Moments after signing his new contract to become a Los Angeles Laker, Jodie Meeks joined Lakers.com at the team’s practice facility for a Q&A session:
MT: You were a big-time scorer at Kentucky who slipped in the draft to No. 41 overall (Milwaukee), and spent your first year mostly on the bench. You were traded to Philadelphia after 41 games and appeared in 19 for the Sixers before eventually earning a starting role in your second season. Was that how you saw yourself before entering the NBA?
Meeks: Coming out of college I averaged around 25 points per game, so I always thought of myself as one of the best players in my draft class, regardless of where I was taken. When I got drafted I was kind of disappointed even while being happy to be in the league, and was relieved to get traded to Philadelphia after not playing much in Milwaukee. I was happy for a new start, and coach (Doug) Collins gave me a breath of fresh air, an opportunity to play and start in the NBA for almost a year and a half. Now I’m just very excited to be in Los Angeles.
MT: Having had some options, how did you make your decision?
Meeks: It’s been a long summer trying to figure out where I wanted to go. It was different, with the uncertainty, but I got a call a few weeks back from my agent asking me if I’d be interested in playing for the Lakers, and of course I said ‘Yes’ because it’s such a storied organization. There are three Hall of Famers, maybe four that I’m going to be playing with, so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great season and hopefully (we’ll) get a championship.
MT: What makes you a good fit for the Lakers?
Meeks: I know they have good shooters here, but I felt like my capability of shooting threes and my overall game was the best fit for here. I think this team needs me to come off the bench and be a spark on the defensive end, but at the same time be able to knock down open shots because Dwight (Howard), Kobe (Bryant), Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are going to be drawing double teams. I’m going to be out there all alone waiting to shoot. I have a lot of confidence in myself whether I’m knocking them down in that game or not.
MT: People may recall your hitting 10 threes in one game at Kentucky before setting the scoring record for a single game (54). Guessing you could shoot out of the womb, but have you been able to show your whole game within the role you’ve been assigned?
Meeks: I’ve always been able to shoot. When I was in college, I worked really hard to show people I could shoot, because when I was coming out of high school people said I was athletic, but I couldn’t shoot that well. Now it’s the opposite. People say I can shoot but I’m not as athletic. I’m interested in showing everyone my entire game. My role in my first three seasons in the NBA has been (as) a spot-up shooter, which I’ve been glad to do, but I feel like I can score in many different ways. I can get to the free throw line, I have a mid-range game, I can create off the dribble, but that hasn’t been my role. Coming off the bench on this team, I think I can be that spark.
MT: With players like Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday in Philly that played more off the dribble, it makes sense that you’d be asked to spot up…
Meeks: It wouldn’t be intelligent for me to do something (other) than what the team needed. The role for me was to spot up, and I think I did a pretty good job; the team made the playoffs in both my years as a starter. I worked really hard in that regard, because when you’re spotting up, you don’t get that many shots to make the most out of.
MT: And you’ll most likely be doing plenty of spotting up for Mike Brown as well. Can it be difficult to find a rhythm when you only get a few shots a game?
Meeks: Sometimes, but you have to make the most out of it. I don’t really use excuses. I expect myself to make the shot. However many I get – one, two, 10 – I’m just going to try and make the most out of them.
MT: Do you have a percentage in mind that you shoot for?
Meeks: I want to hit all of them, but that’s not realistic. I try to make more than I miss. A good game for me would be to make four of eight, 50 percent. You’ll have off nights, but I want to have consistent shot-making ability of half my shots.
MT: What do you make of playing behind Kobe Bryant?
Meeks: It’s a great opportunity. He’s a guy I’ve looked up to since I was a little kid. He has a lot of experience and can definitely be a mentor towards me as a young player, just going into my fourth year.
MT: Kobe has a few tricks, and especially in recent years has taken young players (Trevor Ariza, Shannon Brown, etc.) under his wing.
Meeks: Oh yeah, just a few. I can only get better going against him every day in practice, and at shootarounds and film sessions. I’m going to try to be a sponge, soak up everything that he has to offer. I always listen to people that have more experience and are older than me.
MT: Bryant played a loooot of minutes last season for a 16-year veteran. Do you think you can earn the trust from the coaching staff to allow him more time resting his legs on the bench?
Meeks: I’m a good fit because I’ve started in the NBA for a while, started (114 of the 200) games I’ve played, and been to the playoffs twice. I think Coach Collins trusted me and want to be someone that Coach Brown and Mitch Kupchak can trust on a regular basis.
MT: How would you describe your ability on D?
Meeks: I don’t think I get enough credit for my defense. A lot of people saw me as a scorer in college and a spot shooter in the NBA, but what they don’t see is I take a lot of pride in my defense. I’ve guarded all the best players in the world: Kobe, Dwyane Wade and those kind of players. I think I’ve done a pretty decent job, but I think I can get better. I have a lot to learn, I’m only 24 and have experience to gain, but I play hard every night. That’s the main thing I pride myself upon.
MT: As a shooter/scorer, how appealing is it to play with a passer like Steve Nash?
Meeks: That was definitely appealing to me even before Dwight said he was coming here. Steve Nash is a great passer and one of the best players to ever play, so when I’m on the court sometimes with him I think I’ll get open shots. Kobe is definitely a willing passer as well, and I’ve seen that he trusts his teammates, so with the guys on this team I think I’ll get a lot of open looks.
MT: Word is you like to lock yourself in the gym? To what degree is that the case?
Meeks: Always. That’s the key to myself. If I don’t spend a lot of time in the gym, I start to feel like something’s wrong. I feel guilty, like I’m not working hard enough. So in the summer time, I’m in the gym all the time, and during the season it’s full out working every day. I always have my mind on basketball.