Archive for the 'Exit Interviews' Category

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Dwight Howard: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_HowardDuring his first season in Los Angeles, Dwight Howard appeared in 76 games – missing six due to a torn labrum – towards averages of 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds (led the NBA) and 2.4 blocks on 57.8 percent field goals (second in the NBA) and 49.2 percent free throws. It took Howard essentially the entire season to rebuild his strength and mobility from season-ending back surgery last April.

In four postseason games against San Antonio, Howard averaged 17.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks on 61.9 percent field goals and 44 percent from the foul line.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Of course, the media was curious to know what Howard is thinking in terms of what he’ll do as an unrestricted free agent. His initial response is that he still needs time to “clear his head,” think about everything. Several of his teammates, including Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, expressed optimism that he’d return to Los Angeles, but we’ll of course have to wait and see.

- Howard reiterated that this season was in many ways a “nightmare” from which the team couldn’t wake up. Clearly, it was hard on everybody.
“I’m not happy that we’re sitting at home, that we got swept … but things like this happen in life. You have bad moments, bad years, but we survived. I think the future will be better for me as an individual.”

- Howard thinks it’s “great” to have the support from his current teammates and the organization throughout a struggle of a season. “To see Kobe and Steve and how supportive they are is great. Steve was the first one to talk to me before the game was over, and he said, ‘You have a tough decision to make, but I’m here for you.’”

- On the injuries he dealt with this season: “My back was pretty much painful the whole year. I came back five or six months earlier than I was supposed to, for this team, for this city because I wanted to win so bad. My shoulder, I’m going to have that looked at tomorrow. Hopefully I won’t have to have surgery. Whatever the case may be, I’m going to do whatever it takes myself to get right. I didn’t have the opportunity to get in the gym last offseason, but that’s something I’m looking forward to.”

- On not becoming the defensive team they wanted to: “That takes time. It’s tough.” He cited the injuries that kept the team essentially from practicing especially late in the season, and just prevented any kind of real progress.”

- On Los Angeles: “I love it. I had an awesome first year (living in Los Angeles), and we’ll see.”

- Howard was repeatedly asked about his plan for next season, and he repeatedly stated that he couldn’t really get into it. “I just want to be happy.” He didn’t tip his hand, and said he didn’t want pressure from anybody. (Lakers GM) “Mitch (Kupchak) said he wasn’t going to pressure me, and we’re in a good place.”

- On what he wants to add in the offseason: “I’m just going to work on everything … not having an opportunity to work on it last summer. I can really sit down and try to re-define some of the things I can do on the floor, instead of just being one dimensional and sticking myself in the post and play out of there. I want to expand (my game).”

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Steve Blake: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_BlakeSteve Blake started 13 games and appeared in 45 towards averages of 7.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.9 rebounds. He shot 42.1 percent on three-pointers, which ranked 13th in the NBA. He missed 37 games due to an abdominal injury upon which he had surgery.

Blake averaged 14.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in two playoff games against San Antonio before straining his hamstring late in Game 2.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Blake said he was pleased with the way he played despite all the injuries, including to himself, which really undercut the season and made things disappointing. He, like all his teammates, wishes they’d have a better opportunity were they able to compete when healthy. “At the end of each year it’s really frustrating. One of the main reasons I came here was because I wanted to win a championship. My experience here has been great, but I love it here in L.A., I love my teammates and the opportunities I’ve had here.”

- Blake on Steve Nash: “I loved playing with Steve. He’s one of those point guards everybody wants to play with. He’s going to find you if you’re open. I really enjoyed watching him and trying to learn how he runs pick and rolls, and see him do the things he did. It really helped me out to have a better year.”

- Blake said he felt like he fits really well into Mike D’Antoni’s system, but recognized how it needed to change with L.A.’s roster. “I think it could definitely work. I’m not exactly sure what the personnel is going to be, but if we had a whole summer, I think coach (D’Antoni) could figure out exactly what works best. We definitely have the talent. That’s what the summer time is for.”

- On his play with both Bryant and Nash out with injuries: “Towards the end of the year, I got to really show some of the other abilities I haven’t shown while I’ve been here. There’s so much talent here and not a lot of shots to go around. With Kobe out and Nash being hurt, someone had to take those shots and be ready to step up.”

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Darius Morris: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_MorrisDarius Morris started 17 games and appeared in 48 with averages of 4.0 points and 1.6 assists in 14 minutes per contest.

The Lakers second-year guard played in all four postseason games, starting the last two due to injuries to Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks. He posted a career-high 24 points in Game 3 and twice tied his career-high with six dimes in Games 3 and 4.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On sitting next to Kobe Bryant on the plane: “It’s truly a blessing … once we became close, he gave me a lot of insight about stuff on and off the court. He became a mentor to me, kept me encouraged, and I really appreciate that. I watch a lot of film on the plane because he’s always watching.”

- On a particular story or moment with Kobe that sticks out: “When I had stopped playing, I’d just gotten out of the rotation, and he told me this long story – he’s always really deep – about Nike. About how Lulu Lemon came out with a new brand and were capturing women’s clothing, and asked why Nike wasn’t doing anything about it. Nike noticed that they can’t win everything, but the big picture is Nike is still very dominant. Always think big picture. I may not be playing right now, but take advantage of him, of Steve Nash, and think about where I can be in this league one day. When something bad happens, you can’t win them all, but think big picture.”

- Morris, a free agent, stated he would like to stay in Los Angeles with the team currently constructed and feels they can come back stronger next year if possible:
“I definitely want to come back, especially how we ended the season. We have a group of core guys that are hungry to get after it. Definitely want to come back and redeem this season. I like coach D’Antoni and the things he has to bring and I wouldn’t mind being a part of it. I would like to have that chance and have a great season.”

- As far as next season is concerned, wherever he may be, Morris would like to become more decisive with the ball in terms of what the defense is giving him: “A lot of times, playing the point guard position, you have to be decisive. If they give you a jump shot, you have to take it. That’s the next step in my game – just to have confidence in that.”

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Pau Gasol: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_GasolPau Gasol appeared in 49 games (the fewest of his 12-year career), starting 42 towards averages of 13.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Gasol battled injuries the entire year, missing eight games because of tendinitis in both knees, five games due to a concussion and 20 more after suffering a torn plantar fascia at Brooklyn on Feb. 5.

In four postseason games, Gasol averaged 14.0 points, 11.5 boards and 6.3 assists. He recorded his triple-double of the season in Game 3, the other two coming in the final week of the regular season.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On if he’ll be back to the Lakers: “I understand he position I find myself in. It can be a little draining. It’s not ideal. But I also accept it. I accept where I am. I accept the circumstances the team is in. I’m not upset about it. It’s just the way it is. The future is uncertain. There’s a possibility I could be gone. There’s a possibility I could stay. But I’m prepared either way. I understand the challenges the franchise is facing and the decision they have to make in order to keep the team in the direction they want looking at the present and the future. It’s a lot going on. I wish things were simpler, but they’re not. I appreciate Mitch (Kupchak’s) honesty and everything that he’s done and the franchise has done to keep me here, and have me on the team. There’s been two difficult years for different reasons, but we fought through it.”

- On the standing ovation he received when he was subbed out of Game 4, and what it meant to him, with Kobe coming over to console him: “At first I was upset because of the score, and I recognized it was our last game of the season … and then the emotional part kicked in. I saw and perceived the recognition from our fans, which is something I highly appreciate and am thankful for.”

- On his relationship with Kobe: “It’s grown and gotten stronger. We’ve gotten closer as friends and teammates. I’m happy and proud that we’ve grown so much as friends, and it’s been great. We communicate with each other a lot more now than we ever have. We’re on the same page, and I have great respect for who he is, what he brings to the table, what he brings to the franchise and to a lot of people.”

- On his role changing as the year went on: “We finished the year a lot happier of how I was placed on the court, and how I was used. My productivity shows that. (Mike D’Antoni and I) agreed that we all took our time to know each other and figure each other out, and figure out how to utilize the personnel to play the (best way). Nothing to regret from that part, but as any player would, I’d like to be used the right way so I can maximize what I bring to the table.”

- On his health, after what was the most challenging season of his career from that standpoint: “My knees have been an issue this year from beginning to end, and then I had to deal with my (torn plantar fascia) to come back as soon as I could. The soreness increased as I was playing more on it (when I returned). I’m going to go through several medical tests in the next several days to see the status in my knees and the arch, and then decide what kind of procedure if any or treatment I need to go through to get healthy. Hopefully next season I’ll come back at full strength.”

- We learned that Gasol has been working on a book – some photographic, some written – to express himself from a personal standpoint.

- Gasol thinks his unselfish nature as a passer and playmaker means that the team is best off when going through him, which he’s proven to be true in the past. Yet the Lakers have been in such a unique situation, with Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum – two of the only other bigs in the league that would take some time from him on the block – on the roster. This season, Gasol’s injuries limited his effectiveness at times on the defensive end in particular, as he wasn’t always able to protect the rim like he has when healthy.

- He described how things were difficult, but got better, with what the team wanted to do: “In the beginning, we struggled more because everybody wanted to assert themselves and establish themselves. Things didn’t work out that well from the beginning. The coaching change had a big role into it, but we progressed as the season went on and put our individual desires aside and found what worked. We finished the season playing the right way as far as a balance.” Gasol said Kobe was willing to facilitate and distribute, and get players involved. He also stated he was able to be utilized at the post more on offense and create for others.

- Gasol was asked how he’s maintained a positive state of mind through what have been two whirlwind seasons full of trade rumors, health issues and more losing than expected: “I have a positive mind. I try to put myself in the position of others and understand where they come from. If I saw something malicious or saw something of bad intention, then I might say something. But I understand everybody’s position here. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations, a lot of coverage and a lot of fans please. I’ve been extremely lucky to play for this franchise for so long.”

- Here’s what Tim Duncan had to say about Gasol after the Round 1 series: “I don’t see how he’s changed much at all. He’s in a different system, and he’s asked to do different things. He’s as skilled as there are of big men out there. He can do just about everything, and he’s unselfish. I see him playing the way he’s been asked to play. I think if he’s asked to be more of a scorer, or be something else, he can do that as well. I don’t see why he doesn’t have many years left in him.”

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Jordan Hill: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_HillJordan Hill started one game and appeared in 29 towards averages of 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds on 49.7 percent field goals. A left hip injury that required surgery caused him to miss the remaining 53 contests.

Hill was cleared for basketball-related activity after Game 1 of L.A.’s first round playoff series, returning to the court three months ahead of the projected timetable recovery. He recorded a total of 10 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes in three postseason contests.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On how his hip feels now and his return to the court three months earlier than expected after undergoing hip surgery on Jan. 23: “I feel great. Probably was a smart thing to keep it rested, but I felt good about it and I just wanted to play, definitely in the playoffs.” The hip may not recover to be fully 100 percent of what it was since he had the surgery, but it should get very close. That can be said of any surgery, really, and it’s Hill’s job to strengthen around the area so that his game is unaffected. Right now, Hill said the hip is at 80 to 85 percent. During practices and games, it could tighten up, but he had no pain. Hill also stated he’ll go back to Tennessee for a follow up visit with his surgeon. Hill also suffered a herniated disc in the preseason, but said that was not an issue as the season went on.

- On the season as a whole: “There were a lot of injuries. We did whatever we had to do, and kept our head high. There was a lot of turmoil and we did a great job of handling it well.” Hill believes the team has all the pieces to make a run next season, but admits – like everybody else – injuries took its toll on the club. It wasn’t necessarily the way he envisioned the season going, but he was proud of the way the guys fought.

- Hill was asked about what his best position is, depending upon what system the Lakers put in next season (if D’Antoni has a chance to put in his preferred offense, traditionally featuring one big man and a stretch four). He didn’t have a specific answer, saying this: “I just want to play … rebound, defend, shoot the ball: just put me out there and let me go to work.”

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Jodie Meeks: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_MeeksJodie Meeks started 10 games and appeared in 78, with averages of 7.9 points and 2.2 rebounds. He shot 35.7 percent from distance.

Meeks played 20 minutes in Game 1, but sprained his left ankle, which forced him to miss the rest of the postseason.

Below is a summary of his exit interview

On the ankle that kept him out of the final three playoff games: “It feels all right. It’s still hard to get a shoe on … I’m going to talk to (head athletic trainer) Gary Vitti and see what he wants me to do. But (I will) get it back to 100 percent.”

- On his shooting being inconsistent on the season: “My shooting was up and down this season for whatever reason. I’ll be ready to come back next year and (get better); this system fits me perfectly and (Mike D’Antoni) has a lot of confidence in me.” Meeks didn’t have a great answer for why he was inconsistent, for a guy with such a quick release and nice stroke. Perhaps the constantly changing line ups were difficult, as he wasn’t always sure from where he’d be receiving the ball and from whom, which can be key for a shooter.

- On his defense, for a guy known as a shooter: “I thought I did a pretty good job. I just talked to coach, and he said I came along well defensively. I watched a lot of film this year, more than what I was used to, and that helped out a lot.”

- Meeks on playing with Kobe Bryant: “I didn’t really know what to expect before the season started – it was sort of surreal at first. But he was a great teammate, giving me a lot of confidence to play the way I can … his mental preparation (stands out to me the most). No matter if he’s hurt, sick, whatever, he has the same focus for every single game. That’s hard when you’re playing against the best players in the league.”

- Meeks on Dwight Howard, with whom he is probably closer than anyone else on the team: “I know he loves this city and this team. We got pretty close as friends. I can’t say exactly what he’s going to do, but I know he likes (Los Angeles).

- On Kobe and Howard’s relationship: “I don’t think the relationship was ever bad. They got along fine from day one. I think they just got to know one another’s games as the season went on, but there was never any beef in the locker room.”

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Robert Sacre: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_SacreRobert Sacre started three games and appeared in 32, splitting time between the D-League and the Lakers in his rookie season. The 60th pick averaged 1.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in six minutes, and played a total of four postseason minutes recording two boards and one steal.

Sacre is extremely well liked by his teammates, handling the various demands of a rookie with a constant smile. Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Sacre’s overall thought on the season: “I definitely learned a lot this year. I think at the end of the day I’m glad to be with a great group of guys.”

- On what he learned from veterans like Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash? “I think their work ethic – you take guys like Kobe, you hear myths that he comes in in the middle of the night, and that’s really what he does. You see that Nash is always one of the first guys in. It’s (really impressive).”

- On practicing against Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol: “Again, it’s an honor. I’m super excited about playing against (them). It depends on what kind of day it is … if I want to get hit, I’d (take Dwight). Pau is one of the most skilled big men ever.” Basically, he was in trouble either way, but he learned a ton playing against them.

- On his time in the D-League: “Glad I went to the D-League to play. Later in the year, coach was shortening up the bench and I wasn’t seeing a lot of playing time. I’m a competitive guy and I know what he was trying to do. I’m not going to fuss and moan and groan about it. I took it as I can only get better and focus on what I need to do to get better. I can’t complain!”

- Sacre went on to discuss some of the more taxing parts of being a rookie, like waking up every morning on the road to deliver bags … but he took it all in good spirit. I then asked him if he had any tattoos planned, he said of course, but declined to share of what: “I have to save something for (Time Warner Cable Sportsnet’s) “Backstage Lakers!”

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Andrew Goudelock: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_GoudelockThe Lakers recalled Andrew Goudelock from the NBA D-League days after Kobe Bryant’s season-ending injury. He played six minutes in the regular-season finale against Houston.

With L.A.’s top four guards out injured, Goudelock started his first career contest in Game 3 of the playoffs against San Antonio, scoring a career-high 20 points. He followed that with a 14-point, 4-rebound effort in Game 4.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On his crazy season: “I definitely think I’ve come a long way. From getting cut (by the Lakers in training camp), going to the D-League for the whole season, winning the MVP and then coming back and getting significant minutes (in the playoffs) … it was crazy. I ended up getting a call, everybody got hurt, and I’m starting in the playoffs.”

- On the difficulty of playing San Antonio, with all their experience, when the Lakers had barely played alongside one another: “We definitely tried … it was just tough. We hadn’t played together, I didn’t even know any of the plays. I don’t think anyone could have envisioned this in training camp. If you look at the roster, you see a championship contender, and for everything to happen like it has, that’s just how the business is.”

- Goudelock on Kobe Bryant: “The guy is a warrior – just being around him last year, I tried to take that mentality myself, where nothing can penetrate your mind. The first thing he said to me when he got hurt: ‘It’s a small thing to a giant.’ He’s just such a competitor, and you can’t teach those things. His knowledge of the game is crazy.”

- Goudelock on Steve Nash: “One of the nicest guys I ever met – I always thought you had to have a bad boy image in the league to gain people’s respect, but he’s a pure heart, he does everything for the betterment of the team. I asked him and Steve Blake a lot of questions when they were out … the experience was invaluable. I just tried to soak it all in.”

- The College of Charleston product was refreshingly honest about what it was like being in the D-League, where he was scoring a ton, dropping dimes when no one said he could play point guard, then watching his backup get called up by the Clippers, and another teammate who was injured get the call to New Orleans. He was just frustrated and feeling like he could add something to the next level, but never quit, kept working until he was named League MVP. The Lakers call up was something of a fluke due to injuries, but he hopes he was able to remind GM’s of what he can do, and that he’ll have a chance to make a roster next season.

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Devin Ebanks: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_EbanksIn his third year in Los Angeles, Devin Ebanks started three games and appeared in 19 towards averages of 3.4 points and 2.2 boards in 11 minutes.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Ebanks, who will be a free agent, stated this: “Next season, I’m going to look around and weigh my options as far as other teams next year. I just want to thank Mitch (Kupchak) and the Lakers organization for giving me an opportunity the last three years.”

- “It was definitely a disappointing year knowing how hard I worked in the summer. Just the whole season overall, it was a big disappointment for me. I don’t want to get down. I’ll be back better next year.”

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Earl Clark: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_ClarkEarl Clark started 36 games and appeared in 59 towards averages of 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds on 44.0 percent field goals. He played sparingly during the first two months of the year, but found a spot in coach Mike D’Antoni’s rotation after a 22-point, 13-rebound performance at San Antonio in early January.

Clark averaged 3.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 20 minutes per game in the playoffs.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Clark, a free agent this summer, was appreciative of the opportunity the Lakers gave him and repeatedly stated he wants to remain with the team. “I want to be a Laker. Had an opportunity to show what I can do. If we have a training camp, we can show what we can do. Hope everything works out.”

- Clark said GM Mitch Kupchak was proud of him for constantly working hard – early in the morning and late in the evening – even before he became part of the regular rotation. His expanded role when guys were out was difficult, mainly adjusting to playing nearly 30 minutes per contest. But when Pau Gasol returned, it was hard for coach Mike D’Antoni to manage minutes.

- Clark, a teammate of Dwight Howard in Orlando, believes staying in L.A. will be “great for his career.” Early on, Clark felt Howard felt the pressure of losing and playing for an organization not accustomed to it. “This summer, he’ll work on his game and continue to get better. He’ll answer the challenge.”

- His goal for the offseason is to get stronger, so he can guard bigger post players like Zach Randolph and Tim Duncan. He admitted he’s more comfortable playing on the perimeter, but wants to expand his game.

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