Converse Open Gym With Kyle Korver
The new Chicago Bull sits with SLAMonline to talk about the new season.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
Depending on where you live, you’ve probably heard about Converse Open Gym before. Since 2007, the shoe company has been hosting basketball open gym events in cities like Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, and yes, Chicago.
Typically the events in Chicago are held at the Tim Grover’s famed Attack Athletics facility, but this past weekend — on September 11th — Converse brought its Open Gym event to Great Lakes Naval Base in north suburban Great Lakes, IL. It was a chance for those enlisted to fight for our country and for our freedoms to take a break from their military obligations and enjoy themselves in a competitive basketball environment. And some of those guys, from what I saw, could really hoop. The event also gave the children of those soldiers an opportunity to come out and have fun as well.
Considering that 9/11 was such a defining moment in our nations history, the gesture by Converse to hold its Open Gym at an actual military base on the anniversary of our nations greatest tragedy, and giving those affected by it – some directly, and also indirectly — a time to just forget about all of that and have fun playing basketball, was nothing short of one of the most honorable things I’ve personally experienced and for me, certainly worth the drive on a rainy Saturday morning.
Additionally, newly signed Chicago Bulls SF Kyle Korver came out and spent time with the soldiers and their families, giving those who probably won’t have an opportunity to get to a Chicago Bulls game or even meet an NBA player, a chance to hang out with Kyle, who was very gracious and giving of his time and interacted with all of those participating.
Before he came out to speak (and get challenged to multiple 3-point shooting contests in the process), I sat down with Kyle to get his thoughts on the upcoming season with the Bulls.
SLAM: So how’s Chicago treated you so far?
Kyle Korver: Well, I’ve only been here for like a week, but pretty much all of the guys — except for DRose obviously who’s playing over in Turkey — has been around in the last week and everyone’s been working out together. The coaching staff’s all in town, so I’ve just been trying to get used to them. We’ve got a lot of new faces — coaching staff and players — but everyone’s been working real hard and we’re looking good I think, man. This season is going to be good.
SLAM: I talked to Carlos Boozer a week-and-half ago and I asked him, why Chicago? So I’m putting the question on you now; and did Carlos have anything to do with it?
KK: [Laughs] Yeah, he was calling me. But I think you look for a lot of things in a team, you know. I think we’ve got a lot of young guys that work hard and it’s going to be a good team. Chicago is a great city, a great sports town, and there’s really not any negatives, you know, when you look at it that way. I think we’re going to be really good. We didn’t land the “big name” pieces, but we got a lot of pieces that fit really well together and at the end of the day I think chemistry is something that’s really overlooked and I think it’s going to be one of our strongest suits, you know.
SLAM: Talk about the chemistry of the team. What gives you the impression that you guys are going to jell so well?
KK: I think we have guys that can play off each other really well, especially with three guys coming over from Utah. We know each other’s games inside and out being that we’ve played with each other for several years now. We know what each other does well and we know what we don’t do so well and we’re able to kind of cover for that and help each other do what it is that we do well. So I think it’s just a combination of a lot of things and not just one big thing, but a whole lot of small things.
SLAM: Have you had a chance to sit down with Coach Thibodeau and get his expectations of you and also the team this year?
KK:Yeah, we’ve been working with him all week. Like I said, pretty much the whole team’s been in town all week working with him and we’ve been puting in little pieces of the offense, defense, strategies, and all that stuff. I think he’s a really smart coach and we’ll be very well prepared for every single game. He’s not one of those guys that you’ve got to guess things with. You’re told exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, you know. There’s not any games played it’s just ‘this is how it is’ and if you get it wrong, we’re going to watch it on film and you’re going to see. I think as a player, that’s all you can really ask for. You want someone that’s going to be honest with you and that’s going to be up front with you.
SLAM: You’ve played for a couple of different teams in the League now. As a player, what’s your individual mindset going into a new organization and franchise?
KK: Well, you want to impress first of all. I think everyone kind of has a picture of who you are before you get there and you want to go in there and show them that you’re more. But it’s like this brand new energy that takes over and it’s like, ‘yeah, I’m going to be working hard.’ I know when I got traded to Utah I had that for months afterwards; I had this energy and I didn’t know where it came from! You’re just excited with trying to impress and I think with all of the new guys that we have this year it’s just going to feed into who we are.
SLAM: The East has obviously gotten a lot tougher. What’s your personal outlook on what the Bulls will be able to do this year?
KK: I think we’re going to be right there. I don’t think anyone is going to pick us as the favorite, but I think everyone is going to put us up in that top group, and we should be, I think. We’ve got a lot of great pieces, a lot of pieces that are going to get a lot better this year, but it all remains to be seen. We’ve got to jell together, we’ve got to learn how to play with each other, we’ve got to learn more about the coaching staff, but I think it’s all there for us to be a really great team.
SLAM: You’ve played with an excellent point guard in Deron Williams, is it exciting for you to come to Chicago and play with a young, up-and-coming point guard like Derrick Rose?
KK:Absolutely, man. I see a lot of similarities between the two. Deron, to me, there’s not a better point guard out there in my opinion. There’s a lot of great point guards, but I think everyone has a weakness to their game in some ways and Deron doesn’t really have that. He can guard, he can shoot, he’s a pass first point guard, he’s a big body, he does it all and I think Derrick is on his way to being that too. He’s got all the tools to be really, really good. As a shooter and as someone who plays off them, you want to play with the best point guards in the League. That’s what helps me out and I’m really excited about it.
A lot of thanks to Kyle Korver for talking with me, to Kathleen Neuman of TeamWorks Media (shout out to Ben Osborne too) for making it all happen, and to all of the Navy men and women at Great Lakes Naval Base who participated in this weekends event.
If you happen to live in one of the cities that hosts an Open Gym session, you can visit www.converse.com to view a full schedule. The Open Gym is free for all participants and takes place every other month through November. Participants will receive jerseys and will also have an opportunity to test Converse performance basketball products and hear from Converse athletes, like Kyle Korver, depending on the city in which you live.
For those who live in Chicago, the next Open Gym session will take place at Attack Athletics on September 25th.