A Conversation with Kris Humphries
If you don’t know, now you know.
by Bryan Crawford
Kris Humphries hasn’t had the kind of career that’s attracted a whole lot of attention. So don’t feel bad if you don’t know who he is or know anything about him. Even a guy like myself who makes it his business to know as much about NBA players as I can didn’t know a whole lot about him other than his striking resemblance to Taylor Lautner, the kid who plays the werewolf in the Twilight series.
The 6-9 PF out of the University of Minnesota is currently in his sixth season in the League and he has career averages of 4.5 ppg and 3.2 rpg in exactly one NBA quarter of playing time per game. Considering he was the 14th overall pick by the Utah Jazz in the 2004 NBA Draft and taken ahead of guys like Al Jefferson, JR Smith, Josh Smith, and Jameer Nelson, those aren’t very good numbers.
But there’s apparently a lot more to those numbers than meets the eye.
I’m not an advanced stats guy at all, but Kris Humphries is the type of player that a stat nerd would just go crazy over. Those kinds of guys love PER or Performance Efficiency Rating, a stat created by ESPN’s John Hollinger used to measure a player’s per-minute productivity.
I don’t get it, I think it’s an utter waste of time, and as one of my writing colleagues here on SLAMonline once said to me, advanced stats is nerdifying our beautiful game. But that’s another story for another time. Still, a guy like Humphries almost makes me appreciate PER. Almost.
Go beyond the surface numbers on him and you’ll see that in the little burn that he has gotten in six years, he’s made the most of his minutes on the floor. In fact, his PER has gone up every year that he’s been in the NBA. He’s gone from a 9.5 as a rookie to 16.4 this season (his PER with the Nets currently stands at 18.3). Hollinger sets the league average for PER at 15 and Humphries has been above average the last three seasons and his career PER number is 13.2 which is slightly below average but it stands to reason that given more minutes, that number would most likely increase.
But this isn’t an advanced stats story; this is an attempt to shed a little light on a guy that not many people outside of his hometown of Minneapolis and the city of Toronto know a whole lot about. I mention Toronto because during his three seasons playing north of the border, he was apparently so popular there that a fan created an entire YouTube mix of him that I didn’t even know existed.
The day that the assignment for the story came up, I honestly figured I’d jump on it for no apparent reason other than what the heck. I’m glad I did because the following night, he had the best scoring night of his career when he dropped 25 points on the Los Angeles Clippers breaking his previous career high of 21 points set against the same Clippers team just nine days earlier. Along with his career milestone came a rare win for the Nets who notched just their fourth victory of the season and their first in 2010, snapping an 11-game losing streak.
During his postgame interview he made a comment that definitely got my attention and should’ve gotten the attention of anyone that heard it. “People think they’re going to come in here and not take us seriously. From here on out, my goal and the whole teams’ goal is you better come with your ‘A’ game. We’re competing and we’re capable of beating people when we do what we’re supposed to do.”
Those are pretty strong words coming from a guy playing on a team with only four wins under its belt. But luckily for New Jersey, Kris Humphries is hungry and very eager to show what he can do. His playing time on the court may have been limited, but he’s gained valuable experience in practice going head-to-head against guys like Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki in practice for the past six years and now he’s ready to show and prove.
SLAM: Being that you were on a team in Dallas that was heading towards the NBA Playoffs, when you heard that you were being traded to the New Jersey Nets, a team with only three wins all season, what was that like?
Kris Humphries: It was kind of strange at first, but then when I got a chance to talk to Kiki he said that he’s liked me for a while and he thought that I could do more on the court than I’ve had a chance to do and he said that he looked forward to working with me. For me, that was nice knowing that he sees me as a player who can do a lot of things out there and he believes in me. But then also, you’re looking at the record and you’re like, ‘This is going to be tough.’ Ultimately I think we have some pieces that can translate into a team of the future when you look at Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Yi; you’ve got Courtney Lee on the team now and he’s still trying to find his way out here in terms of coming from a Finals team to this situation. So I think we’ve got a lot of people that are kind of trying to figure it out and mixed with some of the moves that I know [the Nets] are going to make in the offseason, it’ll be a totally different team and hopefully a successful one.
SLAM: When you first got to New Jersey what were your observations of the overall feel of the team?
Kris Humphries: When I came in it was just a lot of ups and downs. I think when you’re in this situation you’ve got to win some games just to kind of reinforce what you’re doing in practice. If you’re practicing hard and then getting blown out [in games] it makes it really difficult to believe in what you’re doing with the time you’re putting in [in practice]. So there’s mixed feelings all the way across. I’d like to sit here and say that everybody’s positive and everyone believes in what we’re doing and that’s not necessarily the case. But I think a majority of the guys are still committed and trying to make the most out of this situation.
SLAM: You’ve played seven games so far with the Nets and you’ve already had two career scoring nights. Do you feel like you can be a scorer in the League?
KH: If you followed me from college you know that I scored a lot of points and then I got in situations [in the NBA] where that wasn’t my role. So it’s not something where I need to score the ball but when it comes to mismatch situations on the floor, I can definitely put it in when it comes to me. But the things I try to focus on when I come into the game is getting a couple of rebounds and getting myself going that way and just bringing toughness and energy and I know that we need that on the team I’m on now.
SLAM: You’ve been on winning teams before even though you haven’t gotten a chance to play as much. At this point in your career now that the playing time is going to be there in New Jersey, what’s more important to you personally; getting minutes or getting Ws?
KH: Well, it’s kind of tricky. For everyone that comes into the League, you’ve got to play a lot to get the most out of yourself and figure out how good you can be so it’s always good to get that experience but also, you do want to win. So it’s kind of like a balance of the two. A lot of people end up playing a lot on a team that’s struggling and a few of those guys become core guys and they win down the line. You see that happening in a place like Oklahoma City. They’re a really respectable team now and they were nothing the last couple of years. So ultimately it’s about winning but you’ve got to find yourself along the way and sometimes that means being in tough situations.
SLAM: You were part of the draft class of ’04 which was a pretty strong class. You were picked ahead of some pretty good guys that year and of those players you’re probably the least known. Do you feel like now you want to make a name for yourself in this league?
KH: Definitely. You want to do as much as you can in the League. I feel like even throughout the time I’ve spent not playing as much, guy’s respect you and they know what you can do. When I look around the League and I see people sitting on different [team’s] benches that I’ve played against in the past and played against in the summer and you get a sense of who can play and who can’t play. Guys know who can play in the League and I definitely want to try and make the most out of my opportunity and get some wins. My personal goal is to not be the worst team in NBA history.
SLAM: At what point in your basketball life did you feel like you could play in the NBA?
KH: That’s an interesting question. I always wanted… My goal was to come out of high school, get drafted, and play in the NBA. People are always saying you can do this and you can do that but I don’t know if I really knew it for myself if I was really good enough at that point. I think it hit me once I was in college and I was getting 22 and 10 in the Big 10 and after a while I was like, ‘Man, I think I can play in the NBA.’ So it just kind of hit me.
SLAM: Coming up, did you ever compete against any pro guys during the summer to help you work on your game?
KH: Yeah, when I was in high school I used to go down to the Target Center and play against Kevin Garnett and a bunch of the Wolves that were in town toward the end of the summer when they were getting ready for camp. So, I had a chance as a young high school kid to play a lot against Chris Carr that also played with the Bulls and we used to play a lot of one-on-one and he used to work me out and stuff. That’s probably one of the biggest things that helped me was playing against an NBA player when you’re in high school because if you can score on this guy, you can score on anybody in high school or in college.
SLAM: At what point did being awestruck about being in the NBA wear off for you or is it still kind of there?
KH: I think by the All-Star break of your rookie year you kind of get over that whole thing. At first you’re like, ‘This is such-and-such,’ but having a chance to play against Kevin Garnett when I was in high school kind of helped with that whole thing. I know a lot of guys get in the League and it takes them a while to realize that ‘I’m at this level and I’ve got to go at this guys head even though he was a childhood hero’.
SLAM: Right. A guy goes from being a poster on your wall to now you’re standing next to him on the court.
KH: Exactly. I still have a Steve Nash jersey from when he was Dallas but now I’ve got to go out and try to beat him and hard foul him if I got to. But it was weird trying to get past that.
SLAM: You have The Kris Humphries Foundation, are you still active in that and if so, what kinds of things do you have upcoming?
KH: Well we’re doing updates to my website and we just finally got my domain name back, compliments of Chris Bosh and that cyber-squatting lawsuit with people who buy up all the domain names and then they don’t release them to you. But I do a lot with my foundation in terms of free camps in the summer time and different things I do around Minnesota talking to kids. One of the great things about my foundation is we partner a lot with different people such as the Boys and Girls Club and so the dollars go a long way. I have my friends helping me on that and no one gets paid off of my foundation so it’s all about helping kids in the community.
SLAM: I read somewhere that you used to swim competitively. Is that true?
KH: Yeah, well that was kind of my first love. I was actually the No. 1 swimmer in the nation when I was 10 years old. Everyone says that I was better than Michael Phelps but I didn’t even know who he was back then and he didn’t hit stride until he was little bit older. But I kind of became sort of disinterested in that and started pursuing basketball.
SLAM: So at one point in your life you were a better swimmer than Michael Phelps. That’s pretty cool.
KH: Yeah. At a really young age, but yeah.
SLAM: I’m sure you know Tim Duncan has a similar story, although the circumstance surrounding his pursuit of basketball was a bit different. What made you pursue the game?
KH: Watching the NBA on TV caught my eye and my dad is sitting here saying, “I used to take you to games.” We used to travel around and see different games. I remember seeing Michael Jordan play in Chicago as a kid and you hear that music come on and then the players run out and you hear all the fans and stuff and it’s something that I fell in love with and aspired to do.
SLAM: You’ve read SLAM and you know that we touch tons of people every day and people come to us to try and find things out. So for the people who may not know a whole lot about Kris Humphries, what would you like them to know?
KH: Well, I’m huge into Xbox, Call of Duty – Modern Warfare, and Madden. I get online a little bit. I’m also pretty big into financial stuff as far as following the markets and keeping up on financial news. I follow it real close. My dad has a background in that, he was a stock broker for a number of years so I kind of want to go that route post-basketball. Also, I’m just real competitive in whatever it is I’m doing. It could be beating my dad at backgammon and I’m not even good at backgammon but I just find a way to win (his dad laughs in the background). I’d never even played backgammon until like two years ago and he was saying how good he was. So I started playing it a little bit and you know what? He still wins sometimes but I think I’m better than him now. Also, put it out there that I am one of the top Call of Duty players in the NBA (he gives me his gamertag but later asks not to reveal it because he says he talks way too much smack online). I also play a ton of poker too. You ever eat at 5 Guys?
SLAM: Man, that’s the greatest burger joint ever.
KH: Well we’ve got two stores right now in Minnesota and we’re going to have five by the end of this calendar year. My dad’s really business savvy so he’s handling a lot of that but I’m just kind of learning what goes into doing that and learning the ins and outs of the business is very interesting.
SLAM: What’s been the most interesting thing or funniest thing that you’ve seen since you’ve been in the League?
KH: [Pauses and thinks for a long time] Earlier this year Rick Carlisle was upset about a call and he got up off the bench ad was going towards the ref and he just fell on his butt. He just fell down, suit on and everything. And what a lot of people don’t know is Rick Carlisle tapes his ankles for games. That’s hilarious. If you ever get a chance to talk to him, ask him about it (ankle taping). He was lucky he was taped up otherwise he could’ve been out for a couple of games.
SLAM: It must’ve been a pretty bad fall.
KH: Yeah, it was. And they put on the video edit the next day in practice and we all laughed about it.