Q+A: Marqus Blakely
The up-and-comer talks about the lockout and his prospects of finding a niche in the NBA.
by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
You haven’t seen many press clippings regarding low-to-mid level exception players during the lockout, and that’s a shame considering they may be the ones most affected by the current work stoppage.
After putting together a stellar D-League performance, former University of Vermont baller Marqus Blakely signed a deal with the Houston Rockets on the final day of the regular season. Finally seeing his dream become a reality, Blakely ran into some bad luck, as the lockout began soon after the ink dried. I recently caught up with my rim-rocking Catamount brethren to see what he’s been up to and how the lockout is affecting players of his stature.
SLAM: With the current labor negotiations going so poorly, how confident do you feel about the upcoming season?
Marqus Blakely: No one can really tell you when the season is going to start, or if the season is going to start at all. There were some talks today that they’re taking steps in the right direction after some of the meetings over the weekend, negotiating the cap. I’m not exactly sure what that was. From what I’ve heard, I guess they’re taking a step in the right direction.
SLAM: As far as you, staying in shape, getting ready for that call, what have you been doing during the lockout to ensure that you’ll be ready for the season?
MB: I’ve been down at IMG [in Florida] working out. I’m working out with Dan Barto doing two-a-days. An average day would be getting up around 10, get to the gym, get treatment, lift at 11 till 12, workout after that for an hour, get something to eat, rest, than back to the gym around 6 for another workout. I’m still acting like the season is going to start on time, because you never really know, something could happen at anytime. After the season, you take a little vacation or whatever, but right now I’m treating it as the season is going to start on time.
SLAM: I know you got some dudes you played with from your time with the Clippers, in the D-League and now with the Rockets. Have you been working out with them? Are your workouts comparable with theirs?
MB: It’s hard to compare workouts since there so different based on your position. But, I’ve been down here working out with Tyrus Thomas, Big Baby Davis, Shawn Taggart from Memphis, Derrick Caracter. A lot of people have gone out to Vegas for the summer league and workouts out there, but they always come back here so I’ve been working with a lot of NBA guys especially because of the lockout. I was also out in Houston for a month working out with my teammates before the lockout started. Really, just been working out with as many guys as possible and trying to learn as many NBA drills as possible.
SLAM: A lot of players are starting to make the jump overseas. Is this something you have thought about at all?
MB: For sure. Obviously you work to get to this point, and it’s just bad timing that I got the opportunity to join the NBA right when the lockout started. But, you figure you gotta make your money either way. Bills still have to be paid, still have to put food on the table. Just because the NBA stops doesn’t mean that basketball stops. Going overseas is definitely a good option. A lot of teams are trying to give opt-out clauses so if a deal does get done, players can come right back to the states. A lot of the Asian leagues have been telling us,“Don’t bother coming over here unless you’re a free agent.” They’re not trying to deal with opt-out clauses and all the potential issues it could cause.
SLAM: Tell me a little bit about your experience in the D-League last year. You bounced around a little bit, would you say it helped you get ready for the NBA and the rigors of the season?
MB: The D-league put things in perspective. You don’t have the best travel means; you fly coach just like everybody else, you wait for your flight just like anybody else. Obviously, you’re not getting paid as much, [not] nearly as much as you would in the NBA. For some people it might be harder to stay motivated under those circumstances, but I kind of used it as a trampoline after getting cut from the Clippers. Different players are able to use the D-league in different ways. For me, it was more of an adjustment to learn how to play in the NBA. It’s totally different than college. Coming out of college, it’s hard to make that transition and get on the floor unless you’re a Lottery pick. It’s tough to get into the rotation. It was a great opportunity and I’m glad I was able to play out there, got to meet the coaches I got to meet.
SLAM: Did that year under your belt help tailor your game a little bit, and get you ready for the NBA? Especially coming from a small conference, are you better off with that experience?
MB: It was almost like the prep year I never had. I was only 21 coming into the  Draft. The D-League was definitely a great option for me. I was able to get stronger, able to work on more of a guard-oriented skill set offensively, and work on my jumper and handle a little bit more. At the next level, you see guys like Kobe and LeBron every night, you figure you’re a big fish in a small pond, now you’re a small fish in a huge pond. You gotta adapt and think, “I gotta come off the bench, defend and hit that open jump shot when I get the opportunity.” You can’t think, “Alright, I’m going to the league. 20 and 10 every game, 15 and 10 every game.” It just doesn’t transfer the same way. That year under my belt help me realize what my niche in the NBA would be.