Keeping up with Rashad McCants
A Q & A with the Timberwolves guard.
Rashad McCants is waiting to catch a break. The fourth year Timberwolves combo guard has played sparingly while his team struggles with an 11-25 record. Although McCants’ lack of court time has hurt his stat sheet, it hasn’t broken his spirit.
McCants helped the University of North Carolina win a national championship before being selected by Minnesota in the first round of the 2005 Draft. He was in and out of the Minnesota lineup until last season when he posted career-high numbers in practically every category. Despite the improvement in 2007-08, McCants playing time has gone down considerably. Amid the facts and speculation, McCants is confident he’ll work his way back into the Timberwolves’ rotation.
SLAM spoke with McCants about the season, his career, his tattoos and his relationship with E! reality TV star, Khloe Kardashian.
SLAM: The Timberwolves are undefeated—so far—in 2009. Why do you think that is?
Rashad McCants: It’s pretty much because of growth as a team. Everyone is starting to understand their roles and learn from the mistakes we made early on.
SLAM: Is there a different attitude in the locker room since Kevin McHale took over?
RM: He makes it easy to understand that we’re going to have to get the ball to Al and that everyone else is going to have to play around it. I think guys have taken advantage of that by hitting open shots and making plays happen for each other. From that, we’ve been able to get some wins.
SLAM: The team is making a slight turnaround, but what do you feel like you’re learning during these tough times?
RM: For me, personally, it’s to be mentally tough enough to get through the bad days and to look forward and be ready for the good days. Whether you are playing or not playing for whatever reason, the worst thing you can do is complain about it and the best thing you can do is fight through it.
SLAM: You had a tough slide of losing 13 in a row. Were there guys on the team trying to keep everyone’s spirits high?
RM: I can definitely say that I was one of those guys and that Calvin Booth was one of those guys. Everybody else just understood we were 0-13 in a row. Myself being a winner, I know what it takes to get out of funks like that and how to pick your team up, motivating them and building more confidence. I think that, once we got one win we turned things around.
SLAM: After four years in the League, do you feel like a veteran a bit?
RM: I would say so. I’m in my fourth season and I’ve had four losing seasons and it doesn’t give me any credibility with these guys. We have a core group of guys that are all the same age or younger and we have some veterans in there. I think that with my IQ for the game, I tend to want to help others around me with whatever questions they have or whatever they don’t understand.
SLAM: Can you point to the biggest difference between this season and last season for you personally?
RM: Playing time, consistency…Last year, I was coming off the bench and coach had given me a certain amount of minutes and certain amount of plays, and I actually would look forward to that every night. This year, it’s kind of been up and down. I’m just trying to fight my way through the rotation and get in when I can fit in. It’s not the same, you can’t really complain or be upset with the situation. We have some new guys and new additions, and I guess I just don’t fit into the rotation right now.
SLAM: Do you feel like you’re a starter or a sixth man, what is it about the time you are getting that you’re struggling with?
RM: I mean, while I’ve been in the League, I haven’t had much time as a starter; although, we won a couple of games when I started. It’s just whatever situation you’re put in. I’ve often been put in the situation where I’m coming off the bench and being known as a reserve. I think that I can get more things being a starter because you play more minutes and you get a longer stretch of time. That longer stretch of time is where you can put a lot of points on the board, a lot of rebounds and assists. As a starter you get to play a complete game, that’s why all the All-Stars in the league do their thing, because they play complete games and a substantial amount of minutes.
SLAM: What’s the thing you’re most comfortable doing out on the floor?
RM: I definitely feel like handling the ball, not just to score the ball, but just be able to facilitate things and put other guys in the position to score. I’m not a true point guard and that’s not the position that I claim to play, but being like an off-guard who can handle the ball and drive, shoot and pass like a DWade, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Those guys are hard to stop because they have that triple threat like that, and that’s the kind of guy I think I am.
SLAM: What has Coach McHale been telling you since he took over the team?
RM: We haven’t really talked much actually. We haven’t had any real conversation about where I fit in or what I will be doing or where I stand. It’s pretty much just go in and hope that I have a good practice, and hopefully I’ll get in during the next game. He’s an old school guy, just like Randy Wittman was, so, you’ve got to go in an prove that you deserve to play.
SLAM: Can you compare Wittman and McHale as coaches a little bit?
RM: It’s hard to say because Coach McHale just got here. I was with Coach Wittman for like almost two years and, when I was playing well, Coach was pretty consistent with me, he knew what I could do. He wasn’t afraid to put me in situations where I could succeed. Earlier on this year, he kind of lost that confidence in me or he didn’t want to put me in those positions. Coach McHale is going with who he thinks can produce and we’ve won five in a row. I haven’t really played in five games in a row, but as long as we’re winning, that’s the only thing I care about.
SLAM: The Timberwolves have a lot of guards, is it tough to be in the mix with a few other guys at that position?
RM: Not at all. I mean, we play two point guards, and I find myself playing point a lot in practice just because I’m not in the rotation. We’ve got a couple of threes, some point guards that can also play the two, so, we just mix and move around our lineups according to what team we play.
SLAM: Some people in the media say you’ve taken a step back this year, but to give you a chance to answer that, where do you feel you are as far as improving on your game goes?
RM: I can honestly say to the questions and allegations of me “stepping back” that, I don’t really think I’ve been given a fair enough chance to play in this league during the four years that I’ve been here. I think that, Wittman gave me a chance to prove that I can play and be a consistent player as a starter, reserve or what have you. In those situations, I think I proved that I can play and always have been able to play.
SLAM: Is it frustrating to hear that kind of talk around you?
RM: It is, it is, because I know what I can do. My fans know what I can do and my friends know what I can do. You hear how I’m supposed to be not good enough or struggle, but the only thing I can do is keep waiting my time and keep getting better every day.
SLAM: Where do you feel like you fit into the NBA in the long run?
RM: My goals and aspirations is to be an All-Star one day, so, that’s what I am going to keep pushing towards. Hopefully, I’ll fit into a system that will help me reach that goal and that potential.
SLAM: Your website, RashadMcCants1.com, is a pretty extensive.
RM: Basically, because not a lot of guys do that. Not a lot of guys do the things that make then accessible to the crowd, the audience and the people. I think that the people are the ones that make the players. Once players understand that—fans want to engage with the players in as much as possible—you can really start using it to your advantage. A lot of my off-court moves are going to help me come up in the basketball world or come up in the entertainment world or, wherever I go. In the situations I’ve been in over the last four years—I was out for nine months with a micro fracture surgery—I didn’t really play well my rookie year, I came in and played well in my third year and now here I am in my fourth year, actually taking a step back. I think that after a while you start to think ahead like, ‘Where am I going to be in five years from now?’ You just try and respect it.
SLAM: You post some writing and poetry, how serious are you about that stuff?
RM: I don’t spend a great deal on it, it’s just most of the time when I’m going through stuff, I’ll just put it down on paper. I am a pretty active musician; writing and rapping, stuff like that. I’ve got a clothing line. I’m just trying to stay active off the court.
SLAM: What do you usually rap about?
RM: What I live! Like money, cars clothes, girls and coming up from the hood and what not.
SLAM: Speaking of girls…Was it distracting to have your relationship with Khloe Kardashian become public during the season?
RM: I don’t think it was distracting because it was something that was going on since the summer time. The fact that the media got a hold of it is something that you can’t control at all. You can’t really tell them when and when not to put that out. I don’t think it was anything negative. If anything, it helps me, it helps the Timberwolves and our entities a lot.
SLAM: I take it that the two of you are pretty serious.
RM: Yeah, we’re taking the next step. My teammates haven’t said much really. They know we’ve been going together for a while. We started in like July/August, and it’s really been about five or six months. She’s been to about four games. She didn’t like basketball at first, but she yells at the TV and all that kind of stuff.
SLAM: You guys talking about getting married?
RM: Not after five or six months. [Laughs]
SLAM: When you’re in the NBA and not playing, is it a lot of self-motivation?
RM: It is when nobody is really talking to you or trying to pick you up. Me, I’ve always been self-reliant. Right now, I need to stay confident and come to practice and turn my practice into games. When the game comes, I’m always going to be ready. Most of my tattoos are about being self-motivated and to remind me of how I got where I am. For me, the tattoos always kind of mean something more.
SLAM: They hurt too much for anything else.
RM: They hurt way too much! I got a couple that really hurt. My stomach was the most painful. The hand tattoo was really painful. The neck was kind of painful. Once you get a tattoo it numbs up and you really can’t feel it.