It’s often tough to go from being a major piece on a championship team to a bit piece on a squad at a higher level, but that’s exactly what Peyton Siva is doing with the Detroit Pistons. As he adjusts from Louisville to the NBA, he’s played just 38 minutes over eight games this season, I was able to recently catch up with the guard about how his move up to the pros is going.
First season in the league for you, just talk about the process so far.
Just a learning experience. You get the chance to live out a dream, you get a chance to work hard and play against some of the best in the world so it’s just been a learning process, getting used to it and enjoying it.
Who do you think you’ve learned from the most so far?
I learn from a lot of people. The guards, Will [Bynum], Chauncey [Billups], Stuck [Rodney Stuckey], Brandon [Jennings]. Just learning a lot from them. And coach [Mo Cheeks] has been doing a good job with my in film and everything.
You guys are off to a slow start, is there something you could point to and improve on? What’s going wrong?
We just have to make more shots and play better defense. Teams are making shots right now and everything will come together. It’s a long season. There’s a lot of games.
Have you thought about Derrick Rose’s injury and could you imagine going through something like that?
I just pray for him. I mean, for him to work that hard to come back and for him to go back down like that is truly unfortunate. But I feel that god has a plan for him and everything will fall into place for him. It’s tough right now, but he’s a man of god and he has strong faith so everything will come together for him.
Has the D-League been discussed?
What do you think the biggest key for you to be successful not just this season, but going forward?
Just continue to pay attention, focus, continue to work hard and just find your niche in the league. For me it’s just to continue to play hard, continue to listen to coaches and gain some wisdom from the other guys.
Before Ryan Anderson his seven 3-pointers in New Orleans’ win over New York on Sunday night, and before Anthony Davis broke his hand, Anderson spoke with me about how his season is progressing. His girlfriend’s suicide earlier this year was not brought up during the interview, but he was a few minutes from heading out of the Pelicans locker room for Chapel and you could sense how important his faith is to him. Anyway, the interview:
Ryan, decent start to the season, in integrating a lot of new players, how do you think that’s been going so far?
We have a lot of young talent on this team, and obviously in practice every day we’re trying to get better, learn how to play with each other. And it’s really translated in a lot of games. We have a lot of energy when we come out, and when we play hard and move the ball, it’s really hard for defenses to guard us because we have so much firepower. So it’s definitely going to continue to be a learning curve for this group to get together. But when we play well, we’re great.
What do you think the main focal point is for you guys at practice to improve upon?
Consistency on defense. Defensively, I think that’s where we’ve really been struggling. Especially the past few games. So helping each other out on defense, but really mostly having that energy and effort and imposing that will. Having that consistently, every game, is what we really need to work on.
And do you guys think you’re working on a getting a consistent rotation set of divvying up all those minutes for that firepower you were mentioning?
I think that we have a pretty good understanding throughout this group of our rotation. We want to bring off a lot of energy, that firepower off the bench too. Obviouly Tyreke [Evans] brings a lot of that. He comes in ready and I think everybody really respects each other and there’s not a lot of emotion into that. We just want to win. We want to play, and we want to play hard. But when we get our time, we just want to go out there and play hard as a group.
How are you progressing health-wise and on the court?
Feeling better. I want to get my conditioning, to continue to improve on that. I’m feeling pretty comfortable out there on the court.
And based on how Anderson fared on the court just an hour later, he was certainly comfortable indeed.
Saturday Night Recap
-Houston handed San Antonio its first home loss with a 112-106 win that propelled the Rockets to 13-5. Houston hit 13 3-pointers and outrebounded the Spurs 54-33. James Harden scored a game-high 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting.
-Brooklyn defeated Memphis 97-88 for its fifth win of the season. The Grizzlies were without Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and took 14 fewer free throws than the Nets in defeat. Memphis forced 18 Brooklyn turnovers, but could not contain Joe Johnson, who scored a game-high 26. Brook Lopez scored 20 points in his second game back.
-Chicago fell to 2-8 away from the United Center after a 97-93 loss to the lowly Cavaliers. Andrew Bynum had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland, which also got a double-double from Tristan Thompson. Joakim Noah shot just 2-of-10 from the field for the losing Bulls.
News & Notes
-Despite being without Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, the Lakers are 9-8 and are currently holding on to a Western Conference playoff spot at this early juncture. How the hell are they doing that?
“We just have a good unit of guys,” shooting guard Jodie Meeks told me last week. “Everybody is rooting for each other, nobody has a bad attitude and wants everyone to do well. When you have situations like that, it’s a good environment to be in, to work in.”
That good environment is fostered by Los Angeles head coach Mike D’Antoni, who was nearly run out of town last year but has always thrived coaching lesser-known players.
“I like Mike a lot,” point guard Jordan Farmar said. “Offensively, defensively, I just like him as a coach and as a person. He does a great job relating to his players. Everybody has the space to be themselves. I think that’s why we’ve had some success so far. That’s our whole philosophy as a team. We try to let everybody contribute because we have guys who are capable.”
Everyone in the NBA can play, and sometimes, as Farmar said, ”it’s all about minutes and opportunity. You try to get comfortable. Everybody at this level can play, so it’s just about getting into a good groove, having guys respond to you in a certain way, and knowing your space where you could really be aggressive.”
With Kobe Bryant possibly coming back on Friday, things are looking up for the Lakers.
-I’m not sure there’s ever been a greater disparity between conferences than right now. The West currently has 12 of its 15 teams with a .500 record or better, as opposed to just three of those teams out East.
-New York has lost eight straight games and is threatening Milwaukee and Utah for the NBA’s worst record. The Knicks play a fairly average New Orleans team on Sunday night and need to come away with a win. It’s nearly impossible to come back from 10 games under .500 to make the playoffs, and that’s what a loss would do to New York this evening.
-A little while back, I had the opportunity to get an exclusive interview with Pacers rookie Solomon Hill. Here are some of the highlights:
On playing with a contending team: “Everything will be earned on this team with the personnel, and you learn one of the best ways to do it in terms of organization, the locker room, on the court. It’s been a great experience so far.”
Toughest adjustment to make: “Being one of the stars of the team to just being a piece to a bigger puzzle and just finding a different way to do it than you did at your previous place. And just getting comfortable. I’m still adjusting to it. It’s still early in the season. Your role can change from more to less. There’s a long way to go and this is a team that plays 100 games, so you have a lot to look forward to.”
Who Hill looks up to the most on Indiana: “Paul George and [assistant coach] Dan Burke. Because one of the things that can get me on the court is my defense, and that’s one thing that DB coaches. And PG is a great two-way player. He does it on both ends, it’s not just about doing it on one end and not being known for the other end. He’s been on the NBA defensive team, he’s also one of the biggest offensive weapons we have.”
On ranking Paul George: “He has to be one of the top seven players right now. You give respect to LeBron, Chris Paul and everybody else. And when you look at George and see what he’s doing for this team right now, he has to be a top-10 player in the NBA.
Sprung’s Top 10
1. Indiana (2)
2. San Antonio (1)
3. Miami (4)
4. Portland (3)
5. Oklahoma City (5)
6. Houston (-)
7. L.A. Clippers (8)
8. Denver (-)
9. Dallas (6)
10. L.A. Lakers (-)
Dropped Out- Golden State (7), Memphis (9), Chicago (10)
Games Of The Week
Sunday- Indiana @ L.A. Clippers, 3:30 p.m.
Monday- Indiana @ Portland, 10:30 p.m.
Tuesday- Phoenix @ Memphis, 8 p.m.
Wednesday- San Antonio @ Minnesota, 9:30 p.m., NBATV
Thursday- Miami @ Chicago, 9:30 p.m., TNT
As Portland continues its improbably impressive start and Thomas Robinson adjusts to his new life in the Pacific Northwest, I caught up with the former 5th overall pick last week in New York.
You guys are off to a really good start this year and personally you’ve found your place in Portland. What’s the difference between Portland and the other two teams you’ve played with Sacramento and Houston?
Like you said, it’s early but no matter if it’s early or not we are playing well. I think just being comfortable with the team, going through that last year has made me a more mature player. So that’s helped me but there’s still a lot of room for improvement, though.
Did it help with just having the certainty of knowing that you’re going to be in Portland and they’re going to be dedicated to your development?
Yeah, for sure. It makes me not afraid anymore, feeling that I’m wanted here and knowing that I’m wanted. So that helped my confidence a lot.
Was there that level of insecurity in other places?
Definitely in Houston. I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was obvious since my name was mentioned in trade talks since I got there. Sacramento, the situation was tough for me. Adjusting to the NBA and then being on a team that wasn’t doing so well off the court and on the court. So it was a tough situation for me there and, like I said, I learn from all that. And being in Portland and going with what they did for me this summer and they’re still working with me every day, talking to me, treating me as if I’m a main piece on this team. It’s really helping me a lot.
Talk about your development offensively and defensively since you got here.
I think offensively I’m getting better. I think things are more calm for me now, the game is a lot slower for me now. Like I said there’s a lot of room for improvement, but I’ve made strides offensively from last year to this year. And defensively there’s definitely room for improvement but I’ve been more sound. Knowing where to be at on the floor. It’s the small things that they broke down for me to make things easier.
Terry [Stotts] talked about you guys needing to protect the rim better. Is that something you emphasize in practice?
Yes. Joel Freeland is probably one of our best rim protectors and we’re trying to learn from him. Me, Robin [Lopez], Joel. Robin’s a seven-footer, so for me, I just have to try to use my athleticism and try to protect the basket. Early in the season and in the preseason, Joel’s been one of the best rim protectors we’ve had. We have to catch up to where he is.
What do you think about the Jayhawks?
They’re talented. I think we’re gonna take it all this year.
-The Knicks are 3-8 heading into Friday night’s game against Washington, and a great deal of turmoil surrounds and engulfs the franchise. They soon have to decide whether Carmelo Anthony is their franchise player going forward. This writer doesn’t believe Anthony is a superstar any longer, perhaps just a top 20-25 player in the NBA. While owner James Dolan disagreed in his interview with Mike Vaccaro, Marc Berman reported that the team is going to deconstruct the roster and chase Kevin Love in 2015. The long-term future of the Knicks hangs in the balance.
-Blazers center Robin Lopez attributed the team’s fast start to great shooting (obviously) and getting stops when they have to. “I’ve really been comfortable playing in the role I’m in. Focusing on the defensive end and kind of whatever will be will be.”
On playing next to LaMarcus Aldridge, Lopez said “it makes it easier for me. He gets a lot of attention on offense, easy buckets, easy crashes on the offensive glass and defensively he’s a big body willing to play defense and he’s going to get his blocked shots.”
Of Wes Matthews, Lopez said that “it’s rare to have a player that’s effective on both sides of the floor” with his shooting ability and his defensive prowess.
-The NBA D-League season begins tonight, and in the spirit of things I interviewed forward Orion Outerbridge of Golden State’s affiliate the Santa Cruz Warriors.
-Blazers backup big man Joel Freeland thinks that bringing in veterans like Mo Williams over the offseason has been the biggest contributor to the team’s early success. “Robin Lopez helps us out a lot on the defensive side.”
Freeland personally will try to protect the rim much better this season, since it was something player and team struggled with last year. “I think we’re improved a lot through the early part of the season.” He said the biggest difference between his first and second seasons is “feeling more comfortable on the court. Offensively I still have to try to find my game, but defensively I feel a lot more comfortable. I know what I have to be doing, where I’m supposed to be, and my rotations. Last year I felt kind of lost at points and stages during the year. I think that’s just experience, being on the court. It’s a totally different league from what I was used to in Europe. I had to change my game to adjust and I’m still going through the adjustment.”
Freeland has managed to gain confidence in the NBA through playing defense and thinks he’ll continue to improve as long as he keeps doing that.
-Earl Watson is on his 7th NBA team and said that bench play is one of the most important things in the league and a larger priority for teams now since most clubs can’t get superstars anymore. In adjusting to his new team, Portland, Watson said he played in Seattle so it’s not much different in the Pacific northwest. “It’s like being back home,” he said. He will give veteran leadership to the guards as the Blazers enjoy such a good start.
Sprung’s Top 10 Power Poll
1. San Antonio (2)
2. Indiana (1)
3. Portland (6)
4. Miami (7)
5. Oklahoma City (5)
6. Dallas (-)
7. Golden State (3)
8. L.A. Clippers (4)
9. Memphis (-)
10. Chicago (-)
Dropped Out- Minnesota (8), Houston (9), Phoenix (10).
Games Of The Week
Friday- San Antonio @ Memphis, 8 p.m., ESPN
Saturday- Portland @ Golden State, 10:30 p.m.
Sunday- Chicago @ L.A. Clippers, 3:30 p.m.
Monday- Minnesota @ Indiana, 7 p.m.
Tuesday- L.A. Lakers @ Washington, 7 p.m.
Wednesday- San Antonio @ Oklahoma City, 8 p.m.
COMING NEXT WEEK- Exclusive interviews with Blazers forward Thomas Robinson and Pacers rookie big man Solomon Hill.
With the NBA’s D-League season opening tonight, I thought it would be fitting to talk to a player attempting to begin his journey to the big leagues. I was able to catch up with forward Orion Outerbridge of the Santa Cruz Warriors (Golden State’s affiliate), the 50th overall pick of the most recent D-League draft.
What was your road to the D-League like and what are your goals for the season?
I started off signing my first pro contract to play in A1 Greece for Aris of Thessaloniki. I was there for about a month before having to leave and play in Cyprus due to some FIBA sanctions on Aris. I was there for about half the season in Cyprus with AEL out of Limassol. I was having problems getting paid, which forced me to leave and return to the states.
After being for a couple months before I was convinced to go back to Greece. I played for Kolossos of Rhodes for about a month before leaving for the same reasons I left Cyprus. I stayed home for the summer and trained alone until the NBADL National Tryout in New York. I participated in the tryout and caught the attention of some of the teams. I played well enough to the point I was offered a contract to be entered into the D-League draft. Then I participated in my agents annual showcase in July and further proved I belonged in the D-League. From there I waited and continued to train until draft night when I was selected by the Santa Cruz Warriors with the 50th overall pick. I am presently in training camp with the team. My goals for this season is to make the team, and help my team win as many games as possible all while showing off the skill set I possess as an athletic power forward, hopefully garnishing enough attention to receive an invite to NBA summer league.
How much have you interacted with your parent NBA team and do they have a specific plan for your development?
I took a trip to Oakland, where we were able to meet the players of the Golden State Warriors. We also sat in on a meeting about the business side of basketball, which was very informative. Then we stayed and practiced in the Warriors facility where Coach [Mark] Jackson sat in and watched. It was an honor to be in that building amongst all of the NBA history from All-Star players to a Championship banner. As of now we are running almost the exact offense as the Warriors, so that helps us in terms of learning how to run an efficient NBA offense.
Were you offered more money to play overseas? If so, why did you choose the D-League instead?
I was offered two very good contracts from the 1st division in Germany and the 2nd division in France. The money far exceeded the money offered in the D League, but my goal is to one day play in the NBA. So I figured there is no better place to play than in the D-League where I will be getting constant hands on training with NBA level coaches and trainers. I feel my game is more suited for the NBA than it is for overseas. I believe in the coaching staff of this team and I know I can become a better player under the watch of this coaching staff.
Do you think hazing or bullying is a problem in basketball? Explain your answer.
I personally have never experienced any type of hazing or bullying. I do believe in initiation, but to a certain extent. I’m not opposed to little harmless pranks here and there as long as the person being pranked is not sustaining any type of bodily or mental harm. Having to pick up the balls after practice or fetching water are things I agree with. Maybe even having to pick up the tab for a night out to dinner with the team. Anytime someone is being belittled or hurt, I have to be against that. There is no telling the mental state of some people. You may think your just having a little fun, but to them it could feel like nothing but torture, agony and pain.
What are you looking forward to the most this season about playing in the D-League?
The thing I look forward to the most is earning that first team victory. At the end of the day if the team wins, we all win. Teams at the next level want winners. So if we can prove ourselves at this level, there is a chance the NBA teams are more likely to give us the benefit of the doubt when it comes down to either calling players up or like I previously mentioned, getting invites to summer league. My over all goal is to become a better basketball player than I was before I got here. If I am only able to accomplish that, then I will be happy, but not satisfied. I won’t be satisfied until I make it to the NBA. If and when I get there, I will be able to give myself a whole new batch of goals to attain.
-Despite a 2013-2014 league high 45 points and 10 rebounds from Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks dropped its fourth straight at home, 109-106 to Houston. The Rockets prevailed despite just seven points from Dwight Howard thanks to 36 from James Harden, 22 from Chandler Parsons and 21 from Jeremy Lin.
Andrea Bargnani continued his impressive little run here with 24 points, but Houston took 44 free throws to New York’s 27 and hit 16 more from the charity stripe. Before the game, a report surfaced that Houston big man Omer Asik asked for a trade, upset with his role in Houston.
-In one of the best finishes of the season so far, Golden State defeated Oklahoma City 116-115 on a buzzer jumper from Andre Iguodala. That shot came after Russell Westbrook buried a wing three to give OKC the lead with 2.3 seconds left.
Westbrook had a game high 31 for the Thunder, with Serge Ibaka scoring 27 on 9-for-13 shooting. Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 27, who outscored Oklahoma City 29-9 in points off turnovers. The 19 Thunder miscues likely cost them in this really entertaining affair.
News & Notes
-Pacers head coach Frank Vogel talked about his superstar in the making Paul George last Saturday: “Whoever the best wing scorer out on the court is, he’s got that guy for the entire length he’s on the court. To be able to do that, and the toll it takes on your legs and your body and still come down and carry the offensive load, very impressive what he’s doing.” Vogel said that George can reach another level: “It’s his 4th year in the league, we’re just beginning to run our offense through him. It kind of evolved from midseason last year, running a few more things to him, and it’s taken off even further this year.”
-Indiana center Roy Hibbert had very fond words of his friendly rivalry with Nets center Brook Lopez. “I told him after the game, we’re going to battle for the rest of our careers. He said ‘yeah, of course.’ I’ve known Brook, in college we played against each other, we’ve known each other from summer camps. I have respect for how he goes about his business and obviously his work ethic to get better.”
-After Saturday’s game, Joe Johnson said that “it’s tough to win” in this league. “There’s not a switch that you could just turn on and off. A lot of the veteran guys know that. Even though it’s early, we’re not gonna press the panic button.” After Wednesday’s loss to Sacramento, Sam Amick said that 2-5 Brooklyn hit the panic button. Johnson said that the Nets needed to go undefeated on its three-game Sacramento-Phoenix-Los Angeles road trip. That didn’t happen… “Those third quarters and late game [situations] we can’t get the stops or the rebounds or the lose balls we need to get us over the hump.” Not really inspiring words from Johnson. “We’re just learning to play together,” Deron Williams said. “We’re all coming together and trying to win a championship. It doesn’t happen overnight. We’re not panicking. We know it’s going to come together and we’re confident we’ll overcome these struggles.” Kevin Garnett said that there isn’t really a timetable on perfection, so life and the season will go on.
-Delay of game has been a point of emphasis and a topic of conversation around the league this season, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich talked about it on Sunday. Touching the ball, Poppovich said, “is almost like an involuntary response” for players. “You’re standing there, the ball comes and you just kinda hit it. Players will get used to it, it’s happened to us too. Over time, it’ll happen less and less. You hope it doesn’t cost somebody a game, it’s just a silly little thing. It would be horrible for somebody to lose a game because of it. Short of that, you just hope the player adjust because it’s a rule. And it could bite somebody in the butt if you don’t concentrate in that area. So it’ll depend on some individual’s awareness at the time.”
-I was able to get an exclusive interview with Spurs forward Boris Diaw special for this wonderful weekly notes column. Here are the highlights:
On San Antonio’s fast start: “I think it’s a carryover from last year. We just try to keep playing the same way. We pretty much have the same team.”
On his high field goal percentage this season: “I played with the French national team this summer, so it’s always good to stay on top of things. I’ve tried to be more aggressive to help the team more.”
On playing with the French national team over the summer: “I think playing with the national team is a good thing because you get to improve over the summer.”
On preparing for a scorer like Carmelo Anthony: “You do your best, do your work early, try to disrupt him as much as possible.”
Sprung’s Top 10 Power Poll
2. San Antonio
3. Golden State
4. LA Clippers
5. Oklahoma City
Games Of The Week
Friday- Dallas @ Miami, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday- Indiana @ Chicago, 8 p.m.
Sunday- Detroit @ LA Lakers, 9:30 p.m.
Monday- Portland @ Brooklyn 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday- Atlanta @ Miami, 7:30 p.m., NBATV
Wednesday- Indiana @ New York, 7 p.m., ESPN
Thursday- LA Clippers @ Oklahoma City, 10:30 p.m., TNT