself to play well and help the team win. If I’m doing that and I’m working hard every day, then that’s all I’m really worried about.

Q: This means that the pressure that Panathinaikos players usually deal with suits your mentality?

A: Like I said, it doesn’t bother me that much. Fans are always going to have expectations, wherever you play, individually and as a team. That’s nothing new as a basketball player. You’ve been going through that in your whole life. So you just have to block the outside noise out, in order to focus on your team, on what’s going on in the locker-room and on the practice court. The best teams are the ones that can do that. Then you can make something special happen. We got to continue to try get better.

Q: I have asked many players their opinion, but I’d like to have yours as well. Have you ever considered applying for a foreign passport?

A: No, I have not. I’m not saying I would never do that, but I haven’t thought about it.

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Malcolm Delaney: “NBA has changed. There’s a few teams trying to win and that’s why many players come to Europe” https://www.talkbasket.net/72114-malcolm-delaney-nba-has-changed-theres-a-few-teams-trying-to-win-and-thats-why-many-players-come-to-europe https://www.talkbasket.net/72114-malcolm-delaney-nba-has-changed-theres-a-few-teams-trying-to-win-and-thats-why-many-players-come-to-europe#respond Thu, 27 Feb 2020 04:00:33 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=72114 Malcolm Delaney was one of European basketball’s most familiar figures to have come back to the Euroleague last autumn. The 30-year-old guard took his time before FC Barcelona eventually lured him into a one-year deal with an option for another season. By the time Delaney signed, almost all teams had completed their rosters, but for […]

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Malcolm Delaney: “NBA has changed. There’s a few teams trying to win and that’s why many players come to Europe”

Malcolm Delaney was one of European basketball’s most familiar figures to have come back to the Euroleague last autumn. The 30-year-old guard took his time before FC Barcelona eventually lured him into a one-year deal with an option for another season. By the time Delaney signed, almost all teams had completed their rosters, but for the Spanish powerhouse the former All-Euroleague combo guard was just the impressive icing on the cake. After all, who wouldn’t want to join a squad featuring some of the most charismatic players in Europe?

After a good, but inevitably unsung last season in China, the man who starred in the ultimate Cinderella Story with Lokomotiv Kuban in 2016, leading the Russian side to its first-ever Final Four at the expense of his present club, is coveting every silverware available in the Old Continent. Despite going undrafted in 2011, Delaney fulfilled his NBA dream with the Atlanta Hawks, for whom he played in two rather uneventful campaigns (2016-18), averaging 5.7 points, 2.8 assists, 17.8 minutes of playing time in a total of 127 games.

In his second collaboration with coach Svetislav Pesic, the Baltimore-born baller will not settle for anything less than trophies. If winning is a habit, Delaney – in this interview with TalkBasket.net- candidly addresses the factors that rendered his brief NBA stint way less illustrious than expected and the reasons behind more and more NBAers choosing to play in Europe.

Q: What did it take for FC Barcelona to win the game against Panathinaikos OPAP in Athens?

A: I think we just stuck with it. In the first half, we got a lot of open looks, but we didn’t make shots. We came in at halftime knowing that there would be some open shots and all we had to do was make some. We made good stops at the end and got momentum of the game. Overall, we played really well in the fourth quarter.

Q: How do you feel playing in Europe again?

A: I always felt comfortable playing in Europe. We have a great team in Barcelona and it was easy for me to fit in. Some days, I don’t have to do much, but in this second half of the season I’m trying my best to stay in good form and play my best basketball. We’ve all been playing well, especially in Euroleague, but we need to just keep getting better.

Q: How and what did China add to your experience as a player?

A: It’s a different style of basketball. You can’t compare NBA, Europe and China. It’s all different.

Q: What has changed in the Euroleague since 2016, when you moved to the NBA?

A: Just the different style of the competition and the format. Besides that, the basketball is still the same. I think that the teams and a lot of players got better, but European basketball as a whole is always going to be very skilled and team-oriented.

Q: Is the season in Europe overlong?

A: Yeah, I think it is too long. Maybe it’s something to look at in the future. It would be perfect if it was a little bit shorter, but everybody playing in their domestic league makes it kind of tough. I believe that eventually the Euroleague will become this big league, in which the top team in every country will compete. That style of NBA format where you play every team two-three times in the season makes it a lot more competitive. It could be shortened up a little bit, but it’s still pretty good the way it is.

Q: So, would you agree with clubs leaving their national leagues for whatever reason, like Olympiacos Piraeus did in Greece?

A: I guess their situation was a little bit different. It was a very political decision and I don’t do politics in basketball. I don’t really know exactly what happened, but it would be good for the best European teams to compete in one league.

Q: Coach Pesic has repeteadly stated that European basketball is the “real thing”. Would you agree with that?

A: I’d say it’s more skilled than anywhere else. I wouldn’t say it’s the only true expression of basketball because some NBA teams play the European style of the game with high-level players. The game in Europe is for sure more enjoyable to watch. You look at how team game is played and I can see why coach Pesic said that.

Malcolm Delaney
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball

Q: After your first NBA stint with the Atlanta Hawks, what’s the first thing you’re going to look at before signing with a franchise in the future?

A: Just being the right fit. I’m older now, I value different things now, most importantly my family. Looking forward to retirement I have to start looking at my future as well. When I was younger, it was just about basketball, but now there’s a couple of other things I have to look into, as far as my future, before I make another decision; but wherever I go next or if I stay here, I want it to be my home because I don’t want to do anything on a temporary basis. So, whatever I do, I want it to feel like home so that I can finish my career there.

Q: Would you ever contemplate returning to the NBA?

A: Yes, of course. The NBA is the best league in the world and you can never turn down a chance to play in front of your friends and family. That’s always an option for me. I’ll see how the season goes and I’ll make the best decision for myself.

Q: What did not work out with you and the Hawks?

A: I think the second year we had two different mindsets. In my first year, we were trying to win and in my second year, they were trying to tank. I just got caught up in a situation with the team. I was in good form, played well in my second year, but it was just out of my hand. The people who brought me in there were leaving. I knew it was just political. Then I had the ankle injury in the end of the season and that’s the reason I went to China.

Q: What’s your overall view of your NBA time?

A: Well, I enjoyed the experience, although on record I said that my second year I didn’t really have fun. That’s because we weren’t winning and for me it’s all about winning. When I’m in a situation where people are not trying to win, that discourages me.

Q: Did you explore any NBA opportunities last summer before joining FC Barcelona?

A: Yeah, I weighed a couple of options and I went to mini-camps with the Knicks and the Warriors, but they wanted to wait and I didn’t really want to do that. I wanted to play basketball. The plan for me and my agent was to wait for the NBA, but when Barcelona came and I saw the team that they were building, I didn’t just want to keep sitting around. With this roster, it was hard to turn them down. So, I wanted to come here, get into a good rhythm and see where it goes from there.

Q: Did you talk to anyone on the Barcelona team before signing?

A: Victor Claver. Me and him played together in Lokomotiv Kuban. I kept in contact with him over the last couple of years anyway, but I called him and asked about everything here. I had played against Niko (Mirotic) in the NBA. Besides, I was pretty familiar with Barcelona because they had offered me a long-time contract before I went to Atlanta.

Q: Do you think that Europe has turned into an attractive destination for NBA players?

A: I think so. NBA is changing. There’s a few teams trying to win, the other teams are just trying to play their young guys. Some of those spice that players normally had, they don’t have now because teams don’t want to win. So, if they see how the level of competition is in Europe and that they can make good money, playing at a high level, I believe that a lot more people are open to come in here.

Q: Have you ever considered the possibility of getting a foreign passport?

A: No. I had a lot of opportunities when I was younger, but I realised that it doesn’t benefit me. It wouldn’t help me out for anything. I don’t want to play for another country. The summer time is important to me so I can be with my family and rest my body.

Q: Do you agree with Rick Pitino’s tweet on Mike James being a potentially good fit for the Knicks?

A: I think that Mike could play for anybody. Mike is an NBA talent and he could play in any system.

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Gabriel Deck: “I have always preferred European basketball to the NBA. Real Madrid is the best club I could possibly be with” https://www.talkbasket.net/71502-gabriel-deck-i-have-always-preferred-european-basketball-to-the-nba-real-madrid-is-the-best-club-i-could-possibly-be-with https://www.talkbasket.net/71502-gabriel-deck-i-have-always-preferred-european-basketball-to-the-nba-real-madrid-is-the-best-club-i-could-possibly-be-with#respond Mon, 24 Feb 2020 15:08:42 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=71502 Argentinian combo-forward Gabriel Deck, coming off a full season with Real Madrid in Spain and a FIBA World Cup silver medal, has provided Pablo Laso’s squad with endless amounts of energy in this 2019-2020 campaign. His numbers have grown significantly since last year (7.2 points and 3.2 rebounds) and so has his playing time, but […]

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Gabriel Deck: “I have always preferred European basketball to the NBA. Real Madrid is the best club I could possibly be with”

Argentinian combo-forward Gabriel Deck, coming off a full season with Real Madrid in Spain and a FIBA World Cup silver medal, has provided Pablo Laso’s squad with endless amounts of energy in this 2019-2020 campaign.

His numbers have grown significantly since last year (7.2 points and 3.2 rebounds) and so has his playing time, but for a player with humble origins in rural Argentina, who first played basketball in his backyard, using a tractor wheel attached to a piece of wood as the rim, the process of improvement is ongoing. His native Colonia Dora could not provide even rudimentary equipment and infrastructure to a prospective professional player. Still, Gabriel Deck made it not only to Europe, but to one of the continent’s top clubs.

It was through San Lorenzo, with whom he won the 2018 FIBA Americas League championship, while also being named the league’s top scorer and Final MVP, that he got in the eye of the reigning Euroleague champs. The now 25-year-old is on his second year in the Spanish capital and as he concedes in this interview with TalkBasket.net, his future lies with Real Madrid, most probably well beyond the expiry date of his present, three-year-deal with the club.

All his reasons are stated below.

Q: What’s your take on this version of the Euroleague?

A: The truth is that it’s a really hard competition because of the toughness required all season long. Obviously, there are many high-level teams and we at Real Madrid aspire to be at the top. That’s what we always want.

Q: You’ve come a long way from Colonia Dora to Madrid. What was included in this trajectory, what did you learn from it and how do you envision the future?

A: I don’t think too far ahead. I just try to enjoy my presence with the club, day in and day out. Looking back, I can say that my career so far has been nice, although it’s still in the beginning. The fact that I manage to accomplish a new goal every year is something that fills me with joy. I’m content, but I hope to continue this way.

Q: Do you believe that you are having a career-best season? If so, how would you explain it?

A: Well, I think that I’m with the best club I could possibly imagine. Things are going well for me here and I can see myself making progress with the team every season. Hence, I hope to be able to reach my maximum with this club at one point because until now I don’t believe that I have achieved that.

Q: Luis Scola was voted as the best Argentinian athlete for 2019. Did he give you any piece of advice on your career?

A: When someone looks at him every day, there’s always something to learn, on and off the court. He’s the player that sets an example for everyone, just by his daily routine. That’s his most admirable feature.

Q: Do you agree with Diego Maradona who said that Ginobili deserves to be called the greatest athlete to ever come from Argentina, given that you used to wear his jersey when you were younger?

A: I’m not that into football talk, but as far as Ginobili is concerned, I can say that he’s one of the greatest athletes of all time in Argentina – and we’ve had quite a few of them. I could talk about him for hours, but the majority of sports fans are aware of what he represents and know very well what he means for us Argentinians.

Q: A couple of years ago, you said that you prefer European ball to the NBA. On which conditions would you leave Europe?

A: Yes, I’ve always maintained that I like European basketball very much and that I used to follow the action in Europe more than in the NBA. It’s the kind of basketball that excites me and makes me want to watch games. Since I’m in the best club I could possibly be, I’m not thinking about anything else.

Q: Madrid’s biggest stars, Sergio Llull and Facundo Campazzo, have signed multi-year deals with the club. How did Real approach you?

A: The fact that I came to Madrid was the result of the buy-out paid by Real (to Deck’s ex-team San Lorenzo de Almagro). Later on, we played a friendly game against them in Europe and the situation worked out for me in the best way possible. My signing with Real Madrid makes me feel gratitude for the club and all the fans.

Q: Which factors can account for the team’s consistency through the years?

A: The club’s stability is the result of the everyday work that has been done in the last years: the core of players that know each other very well and make the whole team function properly. We have great chemistry and I hope that we’ll be able to keep working the same way.

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Dejan Todorović: “We prepared as much as we could” https://www.talkbasket.net/71231-dejan-todorovic-we-prepared-as-much-as-we-could https://www.talkbasket.net/71231-dejan-todorovic-we-prepared-as-much-as-we-could#respond Sun, 23 Feb 2020 01:39:30 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=71231 Dejan Todorović thinks that the game against Georgia will be extremely difficult, especially in the low post. “We played a good game against Finland and the result showed that. Tomorrow we expect an extremely difficult game, especially in the low post. We need to control Shermadini and to bee aware of their shots behind the […]

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Dejan Todorović: “We prepared as much as we could”

Dejan Todorović thinks that the game against Georgia will be extremely difficult, especially in the low post.

“We played a good game against Finland and the result showed that. Tomorrow we expect an extremely difficult game, especially in the low post. We need to control Shermadini and to bee aware of their shots behind the three points line. During these two days we prepared as much as we could, and tomorrow, I hope with the help of the fans and good energy repeat again what we did against Finland”, started his interview Dejan Todorović.

“The majority of the players are young guys, my age or younger. We all know each other. And also, there are those 3-4 veterans. They are great with us and we are all getting used to this situation. We are all feeling great”, said Dejan Todorović.

The Serbian squad, like the other teams during these Qualifications, didn’t spend much time together and Igor Kokoškov is the new head coach of the national team, so everyone wants to know what are his expectations for his players.

“The only thing Igor asked from us is to respect between us players and also to enjoy during these 10 days we will spend together”, said Todorović during the open practice.

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Alex Abrines: “I haven’t closed the door on the NBA. If I got the chance to go back, maybe I would take it” https://www.talkbasket.net/71092-alex-abrines-i-havent-closed-the-door-on-the-nba-if-i-got-the-chance-to-go-back-maybe-i-would-take-it https://www.talkbasket.net/71092-alex-abrines-i-havent-closed-the-door-on-the-nba-if-i-got-the-chance-to-go-back-maybe-i-would-take-it#respond Sat, 22 Feb 2020 04:06:57 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=71092 After two and a half years with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Spanish guard-forward Alex Abrines returned home. The club that had made him one of the top prospects in Europe, FC Barcelona, was eager to have him back last summer and the 32nd overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft signed a two-year deal with […]

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Alex Abrines: “I haven’t closed the door on the NBA. If I got the chance to go back, maybe I would take it”

After two and a half years with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Spanish guard-forward Alex Abrines returned home. The club that had made him one of the top prospects in Europe, FC Barcelona, was eager to have him back last summer and the 32nd overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft signed a two-year deal with the Catalan side. Abrines was named the Euroleague Rising Star in 2016, succeeding fellow teammate at Barca Nikola Mirotic, who had won the accolade in 2011 and 2012 as a Real Madrid player.

The Spanish NT player was waived by the Thunder in February 2019, not only on the basis of his performances, but mainly because he was struggling with depression. In a video posted on his Twitter page in July 2019, the 26-year-old revealed that he had reached the point where he “hated basketball” since he was living a nightmare and thus tried to avoid it any time that he could. Having gone through psychological hardship, Abrines found out that he no longer wished to stay away from basketball courts and chose the team coached by the legendary Svetislav Pesic, on his second stint with Barca himself, to restore whatever part of his basketball I.D. had been lost in the NBA.

Although FC Barcelona were eliminated in the Spanish Cup quarter-finals by Valencia Basket, they are 19-6 in Euroleague and many would bet a fortune on them winning the continental crown. Such a scenario would make perfect sense, simply because this season the ensemble is extraordinary: Nikola Mirotic, Malcolm Delaney, Cory Higgins, Brandon Davies and of course Alejandro Abrines himself make up a super-team. Depth, size, experience and endless basketball quality can lead FC Barcelona to the much-coveted trophy, but for Abrines the great news is that he’s back on track, playing again the game that he no longer seems to hate. The same goes for his presence in the NBA. His rookie season turned out fine, as he scored 6 points on 38% threes in 68 games, but the other two campaigns were below (his) standards, despite the support he got from franchise star Russell Westbrook. However, for him it’s just water under the bridge.

TalkBasket.net discussed with Abrines his impressions from the victorious game for FC Barcelona against Panathinaikos OPAP in Athens (an arena in which the Spanish team had last won in 2015), his NBA experience and the evolution of the Euroleague into a most attractive competition for NBA players.

Q: How was the game?

A: It was a tough one. We know how hard it is to play at OAKA. I think we did a pretty good job since Panathinaikos were playing great in the first three quarters, but in the last one we managed to keep our intensity high, made some shots and that’s why we got the win.

Q: Did you miss playing in this arena?

A: Yeah, you got those kind of courts and big gyms in the States, but the crowd doesn’t cheer as much as here. It’s great because it gives players the opportunity to show their talents in front of thousands of people.

Q: What brought you back to Europe?

A: I think I needed a change, although I had some great times in Oklahoma. After what happened with my depression, it was tough. I needed a change, to come back home and I think FC Barcelona was the best team. I knew the club, I have friends in Barcelona and it’s pretty close to my hometown. I needed a change of air.

Q: Do you think you were NBA ready, in every aspect, back in 2016?

A: Well, NBA is completely different than European basketball. I know that I’ve changed a lot physically – obviously I lost a little bit. But over there it’s always games after games and you need to have your body prepared for that. Here it’s different: you got to be ready to practice hard and play one, two or sometimes three games a week. Intensity is higher in Europe because every minute and every game is important. I missed playing for so many trophies: the King’s Cup, the Spanish League and the Euroleague. Those are different competitions and it doesn’t matter so much if you lose one because you can win the others.

Q: Apart from having the chance to play with Russell Westbrook is there anything that you hold on to from your three years in Oklahoma?

A: I made so many good friends there, like Steven Adams. I met him again last summer after four months since I had gotten back in Spain. That says a lot about the friendship I had with him. But it wasn’t only him. I obviously don’t talk with Russ or Paul George but they’re always there. Some of them came to my wedding. It’s a relationship built in almost three years and I keep that.

Q: Did you get to demystify the NBA a little bit?

A: It was as I expected it to be, but I didn’t know how I was going to play or perform. The first months were obviously hard because I had to adjust. Some guys like Westbrook helped me a lot and I was able to play well, play with him and also win some games.

Q: Would you try it again?

A: Yes, I haven’t closed the door on the NBA. Right now, I’m focused on FC Barcelona. I’ve got one more year with them, but you never know what’s going to happen in the future. If I got the chance to go back, maybe I would take it. But it’s not an answer that I have right now.

Q: What has changed in European basketball since 2016, when you left?

A: I don’t see a lot of changes. After three years, you tend to forget how the game was. The intensity is high, all the teams – and especially this season- get better players. More NBA players like Mirotic came here to play the Euroleague and this says a lot. Euroleague is the second best league in the world and in the USA they’re starting to notice. I hope that more players would come to Europe in order to make this league even better.

Q: Was Mirotic signing with FC Barcelona a surprise for you?

A: Actually, yes. We had the same agent and I knew nothing about it! When I realised on Twitter what was going on, I called my agent and went like: “Oh man, you should have told me! I didn’t know anything”. So, it was a big surprise, but he’s a great player and I’m happy to have him on my team.

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Austin Hollins: “Even if I had to go back, I would still choose Zenit Saint Petersburg over Panathinaikos” https://www.talkbasket.net/70454-austin-hollins-even-if-i-had-to-go-back-i-would-still-choose-zenit-saint-petersburg-over-panathinaikos https://www.talkbasket.net/70454-austin-hollins-even-if-i-had-to-go-back-i-would-still-choose-zenit-saint-petersburg-over-panathinaikos#respond Tue, 18 Feb 2020 14:30:55 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=70454 Austin Hollins is having his rookie Euroleague season with Zenit Saint Petersburg, after five years of overseas experience. The 28-year-old had to cash his great 2018-19 campaign with Rasta Vechta in Germany and although many prestigious top-tier clubs went after him last summer, he chose the Russian side which received a wild card in order […]

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Austin Hollins: “Even if I had to go back, I would still choose Zenit Saint Petersburg over Panathinaikos”

Austin Hollins is having his rookie Euroleague season with Zenit Saint Petersburg, after five years of overseas experience. The 28-year-old had to cash his great 2018-19 campaign with Rasta Vechta in Germany and although many prestigious top-tier clubs went after him last summer, he chose the Russian side which received a wild card in order to make its first ever appearance on the big European stage.

As for the athletic guard-forward from Arizona, his 9.3 points in 21 minutes indicate that he can be as successful at the top level as he has been playing college basketball for the University of Minnesota, as well as in France, Finland and Germany. Zenit recently substituted coach Joan Plaza with Xavi Pascual, but their Euroleague fate seems doomed, since they are 7-17 and hold only the slimmest of chances to make the play-offs.

TalkBasket.net met Austin Hollins in Athens after another blowout defeat of the Russians to Panathinaikos OPAP, one of the teams that tried to get his signature in the summer of 2019.

Q: Do you think the final score (81-96) did justice to Zenit’s performance?

A: We made a lot of mistakes and I think the score speaks for itself. They are a great offensive team and if you’re not getting stops, it’s tough to beat them. We just have to go back to the drawing board and keep practicing.

Q: How has the Euroleague treated you so far?

A: For me personally, Euroleague is going well. It’s been tough (to respond) as a team, for sure, but I’m grateful for the opportunity and I’m trying to make the most of it.

Q: What’s the objective right now for Zenit?

A: Find the way to win. That’s the ultimate goal, since we are competitors. Obviously, it’s not so fortunate that we are in a difficult situation, but we have to keep working and stay together as a team. Given the team’s place in the standings, it’s hard to get to the play-offs, but we got to fight the same way as if we were in the TOP 8.

Q: As far as the VTB League goes, do you know that you have to play the finals in order to make next season’s Euroleague?

A: I do know that and we’re focused on that. VTB is most important for us. We got to go out there and get wins, take care of business.

Q: How did Zenit become your first Euroleague team last summer?

A: I weighed my options. Me and my agent had been talking about it. Coach Plaza called me and that was it. I felt it was the right situation for me, an opportunity to play in the Euroleague which I took.

Q: Did your agent actually talk to David Blatt about joining Olympiacos Piraeus?

A: He did speak with him. I don’t know how much they spoke, but there were contacts.

Q: Is it also true that Argyris Pedoulakis tried to recruit you to Peristeri BC in 2018 and also Panathinaikos OPAP last year?

A: Yes, it’s true. We spoke on the phone a couple of times, as I was still waiting to make a decision. I like to take my time to make sure I’ve picked the best situation for myself. I went to the best place for me: Rasta Vechta. Last summer, I had an offer from Panathinaikos, but I went to what seemed as the best place for me. I never look back, trying to redo things. Even if I had to go back, I would still make the same decision. I’m happy playing for Zenit, although Panathinaikos is a great organisation with a lot of history.

Q: Were you surprised at not getting drafted in 2014?

A: No, I wasn’t. Those things are out of my control and I don’t think too much about this.

Q: Does your father Lionel give you advice on how to play or correct your game?

A: Sure, we talk on the phone sometimes, but whenever I’m home we get in the gym and he helps me out.

Q: You played against Rick Pitino in the Euroleague, but back in college you were coached by his son, Richard. How was your relationship?

A: He was a great coach although I only played one season (2013-14) with him. I really enjoyed playing for him and I think he’s going to have a lot of success if he continues to coach wherever he is.

Q: You were a defence-oriented player in your college years. Do you think that this feature can translate well into Euroleague basketball?

A: It’s very important to play off-ball. Defence is important for winning games, for any team. It’s something that I pride myself on, playing defence and trying to do the best I can.

Q: Will you give another shot at playing in the NBA next summer?

A: I’m focusing where I’m at right now, without giving up on the NBA. I work hard in the summer and during the year. I’m very blessed and all I do is just trust the process. However, I can’t say if I’m going to participate in another Summer League because it’s early for that.

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LeBron James says Anthony Davis will go in the Hall of Fame https://www.talkbasket.net/70364-lebron-james-says-anthony-davis-will-go-in-the-hall-of-fame https://www.talkbasket.net/70364-lebron-james-says-anthony-davis-will-go-in-the-hall-of-fame#respond Mon, 17 Feb 2020 19:56:58 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=70364 LeBron James talked about his experience in Chicago after Team LeBron won the 2020 All-Star game by taking down Team Giannis, 157-155. Q. LeBron, did this format live up to what you were expecting? Other than maybe a Finals game, when’s the last time you played in a fourth quarter that had that much intensity, […]

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LeBron James says Anthony Davis will go in the Hall of Fame

LeBron James talked about his experience in Chicago after Team LeBron won the 2020 All-Star game by taking down Team Giannis, 157-155.

Q. LeBron, did this format live up to what you were expecting? Other than maybe a Finals game, when’s the last time you played in a fourth quarter that had that much intensity, that much fight to it?

LeBRON JAMES: I didn’t know what to expect because it was a new format, new year. None of us knew what to expect. But throughout the whole fourth quarter and at the end of the game, everybody was like, “That was pretty damn fun.”

That was fun. Having to play for a set number and seeing that — I’ve watched a lot of basketball in the summertime, and I forgot the name of the league where the guys, you know, their alma mater, they go back and play for their teams and things of that nature, they have a set number they have to get to that, that $2 million championship tournament. Maybe you don’t watch basketball in the summer.

Q. TBT.

LeBRON JAMES: Yeah, that was extremely fun and a great way to end 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend.

Q. LeBron, was there any discussion about honoring Kobe with competitiveness? Did you see his kind of competitive spirit out there all night tonight?

LeBRON JAMES: No, there was no discussion because we’re all competitors. We wouldn’t be All-Stars if we weren’t competitors. We all compete at the highest level, try to put our respective teams in position to win every night. So guys definitely just had that sense of pride, that sense of competitiveness throughout the season, throughout the All-Star Game, which we had tonight.

But you could definitely feel his presence just from the start. From every moment from the fans chanting his name till you seen the numbers. Every time you saw Giannis’ team run on the floor, you saw the 2-4. So he was definitely here.

Q. Was the last play for A.D. planned, or was it just spontaneous?

LeBRON JAMES: No, it was not. We had a great play call for Kawhi to get to his sweet spot. They kind of doubled. They doubled A.D. at the beginning of the play and left James open in the corner. James drove baseline, kicked it to C.P., C.P. drove it and hit me. They were kind of all scattered, and A.D. had Kyle Lowry on him at the time, and he just got a great duck-in and seal, and I was able to throw the ball and get the foul. It was not planned, but just smart basketball.

Q. You’ve obviously played a lot of basketball in your career. What did you think of adding on a free throw instead of old playground rules with an actual bucket?

LeBRON JAMES: It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, you can win a Finals game at the free-throw line. There’s a lot of things that happen on the playground that you can’t do in our game too, where you can literally foul every single time and not get disqualified.

I’ve been in games where you’ve won games at the free-throw line, and that’s all part of the game. If he would have missed both, no one would have been talking about it. It’s all part of the game, and it was a hell of a way to win a game just from an All-Star perspective.

Q. You obviously put on for Cleveland and Akron so much. What do you think about Chicago and just the atmosphere and how Chicago-centric this was?

LeBRON JAMES: Listen, man, Chicago is right up there with one of the top cities in the world with producing some of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game. If you just even step outside, some of the best basketball players that played the game. So you have some of the greatest, some very good, some very talented. You’ve even got Ben Wilson, who was on his way to being a star and obviously we know the story about that. So you got it all the way from gradeschool era through high school, through college, and then so many pros and so many Hall of Famers.

K.G. is about to go into the Hall of Fame soon. I seen his name on the ballot, and he’s from Chicago. The great Isiah Thomas. D-Wade at some point will go into the Hall of Fame. My teammate Anthony Davis right now will go in the Hall of Fame. This city is right up there as one of the best cities in the world as far as producing the best players we’ve ever seen.

Q. Kobe, can you share your favorite off the court memory?

LeBRON JAMES: I don’t mind being Kobe this weekend.

Q. Sorry, I’m a bit nervous.

LeBRON JAMES: That’s fine. My mom might not like it, but I’m okay with it.

Q. Can you share your favorite off the court memory of Kobe?

LeBRON JAMES: Just being part of the Redeem Team in 2008. We have so many off-the-court memories from that team. Either if it was just about basketball or going into some Team USA other events. We were able to see Michael Phelps swim. We were able to see the women’s national team play a lot of their games. We were able to go around track and field. We did a lot of things besides play basketball throughout that whole Redeem Team run that we had when we brought home gold.

So, a lot of memories for sure.

Q. What do you take of all this memories, all the tributes that have been done to Kobe? What’s the most that you take of this weekend?

LeBRON JAMES: What’s the most that I take from this weekend as far as —

Q. From the tributes.

LeBRON JAMES: I mean, anything else would be uncivilized. He’s one of the greatest basketball players, one of the most impactful players, and the inspiration that he has, it’s showing. How many people not only in the basketball world, but also outside the basketball world, that was touched by a person such as himself. Obviously, we all saw what he was able to do on the floor as a competitor, as a champion, someone who strived for excellence every single day, but we also saw the father he was as well to his beautiful daughters and to his wife. The things that he was doing, winning an Oscar, just doing so many things that was just — that people would aspire to do and gaining inspiration from him because of his drive.

So I haven’t — I think it’s been amazing, and I’m happy to be a part of it this weekend. Obviously, me being a Los Angeles Laker myself, it’s going to be a part of me for the rest of my life and our franchise, and any player to ever wear purple and gold until the end of basketball, which is never.

So it’s a beautiful time. It’s a beautiful day. And his presence was felt here in Chicago. So appreciate it.

Thank you.

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Kawhi Leonard talks about playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis https://www.talkbasket.net/70363-kawhi-leonard-talks-about-playing-with-lebron-james-and-anthony-davis https://www.talkbasket.net/70363-kawhi-leonard-talks-about-playing-with-lebron-james-and-anthony-davis#respond Mon, 17 Feb 2020 19:32:34 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=70363 Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP trophy winner, Kawhi Leonard, answered questions about the game, relationship with Kobe as well as playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Q. Kawhi, congratulations on the win and the MVP. A lot of people seem to feel as if this format is good for the game, but some are […]

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Kawhi Leonard talks about playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis

Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP trophy winner, Kawhi Leonard, answered questions about the game, relationship with Kobe as well as playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Q. Kawhi, congratulations on the win and the MVP. A lot of people seem to feel as if this format is good for the game, but some are saying the game maybe shouldn’t end on a free throw. I’m curious as to what you think about that.

KAWHI LEONARD: I mean, it’s a point, so we can’t take out free throws through the whole game. They pretty much made the last six or seven free throws towards the end. They kept giving them. So do we want to minus those points as well?

But the new format was good. I felt like it was fun in that fourth quarter.

Q. Did you enter the game with the — I guess, did you want to win the trophy? And did it being renamed after Kobe make you want it more than maybe before?

KAWHI LEONARD: No. Winning it is a plus. I didn’t come in the game saying, I’m going to take that trophy home. I think I came in and made my first two shots and kept shooting and made shots. That’s when I told myself I’m going to go try to get it.

Q. Was taking a lot of threes to begin with was your mindset coming into this game, or was it just what the defense gave you?

KAWHI LEONARD: Frank just drew up a good play to start the game. And Bron with his vision, he’d seen me open and passed me the ball, and I knocked down a shot, and it pretty much went on from there. Like I said, I made the first two. It felt good and kept rolling with it and ended up knocking some more down.

Q. You’ve won Finals MVP and now you win All-Star MVP. Could you see yourself ever gunning for regular season MVP?

KAWHI LEONARD: Yeah, I mean, my mindset is always just to try to make my team the best team at the end of the season, and if I’m fortunate enough to win a regular season MVP, then I’ll be happy with it. I always just want to win championships. I’m not really concerned with the personal goal. So I always just want to play on an MVP level so my team can win.

Q. How special is it that you won the first Kobe Bryant MVP Award? I know you mentioned you dedicated this to Kobe.

KAWHI LEONARD: It’s very special. Like I said, I had a relationship with him. Words can’t explain how happy I am for it. Able to put that trophy in my room, in my trophy room, and just be able to see Kobe’s name on there, it just means a lot to me. He’s a big inspiration in my life. He did a lot for me.

Q. Kawhi, you mentioned during your speech after you got the MVP award, you were saying that you did this for Kobe. Are you going to be carrying the same mentality going into the playoff and The Finals hopefully?

KAWHI LEONARD: I pretty much carry that every year, you know what I mean? I’m going to play hard. That’s what I do. I want to go in and win every game. Whatever happens happens from there. I would dedicate anything to him.

Q. Winning this award, how does this bring momentum to finishing the second half strong?

KAWHI LEONARD: I don’t think it really does, you know what I mean? It’s totally different. A bunch of All-Stars coming together is a different game, different teammates, different coaches. So it’s just back to our grind now, the regular season grind, and hopefully everybody can stay healthy on our team and we can make a push.

Q. Kawhi, this summer you could have come play for the Lakers and play for Frank and with LeBron and A.D. What was it like tonight working with those guys and getting the other side of the experience?

KAWHI LEONARD: It was fun. I played with Bron and A.D. last year, and I think the year before that or so. But it’s always fun just to get around guys that are very competitive, see what they do on an everyday basis. Just talking, just being their teammate. We go at each other all year round, and just, like I said, it’s great to be able to pick their brain and just be around them and joke and laugh.

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Jimmy Butler talks on Bam Adebayo’s first All-Star https://www.talkbasket.net/70362-jimmy-butler-talks-on-bam-adebayos-first-all-star https://www.talkbasket.net/70362-jimmy-butler-talks-on-bam-adebayos-first-all-star#respond Mon, 17 Feb 2020 19:21:23 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=70362 Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat was one of many NBA players who made their All-Star debuts. His teammate was excited to see Adebayo earn a well deserved recognition. Q. The format change created a little more intensity at the end. Butler: It was dope. Damn sure got to compete at the end. It’s still […]

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Jimmy Butler talks on Bam Adebayo’s first All-Star

Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat was one of many NBA players who made their All-Star debuts. His teammate was excited to see Adebayo earn a well deserved recognition.

Q. The format change created a little more intensity at the end.

Butler: It was dope. Damn sure got to compete at the end. It’s still fun to go out there and be known as one of the best players in the world in this league. Hopefully it stays like that.

Q. How did you feel about Bam Adebayo’s first All-Star?

Butler: Happy for him, man. He’s out there comfortable knowing that he belongs. Just experiencing it with him, seeing the smile on his face. But it won’t be the last time he’s out there. He’s got a lot more under his belt.

Q. Have any other players or other legends in the game come to you about Bam and what he’s done this year?

Butler: Everybody has been all year long. I think it’s so impressive what he’s been doing for himself as a player and then what he’s been doing for our team. I say this many times, but he’s really the reason we’re winning. Without him, we cannot be the team we are. I’m happy for him. I’m proud of him.

Q. A couple days to recharge and get yourself ready for the last third of the season. What are your expectations for the end of the year?

Butler: To tell you the truth, just continue to win. But more than anything, I really want to go see my family and spend some time with my friends [for the rest of the All-Star break].

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Giannis Antetokounmpo says he didn’t think about returning to Dunk Contest https://www.talkbasket.net/70361-giannis-antetokounmpo-says-he-didnt-think-about-returning-to-dunk-contest https://www.talkbasket.net/70361-giannis-antetokounmpo-says-he-didnt-think-about-returning-to-dunk-contest#respond Mon, 17 Feb 2020 19:12:16 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=70361 Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo talked about his experience during the All-Star Weekend in Chicago, playing with fellow Africans on Team Giannis and more. Q. Giannis, I want to ask you about yesterday, being on the same stage with President Obama. What did you get from that experience, and what was the biggest thing you […]

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Giannis Antetokounmpo says he didn’t think about returning to Dunk Contest

Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo talked about his experience during the All-Star Weekend in Chicago, playing with fellow Africans on Team Giannis and more.

Q. Giannis, I want to ask you about yesterday, being on the same stage with President Obama. What did you get from that experience, and what was the biggest thing you learned?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: It was a great experience. Obviously, I was extremely nervous. It was the second time meeting Barack Obama. Had guys on the stage, Chris Paul was there with me, Kevin Love was there. We were just there to like share our stories, what we’ve done for the community, what we are about to do for the community. Personally, I was just there to learn.

Obviously, Chris Paul has been in the league for 15, 16 years, Kevin Love the same. I was there to learn from them, and what I’ve heard, because I’m a private guy, I don’t like sharing a lot of what I do, how I spend my time, but what I learned from him is that, in order for you to change people’s lives and make a change and hope that other people can change and follow the right path, you’ve got to be more public. So that’s what he told me. And we had a conversation, and he gave me a lot of advice about my son.

But it was a great experience. It was great being next to Barack Obama and obviously Kevin Love and Chris Paul also.

Q. This All-Star Game played with a very different format than what we’ve seen in the past. I just want to get your general thoughts, both of you, on this format. Would you like to see this type of format going forward?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: After the game, my brother came down, and he said, this has been the most fun All-Star he’s been a part of. And I asked him why, and he told me, “Because you guys were really competitive. You guys were playing to win.” Team Giannis, that’s what we were trying to do. We were trying to come out, set the tone, play hard. Especially in the fourth quarter, the defense got tighter. Guys were hitting one another. Every possession counts. We had a little bit of playoff intensity out there.

So I loved it. I hope we can keep the same format for a lot of years, and I think people had fun, we had fun. So that’s what it’s all about.

Q. Giannis, why was it important for you to have your brothers, Pascal Siakam and Joel Embiid on this team and picking them, given your African heritage, and what was it like to share the floor with them and what message does it send to the world about the talent from that continent?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Obviously, it meant a lot to me. Obviously they’re from Africa. Bam Adebayo also. I don’t know if he claims his African side. He says he’s half African, but okay.

It’s really important. Obviously, Africans are really hardworking people. I’ve played with Joel in the past. I love playing with him. Siakam, I’ve never had the chance to play with; that’s why I picked him. Obviously it can send a message that Africans unite, we have one another’s back.

Q. Giannis, for you to close out that game, defensively you got to switch on a lot of guys, make plays that way, and then offensively you were getting the ball. Can you take me through the last couple of minutes on both sides of the ball.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Obviously, defensively I got a little bit out of breath. We played for like 25 minutes in the fourth quarter. Yeah, they were trying to like make the small guys switch on LeBron because they knew that we were switching. Coach Nick Nurse told me to send towards the middle, so he could not go to the screen. That’s what I tried to do.

Offensively, we were just trying to find whoever James Harden was guarding. That’s who we thought we’d have the opportunity to score on.

Obviously, you cannot go wrong — Kemba, Kyle, Joel, me, Siakam, everybody is great players. Whoever has the ball is going to make a play for the guy next to him, and it’s going to be good because we’re all great players.

Q. Giannis, how proud are you of the way that Milwaukee was represented this weekend? Knowing that just a few years ago you guys won 15 games.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: I’m really proud of Khris, Pat, Bango. I think we did a great job just representing Milwaukee, our families also. I mean, a few years ago we won 15 games, and now we’re one of the best teams in the league. So we’ve just got to keep going. Just got to put our head down, stay humble, and just keep going. Obviously, we enjoy this journey, but we’ve got a long way to go.

Q. Giannis, a few years ago, Kobe challenged you to win an MVP. You went and did it. Now you’re an All-Star Game team captain. How will you continue to carry on his legacy?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: I’m just trying to do what I’ve been doing since day one, which is get better, be humble, help my teammates be great. But at the end of the day, I think the most important thing is get better. Whenever I have a chance to go out there, I just play with an edge. That’s pretty much it. When you do that, I think everything takes care of itself.

Q. Giannis, yesterday you said that the Dunk Contest last night was the best Dunk Contest you had ever seen. You had been in the Dunk Contest once before. I’m wondering if you would ever entertain the idea of returning to the Dunk Contest.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: No. There’s no way I can compete with the guys that was in the Dunk Contest yesterday. No way. But you know why I said that? I think because every dunk we saw, somebody was jumping over a person, and every dunk it was the first time we’ve seen a dunk like that. Like we can go through every dunk, there’s never been a dunk like the dunks we saw yesterday in the previous years.

It was kind of crazy because like, when I realized that even Pat jumped over Christian Yelich, and he took a 45. Past years, you jump over somebody, you take a 50. That’s what it was. I think everybody had fun.

But, yeah, hopefully, the Dunk Contest moving forward can be as fun as the one last night.

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Kemba Walker on matching up with Jayson Tatum during ASG: “I locked him up, like I told him” https://www.talkbasket.net/70360-kemba-walker-on-matching-up-with-jayson-tatum-during-asg-i-locked-him-up-like-i-told-him https://www.talkbasket.net/70360-kemba-walker-on-matching-up-with-jayson-tatum-during-asg-i-locked-him-up-like-i-told-him#respond Mon, 17 Feb 2020 18:50:00 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=70360 Kemba Walker answered media questions after the NBA All-Star Game. The Celtics’ guard talked about matching up with his teammate in Boston Jayson Tatum and more. Q. Kemba, just given the road it took to get to this point in your career, what did it mean to go out there and have the game you […]

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Kemba Walker on matching up with Jayson Tatum during ASG: “I locked him up, like I told him”

Kemba Walker answered media questions after the NBA All-Star Game. The Celtics’ guard talked about matching up with his teammate in Boston Jayson Tatum and more.

Q. Kemba, just given the road it took to get to this point in your career, what did it mean to go out there and have the game you had tonight?

KEMBA WALKER: It was fun. We just wanted to be competitive. That’s all we spoke about in the huddles. It’s always a blessing and an honor to get here. I’ve come a long way in my career. This is my fourth All-Star. I’m blessed, and it’s always an exciting time to get a chance to be a part of this.

Q. Can you talk the behind-the-back to Embiid who went with the windmill. Did you think that was what he was going to do?

KEMBA WALKER: I had no idea. He was open. I just wanted to give him the ball, and he made a spectacular play.

Q. This All-Star Game played with a very different format than what we’ve seen in the past. I just want to get your general thoughts, both of you, on this format. Would you like to see this type of format going forward?

KEMBA WALKER: Yeah, I thought it was cool. I had no idea coming into the game, I didn’t know what to expect. As we played, it was great. That’s what everybody wants to see. They want to see a competitive game. That’s what it was in the fourth. Hopefully, we can keep it going.

Q. Kemba, just curious, you and Jayson had talked for two weeks about potentially matching up for a possession during this game. What was it like when it actually happened, and what did you say to him after you got the stop?

KEMBA WALKER: I locked him up, like I told him. It’s cool, man. That’s my little brother. He’s been having a hell of a season. He deserves to be here. And it was cool for me to get a chance to go up to him. I’m super proud of him. It was a great moment for both of us.

Q. If you’re comfortable sharing, LeBron James had said that you can kind of feel Kobe’s presence here through all the pregame and the ceremony as well. What did this game day feel like for you, especially with that type of compete that you would see in Kobe Bryant?

KEMBA WALKER: I agree with him. I definitely do. We definitely felt his presence. Growing up, watching Kobe in those games, I felt like he was always competitive, and he was kind of the one who got the game going. I think we kept that going tonight. I think he definitely would have loved to watch the way we went out there and competed tonight.

Over the years, the All-Star Game has been a game where it just hasn’t been as competitive as probably the fans would like, but tonight it definitely was, and we got to keep that going.

Q. You played what essentially was an entire fourth quarter at the end there. Is that something that you expected coming into a game like this? And what was it like in that moment?

KEMBA WALKER: No, I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was actually supposed to be on a minute restriction, but the game got too close. I wanted to be out there. I wanted to compete. I knew down the stretch that it would get serious like that, and I wanted to be a part of it.

So, yeah, it was cool.

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Chris Paul tells what it was like to play with Kobe Bryant in All-Star Game https://www.talkbasket.net/70358-chris-paul-tells-what-it-was-like-to-play-with-kobe-bryant-in-all-star-game https://www.talkbasket.net/70358-chris-paul-tells-what-it-was-like-to-play-with-kobe-bryant-in-all-star-game#respond Mon, 17 Feb 2020 18:28:55 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=70358 Oklahoma City Thunder star Chris Paul talked about various subjects after the All-Star Game. Among them, CP3 shared his experience playing on the same team with Kobe Bryant. Q. What made this weekend so special, this game so special? CHRIS PAUL: The weekend was special because for me I hadn’t played in the game since […]

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Chris Paul tells what it was like to play with Kobe Bryant in All-Star Game

Oklahoma City Thunder star Chris Paul talked about various subjects after the All-Star Game. Among them, CP3 shared his experience playing on the same team with Kobe Bryant.

Q. What made this weekend so special, this game so special?

CHRIS PAUL: The weekend was special because for me I hadn’t played in the game since ’16 or ’17 or something. So you sort of take it for granted at some point. Me and Kyle Lowry talked about how nice it was just to get out there, the camaraderie, and talk to the guys. It was fun, especially to have my family. My kids get a chance to experience this stuff with me.

Q. Do you think the All-Star Game is back because of the competitive game we saw?

CHRIS PAUL: I don’t know, you tell me.

Q. I’m pretty excited about it.

CHRIS PAUL: I’m obviously biased. I don’t think it ever went anywhere. I know I’m always competitive whenever I play. But the good thing about our league is we’re always adding things and trying new things and trying to figure out from my fans what they like. This was an idea I brought to Adam. Thankfully, we tried it out, so I was asking the guys how they enjoyed it during the game and at the end of the game. So you all be sure to ask him.

Q. You saw 24s on the back of every jersey who played, 2 on the back of every teammate, the patch, the tributes. What was it like emotional tonight to play in a game that was so centered on honoring Kobe Bryant?

CHRIS PAUL: It was tough early, especially early. For a lot of us, it’s still surreal. It’s not real until you start showing pictures and talking about it. But I think the best way we could honor Kobe, Gigi, and everyone involved was to play like we played, you know what I mean?

Me and Russ kept talking about it, that’s one thing about Kobe, whenever he was on our team in the All-Star Game, there wasn’t none of that cool stuff. There wasn’t none of that. It was like, as long as they throw the ball up, let’s get to it.

Q. Chris, with you guys playing for the charities for each quarter with the money going to charity, is that something you’d like to see continue going forward with you guys playing to give back to the community?

CHRIS PAUL: Absolutely. I think sometimes people lose sight of the purpose of All-Star Weekend. It’s really a big “thank you” to the fans and all the people that support us. We go out there and compete night in and night out, but there’s no us without the fans. So doing the charity component, you know, it’s all about competition. So any time we could win a quarter and know that it’s going to one of our charities, then let’s play. So I like it.

Q. You passed up that first alley-oop opportunity from Russ. What was the conversation with him
after that, and then how did it feel to dunk after?

CHRIS PAUL: Kemba backed up into me a little bit, you know what I mean? I ain’t Russ. It’s got to be the perfect throw, everything. So it was cool. Like I said, it was nice to get an opportunity to play with those guys because three, four days, we’re going to be back to the grind, and it ain’t going to be all that dapping up.

Q. A lot of people are doubting your abilities to make it back to another All-Star Game in your career, but tonight you’re one of the leading scorers in tonight’s game. Why is it important for you to prove people wrong?

CHRIS PAUL: I don’t think about the people. I think about myself, you know what I mean? I think I’m my hardest critic. I push myself more than anybody in here could ever do. So for me, it’s always about the journey. It’s about working hard, and it’s the analytics and the statistics that say at this age you can do this or you can do that. Look at my brother Bron. Every year they say he’s going to slow down, right? And then what?

So I think it’s more about competing with yourself and not worry about what everybody else saying.

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Samardo Samuels: “Once I left the NBA, I never really fought to get back. Cleveland carved my career out, but I could have been less vocal and more humble” https://www.talkbasket.net/69872-samardo-samuels-once-i-left-the-nba-i-never-really-fought-to-get-back-cleveland-carved-my-career-out-but-i-could-have-been-less-vocal-and-more-humble https://www.talkbasket.net/69872-samardo-samuels-once-i-left-the-nba-i-never-really-fought-to-get-back-cleveland-carved-my-career-out-but-i-could-have-been-less-vocal-and-more-humble#respond Sat, 15 Feb 2020 02:53:03 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=69872 Jamaican forward-center Samardo Samuels has made headlines again. Less than five days after he got to score 12 points in the Greek All-Star Game in Heraclion, Crete, as a Panionios player, French club Chorale Roanne Basket announced a deal with him until the end of the season. The announcement mentioned also that Samuels “is due […]

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Samardo Samuels: “Once I left the NBA, I never really fought to get back. Cleveland carved my career out, but I could have been less vocal and more humble”

Jamaican forward-center Samardo Samuels has made headlines again. Less than five days after he got to score 12 points in the Greek All-Star Game in Heraclion, Crete, as a Panionios player, French club Chorale Roanne Basket announced a deal with him until the end of the season. The announcement mentioned also that Samuels “is due by Sunday provided that the administrative procedures are successful”.

Of course, this season has been full of surprises both for the 31-year-old and his current -or former- club Panionios Su Casa, which claims that the contract signed with him until the end of the present campaign is still valid and that no buy-out clause was included in it. This must be the culmination of a series of unfortunate events in the tumultuous relationship of the two sides, after Samuels was accused of indifference by Panionios officials in their Greek League game vs Rethymno in Crete on January 25, which resulted in the player threatening to forfeit the second half of that game unless he was paid immediately his contract’s latest installment. The tension was appeased once the team returned to Athens, while the player apologised to the management and even bought his teammates a nice dinner. One week after the incident, the former NBAer bid farewell to Panionios via his social media where he wrote: “That’s all folks. Thanks @Panioniosbc”. Usually, there’s no smoke without fire, but in that particular case it seemed that appearances were misleading.

TalkBasket.net caught up with the ex-Louisville Cardinals standout in Crete, on February 8, where Samardo Samuels had the chance to clarify his status with the Greek side. The veteran big man referred to his three-year stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2010-2013) and to his experience with Euroleague clubs like Armani Milan and FC Barcelona, with Lionel Messi being the icing on the cake.

“Man, I haven’t had the chance to go out yet, but I see the beach and I want to check it out”, Samardo Samuels said as he sat comfortably in his chair in one of Heraclion’s five-star hotels, next to other All-Stars like Jimmer Fredette, Brandon Rush and Conner Frankamp. “I remember that recently we played in Rethymno and I felt I wanted to go to the beach instead of having practice. It’s nice here. I really like it. It feels a lot like home: calm, relaxed. I’m pretty sure they have good restaurants, good food. Maybe in the future, when I’m done with basketball, I can come visit”.

I’m not sure Jamaica looks like Crete, but Samuels definitely didn’t look to me as someone who is about to leave his current team mid-season, capitalizing on his great numbers: 17 points on 36.6% threes and 55.6% free-throws, 6 rebounds, 3.2 turnovers in 15 games since October 2019.

Q: How is the situation with you and Panionios right now?

A: Good. We have a break and we need to catch up with some games. We’re like three wins behind and hopefully we’ll do that after the break, if we can put a full roster to finish the season with, because with the changes of guys it’s hard to build chemistry. But after the break I’m going back (to the team).

Q: Are you going to stay with Panionios until the end of the season?

A: Yeah, I’m planning to stay. I signed a contract with them, so after the break I’m going to come back with them. It’s a new contract. The last one expired February 1st. I will finish with them, just to see how it goes. Me and the coach (Cypriot Linos Gavriil) have an understanding. I know what he’s trying to do and it will be fun for me to help them not to get relegated. I will feel like I’ve accomplished something this season.

Q: Were there any misunderstandings in your relationship with the club?

A: You know, for me it’s up and down. It was a misunderstanding what happened in the game in Rethymno. Sometimes the pressure of being an athlete or wanting to be great causes certain things to happen. It sets you back. You work and you want to be paid on time. Any man would respect that. It was kind of unprofessional of me because I shouldn’t have put the jersey. It was mostly a mental thing. During halftime, I was able to get myself together. I came to Panionios with a certain mindset and it was comfortable for me to play here. Then, it didn’t really go how I planned.

Q: How does it feel being able to play basketball again?

A: I love the game. I’m glad that I can still play. I want to be doing that for five more years and that’s it. This year was difficult. It was hard to get a decent club this season for me, but I’m working hard, I’m working out and I see myself making progress. This season, I’m averaging close to 20 points. It’s just to show everybody that “hey, he’s still able to play basketball!”.

Q: Do you believe that you could have made better career choices in the last years?

A: Definitely. We’re human, we make mistakes. The older you get, the more you realize your mistakes and maybe more situations where I could have been less vocal and more humble, in social media and wherever. I could have stayed in course, be quiet. But that’s something you learn with age. Now I’m better at 31, I’m a better man. I still have this experience playing for great clubs and coaches. People always remember the bad things. I respect the game and the fans who want to see me play in games like the Greek All-Star Game. For me, it’s a blessing.

Samuels with Armani Milan (2013-14)

Q: Do you cherish your years at Cleveland?

A: No, I don’t (smiles). But Cleveland was great for me because it carved my whole career out. It taught me how to work hard. I don’t really trip because I know I have what it takes to succeed. I won’t get too low, I know I’m a great basketball player. That’s why I don’t care about other things, what people say and what they want to believe. In New York I started off with no job, I trained and was prepared. That’s why when I came to Panionios, I was ready to go.

Q: How were things for you in Cleveland?

A: It was great. I was on a non-guaranteed contract for three years. So, any day you could get cut. Going to work every day was like a heartbeat, like “today might be the day that they release you”, but it was good to step foot in NBA doors. I was the fifteenth man on the roster. You never really know what could have happened. Once I got out, I never really fought to get back. I was playing for Milan, FC Barcelona and some other good clubs. I was content with being over here and it wasn’t a big deal for me to get back to the NBA.

Q: Which was the best place you’ve played in Europe?

A: Milan. We won the championship there in 2014. That was a great team and those were definitely good times in my career.

Q: Barcelona?

A: Played like five minutes a game, nothing to rave about. But it was good. I got to watch Messi for a full season! (laughs) The best part was watching Messi and it was cool.

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Makis Giatras ready to write Patras club basketball most glorious chapter https://www.talkbasket.net/69605-makis-giatras-ready-to-write-patras-club-basketball-most-glorious-chapter https://www.talkbasket.net/69605-makis-giatras-ready-to-write-patras-club-basketball-most-glorious-chapter#respond Thu, 13 Feb 2020 14:07:31 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=69605 In the most recent survey among Eurocup GMs, Promitheas Patras head coach Makis Giatras was ranked as the competition’s third best coach, next to Andrea Trinchieri and Sasha Djordjevic. The voting took place a few days after his boys had secured a TOP 16 spot, but it seems more than certain that the 48-year-old would […]

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Makis Giatras ready to write Patras club basketball most glorious chapter

In the most recent survey among Eurocup GMs, Promitheas Patras head coach Makis Giatras was ranked as the competition’s third best coach, next to Andrea Trinchieri and Sasha Djordjevic. The voting took place a few days after his boys had secured a TOP 16 spot, but it seems more than certain that the 48-year-old would top the list if only the process had taken place a little bit later.

Greek League’s coach of the year for 2019 is sitting on the team’s bench for the third straight season, which can hold something special for Promitheas, since they have made the Greek Cup final for the first time in club history and are the favourite to win their TOP 16 Eurocup group, if only they play their cards right in the last game vs Oldenburg in Germany. Winning their very first title next Sunday (February 16) will not be easy, as the opponent, AEK Athens, has more experience and a handful of quality players (Nikos Zisis, Jonas Maciulis, Marcus Slaughter, Mario Chalmers). Last year, Promitheas were Greek League finalists, eliminating AEK Athens in the semifinals, while the current season has confirmed their upward trajectory: big road wins against Morabanc Andorra, Virtus Bologna and Reyer Venezia only serve to prove what coach Giatras is capable of.

He may not speak a word in English, but his work in one of the largest cities in Greece speaks volumes. TalkBasket.net sat with the gregarious coach for a ten-minute interview in Heraclion, Crete, where Giatras and some of his players had a refreshing Greek All-Star Game break.

“We spent a nice weekend in Crete, but now the difficult part of the season lies ahead. First, it’s the Greek Cup final next Sunday and our focus is inevitably on that particular competition. However, in a season with a lot of tension, many and non-stop games, it’s also important for us to find some time to relax”, says the man that Rick Pitino has called the Greek equivalent of West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.

This is the first season that the Patras club explicitly aims high. The goal is not just to be a contender, but to actually claim at least one title, be it in domestic or international competition. “I believe that every year we’re fortunate enough to surpass any goal that we set. This year, our first goal was to reach the Eurocup TOP 16 and we managed to do this quite early, sooner than any other team. We’d like to repeat last season in the Greek League, which was like a dream for Promitheas. As far as the Greek Cup goes, when we saw the draw that brought us up against Panathinaikos, we were disappointed. The fact that the game was in Patras, combined with our concentration and Panathinaikos’s bad day, gave us the chance to compete for the title. The mere fact that we beat Panathinaikos makes us believe that we can lift the trophy. Of course, it’s a difficult endeavor, not easily achievable every year. We will try to fight for it, without too much pressure or anxiety. We know ourselves very well and we’ll strive for the best result possible”.

Panathinaikos OPAP coach Rick Pitino (left) jokes with Promitheas Patras coach Makis Giatras in the Greek League finals press conference at the OAKA stadium in Athens, Greece. Photo Source: paobc.gr

Promitheas had been working on a three-year plan since the club was promoted from the second division in 2016. In the end of it, the Patras team were Greek League finalists and BCL participants. This seems to have been just the beginning for owner Evangelos Liolios and president Christos Milas, who have already elaborated and presented a new plan for the future.

“Our owner has put our goals in order, namely winning the Greek League and participating in the Euroleague”, Giatras confirms. “I’ve been working for the Promitheas organisation for many years. I have assumed different posts. It’s a team that I love and one that respects me. It’s always the management that sets the goals; and setting a goal may be perfectly permissible to anyone, but it does not mean that you’re going to achieve what you set out to do. In my first season with the team I said that dreams have no ceiling and it has become a catchphrase ever since. No one is entitled to prevent me from dreaming of playing in the Euroleague or winning the championship. After all, it’s my dream and I do whatever I want with it! Whether I will succeed or not, it’s something that only the future will show. It’s a blessing that -so far- we overachieve every year”.

Giatras is fully aware of the strides that his team has to take in order to get where everyone in the city wants: “There’s two ways to do that. Either you play the Eurocup finals or you receive a wild card, like Zenit Saint Petersburg and Villeurbanne did. If you ask me, I’d rather go to the Euroleague on purely sports merit, by reaching the Eurocup finals. On the other hand, I’m not sure how long it will take for that to happen. If you look at the Eurocup teams’ budgets, you’ll find out it’s crazy! Some of them are even bigger than Euroleague teams: Virtus Bologna, Umana Reyer Venezia, Monaco. Those are some of the teams that we have faced. They’re great organisations and Promitheas wants to be in the same boat”.

Making the Eurocup finals this year is in his view “something very difficult to achieve. If I were to say it in public, people would think I’m crazy and they might lock me in! We will make our effort and whoever underestimates us, will pay for it”.

Giatras favours the motto that “teams are built in the summer” and thus prefers to keep his rosters intact most of the time. This season has surely been an exception to that rule and he explains why:

“This year I made more changes than all of my previous years combined. When you start a season, consciously counting on ten professional athletes and five junior players, when problems come along that have to do with team chemistry and personalities that don’t match, some changes are inevitable. I’m not talking about replacing Octavius Ellis. Robert Lowery was a good player who couldn’t help us. Then, it was another very good player, Gerald Robinson, who could not adjust either. Bogris could not stick with the team. We were very fortunate to bring in two players like Mavrokefalidis and Mantzaris who are experienced and easy to get along. They needed their time, but eventually they managed to grasp our philosophy. We got Marvin Jones as a replacement for Octavius Ellis. He had played in the Greek League before and he showed in the game against Brescia that he can help us. We also signed James Bell as Robinson’s replacement. Despite not having played for quite some time, I think he will get better since he’s a player of quality”.

Losing Octavius Ellis in the middle of the season was not easy. Apart from his multi-faceted contribution on both sides of the court, the 26-year-old center left Patras for Olympiacos Piraeus in a flash, giving his former team almost no time to work things out. In this regard, the “Reds” head coach, Giorgos Bartzokas, went so far as to apologize to Promitheas for “grabbing” their player, one of the cornerstones of Giatras’s team.

“I don’t know if Olympiacos were interested in him last summer. There were some rumours, but I think that Ellis is rightfully playing in the Euroleague. He has worked hard, he’s a good person and all I can say is that he both helped us and was helped by the team”, he acknowledges. “I knew there was a buy-out clause in his contract, but I had no idea that he had signed with Olympiacos on Friday morning, one day before our game in Rhodes. It was an important development also because we had to register two new players (Jones, Bell) for the Eurocup, if we believed that we stood a chance of going to the next round. We had lost to Venezia at home and many people believed that we could not beat them in Venice, but we did it and that’s what gave us solid chance of qualifying”.

Recently, Evangelos Liolios launched a platform which aims to be a forum for discussion on a range of issues regarding Greek basketball: modus operandi of the National Federation, financial transparency, digital interconnection between Federation, local Unions and clubs, as well as the co-existence with the Greek Association of Professional Basketball Clubs. It’s no secret that the owner of Promitheas is eyeing the chair of the Greek Federation, with a view to becoming the person that will succeed Giorgos Vassilakopoulos after almost four decades.

“For changes to take place, some people need to step up”, comments Giatras. “However, it takes more than one person to make change possible. I’d say that if we join forces, we can make it happen. Promitheas can be a pole for change. I’ve known Mr. Liolios for many years and I can testify that he’s interested in amateur sport. If his effort can lead to more young players breaking through, it will be a blessing. I’m not a nihilist and thus I can easily admit that the persons in charge of the Federation have done a great job in the past. Cooperation is essential in order to take one step further”.

Talking about young Greek players, Promitheas has the good fortune to have some of them on its roster. Their progress is one of the factors that will determine the club’s future, provided that they live up to the expectations. “Mantzoukas is a 16-year-old kid and he’s already getting Greek League experience, which is very important at his age. The other guys (Bazinas, Kafezas, Kouroupakis, Kolios) are talented, but I don’t know if they’ll see much playing time since the team is constantly growing. For sure, Promitheas is giving them the chance to play”.

One pertinent issue here for all parties involved is to keep those youngsters grounded, so that they can trust the process and not be carried away by lucrative contracts offered to them by wealthier clubs. Giatras says that such a development is inevitable, since we are talking about professional sport:

“It’s unrealistic to assume that such a thing could never happen. If a club can pay a large amount to get a player, they won’t even bother to ask or let you know. A player’s development has largely got to do with himself, with how he feels being on the team. Trust and confidence are important, as well as the notion that the club’s programme can take you to the next step. If all the above is true, there’s nothing more to be done. No buy-outs are needed. On the other hand, there are different levels. Personally, if a player walked up to me saying that he no longer wished to stay with the team and wanted to go to the next level, I would not keep him”.

That last phrase of Promitheas’s boss raises the question about Georgios Bogris and the way he left Patras in order to return to Iberostar Tenerife, the Spanish side which recently won the Intercontinental Cup. In his statements, the Greek center implied that it was his decision to leave due to the lack of motivation. Evangelos Liolios said in an interview that the player “upset the team and that’s why we let him go”. When asked about the case, Makis Giatras openly picks the second version of the story:

“Our relationship with him has been analyzed a lot. I haven’t said anything. It was clearly our decision. It didn’t have to do with him wanting to play at another level”.

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Celtics’ Grant Williams names four superstars on the team https://www.talkbasket.net/68472-celtics-grant-williams-names-four-superstars-on-the-team https://www.talkbasket.net/68472-celtics-grant-williams-names-four-superstars-on-the-team#respond Fri, 07 Feb 2020 11:52:00 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=68472 Boston Celtics’ Grant Williams spoke to the media ahead of the team’s European Primetime game against the OKC Thunder on Sunday. Q: On Sunday, you guys face the Thunder at NBA Primetime in Europe, it’s going to be the first time you’ve faced them since Russell Westbrook left, what do you expect from them? GW: […]

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Celtics’ Grant Williams names four superstars on the team

Boston Celtics’ Grant Williams spoke to the media ahead of the team’s European Primetime game against the OKC Thunder on Sunday.

Q: On Sunday, you guys face the Thunder at NBA Primetime in Europe, it’s going to be the first time you’ve faced them since Russell Westbrook left, what do you expect from them?

GW: “A fast paced kind of team. You look at the team they have, they play a three-guard line-up often with Lu Dort, Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder, Shai Gilgeous and they’re very fast. Steven Adams is a force inside, a man, and you just have to be prepared to match their physicality and their quickness. They’re a talented team and a team that before the season no one was talking about. Now, you look at that them and you’re super excited to compete against them. Danilo Gallinari is having a good year, so you just come in trying to match the same energy, but play with the right mentality on our end.

Q: You have a number of guys that are superstars, but if you had to pick one or two, who have been the standouts that you’ve seen as a rookie, who would they be?

GW: “A super star? I don’t know if I can pick one or two. I can pick four. The four that we have Kemba (Walker) JT (Jayson Tatum) JB (Jaylen Brown) and Gordon (Hayward). Those are the four superstars and we have a star in Marcus (Smart) and you go down the line. We have a lot of talented players and in terms as a superstar, those are the guys that will get those substantial deals because they’re so talented and they’ve proven themselves over the course of their career, and Marcus is the same way – he’s been a star in his role, as well as he can play any position. I’m very thankful for the team that I’m on.”

Q: Since you brought up Kemba, what are some of the things that he brings to the team?

GW: “A sense of leadership that you don’t normally see. He has a unique trait of not only being able to speak to anyone in the right way, but having energy every single day and being a guy that you can rely on. That’s what you need in a leader and in a point guard, for sure. So, he has a lot of talented traits on the offensive end, but he also competes. It’s not one of those small guards that’s a liability on defense because he puts his all on the court every single night. He not only puts his body on the line, but he puts his heart on the line, too.”

Q: Obviously you’ve seen the changes in the NBA All-Star game to honour Kobe, what do you think about that?

GW: “It’s tough to see, but it’s also to try and honour him any way we can and his legacy – him and his daughter as well as the other seven victims that were in the crash. It’s definitely difficult, but I’m just glad the NBA is trying to make it easier on all of us.”

Q: Do you think they should find further ways to honour his legacy down the road, whatever they can?

GW: “I think, whatever they can do. I can’t really think too much on it because the more ideas you have, the more you start thinking about it. For me, it’s just a matter of honouring him any way they can, and I think they’ll do right by him.”

NBA Sundays presented by NBA2K20 on Sky Sports – part of a record 48 Primetime games live on Sky Sports starting from 7.00pm every weekend. This week on 9 February the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Boston Celtics on Sky Sports Arena from 8.30pm.

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Celtics’ Vincent Poirier talks about team goals, the loss of Kobe Bryant https://www.talkbasket.net/68469-celtics-vincent-poirier-talks-about-team-goals-the-loss-of-kobe-bryant https://www.talkbasket.net/68469-celtics-vincent-poirier-talks-about-team-goals-the-loss-of-kobe-bryant#respond Fri, 07 Feb 2020 11:28:20 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=68469 Boston Celtics’ Vincent Poirier spoke to the media ahead of the team’s European Primetime game against the OKC Thunder on Sunday. Q: You face the Thunder on Sunday at European Prime Time. What do expect to see from them without Westbrook from the first time? VP: “We never played them before, but we know that […]

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Celtics’ Vincent Poirier talks about team goals, the loss of Kobe Bryant

Boston Celtics’ Vincent Poirier spoke to the media ahead of the team’s European Primetime game against the OKC Thunder on Sunday.

Q: You face the Thunder on Sunday at European Prime Time. What do expect to see from them without Westbrook from the first time?

VP: “We never played them before, but we know that every game for us is an important game. We need to go there and play well for sure.”

Q: You’ve just passed the halfway point of the season, what is your assessment of your team so far and your expectations?

VP: “I think we’re where we want to be. We’ve won some big games and we keep growing as a team. The goal is to be the best we can for the playoffs. Right now, I think we’re pretty good. We work hard and we try to put that energy in the game, too. We’re pretty good right now.”

Q: Do you think it’s a fair assessment that you have a shot to catch the Bucks? They’re pretty far in front right now. Do you think it’s a legitimate goal to try and catch them at this point in the season? Or are you just playing for the best record you can get?

VP: “I mean, the goal is to play to win every game. I feel like we don’t see the end of the season right now. We try to take each game after each game and play as hard as we can and win as many games as we can until the final game of the season. Nobody is looking forward to what is going to happen at the end. We just try and play every game as a win.”

Q: Following the tragic loss of Kobe, how much did he influence your game? Or did he?

VP: “We knew that. The locker room was a little bit sad and focused on the game. Everybody wanted to honour Kobe and wanted to play a great game and show for him. I think it kept us focused for the game for all the 48 minutes, and everybody was really affected by that – the tragedy – to be professional and play the game.”

Q: Do you like what the league is doing, the way they are honouring him at the All-Star game?

VP: “I think it’s great. He was one of the best players of all time and it’s normal for the league and all the people to honour him the way they are doing it. It’s a big loss for basketball and I think it’s good to make everything like that.”

NBA Sundays presented by NBA2K20 on Sky Sports – part of a record 48 Primetime games live on Sky Sports starting from 7.00pm every weekend. This week on 9 February the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Boston Celtics on Sky Sports Arena from 8.30pm.

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Nik Stauskas: “Playing without the ball is a big part of the game in Europe. After five years in the NBA, I was spoiled with the lifestyle and the luxuries” https://www.talkbasket.net/66584-nik-stauskas-playing-without-the-ball-is-a-big-part-of-the-game-in-europe-after-five-years-in-the-nba-i-was-spoiled-with-the-lifestyle-and-the-luxuries https://www.talkbasket.net/66584-nik-stauskas-playing-without-the-ball-is-a-big-part-of-the-game-in-europe-after-five-years-in-the-nba-i-was-spoiled-with-the-lifestyle-and-the-luxuries#respond Thu, 30 Jan 2020 06:30:49 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=66584 Canadian sharpshooter Nik Stauskas is exploring European basketball courts for the first time at the age of 26. Born in Ontario, he was selected with the eighth pick in the 2014 NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings, where he initiated his professional career. However, it was in his first two seasons with the Sixers when […]

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Nik Stauskas: “Playing without the ball is a big part of the game in Europe. After five years in the NBA, I was spoiled with the lifestyle and the luxuries”

Canadian sharpshooter Nik Stauskas is exploring European basketball courts for the first time at the age of 26.

Born in Ontario, he was selected with the eighth pick in the 2014 NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings, where he initiated his professional career. However, it was in his first two seasons with the Sixers when Stauskas enjoyed his best time in the NBA, averaging 9 points over 26 minutes of action.

After 2017, despite improving his three-point-shooting percentage, the guard-forward with the Lithuanian roots, never really saw much playing time. Changing teams every year, moving from Brooklyn to Portland and lastly Cleveland surely didn’t help him leave his mark in the league, besides a few exceptions. Thus, the presence of Stauskas in the NBA came to an end after five seasons, 6.8 points on average in a total of 335 games.

So far, the Euroleague seems to be treating him a bit better than the NBA, but the same is not true for Kirolbet Baskonia as well. The Spanish side have lost sight of the play-off spots long ago, having won only 8 out of their 21 games and despite 9.5 points on 42% three-pointers by the former Michigan Wolverines player.

Nik Stauskas spoke to TalkBasket.net about the background of his decision to try European basketball, the changes in the NBA that have rendered players’ longevity harder than ever and the Canadian National Team that will host one of FIBA’s Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in Victoria, British Columbia. He also talked about three-point shooting, prominent shooters and the person that enlightened him on what playing overseas is all about.

Q: How has your whole overseas experience been until now? So far, you’ve referred many times to the differences between NBA and Europe.

A: Well, playing in the NBA was always a dream of mine. I played five years there, but obviously in the last couple of years I didn’t have the success in the NBA that I wanted to. So, it was a really good opportunity for me to come here and get better. That was the most important. Second of all, I think it was a good opportunity for me to find my confidence and that joy of playing the game again that I had lost in the NBA. Baskonia had a good amount of success in the past and I thought like I could be potentially the difference-maker here, helping the team win some games. That was really the goal coming in.

Q: What attracted you to Euroleague basketball?

A: A couple of things. Just the understanding of the game here, the I.Q. and the team aspect; learning how to play different styles and not just with the ball in your hands. I feel that playing without the ball is a big part of the game here and that’s something I feel I can improve on. Physically, I feel like it’s getting me in better shape here. You know: the running, the up and down, even just the intensity of the defence makes you work a little bit harder. I’m finding that confidence and that swagger that helps all players be successful.

Q: Is the NBA having difficulties in sustaining its workforce? Last summer, we saw the biggest migration of NBA players in recent history. It seems that even NBA veterans can’t get a contract in the league any more.

A: Yes, I think the league is changing a lot, not to mention that even when I was coming in five years ago, it was well known that the average NBA career is four years. At the end of the day, there’s only 450 jobs and think of how many players there are, not only in America but all over the world right now. With sixty new draft picks every year, that turnaround is so quick that I feel like if you’re not one of those top-100 or top-200 players but just a role player, it’s very easy to replace you. It’s one of those things, where everything depends on what you’ve done in your last year. If you’re not performing at the highest of levels, then you become replaceable. There’s always a new young guy or a guy from overseas that might come in and do your job just as well or even better. It’s very competitive.

Q: Was the situation like that when you first entered the NBA back in 2014?

A: I think the game is changing in the NBA, as shooting is becoming more and more valuable. The rosters have also changed, especially some teams are playing with less big men and if you’re “4” or “5” and you can’t shoot, it’s harder to have a role. It’s a big change, for sure.

Q: Do you agree with Shane Larkin who said that many NBA players wouldn’t be able to play in Europe?

A: It depends on the context of what he was saying. It is a different style of game, but talent wouldn’t be the issue. After five years in the NBA, I was spoiled with the lifestyle and the luxuries: traveling in a private plane and little things, like not being responsible for your own stuff. Those details could make an NBA player say: “Oh man, I can’t do that”. You get a little bit spoiled. Even for me, when I came here, it was a little bit of a shock: “Oh, they don’t do all the little things that NBA teams provide their players with”. In terms of talent, you see a lot of NBA guys come over here and have success.

Q: Do you miss those amenities that you had in the NBA?

A: Of course! It’s always nice to be a little bit spoiled and get taken care of, but it’s not that bad (in Europe). It’s nothing that you can’t handle.

Nik Stauskas
Photo: NBA

Q: What or who was your main source of information on European basketball?

A: It’s actually funny. Shane Larkin is represented by my agent and before I signed here, my agent put me in contact with him because he had played for Baskonia and in the NBA as well. I wanted to talk to someone who had played at both, get his opinion on life in the city, the practices, the travels, the games and he answered all those questions for me. I was really appreciative of the fact that he took the time to talk to me.

Q: Was Baskonia the only European option/offer in the summer for you?

A: Well, my agent towards the end of June asked me if playing in the Euroleague was something that I wanted to explore. At that time, I was kind of set on returning to the NBA. That was my focus. I said that I’d rather exhaust my options in the NBA before I commit to going overseas. So, I spent all of July not really talking with any Euroleague teams, but only with NBA teams. After that month, I realised that teams were ready to make a commitment to me that I wanted to see from them. Then, towards the end of July or early August, we made our decision to see which teams were available. Baskonia was the first team that my agent brought up to me and as I talked to Shane (Larkin) and to some other people, I started getting more comfortable making my decision.

Q: Was Real Madrid also after you, as some Spanish media reported?

A: My agent explained to me, in June and before free agency started, that if I wanted to explore Europe, he could get me to Madrid or Barcelona. “These are big cities and you’re going to like it”, he said.

Q: Did he suggest those teams to you because of the lifestyle or the basketball level that each team had to offer?

A: I think both. He said that they’re high-level teams and as a Canadian-American, I would love being in a big city. “If you don’t pursue that in June, those jobs are going to be gone until the end of July because each team has two spots for a foreign player”, he told me. At that time, I still had my mind set on the NBA and I passed up on those opportunities. When the end of July came, those jobs were all gone and we started looking for other options. I’m feeling very comfortable with the Baskonia decision.

Q: Do you believe that a good stint in Spain will give you a shot at getting more looks in the NBA?

A: Sure. The Spanish League is widely known as one of the best domestic leagues in Europe and has sent a lot of players to the NBA. Obviously Euroleague is high-level basketball. The level of the competition is great and there’s a lot of people watching these games because of the players. If it happens to return to the NBA, it happens. I won’t say “no” to it, but my focus right now is on having fun here and making the most of this opportunity. If the NBA doors are open in the future, it would be great. If not, I just got to make the most of it right now.

Q: Having suffered a series of blowout defeats, which team that beat Baskonia impressed you the most?

A: Maccabi was definitely a strong game for us because it was at our home. They came and beat us pretty good. We also have to tip our hats off to Panathinaikos. They were unbelievable against us and the atmosphere- I mean the fans- was something that I had never seen before either. Their fanbase is amazing and that surprised me too.

Nik Stauskas (right) facing Bayern Munich’s Paul Zipser (left) in a EuroLeague game. Photo Source: euroleague.net

Q: Will you be with the Canadian National Team next summer?

A: Potentially, yes. We’ll see how things go. 2015 was the last summer I played for them, but the last couple of summers it was just my body or prior commitments and I haven’t been able to make it work. I talked with Nick Nurse last summer about joining the team, but as the next one gets closer, I’m sure we’ll be in contact again. Before the World Cup, I had some tendonitis issues, which hurt me. At the same time with it being my first experience overseas and camp starting in August, I didn’t want to come in late September, not knowing anything (about basketball overseas). At first, coming to Europe, I didn’t know what to expect at all. I wanted to come early and start knowing my teammates, my coaches and learn the language (Spanish) a little bit. I’m not going to rule out Canada for this summer. Obviously, if I choose to do it, it will be a quick turnaround in terms of playing all the way until June with Baskonia and probably having to go right into the Qualifiers.

Q: Does Canada hosting the Tournament give you an additional motive to play?

A: It definitely plays a little bit into it. I read that some Canadian players, like RJ Barrett, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jamal Murray have already declared themselves available. I think that’s amazing, especially the fact that some of the top guys of our country have stepped forward, giving their commitment.

Q: Do you know that Rick Pitino will be the coach of the Greek team that will be in your bracket?

A: Yes. Rick Pitino actually coached the Louisville team that beat my Michigan team for the NCAA in 2013. I have experience playing against him. He’s a well respected coach and his resume speaks for itself. I’m happy that he’s doing well in Greece.

Q: In the 2019 World Cup, we saw that NBA basketball doesn’t translate directly to FIBA rules. Is this the main reason why Canada and also Team USA didn’t impress in China?

A: I think that the rest of the world has really caught up. They are on the same level now. Although the NBA still might have some of the top players in the world, it’s so close right now that I feel like Team USA don’t have an advantage unless they send LeBron, Westbrook, Harden and Steph Curry. But if Team USA are sending out their B-list of guys, I think that they don’t have a clear advantage. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens next.

Q: I’ve got some questions for you, regarding the shooting department: A) What does it take to become a great shooter? B) Who’s the best shooter ever and the best you’ve played against? C) Whose shooting style have you tried to emulate?

A: The one key to shooting is practice and confidence. My confidence comes from getting the repetitions up. Best shooter of all time? Steph Curry, not even close. But I would also say that I respect Klay Thompson as much because he has put up some big games against me personally. I think JJ Redick is someone in the NBA that I respect in terms of how hard he’s worked and how he’s made a career for himself in the role of the guy who comes in and knocks down shots, whether it’s off the ball, on the ball, off the dribble, coming off screens. He’s someone that I got to play with in Philadelphia for a little bit.

Q: Is it true that you and Steph Curry were about to have a televised three-point-shooting contest? Did you take it any further?

A: No, we didn’t, but I would love it. Unfortunately, it was an NCAA rule. At the time, I was an amateur and he was a professional. There were rules against such a showdown and NCAA had to shut it down. It would have been a dream come true. I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon, unless I go back to the NBA and do three-point shootout and All-Star Weekend. That would be the only way.

Q: Is there any player in Europe that you’d like to have a three-point showdown with?

A: Matt Janning. I would love to have a showdown with him. Jimmer Fredette as well. He’s an unbelievable shooter and a guy that I respect as well. He has had a great career.

Q: Did you actually play a one-on-one with Vince Carter?

A: Yes, when I was maybe nine years old. I got asked to come on the court and play against him. That was one of my favourite childhood memories. I’m still a Toronto Raptors fan.

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Dragan Milosavljević: “Partizan deserves to be in the EuroLeague” https://www.talkbasket.net/66565-dragan-milosavljevic-partizan-deserves-euroleague https://www.talkbasket.net/66565-dragan-milosavljevic-partizan-deserves-euroleague#respond Wed, 29 Jan 2020 23:54:00 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=66565 Dragan Milosavljević of Unicaja Malaga, while recovering from injury, supported Partizan against Darussafaka in the “Aleksandar Nikolić” Sports Hall. Partizan won against the Turkish club with a score of 69:57 in the packed Pionir (“Aleksandar Nikolić” Sports Hall). And one of their supporters against Darussafaka was Dragan Milosavljević. “I’m thrilled to be part of this […]

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Dragan Milosavljević: “Partizan deserves to be in the EuroLeague”

Dragan Milosavljević of Unicaja Malaga, while recovering from injury, supported Partizan against Darussafaka in the “Aleksandar Nikolić” Sports Hall.

Partizan won against the Turkish club with a score of 69:57 in the packed Pionir (“Aleksandar Nikolić” Sports Hall). And one of their supporters against Darussafaka was Dragan Milosavljević.

“I’m thrilled to be part of this great atmosphere. It is nice to see packed Pionir. This season Partizan is playing great and they deserved this atmosphere. We are all hoping that they will succeed in getting into the EuroLeague, through the EuroCup or the ABA League. With how they play in the past few seasons, they deserve it,” said Milosavljević.

Milosavljević is still recovering from a knee injury, but his recovery process is coming to an end and he will soon start training with Unicaja Malaga.

“In few days I am going back to Spain and afterwards I will join my team.”

A journalist asked Dragan Milosavljević about how far Partizan can get in the EuroCup and his answer was clear.

“I honestly think they can get into Finals, and we will see afterwards. But, it is important to get to the Finals.”

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Wesley Johnson bids farewell to Kobe Bryant citing his words to him: “Seize the moment, challenge your energy” https://www.talkbasket.net/66246-wesley-johnson-bids-farewell-to-kobe-bryant-citing-his-words-to-him-seize-the-moment-challenge-your-energy https://www.talkbasket.net/66246-wesley-johnson-bids-farewell-to-kobe-bryant-citing-his-words-to-him-seize-the-moment-challenge-your-energy#respond Tue, 28 Jan 2020 03:38:51 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=66246 The news of the loss of Kobe Bryant at the age of 41 came as shock to his ex-Lakers teammate Wesley Johnson who is playing this season for Panathinaikos in Greece. The two were really close, since they played together between 2013 and 2015. They also shared the same agent, Rob Pelinka, for a certain […]

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The news of the loss of Kobe Bryant at the age of 41 came as shock to his ex-Lakers teammate Wesley Johnson who is playing this season for Panathinaikos in Greece.

The two were really close, since they played together between 2013 and 2015. They also shared the same agent, Rob Pelinka, for a certain period of time. Johnson, the No.4 in the 2010 NBA Draft, spoke to the media about 24 hours after the fatal accident in Los Angeles that took nine lives, including that of the future Hall-Of-Famer and five-time NBA champion.

“It’s sad, tragic and unsettling. It’s every word that you can think of“, Johnson said after Panathinaikos’s game vs PAOK Thessaloniki in the OAKA Indoor Arena in Athens.

Upon hearing the news, I was in disbelief. Someone texted me and told me that they heard that it might have happened, but it’s something you don’t want to believe. Then, I started getting more frequent messages that it had really happened. I’m still shocked as I’m receiving text messages from people, but my heart goes out to the family: to Vanessa and the girls. I can’t imagine how they’re feeling. For his family, it’s tough. Our prayers and our hearts go out to them. I hate that they have to deal with it, but they know I’m here for them. It’s a tragic situation, one of those nights when you don’t want to believe what you’re hearing”, the experienced forward told gathered reporters outside his team’s locker room.

Photo: Baltimore Sun

He then went on to describe the nature of the bond that he developed with Kobe: “We were teammates for two years, but when I came into the NBA we had the same agent. So, I was around him all the time and we grew a friendship before I became his teammate. But seeing his preparation for games, how he recovered from the tough injuries he had and also his drive, it rubbed off on me and my everyday life. It’s one of those things that you never forget”.

Asked by TalkBasket.net about the Kobe memories that he will cherish for the rest of his life, Wes Johnson said that they mostly lie off the court. “I mean, he showed me his lowest points when he was coming back from his Achilles injury and his knee injury. He showed me how he recovered. He did that in every aspect: practice, playing, everything”.

Kobe imbued Johnson with the “Mamba mentality”, since the 33-year-old believes that “it’s not only about basketball. It’s about having that drive to make your life better, help one another and hold yourself accountable”.

The Texas-born forward thinks that this particular way of thinking and acting constitutes the real essence of Bryant’s legacy: “He endured that mentality throughout his career, but it’s more so in your everyday life. You can see it as he transcended it off the court by being the businessman investor and all the things that he did”.

In terms of his athletic merit, Johnson says “Jordan was the number one (athlete) before my time and I got to see him play, but Kobe was everything for me”.

Finally, when asked about the most valuable piece of advice he ever got from the 18-time All-Star, he responded plain and simple: “Seize the moment, seize the day. Whatever it is you’re doing, cherish every day, especially with your family. But challenge your energy as far as how you’re feeling. Challenge it into something you’re doing throughout the day, whether it’s basketball or your job”.

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Kobe Bryant, the memory of Jack Nicholson: “We’ll miss him” https://www.talkbasket.net/66157-kobe-bryant-the-memory-of-jack-nicholson-well-miss-him https://www.talkbasket.net/66157-kobe-bryant-the-memory-of-jack-nicholson-well-miss-him#respond Mon, 27 Jan 2020 18:00:03 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=66157 The world of the NBA, and the whole world of sport, is remembering in these hours Kobe Bryant, who died yesterday in a helicopter crash. Movie actors also remember Kobe and among them is Jack Nicholson, a big fan of the Lakers and always present at Staples Center. The Hollywood actor has given an interview […]

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Kobe Bryant, the memory of Jack Nicholson: “We’ll miss him”

The world of the NBA, and the whole world of sport, is remembering in these hours Kobe Bryant, who died yesterday in a helicopter crash. Movie actors also remember Kobe and among them is Jack Nicholson, a big fan of the Lakers and always present at Staples Center. The Hollywood actor has given an interview in CBS. This is his reaction: “My reaction is the same as almost all of LA. Where we think everything’s solid, there’s a big hole in the wall. I was used to seeing and talking to Kobe that it kills you. It’s just a terrible event.”

Jack Nicholson also spoke about his personal memory of Kobe: “In totality, just how great a player he was. I remember the first time I met him. It was at the Garden in New York and I offered him a basketball and asked him did he want me to autograph it for him. He looked at me like I was crazy.”

Touching words of Jack Nicholson, who thus ended his interview in memory of Kobe: “We’ll think of him all the time and we’ll miss him, he just was one of those touched people.”

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PJ Dozier believes the Nuggets can contest the Lakers for the first place https://www.talkbasket.net/65473-pj-dozier-believes-nuggets-can-contest-laker-for-the-first-place https://www.talkbasket.net/65473-pj-dozier-believes-nuggets-can-contest-laker-for-the-first-place#respond Thu, 23 Jan 2020 17:47:00 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=65473 PJ Dozier of the Denver Nuggets talked ahead of the European Primetime game this weekend against the Rockets on Sky Sports Arena. Q: For the second year in a row, you’re the second-best team in the Western Conference. What do you think you can improve on as a team to top the league? PD: “Absolutely. That’s […]

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PJ Dozier believes the Nuggets can contest the Lakers for the first place

PJ Dozier of the Denver Nuggets talked ahead of the European Primetime game this weekend against the Rockets on Sky Sports Arena.

Q: For the second year in a row, you’re the second-best team in the Western Conference. What do you think you can improve on as a team to top the league?

PD: “Absolutely. That’s why we play. We’ve got the utmost confidence in our team and our ability to have that top spot and ultimately win that championship. That’s what we’re shooting for.”

Q: Do you think you can contest the Lakers for first place? What will you need to do achieve the top spot?

PD: “I believe so. Just play Denver basketball. Get after it for 48 minutes. We’re going to need a full game to beat them and that’s what we’ll do.”

Q: Everyone’s talking about the importance of Michael Porter Jr. to the team. What have you made of his performances and is he the secret to you making the Western Conference finals?

PD: “This organization has a lot of confidence in what he can do, just as us players have confidence in him. He has a lot of confidence in himself. What he’s been doing hasn’t been a surprise to us, we knew he just needed and opportunity and he’s taken full advantage of it.”

Q: You’re facing the Rockets during European Primetime next Sunday. How tough are the Rockets to play? How do you stop players like James Harden and Russell Westbrook?

PD: “They’re a tough team. They’re going to come out and get a lot of 3s up. If we can limit them to as less 3s as possible that’ll be good for us. Just make sure we get a lot of contests. We know James is going to take and make tough shots and we’ve got to limit that. You’ve got to slow them down. They’re great players, they’ve been doing this a long time. Just try to knock them off their game a little bit. That’s all we need to do.”

Q: We’re at the halfway point in the season. What’s your assessment so far and what are your expectations for the rest of the season?

PD: “Just be consistent. Playing the whole 48 minutes is important for us, not coming out lackadaisical. If we play all four quarters we’re a tough team to beat.”

Q: Who would you say has been the Nuggets’ standout player this season and why?

PD: “Definitely Joker [Nikola Jokić]. He’s been the head of the snake, him and Jamal Murray, of course. They’re the head of the snake and when they come and show up we’re a tough team. They’ve been doing this for a long time as well. We definitely lean on those two.”

Q: Who is your MVP this season?

PD: “That’s a tough question. We’ve been focused on what we’ve got to do here and everything else takes care of itself. If you ask me I’m putting Joker into that category.”

NBA Saturdays and Sundays presented by NBA2K20 on Sky Sports – part of a record 48 Primetime games live on Sky Sports starting from 7.00pm every weekend. This week on 25 January the Utah Jazz host the Dallas Mavericks on Sky Sports Arena from 10pm. The Denver Nuggets host the Houston Rockets on 26 January from 8.30pm on Sky Sports Arena.

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Nuggets’ Torrey Craig on MVP this season: “You can go Giannis [Antetokounmpo], LeBron [James], Kawhi [Leonard]” https://www.talkbasket.net/65466-nuggets-torrey-craig-on-mvp-this-season-you-can-go-giannis-antetokounmpo-lebron-james-kawhi-leonard https://www.talkbasket.net/65466-nuggets-torrey-craig-on-mvp-this-season-you-can-go-giannis-antetokounmpo-lebron-james-kawhi-leonard#respond Thu, 23 Jan 2020 17:41:00 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=65466 Torrey Craig of the Denver Nuggets talked ahead of the European Primetime game this weekend against the Rockets on Sky Sports Arena. Q: For the second year in a row, you’re the second-best team in the Western Conference. What do you think you can improve on as a team to top the league? TC: “I say […]

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Nuggets’ Torrey Craig on MVP this season: “You can go Giannis [Antetokounmpo], LeBron [James], Kawhi [Leonard]”

Torrey Craig of the Denver Nuggets talked ahead of the European Primetime game this weekend against the Rockets on Sky Sports Arena.

Q: For the second year in a row, you’re the second-best team in the Western Conference. What do you think you can improve on as a team to top the league?

TC: “I say be more consistent. Win games that we should win against a team under .500. We’ve struggled in a couple of games and gave games to teams I feel like we should have won. Just being more consistent in beating the teams we should beat.”

Q: Do you think you can contest the Lakers for first place? What will you need to do achieve the top spot?

TC: “It’s a long season, we’re only halfway through the season. There’s a lot of basketball left. Teams are going to go on winning streaks, teams are going to go on losing streaks. It’s hard to tell what can happen but I definitely think we have a chance to be first in the West. To do that, like I said, we need to be more consistent, beat teams under .500. I think we lost six or seven games to teams that had nine, six, 10 wins. If we win those six games and take away those six losses we’d be right there in first. That’s the biggest thing.”

Q: Everyone’s talking about the importance of Michael Porter Jr. to the team. What have you made of his performances and is he the secret to you making the Western Conference finals?

TC: “For sure. He’s a huge asset to this team, his size, his ability to score and rebound the ball is amazing so he’s definitely a huge asset to us. He’s coming along fairly well. He’s been patient. It took a while but he showed flashes of greatness and it’s starting to show in games and big moments.”

Q: You’re facing the Rockets during European Primetime next Sunday. How tough are the Rockets to play? How do you stop players like James Harden and Russell Westbrook?

TC: “We have to contain their main players, Harden and Westbrook. They go as Westbrook and Harden go. If we can control them and keep them at a low pace we have a chance to win.”

Q: We’re at the halfway point in the season. What’s your assessment so far and what are your expectations for the rest of the season?

TC: “Continue to play good basketball, play consistent basketball and finish near the top of the standings in the West.”

Q: Who would you say has been the Nuggets’ standout player this season and why?

TC: “Will [Barton] is having a tremendous bounce-back year. Last year, sitting out, being hurt, dealing with the injury and trying to come back and trying to play out of a funk. This is great revenge for him. He’s playing at a high level so he’s going to be big for us the rest of the season and the playoffs.”

Q: Who is your MVP this season?

TC: “You can go with a couple of guys. You can go Giannis [Antetokounmpo], LeBron [James], Kawhi [Leonard]. There’s so much talent around the league you can go either way. I don’t really have a front runner, I just have a group of guys that could get it. Joker could be in there.”

NBA Saturdays and Sundays presented by NBA2K20 on Sky Sports – part of a record 48 Primetime games live on Sky Sports starting from 7.00pm every weekend. This week on 25 January the Utah Jazz host the Dallas Mavericks on Sky Sports Arena from 10pm. The Denver Nuggets host the Houston Rockets on 26 January from 8.30pm on Sky Sports Arena.

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Nuggets’ Juancho Hernangomez says ‘it’s tough’ not getting consistent minutes https://www.talkbasket.net/65465-nuggets-juancho-hernangomez-says-its-tough-not-getting-consistent-minutes https://www.talkbasket.net/65465-nuggets-juancho-hernangomez-says-its-tough-not-getting-consistent-minutes#respond Thu, 23 Jan 2020 17:36:00 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=65465 Juancho Hernangomez of the Denver Nuggets talked ahead of the European Primetime game this weekend against the Rockets on Sky Sports Arena. Q: What have you made of your season so far and what is your goal for the rest of the season? JH: “It has not been a good season for me. I’ve been […]

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Nuggets’ Juancho Hernangomez says ‘it’s tough’ not getting consistent minutes

Juancho Hernangomez of the Denver Nuggets talked ahead of the European Primetime game this weekend against the Rockets on Sky Sports Arena.

Q: What have you made of your season so far and what is your goal for the rest of the season?

JH: “It has not been a good season for me. I’ve been struggling with my game. I don’t make too many shots. It’s tough. I have to figure it out. I keep practicing the same, even more. I’ve been shooting really good in practice, it’s just the games. When you don’t have the consistent minutes, consistent rhythm the game is tough. All the players have the same thing and I’ll have to figure it out and keep going.”

Q: Is there anything you are working on personally to ensure you get a better role on the team?

JH: “I try to be ready. You don’t know how many minutes you’re going to get. Sometimes you play one game and then three games you’re not in the rotation, so you just have to be ready. It’s tough. I don’t have a lot of shots in the game but I have to be ready.”

Q: How do you keep a positive mindset?

JH: “Just working on my game. I get here in the morning to work on my game to be ready. That’s the key. When coach calls you, then you have to be ready. Just find myself. That’s my goal right now. Just enjoy playing time again.”

Q: Which player has impressed you most in the NBA and why?

JH: “All the great players, all the other stars, are amazing. I try to watch them and focus on what they do, what they don’t do. I like to see their warmups. It’s crazy how good they are.”

Q: Do you talk to your brother, Willy, often? Do you help each other out?

JH: “We talk every single day. We play video games together with a friend in Spain, too. That connection is pretty good because we play two, three hours a day and we are talking to each other and to our Spanish friends. They keep your mind out of the game, and that’s good. We call after the game, ‘How are you feeling, what you’re going to do.’ Try to keep each other up and be positive between us.”

NBA Saturdays and Sundays presented by NBA2K20 on Sky Sports – part of a record 48 Primetime games live on Sky Sports starting from 7.00pm every weekend. This week on 25 January the Utah Jazz host the Dallas Mavericks on Sky Sports Arena from 10pm. The Denver Nuggets host the Houston Rockets on 26 January from 8.30pm on Sky Sports Arena.

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Rudy Gobert plays down big win against Pacers https://www.talkbasket.net/65464-rudy-gobert-plays-down-big-win-against-pacers https://www.talkbasket.net/65464-rudy-gobert-plays-down-big-win-against-pacers#respond Thu, 23 Jan 2020 17:29:00 +0000 https://www.talkbasket.net/?p=65464 Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert talked ahead of the European Primetime game this weekend against the Mavs on Sky Sports Arena. Q: As a team, you committed only 11 fouls against the Pacers. How do you strike a balance between playing tough defense and not fouling? RG: “That was really what we wanted to do, […]

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Rudy Gobert plays down big win against Pacers

Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert talked ahead of the European Primetime game this weekend against the Mavs on Sky Sports Arena.

Q: As a team, you committed only 11 fouls against the Pacers. How do you strike a balance between playing tough defense and not fouling?

RG: “That was really what we wanted to do, don’t give them free throws and don’t give them anything at the rim and don’t give them any rebounds. We did a great job doing those three. We had a few turnovers, but they didn’t hurt us because we were able to run back.”

Q: Beating the Pacers 118-88 gives you a victory over one the of the top Eastern Conference teams. Does it feel extra special to beat a top team like that?

RG: “It doesn’t feel different. Every team is an NBA team. Some teams don’t have a great record but they still beat some good teams. We never want to be that team that gets beat. It doesn’t matter who we play. We try to come out every night with a high level of urgency and focus.”

Q: How does Mike Conley’s return elevate the Jazz?

RG: “He’s a great teammate and a great player. You know we’re going to need him if you want to win a championship. He is a big part of what we do.”

Q: You are seeing an uptick in your offensive production over the past few games. What has keyed that improvement?

RG: “I just keep working every day. I just try to improve. It’s also I feel like my teammates are really looking for me. I just have to make the right play every time.”

NBA Saturdays and Sundays presented by NBA2K20 on Sky Sports – part of a record 48 Primetime games live on Sky Sports starting from 7.00pm every weekend. This week on 25 January the Utah Jazz host the Dallas Mavericks on Sky Sports Arena from 10pm. The Denver Nuggets host the Houston Rockets on 26 January from 8.30pm on Sky Sports Arena.

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