The NBA champ and new ESPN reporter dishes on the youngsters.
(Photo: Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013)
Firstly, congratulations. What a performance in Game 7 from you. What made this one different than the last one?
I think after winning the first championship, there’s an expectation level. You know what you’re getting into. You know the effort, and the energy it takes to get back to the mountain top and it’s daunting. With that said, it’s a different feeling. One’s not better than the other, it’s just very different. Both are very special.
You celebrated at Denny’s, can you tell me about about that?
Well, it was a long night of revelry, I guess you could say. What better place to lug some grease into your system than Denny’s at 8 in the morning?
Let’s talk a little bit about the draft. The Heat drafted Norris Cole two years ago, who has certainly made an impact. What contribution has he had and what can a good draft do for an already good team?
Norris has been a great player his two years, and he’s the perfect example of opportunity mixed with preparation. And that’s the battle of the NBA draft; you have to be able to get lucky to get drafted to a team where you have opportunities. And once you get the opportunities, it’s time to play. But Norris has done a great job in his role, so he’s the perfect example of this value in the draft.
You went sixth in 2001, what was draft day like for you?
It was probably the most nerve-racking experience of my life. Definitely of my basketball life. It just gets to you. It was pretty overwhelming. My initial feeling after being drafted wasn’t necessarily happiness, it was just relief that the uncertainty was over and I could start my life.
Who in this draft class are you most excited to see play in the league?
That’s a good question. I think Victor Oladipo is a really intriguing player, because he’s got a great motor, which is probably the most important thing as a young player you must have, and he’s got a unique skill set where he can impact the game in a lot of different ways. I think wherever he goes he’s going to be a very good player.
If you had a #1 pick in a completely empty squad, who are you taking?
I’m going Oladipo. He’s the guy who just wins. So I’m going with a unique player.
How would you rank this draft class?
The thing is, it takes 5-10 years to find out if the draft is any good or not. Looking back at my draft, there are only a few guys playing from the first round of the 2001 draft, but you’re going to figure out who’s a great pick and who’s a bust. It’s all fun and games to try to project this draft pack, because you won’t know for many, many years.
How do you feel about these dynamic players coming out of smaller schools and mid-majors, like Damian Lillard?
I think it’s different, no question. I think that in the smaller mid-major programs, it forces the ability to grow in the player and as a person. Without the pressure and the bright lights at your school and your school being on television every night, I think the guys that get drafted in the first round from the mid-majors are usually a little more polished than maybe some of the younger guys that come from bigger schools. I don’t think that’s necessarily a predictor for success for the player, but the general player is a little more polished.
You’re reporting on the draft tomorrow for ESPN. Game 7 of the NBA Finals vs. live reporting for ESPN: Which one’s more nerve-racking?
Reporting for ESPN, because for Game 7 I could at least make something happen on the court. With the broadcast, who knows where this thing is gonna go?