The Khimki guard talks about why he quit social media, who’s the best coach he’s ever played for, and who picks his numbers.
– Would you say Khimki’s off to a good start this season?
– Yeah, to a degree. We just had a little losing streak, but that happens to every team. The important thing is your spot in the standings and winning percentage.
– You have a game against UNICS up next. Is there anybody on Kazan’s team you talk to?
– No, but I’ve played against a lot of them on the court. I’ve been friends with Keith Langford for a few years, but he’s not on UNICS’s roster any more.
– Is the game against UNICS your biggest game of December?
– It’s a really important game and we have to win. After the loss to Zenit, we dropped to 5th in the standings. Now we need to catch our opponents by winning road games and head-to-head match-ups.
– What’s the first thing a player looks at when signing a contract?
– It all depends on the person. Everyone has their priorities. Some guys really care about the salary to provide for their family. For other guys, it’s the roster and coach and feeling comfortable on the team. Some guys want to live and play in big cities.
– What was the biggest factor for you in signing with Khimki?
– Georgios Bartzokas played a big role. Before signing the contract, I talked with him and could tell that I would really fit in with the team. And nobody’s going to turn down playing with Alexey Shved.
– Looking at your career, it looks like you always play for teams with outstanding coaches…
– Yeah, it’s really important to me. Bartzokas has had success almost everywhere. He’s got a great reputation in Europe and you can trust someone like him.
– Nonetheless, a lot of players complain that he goes with a short rotation. Have you ever experienced that?
– In college and on some NBA teams, the rotation’s even shorter, but that’s not a problem. We have an excellent, deep roster and coach does a good job of spreading out the playing time. Even if a player is on the court for one minute, he contributes to the team and plays a part in our success.
– Does it ever seem like Alexey Shved can do whatever he wants on the court? Sometimes his play even hurts the team and is the reason for a loss.
– Alexey Shved is a superstar in European basketball. It’d be weird if the ball didn’t go to him in the big moments. But there are five players on the court, not one. If we lose, we lose as a team. If we win, we win together.
– Let’s go back to coaches. You’ve played for Gregg Popovich, David Blatt and George Karl. Could you tell they were special coaches?
– Absolutely. Their understanding of the game and approach to the profession was truly amazing. All three have their own signature systems, but they always reminded their players that it was important to be a person, not just a basketball player. They’re more than just coaches.
– Who would you call the best coach in your career?
– Gregg Popovich. His career achievements, number of wins and impact on basketball can’t be measured. He always brought out the best in a player.
– There are some big differences between European and American basketball. Which style is closer to your game?
– I’ve had different roles in the NBA and on European teams, so I wouldn’t compare my game to one specific type of basketball. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve tried to fit my team and do what my coach wants me to do.
– You’ve had different numbers on different teams. Is there an explanation?
– Of course! I don’t just choose the numbers. My family, my wife and kids help too. That’s a lot of numbers to pick.
– Ten years ago, you played on a team with Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, James Harden and Blake Griffin in a high school showcase. Was that the most star-studded team you’ve ever played on?
– Probably. No one knew those names back then, but 10 years later you realize it was a team of future superstars. The 2007 team should definitely go down in history.
– You played against Russia in the 2009 Universiade semifinals. Do you remember that game?
– Unfortunately, all I remember is the outcome. We had a terrible 4th quarter and lost by one point. I hardly remember who was on either roster.
– When was the toughest stretch in your career?
– The toughest stretch was when I got injured in San Antonio. Instead of playing and showing I could hold my own, I had to watch from the stands. Knowing you can’t do anything to help your team is horrible, especially when you’re a young player with a future ahead of you.
– You’ve been in Moscow four months now. Do you have any favorite spots in the city?
– Not yet. I try to find something new every time. For example, I want to go to Moscow City soon and see the skyscrapers for myself.
– What do you think about the weather in Russia?
– The weather wasn’t terrible until November. Now I’ve got to wear the warmest stuff I’ve got. It looks like it’ll be like this for another 2-3 months.
– What do you like to do in your free time?
– I try to spend as much time with my family as possible. We might play board games with the kids or go to the movies.
– You deleted Instagram and stopped updating Twitter. Why?
– At a certain point I realized that I was tired of social media and needed to say goodbye. After I quit, I started reading more books and had more free time to relax and spend with family.
– Do you really miss being home?
– I miss it, but I’m very comfortable now in Moscow and really enjoy living and playing here. My family also really likes it here.
– A lot of players have relatives that also play basketball. How about you?
– My parents played basketball, but not at the pro level. Their skills helped me a lot.
– The League All-Star Game is going to be in St. Petersburg in February. Do you want to be there?
– Making the All-Star Game would be a nice bonus. It’s always special to represent your team at events like that.
– If you’re offered a spot in the three-point shooting contest, would you accept?
– Yeah, of course! You can’t turn down an opportunity like that.