In our final series of Media Day discussions, Franchise talks with Amir Johnson, Antoine Wright and Marcus Banks...
Training camp in Ottawa of course is in full swing and fans are gearing up for the start of the pre-season which suddenly, is but days away.
Bosh and Hedo might be resting but not us at the HQ; besides prepping for what promises to be a very interesting season, we bring you our final installment of transcribed interviews from Media Day earlier this week. Up first, Amir Johnson before we proceed with Antoine Wright and finally, Marcus Banks.
Franchise: How are things going man?
Amir Johnson: Pretty good man, everything's going well, looking great.
F: Heard you've been rejecting some Sonny Weems shots in runs over the past few days.
AJ: I was doing what?
F: He's been trying to cram everything and I heard you weren't having any of that...
AJ: ...oh no (laughs) he lied to you! He was killing me!
F: So how do you feel about the new teammates, I mean, this is another new team for you...
F: ...and what were your expectations coming into Toronto?
AJ: It's looking pretty good you know, we've got a whole brand new team, it's going to be an interesting season, I can't wait till training camp starts because it's going to be like, how everybody collabs together and I can't wait to see how that works out. I think everybody has big expectations and we're all on the same page you know with winning, and we're going to take it one game at a time.
(Editor's note - how many sports clichés were contained in that last answer??)
F: What ARE your expectations then, for yourself, the team...
AJ: Myself you know, just to go all out, every game, just to play hard. I'm on my contract year so I'm ready just to go hard, and help the team win of course, but just to prove myself in this NBA as one of those elite players. I'm just ready to go out there and do my best.
F: Have you talked to Bryan or the coaching staff a bit about your role etc?
AJ: I talked to coach, he just said he wants me to go out there and do my thing; "you know you've got the hustle plays, you might be able to guard a little bit of the 3's, we'll probably move you to the 3 a little bit, play a little 4..."
They've got big expectations of me too so...the standards are set high and I'm just ready to go out there and play.
F: Talk about your time in Detroit a bit, do you think that helped your development or honestly, would you say that it ended up slowing you down a bit because you didn't get a lot of playing time...
AJ: Absolutely, no, it really helped me. Not to many people can say they've played with like four All-Stars on a team you know what I mean? A lot of people don't have that experience and it helped me a lot playing with those type of guys...you know Chauncey, RIP, you've got Sheed...you're playing with All-Stars so yeah, I'm more than grateful to have gotten that opportunity to go out there and and play for those guys and I learned a lot from those guys. And now, I feel like I've gotten enough experience from them to bring that to this Toronto team.
F: What position are you most comfortable playing? What would you prefer to play if given the choice?
AJ: I played the 4 all my life but I'm actually quick enough to play and guard the 3 position so you know, they can move me either back and fourth, maybe even some 5 because I've been lifting a lot of weights this (off) season working on my strength...
F: ...I was going to say, you look bigger than last year...
AJ: ...yeah I've been getting stronger in the gym and working on my size so you know, any of those three positions I think I'll do pretty well.
F: Was that then something that was a major focus for you this off-season, you felt you needed to bulk up a bit based on what others had been saying?
AJ: Definitely, that was my main focus because you know, I read the media, they say I need to get stronger and work on my jump shot so those are the things, pretty much the main two things I've been working on; getting my strength up and my jumper right. I can always run the floor, rebound, and block shots, so I just moved on to the next things that I need to do and that's get stronger and improve the jump shot.
F: What about this off-season, did you play in any leagues?
AJ: Ah, I played, wasn't really a league, you know, you get a bunch of players coming together and having a bunch of runs...if I'm at UCLA, or anywhere like in Vegas, I played in the Summer League of course. But really I've been working out myself, I focus better when I'm facing like one-on-one with my trainer, go by myself and just focus on what I need to do.
F: Ok, and what about, just take me back a bit, before you made the jump from high school to the NBA, I know there were some colleges on your radar, what colleges were you considering?
AJ: I actually was signed and set to go to Louisville. Pitino, I was going to play for him. Reggie Theus was on the coaching staff so he recruited me pretty tough so I was ready and set to go there. I had a couple of friends that were going there, we took the visit together, it was me and Andre McGee, I was ready to go. But then I just put my name in the draft anyways to see if I would get drafted...
F: ...sure enough...
AJ: ...yep...I got drafted! It's all good.
F: So I guess that's what I was going to ask you, going back, would you have done the same thing?
AJ: I would have you know, no regrets. I made it this far and I think I'm pretty successful right now...you know, of course I would have loved to go to college - all the players tell me how fun college was and that's the one thing I missed but I'm here now, I'm doing fine, I'm still going back and taking classes online, so hopefully it all works out.
F: Good stuff man. Best of luck this season, thanks for chatting!
AJ: No problem, right on brotha.
Franchise: Welcome to Toronto, how are things going?
Antoine Wright: Things are going pretty good.
F: When did you arrive in town?
AW: I've been here about for about two weeks.
F: Ok, heard you've gotten in some runs with the rest of the guys.
AW: Yeah, it's been good.
F: And what do you think of the city so far, have you spent much time here before?
AW: I was here a couple of years ago when we played the Raptors in the playoffs and I was in New Jersey so that was the longest time I was here.
(Laughs) Those were different times, I was on a team with with Vince...
F: ...I was gonna say...things got pretty heated right?
AW: (Still laughing.) Yeah! It was crazy man! Fans are definitely enthusiastic about basketball here!
F: Yes indeed! So talk about your role this seaon with the Raptors, what you expect, what the coaches have said...
AW: The coaches have talked to me about the opportunity I have in the positions I play. You know, there's a lot of minutes there to be given and earned, so they just told me I'm in a great situation.
F: It's interesting because when you came out of college, I thought you were going to be more of the "high-flyer" and scorer type but you've sort of turned into having a rep as a real defensive stopper. Now is that something you've tried to mould yourself into or was that always there as far back as Texas A&M, just that you were the main scoring and offensive option on that team?
AW: I think how the NBA works is that you have a game when you come in, and it depends on what your team needs you to do. And I wasn't going to be the primary scorer on a team with Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. So, the way for me to get on the court and play was to defend and change my game and I think it helped me adapt.
F: The Dallas coaching staff held you in pretty high regard defensively last year - do those sort of comments help to reinforce that transition when you hear people talking about you like that?
AW: I think it seperates you when you're able to play defence.
(Editor's note, at this point DeMar DeRozan saw us talking and started making jokes about Wright behind his back)
You know, everybody wants to score, everybody wants to be the next DeMar DeRozan...so what you have to do, is you have to seperate yourself from those guys and the way to do it is to really get into guys and really defend them and I think all coaches want a guy like that on their team.
F: Personally, would you rather play the 2, the 3...
AW: ...I'd rather be on the floor! (Laughs.) I don't care where I play as long as I'm out there.
F: Sounds good! What about this off-season, anything in particular you were working on or any Pro-Am leagues you got runs in with?
AW: I've just been working out at Impact Sports, down in Vegas, every summer for the past three summers with Joe Abunassar. There's about 30 to 40 NBA guys there that come in and train and work hard and play.
F: I think Patrick (O'Bryant) was there right?
AW: Yep. Quincy Douby was there, Patrick...so, I got to see those guys for a little bit.
F: Ok, and are you familiar with a lot of guys on this team?
AW: I actually played in high school against Jarrett Jack and I played with Chris Bosh, I was fortunate enough to play with Chris on a USA team that went to Venezuela. We didn't win the Gold, we lost, but we played together.
F: You guys are going to be out for revenge this year then...
AW: ...(laughs) yeah, we'll try to get back at some teams in revenge!
Franchise: How're ya doing man?
Marcus Banks: Pretty good!
F: So take us back to last year, you get traded, and then don't play much. What did you do this off-season to get ready for this year?
MB: Basically I spent a lot of the off-season rehabbing, getting back healthy. I had toe surgery at the end of last season, last month of the season so I'm getting back healthy. I did a lot of pool workouts, played a little ball, but basically worked out individually every morning.
F: And were you in Vegas doing all of this?
MB: Yeah, working out there.
F: So the question on everyone's mind, and one I'm sure you'll be asked a ton today, why didn't you play with the Raptors' Summer League entry?
MB: (Laughs). Really, I just wasn't healthy at that point. I really just rested for the first third of the summer so that I could come back healthy for training camp.
F: Have you talked to the coaches about they envision your role to be with the team with so many new players coming in?
MB: Um, we really haven't sat down yet; I just want to come and show them that I'm finally 100 per cent healthy.
F: What about last year, was it the lingering injuries you think that mainly affected your playing time?
MB: Absolutely. Basically when I came I was already hurt, and it was just a matter of time when I was going to get to surgery or whatever. So towards the end of last year I spent most of my time getting treatment and trying to rehab and things like that so I really wasn't able to go.
F: Ok. Now let's talk about you in terms of fit with this new team, take us back to UNLV. I watched you play a lot in college and the style of game you played there would probably be a good fit with this team wouldn't it? Sort of a multi-disciplinary role, some point guard, some two-guard, have you thought any about that in terms of your fit?
MB: Absolutely, that's a good point. I think my main thing though is getting back to having fun playing basketball; I sat and watched a lot of basketball the last two years and like I said, I'm hungry, I want to get out there and I'll do whatever it takes.
F: That's what I was going to say, as a pro, that competitive hunger must be eating at you inside. How frustrating have the last two years been for you personally?
MB: Very (laughs.) Just tough when you're not always healthy or you're suddenly brought into new situations but that's the way things go sometimes. I can't wait till this season starts now.
F: Well best of luck this season and I'm sure we'll be checking in with you again at some point.
For more Media Day interview exclusives with some of these players and many others check out Ryan McNeill's coverage at www.hoopsaddict.com.