"I'm so excited. I'm really happy [to play for a title contender]. It built up my level. I feel like my level of play has to be at that caliber now so I need to keep working hard. Basically, fill that roll and be that player that I need to be."
Ben Q. Rock and I are covering the 2009 Orlando Pro Summer League at the RDV SportsPlex, this week. For the next few days, we'll be watching the Magic play, as well as check out the other teams in the event. Ben will recap the Orlando games and provide his usual insights, as he always does. Meanwhile, I will chat with various coaches, front office personnel, players, and others, gathering their thoughts on a variety of topics. I'm proud to kick off Day 1 of our coverage.
Today, I was able to speak with Indiana Pacers head coach Jim O'Brien and president of basketball operations Larry Bird, soon-to-be former Orlando Magic player Marcin Gortat, head coach Stan Van Gundy, and newly-acquired Ryan Anderson.
Click after the jump for the full transcript.
You're coaching the Indiana Pacers Summer League team, what type of things are you looking from your players this week?
We want to establish a good tempo that we want to play with, which is up and down. Move people, make sure they have some semblance of the running game. See if they can follow the basic schemes that we want to accomplish.
Are you excited to see Tyler Hansbrough and others play?
Do you plan on playing them [Hansbrough, Hibbert, McRoberts, Rush] a lot of minutes?
Sure, absolutely. We have 13 guys [on the roster], 1 guy is hurt. We have 12 guys ... the purpose of the summer league is ... you can pick guys that are draft choices and give them a chance to get acclimated to your system.
Do you think the development will be able to help them onto the season?
I think that ... we have most of our offense in, at least they've seen ... Tyler and A.J. ... they have seen a semblance of what we're trying to do. This will give them ... basically, we have 5 games and 12 practices, so this will give them a chance to get comfortable with it and so when they come into training camp, they'll have a step up.
Awful. Both of them have 22 turnovers in a 43 minute game. Very sloppy but a lot of these guys ... first time they've ever played in a professional league so I'm sure they were nervous, but it wasn't much fun to watch.
Was the officiating too inconsistent for you?
It's always inconsistent. It's part of the game ... the way they played, it was a sloppy game.
How did you like the performance of Hansbrough, Rush, and the other players on your team?
They played alright. Rush has been looking pretty good all summer. Really, it's their first time out there so as the week goes by, they'll start playing better.
Is there any player that stood out to you from either team, in terms of overall play?
Well, I knew that [Marreese] Speights was a very good player ... I knew he was going to score points. It was interesting to watch [Jrue] Holiday out there because last year [at UCLA], we never saw him handle the ball much. You know, these guys will develop as they go along. They're both going to be very good players.
How did you think Holiday played the point today? He's learning on the job, as you said.
It's a tough position to learn on the job but he's a very skilled athlete, still a lot of talent. He'll just improve from here on out.
What do you think of the shakeup in the Eastern Conference?
Everyone thinks you have to make a counter-move. I think that Rasheed Wallace going to Boston is really going to help them. You pick up Vince Carter in Orlando, but you lose Turkoglu. Everything looks good on paper for a lot of teams until they get out there and start playing, you never know what's going to happen.
What type of aspirations do you have for your team this year, which has a lot of young, promising players?
Well, we're young. We made a roster change and we lost a lot of talent, but we cleaned up our team ... we're just going to rebuild the boat right now but we're trying to pick up pieces along the way and hopefully get better ever year and get back in this thing.
What brings you to the Summer League? You've been a regular here the past few years.
Watching how it goes. Just watching all the guys, first of all, and for the first time, enjoy that I could watch and I don't have to play.
What type of things in the off-season are you going to be working on, in terms of your game? Are you going to touch on anything specific?
I think I'm just going to work on the basics, work on my range, work on my consistent shot. Just work ... get bigger, get quicker, get faster, and obviously some post moves and just try to stay in shape and get ready to play.
It was a great season for the Orlando Magic, even though the team lost in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Could you describe the experience of being able to play against Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and others?
Yeah, it was a great experience, especially the whole atmosphere of being in the Finals. The whole atmosphere with the media and everything that was going on around. Something that I'll never forget ... big expectations from our team, big pressure. We didn't make it but I think we learned a lot from the experience and will try to duplicate it next year.
What are some of the things you want to take from the NBA Finals and apply to yourself from here on forward?
Connection with media. The way I was handing media, I think that next year I'm going to be way better with that.
Was it a little overwhelming for you?
Yeah, this little thing all of a sudden became a really big thing. I learned that, from a small little thing ... you can all of a sudden have a huge story.
What was it like battling with Dwight Howard every day?
I liked it. It made me a better guy. I became a better basketball player. I had my confidence going into the game so that's how I learned everything.
If you don't come back, will you miss all the guys?
Oh yeah ... I'm going to see them on the floor so it's not a big deal.
Stan Van Gundy
Is there anyone from the Magic and Thunder game that stood out to you?
Well, I was impressed with [Serge] Ibaka from Oklahoma City. I didn't know anything about him, but everyone had good moments and bad
How much will it help having Vince Carter coming with you to Orlando?
Yeah, Vince took me under his wing last year so it was a really good ... makes it a warm and easy adjustment for me. Especially a veteran, All-Star guy like Vince Carter ... I mean, a guy who's going to demand a lot of attention as well as Dwight. It's going to be nice to have a guy ... he's not afraid to pass the ball to anybody. He has confidence in his teammates and of course, everybody has confidence in Vince. I'm really happy to have him around and it's good to have a veteran guy have your support.
How does it feel playing for a title contender now?
I'm so excited. I'm really happy. It built up my level. I feel like my level of play has to be at that caliber now so I need to keep working hard. Basically, fill that roll and be that player that I need to be.
Have you been able to speak with Howard or any of the other players?
I know Dwight was here. I haven't really talked to him much. I talked to J.J. [Redick], Marcin ... yeah, a couple of the guys. Of course, Vince ... Jeremy [Richardson], of course. Not a bunch of the guys but a few.
Did you feel comfortable playing out there, today?
It's weird. For me, the summer time is different because I haven't played for five months so I really got to get back into the rhythm of playing. I'm feeling comfortable with these guys. I played with Mo Ager last year with the Nets so I'm cool with the guys on the floor but you're learning new plays, you're learning all these new things so I mean it's hard to say I'm comfortable on the first day.
Has it been a little overwhelming, given the whole situation?
I wouldn't say overwhelmed, if anything, I'm just really happy. It's a break for me because I feel like this team fits my game really well. I'm going to be open around the perimeter, basically, if they want me to shoot the ball. It's not like I'm going to a team where I have no idea of anything, basically, but they play similar to New Jersey.
What's it like being able to play under Patrick Ewing in the Summer League?
I mean ... Patrick Ewing is a legend in the NBA. He's a guy I always looked up to. A guy who I idolized. It's Patrick Ewing, of course. It's funny because last year he was in the Summer League and I was like, 'Patrick Ewing is right there!' and now, once you play around with the Kobe Bryant's, the LeBron James', you realize that everybody is just a normal guy. It's their job. It's amazing playing under a guy with a lot of knowledge about the game and he has a lot to teach.
Stay tuned for Ben's recap of the Magic v. Thunder game.