It's official, training camp has started for the Orlando Magic and it's clear that there's a bunch of players trying to get used to each other (as to be expected), given that head coach Stan Van Gundy didn't hesitate to note the sloppy play on the court while the Magic were scrimmaging against each other. That being said, Van Gundy liked the effort and stated that the conditioning of the players will improve over time.
After Orlando's morning practice, I was able to ask a number of questions amongst the media to Van Gundy, Vince Carter, and Brandon Bass. Here's what they had to say:
Stan Van Gundy:
Mickael Pietrus stated that he wouldn't mind coming off the bench. Is that going to affect your decision making, in terms of who is going to start at the three?
I don't really get into what people mind or don't mind. I'm more worried about what I think is best.
Do you think Vince Carter is underrated as a passer?
Well, I think he's a very, very good passer. He sees the floor very, very well. The only thing I've talked to Vince about is, and I think it happens at times with the better players, is that they go on in their career is that they start to take routine plays for granted. So, maybe throw a one-handed pass a little off target when you don't need to instead of putting some hands on the ball. Getting straight up and down on your jumpshot when you have time to balance up and really following through and drilling it. Things like that, just making those routine plays. I mean, Vince is a great, great player and can do a lot of different things and I think where he has to go to have what I want him to have, which is the best year of his career, I think he has to be a little more solid on making the routine plays.
I know it's still early, but how long does it take for you to settle in on a rotation?
Oh, God. This year will be harder and like I said yesterday, the one thing that I'm still, quite frankly, confused about is sort of how I want to go through these eight games in the exhibition schedule to make sure we're ready to play with Rashard and that we're also ready to start the year without him. Just, who do you play him with and when and which games of the exhibition season and all that, I think about that all the time but I haven't gotten it figured out, yet. But it's way too early and even through next week, I'm not worried about it. I'm not as worried about trying to find a rotation or all that, I'm more worried about ... well, not worried, but I want guys to have an idea of style of play, get comfortable with what we're doing, and get everybody that's out there, all 15 guys being able to defend at a higher level and execute our offense at a higher level, then we'll worry about who we go to but right now it's about getting everybody better and us playing better as a team.
Have you toyed with the idea of playing Ryan Anderson at the four and starting, given his skill-set?
Yeah, I think again, since he's come, people think he was an overlooked part of that trade and he's a guy that's, probably out of the five new guys, other than Linton [Johnson] and Morris [Almond] who we just brought in, he's a guy that's gotten the least amount of attention probably because people know the least about him and he's got a chance to play an awful lot. I think, yes, he can start those first 10 games. I think that he's a guy that can really stretch the floor out, which fits in with the way we play, he's got good instincts of moving the ball and playing the game, getting into more pick & rolls and things, he can pass the ball. Yeah, he's a good player, he's in the mix as much as any of those guys.
Do you think it's going to be a bit of a gauntlet in the Southeast Division? Washington has reloaded, Atlanta got a little bit better, Miami has Dwyane Wade like you said.
I think that, yeah, and I think Charlotte will be better. To me, I worry about everybody. I do the entire year. Every game in this league is hard. It's hard to win and any night you're not at your best in this league, you got a very good chance of getting beat so yeah, I worry a great deal about everyone we play but the main thing, we can't control how they're going to play. We just got to try to get our game together and now the morning is done, and the only thing we can focus now is having a good practice this afternoon.
Do you like the fact you have a lot of competition within the roster? Such as the back-up point guard position, at the three spot, etc.
I think it's going to be a very competitive month here, both in practice and in exhibition games and everything else. I don't think that competition is ever anything except positive. It always brings out the best in you.
Do you think that's going to make him unstoppable, once Dwight Howard reaches that percentage [70%-75%]?
Yeah, once he makes free-throws, it gets to ... you can't just grab him and hammer him every time, then he becomes pretty difficult to guard. He's pretty difficult to guard, as it is.
Do you like the basketball IQ's of the players that you brought in?
I do. Yeah, I do. I think that with J-Will, and Matt, and Vince, you got three guys that are as smart as anybody in the league, veteran guys. And I think that Brandon and Ryan are smart guys, they're younger and they don't have the experience to draw on that those guys have. Matt, Vince, and J-Will are smart, and were smart even as young players, and now when you add it to their experience, they've seen everything and when that happens, it makes it a lot easier to be ahead of the play and make good decisions and things like that.
ed. note: The Orlando Magic practice again in the afternoon.
What were some of the specific things that you worked on in practice?
Defense, just understanding his [Stan Van Gundy's] philosophy, more than anything.
How long do you think the adjustment period takes, playing on the court, and getting a feel for your new teammates?
Well, for me, I'm just trying to make it a habit each and every day so it kind of cuts down on that adjustment, cause I want the first pre-season game ... shoot, next week, I want us to have an understanding from Day 1. Not trying to feel our way, but make our way through instead of feel our way out ... like, yeah okay, I want to make those mistakes now and get an understanding as to how everybody have their hands ready so like, when J-Will is coming down the court, he'll pass it any time. Just like Jameer, just like myself, so once that's established, we'll be ready to go.
What's the difference in coaching styles between [New Jersey Nets head coach] Lawrence Frank and Stan Van Gundy?
I hate comparing, I hate comparing, but I'll just say, they're both fiery coaches. They both want to win and try to bring out the best in their team. He [Stan Van Gundy], one thing I like is that he wants to prepare from Day 1, it's not, oh, let's teach and let's learn, no, let's get it from Day 1, this is what I want, this is how we're going to do it, and this is what we're going to do. And I like that, I like to know what's going on then I can adjust and make it happen, then work your way through. When you been around a long time, it kind of gets boring sometimes, when it's like, yeah, yeah, get to it and he [Van Gundy] gets right to it and I like that.
Talk about the text messages from Stan, is it just motivational tools?
It's a little bit of everything. You'll get a little bit of everything from coach.
Do you think you and Dwight will make it tougher for opponents to get into the lane, in terms of your physicality?
Definitely, Dwight is going to make it tougher for everybody, you know what I mean? I'm just going to add what I can add to help him out and I think it'll be great for the team.
What's a Stan Van Gundy practice like?
Really, we play a lot of 5-on-5 so it's a lot conditioning and at that point where it forces you to give it your all each and every day because the other guy is giving their all and everybody is tired and continuing to work so it's tough, but I think it's going to be good for us come Monday [first pre-season game against the Dallas Mavericks] because I think everybody will be in great shape.
Did Stan put you in the pick & roll a lot, during the scrimmages?
Yeah, he did. He knows that picking and popping, posts ups, is one of my strengths so he tried to put me in those positions.
What adjustments have you had to make with Van Gundy's defensive system, in terms of coming over from the Mavericks?
Defensively, I mean that's just a huge ... here we focus more on it than in Dallas but I love to play defense and that was one of my strengths in Dallas, to come off and being able to play different players so I'm cool with it.
So you think you'll mesh well in his system?
Oh yeah, absolutely. On the defensive end, me hustling, rebounding, energy, I'm happy to do that.
*conversation shifts to Brandon Bass' love for music*
Has any of your teammates listen to any of the songs you've made?
Oh, no, no, no. It's just for my family, my little cousins, they love all that.
Have you had any freestyle battles with Dwight or Jameer or any of the guys?
No freestyle battles, I'm a writer. I like to write.
Odds and Ends:
"I ain't trying to come out with no album." - laughs Brandon Bass
Brandon is still relatively new to everyone - the media, the Orlando Magic - so it was nice to see parts of his personality, a bit, when he was talking about his love for music and his interest in Hip-Hop (favorite artists are Jay-Z, Lil' Boosie, and Young Jeezy; he's more of a storyteller with a Southern style) at the tail end of his conversation with the scrum. Bass stated that he doesn't go to clubs on his downtime; when he has fun, he goes into the studio.
Brandon Bass, the musician - he certainly has the proper last name for that hobby.