by Michael Tillery
For those who have pushed the rock, made a big block or swished a shot at the end of the clock, there are some things you notice when a team walks in the gym. Some look intimidating and some do not. Some are physical and some are not. Some yell and play with passion to win and again, some do not. The Golden State Warriors are a team full of horses. They come at you in waves to catch you off guard and hopefully frustrate you to not have it in you to guard an open three or defend a cut. Nellie’s bunch has historically been of this ilk and just because he’s a little shorthanded (Al Harrington/Jamal Crawford trade) means nothing. His teams go and fight with full intentions of winning. They came up short against the Philadelphia 76ers last night 89-81, but after being dominated for most of the game, they almost pulled it out.
Elton Brand, who had his seventh double-double of the season, led the Sixers with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Sammy Dalembert had a game high 16 rips as the Sixers once again outrebounded their opponent by double digits (3-1 when doing so). Andre Miller hit another big three to stave off an incredible Golden State rally that saw them come from 22 down to tie. Andre Iguodala was all over the court—doing whatever he could to contribute and ended with 15 points. Keleena Azubuike had 16 for the 5-8 Warriors. Stephen Jackson and C.J. Watson had 12 each. The conversations below tell the story…
SLAM: Andre made another big three.
Marreese Speights: Oh yeah. He has the confidence to shoot so when he shoots we all think they all are going in.
SLAM: You are hitting your jumpers. Is it only a matter of time before you begin to make a serious impact?
MS: Man I’m just trying to go out there and do something with the minutes coach gives me and play basketball with a lot of confidence.
SLAM: How are the practices? Are they beginning to be a lot more encouraging?
MS: We are going at it in practice. We keep getting better and better with the mindset that every game is important from now on.
Coach Cheeks was asked about Andre Miller’s willingness to take big shots.
Mo Cheeks: No, he doesn’t look for it, but he’s not afraid to take shots period. Particularly, toward the end of the game when you need a bucket, he’s right there to take a big shot. Certainly, him shooting the three isn’t normal, but he’s not afraid to shoot a big shot period. Last game was a three. This game was a three a nd they happened to come at times when we needed them.
SLAM: Big shots in two consecutive games that just so happen to be threes…
Andre Miller: That’s what was open.
SLAM: Is that what you see your job as? Being you are a team leader are you always looking to put your team in a position to win whether it’s passing or scoring the rock?
AM: Yeah it is. I think today I was trying to get everyone else going because I knew they eventually would start to hit shots and get us into a half court offense.
SLAM: You are beginning to win close games. Something to bring the team together?
Thaddeus Young: Yeah definitely. We just have to continue to talk to each other and get these wins. So far we have been doing that. We’ll be in a timeout and say…it’s time, let’s turn it on. Then we go out and try to lock up for those last few minutes. Tell him I said keep ballin’ and everything will fall into place.
SLAM: Your boy (Thad Young) told me to tell you to keep shooting.
Anthony Morrow: (Smiles) Oh yeah. Will do.
SLAM: You obviously are making a splash in the league lately. I’ve talked to your coach and also other players about you and the one thing they are all saying is that you’ve always been a great shooter. Everyone is also surprised you weren’t drafted. Why do you think you weren’t drafted?
AM: I don’t know man. That’s the most frequently asked question. It was one of those situations where some guys just get overlooked. I didn’t take it to heart or anything. It is just what happens.
SLAM: What did it do? Does that truly make you work harder like everyone says it does?
AM: Definitely. It makes you work sooo much harder. It makes you appreciate your gift. It makes you appreciate the opportunities God has blessed me with.
SLAM: We were all in the press room the other day when your scoring explosion happened. Everyone was like Wooow! Talk about that first game.
AM: Man…it was amazing. It felt good my teammates had that much faith in me by continuing to get me the ball and give me looks. That was something a lot of rookies just don’t get regardless if they are scoring or not. I just thank God for the chance. Once I got hot, they just kept feeding me and feeding me. Teams are beginning to give me a little more attention now.
SLAM: What would you like to say to basketball fans who don’t know who you are?
AM: Ay man you know, I’m just here working hard every day. I will continue to work hard to get my ritual on and continue to believe in God and try to stay in this league as long as I can. It’s a dream come true.
SLAM: When you have a game like that, does it reestablish goals you’ve previously set?
AM: Uh….yeah, but I try not to think about them. I look at my goals as steps. That game was just a step. Obviously, some things good and bad can happen that affect your goals, but my opportunity helped my situation a lot. I will continue moving forward to help us win some games.
SLAM: What’s your motivation to get more playing time?
AM: Five or six months ago, I was headed overseas, so there isn’t any half stepping. I’ve always been the underdog. There’s no complaining about anything. I want it.
SLAM: You’ve played in this system for a couple of years now. You are a team in transition—being the team leader—what are you trying to get out of your team?
Stephen Jackson: When you have such a young team on the road, you just try to stay around and find a way to win at the end. We have to play solid and not get down 20 points because we are not that good yet to be able to fight back.
SLAM: Usually teams try to counteract your scheme by going=0 Asmall. Philly stayed big. What’s your mindset to counteract what they are doing?
SJ: The thing about them is that is their starting lineup. They didn’t make any adjustments. That’s how they play. That’s been their lineup all year.
We just gotta figure it out. Regardless if it’s playing big or whatever, we just gotta figure it out. There’s a lot we have to figure out being so young. We are putting a lot of young guys in a lot of new situations—difficult situations. Some don’t know what’s going on yet. The good thing about it is we are gonna be good eventually. We just got to keep working.
SLAM: Coach Cheeks said earlier that it was only a matter of time before you began to hit shots. You came from 20 points down. There aren’t any moral victories in sports. We all know that but can you find any solace in that you did get back into this game?
SJ: We did that by having young legs and just having talent. These young guys have talent, so they fought back in this game off of will. They didn’t want to lie down and just give up. These young guys came back and played hard and got us back into the game. You gotta commend them for that. There’s no reason to degrade them in any way. These young guys are working hard. They want to get better. You can’t just expect them to come20out and make a drastic change when we haven’t even played 20 games together yet. I’m proud of them for staying in the game and playing through adversity and continuing to work and making big plays. We just gotta continue to work at it.
SLAM: Your charity stuff is extensive. Why is community service such a priority for you?
SJ: I grew up not having so I do for people. My entire family was raised on having big hearts. When I didn’t have, my family gave to me as well as other people. Giving back is something I’ve inherited. I always give back to my city and wherever I go. There are always less fortunate people and I’m blessed to be in a position to do for others. I’m blessed and also humbled by it everyday. Anytime I can lend a helping hand or a helping dollar to anybody, I’m willing to do it because God has blessed me, so why can’t I help those with less?
SLAM: You were aggressive today. You took 22 shots and it didn’t matter if they were being contested or whatever. You took them and it seemed like those shot opportunities carried you guys over to victory.
Elton Brand: We work in practices and they want me to be aggressive and I feel comfortable. Guys are giving me the ball in spots, so I can help the team by getting a bucket or getting a rebound and feeding others.
SLAM: Andre Iguodala. He’s sacrificing offense to be that facilitator. A lot of fans are probably down on him because his scoring average isn’t what they think it should be but it shows he’s still adding to the team.
EB: Yes he is. We’ve won five out of six and it should be six out of six because we blew a 13-14 point lead in that game (Minnesota). He does his thing. He plays stellar defense. Like you said, he is a facilitator. He scores when we need him to score and that’s come in games lately. It ain’t about a points drop because he’s a multidimensional player and he helps…a lot.
SLAM: Is some semblance of an identity materializing?
EB: Yes. Roles are being defined. We are above .500 now. Still disappointed because our record should be better, but we have to just learn from it.
SLAM: Just talking to Elton about your all around play and sacrificing your offense.
Andre Iguodala: I just haven’t found a good rhythm so as a ball player you want to be effective. You want to be useful out there on the court. You don’t want to be out there like a nobody. You want to be a threat. So I try to do that no matter what I’m doing.
SLAM: Something I’ve always wanted to ask an athlete like you. Do you get more into the game when you get an early dunk that carries you on throughout?
AI: It depends on the situation. An easy basket always brings on more confidence. In the heat of the moment you want more to kind of back it up.
SLAM: Sixteen rebounds. 11 in the first quarter. You were wiping them bruh.
Sammy Dalembert: I just wanted to offensively and defensively crash the boards so we can have fast break opportunities. It puts pressure on teams when we rebound well. I’ve been doing that the last few games and it’s working.
SLAM: Any team comfort. I know I ask this all the time but you know how it is game by game.
SD: It’s tough out there sometime. Sometime we are dominating and other times we’ve been struggling. Coach has been doing a great job. Overall, I try to get comfortable and bring a better feel to the game.
SLAM: Well you know your coach is thinking highly of you because in games past your minutes were cut because you go small.
SD: Yeah that’s what has been happening. I just have to keep my head up and go out there and do my stuff. This win feels good.