Before we get to the interviews though, a little explanation to help with the reading.
The format for Friday’s event was more of a "scrum" type situation where whenever a player was done with NBA TV, NBAXL or RaptorsTV shoots or interviews, they were made available to the press. This meant that at times, you could pick and choose who you wished to speak with and at others, you’d join scrums that were already in progress. You can tell from some of these questions that reporters missed the first parts of some interviews hence the duplication in queries and responses.
(You can also tell that sometimes players don't exactly answer the questions they're asked - ahem, Joey Graham.)
The entire event took place on the Reebok Practice Court as well so you could literally go baseline to baseline to find who you wished to speak with.
As mentioned Friday, the only people I missed were the two Kris’...Humphries and Bosh. CB4 was tied up with the media most of the time I was there and I decided to stick for B.C.’s entire talk rather than hear the media drone away about Bosh’s injury issues. Obviously you knew he was going to say everything was fine, so I decided it would be more interesting for the readers to hear about B.C.’s thoughts on cap space etc.
As for Humphries, he was only around for a brief period of time so unfortunately he was the one who got away.
Sam Mitchell I passed on as well however.
He was swarmed with media while I was there and due to his candid nature, I figured he’d be the one person most often quoted in local papers and television. Hence, me standing there with a mic probably wouldn’t be giving readers much in terms of new information.
Finally, as opposed to the pre-draft camp where there were only a handful of known reporters, this time, there's were media from all over and therefore many I didn't know. As a result, I've put "reporter" in the transcription for anyone other than myself who asked questions.
Ok, like Lebron and Kanye on SNL this past weekend (which was surprisingly entertaining, especially this skit around the 4 minute and 30 second mark), on with the show.
Jason Kapono (joined in progress)
I was talking with some local media folks when Kapono got things started on Friday so I missed the opening minutes of his Q and A’s. However it was obviously a discussion about his work this off-season with team USA based on the first questions I got on tape. My first impressions of Kap-One were great and while I’m still skeptical about the price of his acquisition, I’m much more excited now to see just what this kid can do in the Raptors’ offence. The best part of the interview though was Kapono’s dead-pan sense of humour. One of Toronto’s fabulous local media actually referred to the US Select Team that Kapono played with as "the scrubs" and without batting an eyelash, Kapono then used the term out of pure sarcasm for the rest of the interview no matter who asked him questions. I was trying hard not to crack up.
Reporter: Were there any players at the US-Select team practices that you guarded in particular?
Jason Kapono: Obviously they had a lot of talented players, especially at the wings as that’s kind of our strong point and, I guarded everybody. Kobe, Lebron, Carmello, Michael Redd, all the way down the line...those are the top wing players in the league.
Reporter: How do you think you did?
JK: I think we did fine, obviously I want to take some credit because they performed well and were champions. For them to take first in the tournament, in pretty easy fashion, I’d like to take some credit for that in helping them get prepared.
Reporter: And you made at least one big shot towards the end of the quarter in the scrimmages in the tournament, do you think your game evolved in any way from that experience, playing at that level?
JK: Not really, I don’t think I really changed my game, it was more of the experience being on that type of stage included with those type of players in that setting. Overall, just for all of us scrubs* to be a part of that and get the taste of what it’s like to play against that top notch talent.
Reporter: Ultimately, do you want to be on that US team?
JK: Of course! I would love to, I would love to represent the US and that’s something that comes if you play well and take care of business in the regular season and they feel like you’re a fit for the team obviously you’ll have a chance to. But I’m more focussed on this upcoming season and playing for the Raptors.
Reporter: You also got a chance to work with one of the Raptors’ assistant coaches in Jay Triano, what did you learn from him in terms of what kind of coach he is?
JK: He’s a great coach, obviously from Canada, played a few years and has been coaching for a long time so he has a wealth of knowledge. I was actually glad to get a chance to talk to him. He gave me a few pointers on what to expect, a little inside info on what type of coach Sam is, what type of system we have here, so I was able to use that and get ready for training camp.
Reporter: What do you expect your role to be on this team and have they told you what they expect your role to be?
JK: Obviously what I do is shoot the ball and that’s what I’ve done all through my career so I don’t really expect them to change me into a post-up player or anything (laughs.) I feel pretty confident that I’ll maintain that type of role. I just want to help this team win, the bottom line is that they brought me in here to help this team win. This is more of an up-tempo, high-scoring team which I’ve never played on before so hopefully this will allow to flourish.
Reporter: How good can an up-tempo, high-scoring team be in this league? Because the history is it’s the rebounding and defense-oriented teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit (Miami was a little bit of an exception when they won it)...
JK: Yeah, typically in the past it’s been more of a half-court team with more of a post-up game, but, as you can tell, a lot of teams and their styles have changed over the years; the Phoenix Suns, Dallas, a lot of good teams have changed their style so I think it’s only a matter of time before one of those teams breaks through. We’re obviously one of those teams that has played that style, we’re more of an up-tempo team and that’s what we’re gonna stick with.
Reporter: Any thoughts on the Tim Donaghy betting scandal?
JK: No (laughs), I don’t really even follow that, I can’t even comment on it because I don’t know much about it. Sorry about that.
Franchise: One last question, back when you were playing with UCLA, those teams that you played on played an up-tempo style, do you sometimes compare and think that this Raptor team could be similar in terms of the way it plays it’s offense, those kind of sets?
JK: I think so, especially you know in comparison with the youth and depth of this team; we have a lot of young guys and we play an open style where you can’t key on one guy. Teams don’t know who’s coming every night, obviously Chris Bosh is our go-to guy but any night it can be TJ, it could be Parker, whoever. It’s hard to guard when you know that all five guys on the floor are a scoring threat.
I got Jamario one-on-one for this interview as most of the media had finished with him while I was still talking to Kapono. It’s always great talking to someone who finally made the Leauge, his smile lit up the practice court and this is one guy I’m hoping sticks with the club as I think he could surprise folks, even in limited minutes.
Franchise: So first off, how does it feel to be a Raptor?
Jamario Moon: Great, I love it, I finally accomplished my dream, I’m soaking it all up now.
Franchise: That’s awesome man, congratulations. I got to see you play at the pre-draft camp they had here, and I noticed that you were all over the court. We were talking on our website about how certain players stood out and you were definitely one of them - hustle, always seemed to be in the right spot and know where the ball was, talk about some of the intangibles, some of the things you bring to the Raptors?
JM: Well, I’m really just hoping to bring a defensive presence; they already have scorers like Chris Bosh, TJ Ford, Anthony Parker so I’m just looking to bring an aggressive defensive presence.
Franchise: Ok, so talk a little about the past few years, playing in various developmental leagues, do you think that did a good job preparing you for the NBA?
JM: Yeah, actually I think it made me a better man, it made me appreciate where I’m at right now a whole lot more. Because I feel like if I would have just been put in this situation right out of school then I probably would have just took it for granted and been like "oh well, this is where I’m supposed to be," and it’s not like that. It’s a privilege to be here so, it made me a better man.
Franchise: Recently Slam Magazine was talking about five players who were just coming into the NBA this season who they thought were really going to sneak up on people and they had you as one of those individuals...
JM: Oh yeah? I didn’t even see that! (laughs)
Franchise: ...and they were talking about how while you were someone who was off the radar, you could really come in and make an impact due to your athleticism and defense, when you start to hear those type of things, how does that make you feel in terms of confidence going into the league?
JM: Wow, well like I said I haven’t seen that yet but when I hear things like that, it makes me feel like ok, everything I’ve been doing is really starting to pay off and now to do more, do more of what I’ve been doing and then hopefully my name will be all over the TV! (laughs again.) Jamario Moon will be a household name!
Franchise: (laughing) Great stuff, so last question, where do you see yourself playing position-wise, a little 3/4, a little 2?
JM: I play a little 2/3, actually I’ll play wherever Coach Mitchell wants me to play! Wherever I can come in and fit in with the team and whatever I can do to help the team win then that’s what I want to do.
Franchise: Great, thanks Jamario, best of luck this year!
The first thing that struck me about Maceo is how big he was. While he’s undersized to be a 5 or maybe even a 4, he’s VERY long and looks built to ball. He was always one of my favourite college players so talking with him was pretty cool for me. And like Moon, I got him one-on-one as well.
Franchise: So Maceo, just talk to us a little bit about this being your second stint with the Raptors, how do you feel about being back here first of all?
Maceo Baston: Definitely feels good, it’s a great city, I love the support, even the first year I was here we had a pretty rough season but the fans still came and supported us pretty well so that was really encouraging. I know with the winning tradition they’ve started now, it’s definitely going to be even better.
So I’m just looking forward to adding to it and playing my game and hopefully blending in with the team like I’ve always been here and never left.
Franchise: Talk about the position you see envision yourself playing with the team. You’re a 4 but with the Raptors do you see yourself playing the 5 a bit as well, has Sam talked to you about it?
MB: I think I’ll play some 4/5, same as in Indiana, also guard some big 3’s, play defence and do some of the little things, you know, wherever I’m needed on the court. I’m working hard to get in top shape and you know, the game here’s a bit different, it runs a bit more than in Indiana so I gotta get conditioned to that and once I get adjusted to that, I’ll be fine, wherever they need me.
Franchise: So talk a little about Indiana, I know it was a struggle for playing time, inconsistent minutes and the team went through a lot of stuff off the court - how hard was that for you in terms of your development as a player?
MB: It was pretty hard for me because coming from Maccabi where I played a lot and where we were winning and everybody was on the same page, you know, it just seemed like we had a lot going on off the court and you know on the court, we just couldn’t quite click. It was frustrating for me because having gone three years where we were like a machine, you know, just going automatic (with Maccabi), and then to go to that, it was very frustrating.
Franchise: So any regrets about your time with Indiana?
MB: No, but it was definitely a learning experience you know, and I’m ready to start fresh here.
Franchise: Your route to the NBA; I watched you play at Michigan, and you took the international route to the League. Now I’m sure you’ve been asked this many times but do you think this route helped your progression as a player whether it be certain parts of your game or what not?
MB: Oh yeah definitely. When you play in the Euroleague and you go to the finals in three straight years, you definitely have to be focussed in for every game because like the NCAA’s, one game and you’re out. Whereas with the NBA, you have the luxury of a few games, you can lose a game and still have a chance to fight. So that really prepared me in terms of being prepared for every game and not take everything for granted. In terms of individual skills, it developed my mid-range game, developed my passing skills, I know it’s a different game than the NBA but those skills can definitely add to my success. Last year in Indiana when I did play, I was ready to play on the drop of a dime and that’s hard to do but the Maccabi experience allowed me to take every game for what it was.
Franchise: How about this off-season, anything in particular you’ve been working on?
MB: Yeah, I just did a lot of stuff to get my body together, you know shooting, getting some old nagging injuries healed; I knew my role here was undefined so I didn’t know how they were going to use me, so I just wanted to be ready for whatever.
Franchise: You mentioned nagging injuries, any major concerns?
MB: No, nothing major, you know, playing overseas sometimes the gyms don’t have the best floors so really, it’s just getting everything pain free for the season.
Franchise: Thanks Maceo.
Joey Graham (joined in progress)
One lady reporter was going around asking the players some pretty funny non-basketball related questions. I kept the tape rolling before the rest of the media joined her and I because I thought readers would get a kick out of some of the questions. Joey looks a bit less bulky to me this year but seemed to have a bit more of a chip on his shoulder (as you can see from some of his answers.) I’m hoping this translates to some more aggressive (without the fouls) play on the court this season.
Reporter: Who’s the best dressed Raptor?
Joey Graham: Player or period?
Reporter: How about period.
JG: (Laughs) Sam Mitchell. After that I’d say TJ.
Reporter: Who’s the most likely to sleep in?
JG: Hmm...Kris Humphries.
Reporter: How about the grumpiest player on the team?
JG: Man, these are tough, let me think...
Reporter: This is a loaded question...
JG: Yeah, that IS is a loaded question, you know what, everyone is cool, there are no hard heads.
Reporter: Who’s the most likely to follow Clyde Drexler as an NBA star on Dancing with the Stars?
JG: Probably me! (laughs.) No that’s true, it’s probably me or Juan Dixon.
Reporter: You like to dance?
JG: Yeah, I’ve always liked to dance.
Reporter: How about most likely to follow Elton Brand and become a movie mogul?
JG: Juan Dixon...or TJ.
Reporter: Just wanted to ask you Joey about the upcoming season, give us your thoughts.
JG: Just like last year, very optimistic, going over to Europe - it’s my first time actually going to Italy but I’ve been to Germany and Belgium before and I’ve played in London a little bit. But, I’m happy about training camp, we’re excited, we’ve got a great bunch of guys, some returnees and everything looks good.
Reporter: What do you think the biggest change will be though with new players?
JG: Well like I’ve been telling everybody, from top to bottom from the 5 to the 1, even the guys on the bench, we have the most versatile team I think in the league. We brought in some wing players and it’s going to be a tough competition come training camp.
Reporter: In terms of confidence having made it to the playoffs last season, just tell me where you are now with being satisfied with your accomplishments...
JG: It was just a stepping stone. You know, we had a lot of guys last year, that it was their first time in the playoffs and it’s not an excuse, but we expect more this year. We’ve been to that point so the only thing left now is to exceed the expectations we had last year.
Reporter: Does that mean second round Joey or does that mean even further?
JG: Well our motto last year was winning and getting to the playoffs, so, we made it to the playoffs and now the expectations are winning it, winning the East, I mean going to the Finals.
Reporter: How do you think this group, I mean, last year you guys came in, no one really knew what to expect, experts thought you know, this probably wasn’t a playoff team...
JG: New GM, new players, new everything...
Reporter: Now that you have success, and there are those expectations around this team, how do you think this group is going to respond?
JG: Well everybody’s winners here, we brought in a bunch of guys who came from winning teams, we, as a unit know and expect more. So I think we’re gonna achieve more because we have the guys who are going to come in and work hard, we have the guys who are gonna come in and take care of the little things, you know, be good off the court and on the court. So, top to bottom we have a great group of guys.
Reporter: Talk to me about training camp and the competition, especially along the wing which is an improved area. Talk to me about the competitiveness of this training camp.
JG: Well the guard position in this league usually is real competitive. For us in our training camp, we brought in a few new wing players, this is gonna be just like it was when I was a rookie. We had Jalen, Mo Pete my rookie year and this year is the same way, may the best man win. That’s what Sam’s always sayin’ and that’s the approach you gotta take.
Franchise: Talk about this off-season a bit, anything you worked on in particular to get ready for the year?
JG: I didn’t take any time off. Basketball’s a year round sport for most guys who want to play and love to play so, just like it was when I was a kid growing up, high school, I was always in the gym and I didn’t take any time off. So I was back in the gym working on my ball handling, working on my shooting, working on my off-the-ball dribbling and screen-and-roll stuff like that. So, I think this year I’m more prepared to bring the ball up the court and you know, have that advantage with me and Chris Bosh, or me and TJ are screening and rolling, or me and Chris are coming off side screen and rolls, something like that.
Reporter: Other teams in the past have had concerns about going over to Europe and coming back and starting off the season kind of slow, are you guys worried about that at all?
JG: No, basketball is basketball, the way it is over there or over here. We have the American flavour and the European flavour (laughs) so we mix it up, it doesn’t really matter where we’re at, we’re gonna play hard, we got a good group of guys, you know, we’re just gonna have fun, that’s what it’s about.
Reporter: Have you been to Europe before?
JG: I have, when I was in college we went to Germany, we went to Belgium and we went to London and we played a few games over there.
Reporter: What was that experience like?
JG: It was fun, you know, I was a freshman and then a sophomore in college when I was over there and it was an experience, it was one of things you remember for the rest of your life. Hopefully this experience I remember for a long time to.
Reporter: You looking forward to checking out some restaurants in Italy and Spain?
JG: I heard they’re big on fashion and they’re big on food, two of my most favourite things so I’m looking forward to that.
Reporter: Andrea says there’s a big tour lined up for you guys in Rome.
JG: That’s good! I’m excited about that. You know, from him being over there, he’s supposed to have stuff set up, he’s playing host! And then Garbo and Jose are supposed to have stuff in Spain and stuff so, I’m looking forward to it.
Reporter: Is it difficult to balance, maybe because you’re used to camp over here in Canada, the temptation you know, to explore and enjoy yourself more?
JG: You know what, it’s about us going over there and taking care of business, take care of the work at first, and then when we have the time to do the little extra things, we’re gonna do that too. So it’s about having fun and taking care of business so that’s what we’re going to do.
Reporter: Defensively, you’ve always been looked to as a guy that can play that defense and this team has never been one of the better defensive teams you know, do you see that this year...
JG: I’m still that guy. I’m still that guy that’s gonna come in and cover the Lebron’s, cover the Kobe’s, give those guys tough nights. So I’m still one of those big, physical, athletic guys that’s gonna do that.
Reporter: Do you feel like you can kinda translate to the rest of the team defensively?
JG: It HAS to. You know, in order for us to win, that was one of the biggest problems coming out of the playoffs last year, we didn’t play defense team-wise as well as we should have. So when it carries over to the team, I think we’ll go a little bit farther.
Franchise: Do you think with the loss of Mo Pete the team’s going to rely on you even more now to be THAT guy?
JG: They should. With his loss comes a lot of expectations and a lot of responsibilities but also opportunities. You know, Mo was a great addition when he was here, we’re gonna miss him, but he’s moving on to other things. We have a good group of guys here now that can do a lot of things that Mo did; we have Kapono, he’s one of the best shooters in the league, I think he had the highest percentage from 3, so, we’ve got a great group of guys who can come in and fill his shoes.
Reporter: A lot of guys, a lot of competition, how do you anticipate it in camp?
JG: That’s what it’s about, the competition, I love it. I’m ready to go and mix it up a little bit so, let’s go, let’s do it!
Luke Jackson cracks me up. I’m not sure if it’s because I keep expecting him to say something "Stiffler-ish" each time he speaks because he’s a dead ringer for the American Pie character, but he just seems funny. He also seems a lot bigger and stronger this year, something he alluded to in my interview.
I’m starting to think that Luke’s going to be the odd man out now that Kapono is on board but in any event, training camp sure should be interesting at that 2-3 spot.
Franchise: So first of all, heading overseas, how do you feel about it, although I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times by now.
Luke Jackson: Well yeah, I’ve never been to Europe, I’ve never been to Italy or Spain then obviously so it’s going to be an experience to go over there and I’m just excited to start a fresh season.
Franchise: Ok, now the rumour going around here today is that Garbo and Jose have some tours lined up and Andrea in Italy. Are you going to get in the tours ha ha?
LJ: I’ve heard. (Response given with the usual Joker smile.) I’ve heard those guys have a little clout over there, like we might get the red carper rolled out for us when we show up but you know it will be a fun experience just to see where those guys have come from and experience their culture.
Franchise: Talk to me a little about this off-season, you look like you spent a lot of time in the gym.
LJ: I was just trying to get a bit stronger, I gained about nine or 10 pounds in the off-season and just worked on my game. I spent a lot of time in the gym and I feel like my game is feeling really good and I’m ready for the season.
Franchise: Obviously a lot of competition for playing time and spots, but I mean, you came in last year in a similar situation, and it seemed like every time you got minutes you came in and showed everyone what you could do. It doesn’t seem like that’s so much of a concern, is that true?
LJ: Well you know, there’s obviously veterans in my position and those are the guys that are probably going to get most of the minutes, but it’s an 82 game season and there’s gonna be times when they need a guy to come off the bench and give the team a boost of energy. I feel like that’s probably gonna be my role this year and I’m alright with that, I’m a team guy and I’m just going to work hard and when my name gets called I’m going to do my best.
Franchise: Do you think now with the addition of a Delfino and a Kapono, it’s going to be that much tougher for you to get minutes because they have similar skill-sets as you?
LJ: No, I mean, every year I’ll always be up against guys who an shoot, score, you know. So I just have to work hard and come in and give the team a lift whenever they need it.
Franchise: Thanks Luke, best of luck this year and have fun at camp.