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.”
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.”