The playoffs start on April 17 with ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV broadcasting the games in the US. This season’s big surprises are Oklahoma City Thunder and the Charlotte Bobcats. Check out the exclusive interview with Thunder’s Kevin Durant in the Key Players section.
Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah will miss three weeks because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot that has been bothering him since mid-January — a blow as his team starts a brutal stretch of games against some of the NBA’s better teams.
Celtics forward Paul Pierce could miss Boston’s game against the New York Knicks because of a sore right thumb, a hiatus that could help him heal in time for this week’s matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers. “It’s pretty banged up right now,” Pierce said Monday night before the Boston premiere of the HBO documentary, “Magic and Bird, A Courtship of Rivals.”
Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Paul Pierce coming soon on NBAReporter.com.
X-Mas brings two stars together when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant will play each other in their 12th Christmas Day Game on Friday, December 25. The Cavaliers meet the Lakers at Staples Center at 5pm, ET. The showdown at Staples is a highly anticipated event as the relationship between the former team mates has been full of drama. On the up side: the X-mas game will have the Cavaliers measuring up the reigning NBA champions.
The New York Knicks currently experience a sudden, unforeseen December surge. The Knicks overpowered the Portland Trailblazers recently and extended their winning streak to three games with a 93-84 victory at Madison Square Garden.They have won four of five games, including three over winning teams. They are 6-6 since setting a franchise record with a 1-9 start to the season.
“Once you start playing and winning and having hope, a lot of this is psychological,” Knicks Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “They just have a better feeling about themselves, and more confidence.” Larry Hughes had his third strong game in a row for the Knicks (7-15), scoring 21 points off the bench. David Lee had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler added 14 points each.
LeBron James hurt his left wrist by banging it on the basket while dunking late in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 108-91 loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night. ”I hit it pretty bad on the rim,” said James, who iced his wrist in the locker room after the game. “It’s like you hit your funny bone, but it’s not funny at all.” He said it happened on one of his driving dunks that closed Cleveland’s scoring with more than 2 minutes left. “Didn’t feel good at the time,” said James, who added that he hurt the same wrist earlier this season. He finished with 34 points and nine assists.
Allen Iverson was waived Tuesday, November 17 by the Memphis Grizzlies and is scheduled to clear waivers at 6 p.m. Thursday. Given his $3.1 million contract, it is unlikely any team will claim him, but there is a 50/50 chance that the New York Knicks acquire him as a free agent. Once Iverson gains that status, they can offer him the veterans’ minimum, $1.3 million for one year.
The decision rests with the team president, Donnie Walsh, and ultimately with James Dolan, the Madison Square Garden chairman. There are strong indications that coach Mike D’Antoni is already sold on the idea. “We wouldn’t be considering it if we thought that we were functioning well — and we’re not,” Donnie Walsh said. “But I want to make sure that if we do something like this, it’s the right thing to do.”
1. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
In prime position to repeat their title, the Los Angeles Lakers might challenge the Chicago Bulls’ record of 72-10 (1995/96 season) or fall apart and finish this year in disarray. Optimism galore. Says newcomer Ron Artest: “We have all the talent and potential to become one of the most special teams in the history of the game”. But can Kobe Bryant, still the best player on this planet, and Artest co-exist? Can they be efficient in the same system? If so, the Lakers will be virtually unbeatable. With these two seven footers upfront and Derek Fisher still able to make the big shots, the Lakers are an easy bet to win the Western Conference again.
2. SAN ANTONIO SPURS
The Spurs are like the monster from the old fairytales: even in critical moments theyr’e always able to regroup and retaliate stronger in the next season campaign. With Richard Jefferson, a very potent scorer from the wing, the experienced and reliable forward/center Antonio McDyess and wild card DeJuan Blair plus the Big Three (Duncan-Parker-Ginobili), the Spurs are back on track.
3. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS This young and fast developing team finished in fourth place last season. They should be considerably better with a healthy and improved Greg Oden and new veteran point guard Andre Miller who seems to be the missing link. Miller might lead the Blazers to the top together with All Star shooting guard Brandon Roy and star material DeMarcus Aldridge. * 4. DENVER NUGGETS The Nuggets have the potential to finish as the second best team in the Western Conference under the veteran leadership of Chauncey Billups with newcomers Ty Lawson as their second point guard and Aaron Affalo as another back court sub. Carmelo Anthony will be crucial for the ultimate success. He’s matured a lot under Billups’ reign and continues to be one of the five best players in the game. * 5. DALLAS MAVERICKS The Mavs are good enough to compete, but not to win major prizes. Shawn Marion puts in his pace and good rebounding skills, but he’s past his prime. So is Jason Kidd, who surprisingly got a three year contract extension at the age of 37. His hands are still there, but his legs are getting older. Big man Dirk Nowitzki and the supporting cast make the team highly competitive, but not ready to win it all. * 6. NEW ORLEANS HORNETS The Hornets got an edge with the rock solid, rebounding machine Emeka Okafor who looks like an upgrade of the often injured Tyson Chandler. The rest of the team remains the same, but they lack decent shooters, especially from the number two spot. Chris Paul, by far the best point guard in the league, might get frustrated at some point by his mediocre supporting cast. *
7. UTAH JAZZ
The Jazz were an elite team a few years ago, coached by the extraordinary Jerry Sloan. Mainly due to injuries, they fell back to the eighth spot in the Western Conference last season. They basically have the same line-up with a healthy Carlos Boozer in the last year of his contract. The Jazz need to play better defense, though. Expect Deron Williams to do wonders with the ball again; he’s the best asset they have. *
8. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS The Clippers have a fine collection of talent that should be able to compete for the play-offs this season. Baron Davis returned motivated and in much better shape. Blake Griffin, the number one pick in the draft, already got the nickname ‘Amazing’ from his teammates by showing incredible athletic skills during the preseason games. Eric Gordon continues to be an offensive threat, but it’s time to prove what they’re worth.
The hopes were high again at the start of the new season, but with their number one draft pick Blake Griffin sidelined with a knee injury, the Los Angeles Clippers recorded another slow start to their NBA campaign with four losses in five games. Talking about play-offs chances is always a bold choice as well as a calculated risk. No matter how vast the talent and promising the players theye were lucky to sign, this is still the most unsuccesful franchise in the history of pro sports in America.
The Clippers made the play-offs only three times in the last 25 years. After Blake Griffin recently went down with an injury, comments about the “Clipper curse” became abundant and slightly justified. The second L.A. based team clocked another poor start, losing each of their first four games before barely beating the talent-limited Minnesota Timberwolves. With a questionable defense and an offense that is based on simple isolation plays, Baron Davis is the only player who can control the pace of the game and move the ball in offense. However, as Davis is not the explosive combo guard he used to be three years ago, coach Mike Dunleavy doesn’t let him play his favorite up-tempo, run and gun type of basketball.
The Clippers are often stuck with a half-court offense which probably only suits Chris Kaman, their most productive player so far. Kaman’s stats (22.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg) are one of the few positives so far. Feeding him the ball inside works for the team, but the Clippers need to have a back-up plan for fast players like Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Sebastian Telfair and Blake Griffin when he returns.
Next up is Baron Davis who in his second season in L.A. has become a major question mark with 33% field goals and 26.3% from behind the arc, very similar numbers to those last season. 11.4 ppg is his lowest since his ’99/2000 rookie campaign in Charlotte. Davis is less of a threat offensively with opponents letting him shoot from the outside, knowing that he can hurt them way more with his passing game which is still on a high level (7.6 apg). If ‘B-Diddy’ won’t step up, the Clippers will be heading towards another early vacation.
LOS ANGELES – In hindsight, of all the different types of people who voted for Barack Obama, one specific group gave him almost united support. For many professional basketball players Obama is not only their favorite candidate. He is just one of them.
Rarely has there been such a skillful hoop player amongst the most influential figures in the world of American politics, let alone in the White House. Barack Obama not only played two seasons as a starting forward at Occidental College in Los Angeles from 1979-1981, he also remains extremely close to the game he always adored. From long evenings at his Chicago home watching NBA games to endless discussions with his brother in law Craig Robinson – the present head coach of the Oregon State college team – Obama has never stopped following his favorite sport.
Those who have seen Obama playing on the court have huge respect for his skills. “He’s an offensive minded player like me and really has talent”, says Cuttino Mobley, the veteran shooting guard of the Los Angeles Clippers. “He’s left handed just like me. That gives me one more reason to love this guy”, smiles Lakers’ star Lamar Odom. Yet the influence that the president has on NBA players goes far beyond the basketball court. Some of the players had an opportunity to talk to Obama in person and got inspired by his charismatic world view and life in general.
For Clippers’ superstar Baron Davis, it has been a life changing experience. “Obama is somebody I believe in. I wasn’t that much into politics, but now I started to get involved, because I want to do something about the world and the country I’m living in. Barack Obama has inspired me. Three years ago I had an opportunity to meet him. We talked for two hours and it was totally inspiring”, Davis reveals. He now intends to take on an active role in politics after he finishes his NBA career. Cuttino Mobley adds: “I support Obama not just as a black man, because my family is mixed as well, but as an individual who loves people. Not only black people, but people in general. Everybody has to understand that”.
For Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who as a teenager got very involved in the civil rights movement of reverend Martin Luther King, the election day was a special one. “I just wish both of my grandparents could have witnessed it”, says the legendary Lakers player. “It was a historical moment for my generation”. “It was a truly beautiful thing”, adds Kobe Bryant. Another Lakers’ hero, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, vouched strongly for Hilary Clinton during the pre-election campaign. “I’m very loyal to the Clintons, so I wouldn’t be man of my word if I would have jumped off and run over to the Obama campaign”, he says. “I won’t work for him in the White House, but I will work for him in the private sector as a businessman in order to bring change and jobs to urban America. Here is where I can give him my total support. Obama did an outstanding job. He showed us that he’s got the best team. He’s a winner and I always like to be associated with winners”.
Expectations are still high, also among NBA players who have big hopes for the president of the United States. “It’s a great opportunity for everybody. I can’t remember seeing anyone so well received in all parts of the world like Barack Obama”, Lamar Odom remarks. “A lot of things are going on right now, so it’s good to see a Democratic majority come together and finally win something”. “When it was announced that Obama had won the presidential race, I jumped up and started screaming and crying at the same time”, Magic Johnson recalls. “As African Americans, we’ve made a great stride forward. We had our first two billionaires in Oprah Winfrey and Bob Johnson. We’ve had several CEO’s, but this specific example says to a lot of Latino, Asian and African American people that you can really become anything in life”, the successful businessman says. “Obama delivers incredibly inspiring speeches that make you want to achieve more. He’s a motivator, a guy who has a plan. He’s so disciplined, so you know he’s going to stick to this plan. And he plays basketball which means that he’s a competitive person”.
Q. Dirk, it looks like your team is functioning pretty well at the start of the play-offs…
A. That’s correct. Our goal in the last couple of games was to get to the number two seed. It started with a big win in Portland against the team we haven’t beaten for the entire season. So that really was a nice one for us. I think that sometimes after an emotional win like that, you see a bit of a letdown, but we made sure that didn’t happen. We came up firing in the first quarters against Sacramento and the Clippers, moving the ball well and everybody shooting a high percentage.
A. Well, you have to be ready for everything. Everybody has been focused and we’re starting the games up well which was our problem in the early part of this season. The energy is good, the bench contributes, so we’re definitely ready for a fine play-off run. Let’s see what happens. Hopefully we’re going to stay injury free and just go for it. It will be a tough match-up in the first round, no matter what.
Q. Do you have a feeling that the Western Conference is wide open this year without a clear favorite?
A. Well, for me the Lakers are still the favorite, because they have so many weapons and Bynum might be coming back. Other than that, everybody can beat everybody. It’s gonna be an interesting run for all the teams. Even the bottom teams are playing really well and Portland and San Antonio are on the move as well.
Q. Are you confident that you can beat the Lakers when the opportunity presents itself?
A. That’s a long way to go. First, we need to take care of San Antonio. It will be an unbelievable kind of grounded out series. Then we go from there. We can’t get ahead of ourselves.
Q. Are you paying attention to the problems which the Lakers are now having?
A. Like I said – once Bynum comes back, Kobe will take his game to the next level and with Pau (Gasol) playing great the entire season, they will be extremely dangerous. They’re tall, athletic and have enough shooters out there. Obviously, they have a great inside game, the best in the world.
Q. What’s your take on Shawn Marion and his return to the team after injury?
A. He looked pretty good against the Clippers. He played defense well, ran the floor, got some blocks, had a couple of lay-ups, slashed to the basket… Hopefully he can keep that up. He’s probably our best defender beside DeShawn Stevenson. Whoever we gonna face in the play-offs, they usually have great wing players like for example Manu Ginobili.
Q. What’s your best pick in the Eastern Conference?
A. I think Cleveland has ran away a little bit. The Jamison trade really took them over the top. They’ve got a legit second scorer now, who can make 20-25 points every night. Shaq coming back gives them a physical presence as well. They look really great, but Orlando has been playing well, too. Anytime when Cleveland runs away with over 60 wins and LeBron playing unbelievable, they’re the favorite. With the Lakers right behind and Kobe still the man there, it’s between those two teams.
Oklahoma City Thunder is the most improved team this season, well on their way to the play-offs with a roster full of players in their early 20′s. It’s mostly thanks to Kevin Durant who’s currently in the NBA Players Top 5.
Q. Kevin, at the end of the game versus the Clippers in Los Angeles you could hear people chanting “MVP!” while you were shooting free throws. What’s your reaction to that? A. It feels good, man. I can’t hold to it, because I’m far from being an MVP, but hearing that stuff in another city is a nice thing.
Q. Would you be surprised if you were elected MVP this season?
A. I definitely would be, because a lot of guys are having a great season and their teams are doing very well. I’m not hoping for it. If I do win, I will be very happy – if I don’t get it, then it is what it is.
Q. The Thunder are currently ranked sixth in the Western Conference. That’s a huge accomplishment for a very young, inexperienced team.
A. We work hard and continue to get better. It’s gonna be a tough stretch for us, the last 20 games, but it feels good to be in that position. We just need to move further forward.
Q. Did you expect beforehand that in the middle of March the Thunder would be in ahead of the Spurs, Blazers and Rockets in the Western Conference standings?
A. Well, I’ve envisioned we would get better, but I just didn’t put a mark on it. We’ve done that to this point, but we gotta continue to improve. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.
Q. What’s the ultimate goal right now? Finishing this season at number five?
A. We’re taking one game at a time and will be happy with the result at the end of the season. If we do that, I think we’ll be allright.
Q. At the very beginning of this season, you put a premium on playing defense. Was that a focus in recent games?
A. Yes, it was. In the last two games, we had a tough time on the defensive end, but when we help each other out, it brings good results.
Q. You’re always very critical about yourself. Do you always try to improve your game?
A. Oh yes. The focus is on taking more shots and playing with confidence.
Q. People start mentioning your name in one breath together with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade. Do you feel like you belong there?
A. I’m far from those guys. I look up to them. I take things from their games everytime I watch them play. I’m far from that groove yet, man. I gotta keep working to get there.
Orlando Magic’s Marcin Gortat (26) is finally playing up to his contract (34 million/5 years) which he signed last summer. Senior reporter Martin Harasimowicz sat down with The Polish Promise.
Q. Marcin, did you need a game like the recent one versus the Celtics to build up your confidence and prove to your coach that you deserve more playing time?
A. For sure I did. I really needed a game like that, because in a few previous games I’ve only played for 5-6 minutes and wasn’t very productive. But I don’t think I need to prove anything to my coach. He very well knows vwhat I can do and what my skills are. I can only hope that he will remember that while putting myself and Dwight Howard together on the court in major stretches. I’m afraid, though, that in the near future I’ll be more of a substitute for Dwight Howard.
A. I feel very comfortable in this set up. We have a great communication with each other. I’ve known Dwight for a long time, but when we’re on the court , it’s rather me who needs to adjust my game to his and not the opposite. While I can cover some of his weaker points, we definitely complement each other. Having him inside the paint, I can defend more effectively.
Q. In a TNT broadcast Charles Barkley said ‘I don’t understand why Van Gundy doesn’t let them play together for longer stretches because it always works’.
A. I’m very glad he said that. It’s an honour. Charles knows everything about basketball, so his opinion means a lot to me. I have to say I fully agree with him. It usually works, not against every team and every line up, but mostly, we’re pretty efficient while playing together. How the coach decides is something I have to respect. I’ll continue to help my team whenever it’s asked.
Q. How do you perceive the Boston Celtics? Are they just too old?
A. They’re still a very good team with a great coach and great leaders. They just found themselves in a hole, as we did at the start of January. I’m sure they will overcome this crisis and be dangerous for everybody in the upcoming months.
Q. And the Cavaliers? It looks like nobody can chase them at the moment…
A. Well, the Cavs will lose eventually and might even drop to the 3rd or 4th place in the Eastern Conference. They’re not invincible. A lot might still happen in our conference. We’re ready to chase the Cavs and take the number one spot away from them. This is our main goal for the second half of the regular season.
Q. Did the new players adapt to the system? Are the Magic a well organized team?
A. We’re still not at our best. We definitely play better basketball than a month ago, but still a lot of work needs to be done. We’re learning from each other, trying to figure out the best way.
The Boston Celtics leader is ready for the championship race and recently sat down with our senior reporter.
Q. Paul, was the recent win over the Lakers crucial for the Celtics?
A. It was a good win for us. We’re just trying to build consistency which has a lot in common with the way we play defense.
Q. What do you expect from newcomer Nate Robinson?
A. Well, he will able to bring some energy from the bench. He’s a guy who can handle the ball with our second unit. At times, we struggled getting our offense together. I love Eddie (House) with his chemistry and things he brought on and off the court, but I understand this is business, so we got a new player. Hopefully Nate can give us a lift. He is a tremendous scorer and a great athlete. We need his energy with the second unit.
A. I’m excited. This is a team that can win the championship. I think we proved that in the last game: when we are in our full strength, we’re unstoppable. Hopefully we can stay like that. That will be key for us.
Q. That’s the only thing that keeps you from being the best team in the NBA?
A. I think so. When we can’t keep our main guys healthy, it starts to effect our consistency on both ends of the floor. I liked what we’ve seen from the starters in the last two games. Injuries are the only thing that can hold us back. We know we are a great defensive team and the offense is gonna come.
Q. Are the Cavaliers even a bigger challenge now with Antawn Jamison?
A. Well, the Cavs are a bigger challenge with LeBron, regardless if Jamison is there (laughing). They still have the best record. They’ve just added more depth: an All Star. They should be the favorite team. I don’t worry about them right now, though. Right now, we focus on us. We ‘re worried more about what we need to do. We can’t just sit there and say: ‘We should panic, cause they added Jamison’. No! If we’re gonna be one of the best teams, it has to come from within. We knew that we have a championship caliber team, regardless of any trades. And we still believe that.
Rafer Alston, the starting point guard of the Orlando Magic during last year’s succesful play-off campaign, was surprisingly traded to the New Jersey Nets. With his new team, the experienced the worst (0-18) start in the NBA history. Getting waived at his own request recently, he got the opportunity for a fresh start in Miami.
Q. Rafer, how do you feel about being back in Miami? And how did it exactly happen?
A. I’m very excited. I love the city and I’m playing for a very good team again. I don’t know how exactly this happened, but it’s all good.
Q. Did you anticipate while playing for the worst NBA team ever that you’d possibly be back at the play-offs during the same season?
A. Yes, I did. Obviously, everybody knew that the Nets are going in a different direction. They’re rebuilding and trying to get the best out of their young guys. That wasn’t the best situation for me, so I knew I had to move on. Miami was a perfect solution.
Q. The last twelve months have been a rollercoaster for you : being traded from Houston, playing in the NBA Finals as a starting point guard for the Orlando Magic, next shipped to New Jersey and now back in Florida…
A. Man, I love Florida! It’s a good place to be for me . But that’s the way it is in the NBA: you can’t think about those kind of things too much, just go out and play. I believe we have potential to build a really good team here in Miami and I wanna be part of that.
Q. Vince, after you exploded during the second half of your rookie season, you were labeled “the next Michael Jordan”…
A. Yes, but I never really got into that. It’s an honour by far, but I just want to create my own thing. Now I can say it has worked out, so far.
Q. You don’t have to score 20-30 points each night for your team to win. How does this change your game and the way you approach it?
A. Well, it’s easier for everybody. We all have our moments, so when I’m rolling, I get the ball. It’s the same situation with Dwight (Howard) and Rashard (Lewis). We have so many weapons. We just try to play team ball and stay disciplined. Our coach does a great job of putting us in the position to succeed. We don’t have to go above and beyond, because we have so many guys.
A. If you mean the last two years, yes. Q. Right now, you’re with a a team that reached the Finals. How different does it feel?
A. It feels great. It’s one thing to be on a team and say ‘Okay, now our goal is to make it to the play-offs’. The other thing is when your mindset is ‘Okay, playoffs, so what?’ We have bigger dreams to chase. Each part of our game is focused on that goal. All the teams try to beat us by putting their best effort on the floor, so we have to do the same. We have to come out ready to play and attack those teams the way they attack us. I’m proud of this team, because we’ve been able to play ugly games and still find a way to win. We will need it during the play-offs.
Q. What does your back-up center Marcin Gortat bring to the team?
A. He’s a great person and a great backup. He’s really earned his way. He’s a shot blocker, he can shoot the ball and shows a positive attitude in the locker room.
Q. Dwight Howard had a series of games with more than five blocks. How does it help your team?
A. He gives us a chance to win. When he blocks shots and rebounds, it gives us extra possession and at the same time it limits our opponents to just one shot per play.
Q. Dwight’s popularity is growing enormously. Do you remember being part of the same thing back in Toronto in your first years in the NBA?
A. Oh yeah! It could be great and tough at the same time. I think Dwight does a great job the way he handles it. He carries himself very well. That’s why he’s so well liked, because of how friendly he is.
Q. What’s the tough part?
A. Well, you don’t get any privacy and sometimes when you’re nice to everybody, people can take advantage of it. It’s our job as team mates and franchise to protect him. He’s done a great job so far. That’s the biggest thing: you play, you work your way up to become a superstar and that’s what comes with it. One person can have too much, so we have to shield him sometimes, because he still deserves his privacy. Sometimes people don’t understand that when you’re’ going out with your wife or girlfriend for a romantic dinner, you just don’t want to be bothered. It’s a totally different world for a guy like Dwight. So folks, please understand that and give him some space.
Q. Did you have these issues before?
A. Absolutely, that’s why I can relate to it. You learn where to go and where not to go.
Q. Do you feel fully acclimatized in Orlando?
A. Yes, I do. It’s easy. Once I’ve learned the play, I can just concentrate on playing my game. Now I want to understand where these guys like the ball on the floor, things like that. We’re a veteran team, so it won’t take long to learn how we’re placed on the court.
With over 19 ppg, Amare Stoudemire is the offensive leader of the newborn Phoenix Suns. The team lately surprised a lot of analysts and critics by holding on to their Top 3 spot in the Western Conference.
Q. Amare, nobody expected the Phoenix Suns to be so succesful this season. Is it a surprise only to the outside world or to you as well?
A. Well, it is just for other folks. We already realized that we can be this good. We’re still trying to improve though. It’s still early in the season, so we can work on being more efficient on the court, but in all we had a good season start.
Q. It looks like you returned to the up-tempo style which fits your team better. Is that the way you want to play basketball?
A. I think that style fits our team perfectly; we’re creating open shots for everybody, making it a team game out there. It definitely helps us.
Q. How do you feel personally? You had a pretty bad injury – a detached retina – which resulted in eye surgery last February. Are you back a hundred percent?
A. I feel like I’m reborn. Everything is great now. The injury healed up the proper way, so I’m back to normal.
Q. Recently, the Lakers beat the Suns pretty bad for the second time this season. It must be a nightmare for you guys to come back to Los Angeles..
A. Oh no, absolutely not. It’s always fun when you come to L.A and play the Lakers. On the flip side, it’s not always been fun to lose. I think the Lakers got a great team. They did a great job out there, shooting the ball very well. For the most part, we ourselves did a good job on the boards.
Q. How far do you think your team can go this season?
A. Our goal is to make it to the post season and then try to go further. We just got to keep passionate and getting better at the game.
Dwyane ‘Flash’ Wade currently is the hottest player in the NBA. On the court as well as off, considering his multi-million endorsements and selection in the ’50 Most Beautiful People in the World’ list. NBAReporter sat down with the Miami Heat star after the thriller against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Q. The Heat have played one of the best overall games in this season against the Lakers, but fell short at the end. Was it a brutal ending for your team?
A. Well, we did what we were supposed to do. Derek Fisher hit an unbelievable three, then Kobe Bryant hit that amazing shot that sealed the deal. But hey, we’ve done the same thing to other teams, so I’ve been at the other end of it. That’s just the game.
Q. Kobe and you played each other pretty hard on defense; you were chasing each other all around the floor. Is it a special challenge for you to play against Kobe?
A. Yes, definitely. I can only play against him twice a year. I always take on that challenge and I enjoy it. It’s the competitive nature Kobe brings to every game. I bring the same thing and he understands that as well. It was a good battle, going back and forth. This time, he had the last laugh.
Q. At the beginning of the fourth quarter you were losing by nine, but managed to build a 4-point advantage at the end. What do you think about this team effort? A.We’ve got to continue to watch and know that this is what works – the effort. It’ s not always going to be perfect. The ball won’t always go down the basket, but the effort on both ends of the floor will keep us standing against top teams. We held our own. We will have more games like this with opportunities to win. Q. Even if you’ve started the away trip with 1-2, would you agree that this particular game wasn’t such a horrible thing for you guys? A. It wasn’t at all. It was a great thing until four seconds left in the game. But like I said, we can’t let this shot be a downfall for how we played the game. We still have other games, like the next one in Sacramento against a high energy team. We just have to continue to play a better game. Q. At some point you may have realized that those 15 missed free throws probably hurt your team in the end… A. You can’t look at that solely. There are a lot of plays and a lot of moments that I felt we could have made the game a little more different. We just need to continue to get there and concentrate. The Lakers did a lot of good things to put themselves in this position. That’s why they’re such a great team.
Q. How different is the Chicago Bulls team compared to last season? Did the franchise take a step back by losing Ben Gordon?
A. We’re definitely a different team now; we’re trying to put more emphasis on the defensive side of the game. Obviously, Ben Gordon – who is one of the best shooters in the NBA – moving to the Detroit Pistons was a big loss. We’re trying now to change our identity, I mean, to be succesful in a different way. Our defense is the main focus.
A. Well, that’s not what I’m concerned about in the first place. This is all about the team and not just myself. I’m trying to improve every aspect of my game. I’ve worked very hard during the summer. I’m trying to establish a mid-range jumper to be able to hit more shots on a regular basis. I feel like I’ve grown in the offensive part of my game, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Q. Your team recenly lost pretty badly against the Los Angeles Lakers. What was the most difficult aspect of playing against them?
A. I would say their length is definitely their biggest strength. To me, the most amazing thing about it is that you’re out there, you’re competing hard but those guys are hardly breaking a sweat, because they’re so comfortable in running their offense. They make the game look very easy.
Q. How important for your career is the fact that you’re from a sports family and was raised by very succesful athlete?
A. It sure helps a lot. I’m very close with my father (- Yannick Noah, the former French tennis champion). I love him dearly and talk to him a lot. He taught me a lot of things, especially about the mental aspects of being a professional athlete and trying to achieve success on the highest level. It’s great to have a real father figure. I was blessed to always have him around.
Q. Is he your number one fan as well?
A. Sometimes even too much! (laughing). I have to tell him to relax, have a beer and chill out. He really follows our games and gets very emotional.
- Winning in Los Angeles with a 20-points margin against the Lakers was an early statement by the Dallas Mavericks in the early phase of the new season...
“Yes, it was a character game for us and a great win. We came up close so many times and just couldn’t shut the door last year, so for us that was a big one. We played on both ends on a high level”.
- You guys looked faster and more energetic than the Lakers…
“Well, we look faster than a lot of teams in this league. We always try to be the agressor, that’s the key thing. We didn’t do that in our opening game versus the Washington Wizards, but we’ve learned from our mistakes”.
– How much did you improve as a team compared to last season?
“We play a deep game. We have a lot of bodies we can throw out there. In that aspect this team is better, but we’ll see at the end of the season what the exact comparison is”.
– Shawn Marion definitely gives you guys the energy boost you were missing last year…
“He definitely puts us over the top in the sense of making us a better team. We didn’t have that last year. To have a player like him aboard definitely helps”.
– Your franchise missed out on Marcin Gortat who signed with the Orlando Magic. Do you think that can hurt the Mavericks at some point during the season?
“It would have been really interesting to have him on the team. Unfortunately, he’s not here, so we work with the guys we have”.
Basketball without Borders (BWB) is the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development program that uses the sport to create positive social change in the areas of education, health and wellness. So far, the camps have been held in China, Mexico and South Africa. To read more, visit http://www.nba.com/bwb.
One of the NBA pros who supports the program is Milwaukee Bucks’ Luc Mbah A Moute. Luc hails from Yaoundé, the capital city of Cameroon. He is the twin brother of Emmanuel Bidias a Moute, who plays basketball for Texas State Univerity. Mbah a Moute gave up his eligibility to play college basketball for UCLA for his senior year to enter the 2008 NBA Draft, in which he was selected by the Bucks in the second round (overall pick #37).
AKRON – At a presentation that took place during Nike’s grassroots activities in Akron, certified tattoo artist James Hayden gave Lebron James a uniquely designed pair of Air Max LeBron VII shoes. Hayden attended many art programs and classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art from ages 8-15, and furthered his art education at Cleveland Heights High School. In 2000, Hayden began to explore the art of tattooing, which soon after took off as a career. He opened his first tattoo shop in Cleveland in 2005.
Hayden has built a great reputation as a tattoo artist by doing quality work and has tattooed many athletes including LeBron James. Hayden has continued to grow as an artist and is always interested in sharing his love for art with others. “My inspiration to design these shoes was driven by LeBron’s tattoos,” says Hayden. “As a tattoo artist, it’s such an honor to tattoo an individual like LeBron. He’s a very focused person on and off the court – his love for family and his loyalty to his city are shown repeatedly in his tattoos. I wanted to replicate his dedication with the design on the shoes.”
NBAReporter.com is an initiative of the L.A. based crossmedial press agency QNA and focuses on the latest NBA news, inside interviews and lifestyle. Our senior reporter Martin Harasimowicz resides in Los Angeles, the other staff writers in Seattle and New York. The editorial staff can be reached through email@example.com.