Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Shooting the Breeze with Windy…

Friday, April 4th, 2014

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On a cool, but sunny, spring, afternoon, I grabbed a couple of steaming hot beverages and sat along New York’s Bryant Park with longtime Cavaliers pulse-feeler, Brian Windhorst. Brian, as most of you know, covers the NBA for ESPN and is one of the more insightful and thoughtful writers covering the NBA today (and has been so for a while). We talked Cavs playoff chances, Kyrie and Dion, extending Tristan Thompson and exactly why people need to write about Cleveland star players wanting out.

CtB: How much of Tuesday’s win against the Magic shows how far the team has come and how much of it was how little the Magic have to play for at this particular point in time? 

BW: They’ve owned the Magic all year. Even when they were playing [poorly] they beat them. To me, the season can be defined by the two games in New York. I think it was the Cavs only TNT game and the Knicks were horrible at the time. The effort level that the Cavs put forth in that game was as bad as any I’ve seen in my 12 years covering the NBA. To play like that when you’re on national television – even if you hate your teammates, even it you hate your coach – have some pride not to get ripped by Charles Barkely. Have some pride. The effort they put forth in that game was an absolute abomination. I was in the locker room after the game in disgust. I ended up ripping Kyrie that night because I’m like, “Who are you? Are you a superstar? Start acting like it.”

Then when they come and they play New York later, New York is on an eight-game win streak, they’d won eight or nine in a row at home too – hugely important game for the Knicks – the Cavs come in and win playing with ten times more effort. And I’m not generalizing. It was ten times more effort.

And, to me, that’s the Cavs season: the one team that didn’t [care] and the one team that came back to New York when the game really mattered and they won.

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Talking with… Tyler Zeller

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

I wrote about this a lot in the Summer League recaps: the Cavs’ team defense, save some lapses and that forgettable final game, was refreshingly effective. And while many fans liked to pick at Tyler Zeller lack of sheer brutishness, but the effect of his experience (he’s going into his second year in the league, but played four years of big time college at North Carolina) and intelligence on the rest of the team was apparent.

Zeller was always talking, telling the younger guys, like Carrick Felix, where to go, what position to be in, etc. Zeller points out in the video below (however vaguely … players don’t really like to talk about schemes, it turns out … especially when they’re being asked about them in vague ways) that a lot of the difference between good defense and bad defense is trusting that your teammates will be where they’re supposed to be.

Mike Brown talks about this in terms of the heavy lifting of establishing the defensive culture. Dion Waiters echoed this idea saying that we all saw him last year with his head constantly swiveling around trying to follow the ball or track the action and that wasn’t effective. Effective team play, he said, comes when, say, he doesn’t have to look to see if the pick’s coming — a teammate knows to call it out and Waiters trusts that he will.

I touched on this subject with Zeller and got to ask him about watching his brother, Cody, play for the Bobcats in the same Summer League.

(One thing that was not vague in this interview: I am not a legit seven-footer, no matter what the Cavs: The Blog media guide says…)

Talking with… Carrick Felix

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Many Cavs fans (myself included) fell hard when they were introduced to Carrick Felix back on July 12. That was the Cavaliers’ first game of the Las Vegas Summer League and Felix tipped his hat in our general direction then went out and tallied 14 points on 5-9 shooting (2-3 from three) to go along with six rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Now that, one says to one’s self, is what you like to see from your second round pick.

But Felix’s production tapered off after that and his final game saw him scoring two points and grabbing just one rebound in 20 minutes in a loss to the Miami Heat.

Still, most people I talked to during my time at Summer League were impressed by Felix. He talks about wanting to play defense and he’s built for it: long, athletic and quick. He’s shown that it is at least theoretically possible for him to hit open threes. But his ball handling has still got a long way to go, which currently limits even the eventual effectiveness he’ll have as a finisher in transition.

The best thing about Felix, though, may be his attitude. He’s got an easy smile and comes across as genuinely enthusiastic to being in the position to make an NBA roster (I know, I know… Who wouldn’t be?).

I caught up with him after a game in Vegas:

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Talking with… Anthony Bennett

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

I was alongside a couple of local Vegas television crews as they chatted up Anthony Bennett on Tuesday afternoon at Summer League.

A lot of the local questions tilt toward UNLV, but there’s a great one where Bennett describes walking up to the podium on draft night and what David Stern said to him. I come in at 5:07 and hit a home run (of course).

Bennett seems like a nice, humble guy who really wants to get back on the court and play. That is also something that I want.

Thanks to Varsity Tape’s Adam Dew for the fine camera work.

Talking with… Dion Waiters

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

I had a chance to catch up with Dion Waiters following the Cavs’ 69-58 win over the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday night in the Las Vegas Summer League. We talked about taking his game up in the fourth quarter, his off-season workout and talking with the refs.

CtB: In the fourth quarter, you really took up your aggressiveness. How important was it for you to take control of the game, get those shots to start falling and to get a win?

Waiters: I’m really just trying to get my legs back. I’m trying to go so hard just to get back into playing rhythm. I’ve been working out, but there’s a difference from running up and down. That’s why I’m out here. I just wanted to be aggressive in the fourth. I had some good looks. I was shortening my shot, not following through… off-balance. So, I told myself I gotta be aggressive. If my shots aren’t falling, I gotta get to the rack.

CtB: What’s your off-season workout? What have you been doing?

(At this point, we picked up some video of the conversation. It follows — and a transcript of those Qs and As follows that.)

Waiters: Everything, man. Riding bikes for 50 miles. Weight room. Gym two, three times a day. I’m just working, man. Swimming pool. Everything. Everything.

CtB: I saw a little conversation between you and the refs, especially early on in the game. What’s a conversation like that go like?

Waiters: Oh, I just told the ref, “Can we play a little bit?” You know, some calls, you’re not going to get those calls in the NBA, so I was trying to tell him that. I don’t know what they called. I think they called, like, 60 calls today. Man, it was crazy. Every time you tried to get into a rhythm, you hear a whistle. But, you know… They’re doing their job, I guess.

The next day, following the Cavs’ 62-66 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, I found Waiters again. This time, I wanted to talk about the smack-down he put on an Austin Rivers shot attempt in the third quarter. I talk more about the block in the recap and here’s what Waiters had to say:

CtB: You had one play that really stood out. It was that really demonstrative, big block on Austin Rivers. How much do you enjoy bringing that swagger, that on-court talking to the game.

Waiters: I do, man. I do. That’s what the game is about. Having fun. Being competitive.

CtB: Get inside your opponents head a little bit?

Waiters: Yeah, just a little bit. It ain’t like that, though. [It’s just fun.] It is what it is.

Links to the Present: April 3, 2012

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Don’t rest your starters, Pop! Or at least play Tim Duncan. Maybe Tristan Thompson can learn something from checking one of the best big men to ever play the game.

Antawn Jamison has been struggling mightily since the trade deadline. I wonder, with Jamison failing to score with any efficiency, Irving on the bench with a bum shoulder, and Varejao rocking a blazer, if this isn’t the worst team in the league right now. My apologies to any Charlottans (I totally assume this is what Charlotte residents call themselves) because you’ve had to endure this level of basketball the entire season, but the Cavs are exceptionally not good right now.

Boobie Gibson underwent season-ending ankle surgery yesterday. He tweeted after the surgery was over that the doctor gave him great news afterward. He didn’t elaborate on what that news is, but one can assume the surgery went well.

And Kyrie Irving is the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. Even in a not-so-great month the gap between him and the best non-Rubio rookies is pretty wide.

UPDATE: Irving will play tonight against the Spurs.

Interview with Randolph Keys of Real Cavs Fans

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Hey folks, here’s an interview I did recently with Randolph Keys of Real Cavs Fans. Enjoy. Midterm in seven hours. Tip for everyone wondering whether or not to graduate in seven semesters — don’t.

Taking some time with Danny Green and J.J. Hickson

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

I had a chance to spend some time with Danny Green and J.J. Hickson the other day, and had a very good time talking to both of them. I think they’ll both see their roles on the team expanded this season, and they both gave me great insight into the changes Byron Scott has been implementing. Without further ado:
Krolik: How’s your summer league going so far, and what are you looking to do in your third game here tonight?

Green: “Pretty decent so far. You know, I’m trying to get better each day. Each game. Started out okay, a little shaky, second game did a little better job controlling the ball but could still improve. Today, you know, I’m going to keep getting better. Try to improve. Get some more wins.”

Krolik: One of the biggest stories of summer league here has been how the team is trying to implement Byron Scott’s new system. How would you describe that transition?

Green: “I like it. It’s more of a run-and-gun system. He has us running, he has us in pretty good shape, we do a lot of flex offense so it’s different from Mike Brown’s system. You know, I’m all for the running and gunning. You know, Mike Brown’s more of an iso situation, this is more of a team type of thing. So it’s a little different.”

Krolik: Do you think the team will keep any of the things it did last year? The team would do things like use a lot of back-screening, particularly for Mo — do you think the team will continue to do the things it did last season?

Green: “It definitely could. It can happen. I’m sure he hasn’t put everything in that he has. He’s put some things in — we do a lot of back-screens, backdoors, things like that. Use a lot of screens, get a lot of people open — movement. I think it’ll make us more effective.

Krolik: How long do you think it will take this team to transition — be as comfortable in this system as they were in the old one?

Green: “It might take a little while. But we have a lot of good players. Guys that are smart, and do homework, and can adjust to a lot of things. We should be good either way. It might take a little while, a month, a couple weeks, I think we’ll adjust and just play basketball, really. I mean, that’s all it is. Basketball’s still basketball.”

Krolik: 61-win team, you were more of a situational player. Can you tell us what you learned from that experience of being on the bench?

Green: “I learned a lot last year. Actually, I was a sponge. Playing with those guys in practice every day — I learned a lot from them. Watching every game — you know, I had front-row seats. You know, the best way to learn is to watch. So you know, I was watching every game, watching every practice. Taking a look at specific things from each player and trying to add it to my game.

Krolik: Last year — two years ago, when you weren’t on the team yet, the team had the reputation for being one of the loosest teams in basketball. One of the loosest locker rooms. Last year, there were a lot of things like that as well, with LeBron and Shaq…

Green: “It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun. It was real loose, it might be a little different this year, Coach Scott is old-school, we had a lot of fun and I’m sure we’re going to continue to have a lot of fun, because this is a life that’s not guaranteed. We’re very thankful for it, you know what I’m saying? We’re playing basketball, to do as our job. Not many people are capable, are able to do what we do. You know, we know that and we try to enjoy it as much as possible.”

Krolik: On the court, we all know things will be different without LeBron James. What will the locker room be like without him?

Green: “I’m sure it won’t be as funny. We’ll see. We still have a lot of characters on this team. It’ll definitely be more serious, he liked to clown around a lot, but I’m pretty sure we’ll still be the same team with guys being themselves and we still have a lot of characters.”

Krolik: There was actually an article that came out earlier today that said LeBron almost wasn’t put on the 2008 Olympic team because of concerns about his attitude. Did you ever have a problem with his attitude?

Green: “Aw, no! I never had a problem with his attitude. I thought he was a great guy — very down-to-earth, humble, and everything. You know, I think he could adjust in any system to any coach, and I don’t know why — honestly, I don’t know why some people…I don’t know. I don’t know what happened with the situation.”

Krolik: How well did you know guys like Maverick Carter and Randy Mims?

Green: “Pretty well. You know, they were pretty good friends. Spoke to ‘em all the time. They were cool just like anybody else was.”

Krolik: How much of a presence were they on the team? Were they in the locker room?

Green: “Randy was a lot more of a presence than Mav and Rich was. Randy traveled with us on the road trips, did a lot of stuff with the team.”

Krolik: Can you describe what his personality was like?

Green: “Great guys. Just like everybody else on the team, just going out, having fun, living life.”

J.J. Hickson:

Krolik: How’s your time been in Vegas so far? You had 34 points in your last game — how are you looking to build on that?

Hickson: “It’s all good, you know. It’s even better to get the win. My first year in summer league, we went 0-5, so it feels good to get the win. I’m just trying to come out here, work on my game.”

Krolik: What is some of that stuff you’ve been working on? I’ve noticed a lot more jump shooting.

Hickson: “A ton of shooting. I already know I can jump and finish, so I’m working on everything else. Putting the ball on the floor once or twice — I’m not saying I can bring it up the floor yet, but you know, it’s always good to have in store. I’m just coming out here, and working on a lot of the stuff I’ve been working out during the summer.”

Krolik: It looks like the team has really tried to run. Can you talk about the full-court game, and how you play in it?

Hickson: “I think that fits my game more, when we get out and run. That fits my game more, when we gotta run. I think I’ve proven I can run the floor as a big man and defend and rebound. You know, we push the ball, it fits to my game more.”

Krolik :You had a crazy year last year. You started out as a rotation player, became a starter, then you went back to being a rotation player, then you became more of a situational player in the playoffs. Can you talk about what you learned while switching between all those roles?

Hickson: “You know, we all professionals, so I — I’m not gonna sit here and lie, I wasn’t too happy about it. At the same time, I respect the coach’s decision, you know, I was a pro about the situation with the coaches and my teammates, and when it was time to play, I played.”

Krolik: Being a starter — what kind of a learning experience was that?

Hickson: “Most of the stuff I learned, I can’t even explain. As far as the mental aspect goes, I think confidence is the cure for anything. For any situation. So I think, you know, when you start or not start, I think it kind of messed my confidence a little bit. As we stand in the Summer League, I think my confidence is at an all-time high right now.”

Krolik: There’s been a lot of talk about Byron Scott’s system. Can you talk about the old system a little bit? How did it work, and what was your role in it?

Hickson: “You know, we had the big fella in the middle. That’s not all the reason about why, you know, we didn’t run as much, but we kinda had to wait on him. It’s expected. You know, that’s not his game. His game is not to get up and down the court, so you know. With B. Scott right now, he wants to push the ball, he’s been running us a lot, so we got a lot of looks once we go to training camp.”

Krolik: Other than pace of play, what are the differences between the two offenses and the sets?

Hickson: “I think we do try to press the offense. When it does get in the half-court, which is very rare, for the most part all we’re looking to do is push the ball and run and have some fun.

Krolik: You’re one of the younger guys on the team at 21 years old, but you’re one of the most expereinced guys on this summer-league team. Do you try and be a leader to the rest of the summer-league team?

Hickson: “Of course. Not only on the summer-league team, but the Cavaliers overall. I know I’m young, but I’m up to the task of being a young leader. I’m working on it right now with talking to guys like Christian and Danny — he’s older than me, but I have been in the league longer.”

Krolik: Who do you see the locker-room leaders of the team being next season?

Hickson: “I’m not looking for anyone to give it to me, but I’d be willing to take on that role of being a leader. I still gotta listen to my older vets, guys like Mo and stuff like that.”

Krolik: Talk about what you’ve learned from Antawn since he came over. You know, he’s such a great scorer — have you been learning things by playing with him?

Hickson: “Of course. You know, our games are so different, it’s like night and day. He’s more pick-and-pop, and I’m more pick-and-roll. But as you can see, I’m doing little things to my game right now, with my shooting and stuff. You know, it’s working for me.”

Krolik: Do you see yourself playing more center this year?

Hickson: “I mean, if that’s what coach asks me, of course. But I still see myself as more of a power forward.”

Krolik: What are you trying to do to get better as a defender and a rebounder?

Hickson: “You know, defending and rebounding is all about your heart. Your effort. I don’t think that’s something you can work at, you’ve just gotta have it.”

Krolik: What are the changes to the defense? Usually if you want to get out and run, it means playing defense a different way.

Hickson: “I think our schemes will be a bit different, but I think both coaches, Mike Brown and Byron Scott, they’re both ministers of defense. So I mean the schemes will change, but I don’t think our effort will change.”

Krolik: What should we expect to see from the Cleveland Cavaliers and J.J. Hickson next season?

Hickson: “To go out, get wins, have fun. Get up and down the floor, and win some games.”