Q+A: Brian Scalabrine
Catching up with the White Mamba.
by Brendan Bowers / @StepienRules
The 10-year NBA veteran Brian Scalabrine was eating a salad over by his locker just after his Derrick Rose-less Bulls squad hung a 39-point beat-down on the Cavaliers this past Friday in Cleveland. Scalabrine had checked into the game a few minutes earlier and exploded for 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block in eight minutes of work.
I walked over toward his locker, introduced myself and asked him if he had a few minutes to talk. He responded by putting his hand behind his right ear and offered the following in a voice loud enough for half the locker room to hear.
“What did you say?” he asked with a smile on his face. “I can barely hear you. I’m not sure if you noticed all those fans cheering for me out there when I checked in, but the crowd’s roar, it was deafening. You really gotta speak up.”
As everyone within earshot starting laughing, including me, The White Mamba then reached over, grabbed a chair, and motioned for me to sit down.
My conversation with the coolest guy in the NBA was as follows:
SLAM: So generally, how have things been for you with this Bulls team so far this year?
Brian Scalabrine: Real good. We have a great group of guys, we all get along, and we all know our roles. Luol Deng is playing unbelievable, the bench has been good, and the coaching staff has been great. I think we have a really good culture here in this locker room right now, a really good culture.
SLAM: How much of that comes from Tom Thibodeau, and what have you seen so far that he’s brought to this group in his second year here?
BS: Everyone has a little bit to do with it for sure, but Coach has done a good job of helping us be a team that is extremely disciplined. We keep each other at a high level of accountability, and that’s a lot of him. But then we also have great stars, great leaders, and it all comes together to form a very unique place, as far as compared to the other teams I’ve been on in the NBA. And I’m not saying it’s the only way to do it, but it’s a nice way to do it, and it really works for us.
SLAM: You mentioned the reaction you received from the Cleveland fans tonight, and you’ve been getting that type of response everywhere you’ve been so far this season from fans. What do you think about all that?
BS: I think it’s good, you know. At the end of the day it’s good for them, the fans are paying, and they’re entertained by it, so it’s definitely good. I do think the hardest thing for fans to understand though is what it takes for a guy like me to be in a League like this. I mean, I didn’t win a contest or anything [laughs]. Everyday I gotta bust my ass, eight hours a day, 10 hours a day, really working hard, just to get where I’m at right now. Where I’m like, not even a rotation player. I mean, a lot does go into that. As opposed to being unbelievably talented, for me it’s more about my work, more about my mind, it’s about supporting my team, and I gotta do all those things just to hang onto this position.
SLAM: How do you approach practice every day? In some ways, are your goals as a player more focused on helping the guys in front of you get better?
BS: Yeah a little bit, for sure. It’s all about the goal of guys getting better. But practice isn’t like a marathon for me to do that, I don’t have to play Omer to 21 or something like that. It’s more like two or three possessions, going bang, bang, bang, those types of things, and competing. I’m willing to help every player on the Bulls, but my focus is really on wanting to help the bigs keep getting better. I want to help them understand defensively what we want to do on pick-and-rolls for example, and offensively getting into the paint, or setting the screen, being ready to go up strong, getting the ball in the post, that sort of thing. Those are the things I work on with guys at practice. And I’m not saying I know how to do everything either, and even right now with Derrick sitting on the sidelines, he’s been showing me different things about how guards are, about how to guard certain guys, you can’t do this, you don’t want to do that, and I’m just always trying to learn more about the game every day. Along with that, I’m also trying to pass on the things I already know from being with Tom for five years to our bigs.
SLAM: Can you talk about how good this collection of bigs is right now on this Bulls team? At the 4 and 5 you’re going Boozer, Noah to start, and then bringing in Asik and Gibson off the bench. Who can match-up with that around the League as far as the overall depth you guys have?
BS: You’re right, we do have four really good bigs. They are really good in our system, they’re really good offensively, defensively, they’re really good at rebounding, extremely good at attacking the rim, plugging space, all those things. And when Carlos plays the way that he did tonight (19 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists), making shots, getting on the post, making space on the block, we are a tough team to beat. If he continues to do that, we will continue to be a tough team to beat. When I look around the League, the rest of the teams are different than us because we do have that depth, but there are also some really good front lines out there too. Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson, Big Baby, those guys are good. The Lakers have a good frontline, there’s a lot of teams out there that have a good frontline. But for us, we play a different style where we plug, help, fill down, and rebound the basketball, and it’s been successful for us so far.
SLAM: You ever think about being a coach someday when you’re done playing? You sound like one right now.
BS: Yeah I have, we are working on some things as far as that goes. I think not so much in the NBA, but more college would be the route for me though. In the NBA, you could be blessed with a good team like this one, or you could be cursed with a bad team, it’s less in your control. In college you have control, you decide who to recruit, you decide who to give scholarships to, you decide what to run, how to prep. And it’s really a better fit for me as far as developing kids too, making them better, and teaching them what’s important in basketball. You see it all the time, there are guys you never hear of in college who make the NBA because they’re good, solid, players who can do one or two things really well. If you get these kids in college, teach them how to do one or two things, you can really help some kids out that way I think.
SLAM: What’s it been like to see Derrick Rose on a daily basis since you’ve been in Chicago? How good is he up close?
BS: He’s better than what people think. I know he’s the MVP last year, but he still has unbelievable room to grow in his game too. His game management, his leadership, his ability to get other people shots, I don’t look at numbers, and I don’t know what his numbers are compared to last year, but the jump he made from last year to this year is humungous. Like this year with Rip, he’s really learning to go to find secondary options, and it’s really opening it up for everybody.
Brendan Bowers covers the NBA and lives in Cleveland, OH. You can follow him on Twitter @StepienRules.