If there were a team of NBA Media Day All-Stars, there's a chance that Kyle O`Quinn would start at center. Sure, he's a backup with the Orlando Magic, but his ability to balance wit and insight when addressing the press' questions makes him a guy worth talking to, on any subject. Here's a rundown of the fun-loving Queens native's scrum during Monday's Media Day.
As an individual, O'Quinn said he wanted to continue learning about the game during the offseason. "I think that's the biggest part," he said. "'Basketball's basketball,' like Jameer [Nelson] always says, but just learning the game and learning the ins and outs, that's how you get better."
So what are some of the ins and outs that O'Quinn learned? He explains: "Tendencies on guys. The importance of spacing on the court. The importance of knowing spacing and how quickly you need to get to your spot. Learning plays, learning guys in the league's tendencies. You're in the league eight years: I don't think Jason Maxiell's doing anything different [in] year eight that he wasn't doing in year five. It just goes to show you that guys can create habits and that can give you an edge on the game."
O'Quinn confirmed that his contract for the coming season is not guaranteed, but will become so on opening night. To make the training-camp cut, O'Quinn says he knows what he has to do. "The things they expect me to do, just do 'em on a nightly basis," he said. "Just go out there and play the same way I did last year."
O'Quinn knows and embraces his role on the team. He has to be an "energy guy, a glue guy," and he's found another professional on whom to model his game. "I like to compare myself to Nick Collison for the Thunder," O'Quinn said. "Guy just comes in and nothin'... never slacks off. I look at him a lot. I watch film on him."
O'Quinn is part of Orlando's young core of talent, and as anyone who follows his Twitter account knows, the young fellas spend a lot of time together; Tobias Harris even lives downstairs from him. O'Quinn, a professor of team chemistry, imparted lessons on how it works and why it's important.
"[If] you slip up and slack off, a guy can yell at you and talk to you as a brother," he said. "We were together almost every day, we stayed on each other's case, and we held each other accountable." His goal, he says, is to become a "seasoned professional" like coach Jacque Vaughn.
Communication is a key component of team chemistry. O'Quinn gave this example to illustrate that point: "If Moe [Harkless] misses an assignment, I can talk to him as if I don't know him, just to get my point across. Same thing, vice versa. And after that, we're all gonna go to dinner and have a good time [....] We can just roll on the court and get something done. After, we're brothers, just like it never happened." It can be difficult to approach a teammate about a missed assignment, for example, if you don't have a sense of who that teammate is.
That sense of camaraderie also helps the young guys get through the grind of an 82-game campaign. "If you're not together, you're just fighting against each other all year," he said. "It's just not good for the team. With 82 games, it's a long time to be fussin'."
The Magic's young guys have built chemistry not just through working out together, but also by spending time together away from the floor. In fact, O'Quinn says, it's rare for one of Orlando's young players to do things by himself. "It doesn't seem right if you do anything by yourself," he said. "The only time we might give you a pass is if you have family in town," and even then, that's not always an exception; O'Quinn said he and some teammates recently spent time at Harkless' parents' house. That Orlando is a relatively small town helps to achieve that end, because as O'Quinn says, "there's not too much to do in Orlando after you've done it all."
O'Quinn was part of the Magic's rough 2012/13 season, his first in the NBA, as Orlando lost a league-worst 62 games. "I think we made steps [in 2012/13], but losing is losing, brother," he said. "It hurts."
There's probably a lot more losing in store for O'Quinn and the Magic in 2013/14, but if his comments Monday are any indication, he and his teammates are prepared to deal with the losses as best they can. They've fostered a team-first attitude in their first offseason as a group, O'Quinn said: "Nobody's thinking like, 'well, y'all can win if y'all want, but if y'all lose, I'm still gonna be good.' I don't think nobody's thinkin' like that."