"I'm a guy who likes to get in the gym a lot. I don't like to give my coaches a lot of excuses to why I'm not this or I'm not that so I think, I've always been an underdog guy my whole career. I'm finally in a spot where a team really wants me and needs me. Last year in New Jersey, I'm a rookie so they don't know what to expect from me but here they do and it's exciting. It's a winning team, so I'm real excited to be a part of it."
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 4 of our coverage.
Click after the jump for the full transcript.
You were able to play a little bit of point during the fourth quarter of the game, is that something the Oklahoma City Thunder would like to utilize you in during the season?
I'm not sure. Whatever coach wants me to do ... play point guard for a few minutes, I'll do that. The guys played pretty well today, we shot the ball pretty well. We did a great job on the defensive end and overall it was a good game.
Is there certain things in your game that you want to work on specifically in the Summer League?
My defense. I'm not really concerned about my offense, right now. You see that I scored 15 points today, I think, so I'm not really concerned about my offense, it's just my defensive principles and I want to lock them down on the defensive end.
Do you think you have any pressure coming into the season, given that you were a top 3 pick in the NBA Draft?
No, not at all. We have a great group of guys. It's not about me, it's a team thing. If we're winning and having fun out there and we're playing together, the pressure ... I won't feel it at all.
We can all grow together. It's just great being out here. Russell is a great point guard, he did a tremendous job as well today, I think he had 9 assists so he's playing well. Our chemistry is going to keep growing throughout the Summer League so I hope we can carry it over to the season.
How do you think Mullens played, today? He looked really active on the offensive end and the defensive end.
That's what we need from him. He can shoot the ball pretty well. On the defensive end, I think he wants to get better on the defensive end this summer as well, trying to guard those bigger guys and those stronger guys so I think on the offensive end, he did a good job as well.
How do you think the Thunder will try to use you offensively during the season? It's clear that your shooting is good.
I'm not sure, yet. Without Kevin being here, it's kind of hard to kind of find out, just trying to stabilize my defensive mentality right now and when everybody comes together on the offense, then I'll pick my poison as far as what my role is on the offensive end.
How would you rate your defense, so far?
It's been pretty good. I've gotten my hands on a few balls, just helping my teammates out, learning how to help, and then recover to my guy for a shooter so it's like I said, it's a learning experience and I have to get better at.
Are you excited to play in the NBA? It's a dream for almost anybody.
I'm excited. I'm happy. It's a great experience, just to play against these guys who are in the NBA and some who are trying to get there who are going to get there, so it's just a great, humbling experience and I'm looking forward to the season.
Is there anybody in particular in the NBA that you try to model your game after? Is there anyone you try to emulate?
Not really. I watch a lot of basketball in the NBA. I just try to take certain moves or different things from certain guys and incorporate it into my game but I don't think I just watch anybody.
Could you describe how it was playing in a game like that [against the Utah Jazz], where it seemed like everything was going your team's way in the first half and then it was the opposite in the second half?
As a team, that's going to happen some games. You're not going to able to hit every shot. Of course, they tighten up their defense definitely in the second half. We were up by 20 or something in the second half, so that happens in some games. It's tough but that's the way the NBA goes. These guys are so talented, they're going to knock down shots. Guys who maybe weren't hitting shots in the first half, were definitely hitting in the second half.
Was it a little frustrating dealing with all those fouls called? I know that you had eight or nine fouls called in the game [because players don't foul out in Summer League games].
Man, yeah. Once again, that's what happens ... sometimes, even the refs can change the momentum of the game. You can't completely blame it on the refs. We didn't D up in the stretch, they were hitting some tough shots, and yeah ... they played really good in the second half.
I know you said a few days ago that you are a big fan of Patrick Ewing. Could you describe his coaching so far in the Summer League?
Pat is a real technical guy. He really wants us to know the plays, he wants us to know the other team's plays, and of course, he played for many years in the NBA so his lessons, his teachings, really helps me especially as a post player so yeah, it's really good to hear advice from a guy like Patrick Ewing.
Do you think it's invaluable to have player-to-player interaction with a coach like him?
Of course. I mean, not that you don't have the respect level for coaches that maybe haven't played. You know they've gone through the same thing as you. They know how hard it is, how hard you're working. They know when you're confused about something because they got the feel of the game, they've gone through the same things themselves so I think it's really helpful to have a coach that has played in the NBA like Patrick Ewing, especially an All-Star guy like Patrick Ewing. He's taught us a lot.
This is going to be your second year in the NBA. Could you talk about your transition going from college to the NBA? What are some things you've had to do to transition yourself?
Stay confident, man. That's really what it's all about. It's a mental game as much as a physical game. There were times last year when I wasn't playing at all and of course, in college I'm used to playing mostly the entire game. It really messes with your head, so you just have to keep working hard, keep playing, training really hard, especially during the summer time, I'm really trying to get my game a lot better. Especially coming to a new team, so that the adjustment is real easy and quick.
I'm a guy who likes to get in the gym a lot. I don't like to give my coaches a lot of excuses to why I'm not this or I'm not that so I think, I've always been an underdog guy my whole career. I'm finally in a spot where a team really wants me and needs me. Last year in New Jersey, I'm a rookie so they don't know what to expect from me but here they do and it's exciting. It's a winning team, so I'm real excited to be a part of it.
Stay tuned for Ben's recap of the Magic v. Jazz game.