Q+A: Lance Allred
Former Weber State standout is enjoying hoops in Japan.
by Ed Odeven
TOKYO—Kyoto Hannaryz center Lance Allred took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for SLAMonline about his first season in the bj-league (Basketball Japan League), his impressions of Japanese basketball, his season and life in Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital.
The veteran center, a former NBA, D-League (and University of Utah and Weber State player), is averaging 13.9 points and 10.2 rebounds for the Hannaryz, who are 21-9 and in third place in the nine-team Western Conference.
SLAM: What are your thoughts on your play this season?
Lance Allred: Obviously every player feels they could do better. I always do. There are still missed shots that I replay in my head from every game so far this season, that I feel I should have made. But sometimes the ball just doesn’t go your way, and that is life. All you can do is be honest with yourself when you ask, Are you playing as hard and most importantly as smart as you can every night? And if the answer is yes, then there is no reason to hang your head in disappointment. It has been a tough season as far as injuries for me having battled a season-long plantar fasciitis issue, which led me to spraining the ankle on that same foot twice so far this season, as well as throwing out my back, incurring some pretty uncomfortable spasms due to me favoring my foot so badly. I feel that if I was 100 percent healthy I would be able to perform better or at least up to my personal standards, but that is the way it is right now, and so again, if I can say that I am playing as hard as I can every game, every possession, then there is no shame in that.
SLAM: How is the team’s season is shaping up, from training camp to now, with the focus to keep improving before the playoffs?
LA: We had an impressive 12-game win streak, but since then we made a roster change and we are still in the process of figuring out some rotation patterns, forcing us all, from coach to players to adjust. But I think we are finally getting it settled. As well, teams are now zoning or automatically double teaming (ex-Minnesota Timberwolves’ draft pick) Rick Rickert and I, that it has forced us as a team to truly adjust midseason our whole offensive scheme. And that is tough. With no illegal defense rules like in the NBA, teams can better protect their poor defensive players or mismatches, by zoning or basically cheating on defense. And Rick and I together are a handful down low, and so now teams are packing it in the key on defense, rarely allowing me and Rick to get catches where we want and make a move. So the teams pack it in and basically dare our teammates to shoot it from outside. And so we as a team are continually working on that, and I as well as everyone else, have confidence that we can get it on the right path, to finish the season strong and into the playoffs.
SLAM: Rate the quality of imports in this league compared to other leagues you’ve played in?
LA: This league actually has some impressive imports, who know how to play basketball. They are actually pretty athletic, maybe even more athletic than many of the Americans that play in Europe. But like me, most of the guys here and have tried the European system, and are done with that. The European system is a gamble right now as far as getting paid, let alone two practices a day, for five days a week, with only one game a week. The system here in Japan is much more player friendly, with pay on time, and an easier workload on the body, preserving us for longer careers. And most of the imports here have figured that out and that is why I feel Japan, as basketball continues to grow, will continue to attract more and more high-caliber players away from other risky markets.
SLAM: What’s unique, interesting, memorable and different about the bj-league compared to other leagues you’ve participated in?
LA: The bj-league, as far as other international leagues outside of the US, is the probably the fastest paced league I have ever played again, again outside of the D-League and NBA. The sport court was kind of a shock for me when I first played on it here but I don’t even notice it any more. I have not once slipped on the sport court during a game, so I don’t have any complaints about that. The two-(import) limit in the second quarter (the rest of the game it is a three-import limit) is challenging, but it forces one to be patient and to truly have faith and trust in one’s teammates. But by far and away, the boosters and fans here are the most loyal I have ever seen in any league I have every played in. Win or lose, they are there to have your back when you walk out of the gym. No sad faces, no disappointed stares, just optimism, and that is so rewarding to play for, knowing your fans have your back, no matter what the outcome. You can’t help but to love them.
SLAM: And what’s been most enjoyable thus far for you here in Japan, while living in Kyoto and playing for the Hannaryz?
LA: When I first walked into the Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku-ji temple, for the first time, it was mind blowing. Nijo castle, the Imperial Palace, Fushimi Castle are all amazing. It really is so fascinating for me, a college history major, to be able to call this city with so much history, my home. But what has been the most enjoyable thus far, is being able to play for a team and a coach (Honoo Hamaguchi) that respects you, pays you on time and basically treats you like a human being. You would be surprised, but that is actually pretty hard to come by in the world of professional basketball. And so when you do get this opportunity, like the one I have right now in Kyoto, you have to remind yourself every day just how grateful you are: very grateful.
SLAM: Would you consider signing with Kyoto again?
LA: If Kyoto offered me an honest extension tomorrow, I would sign it in a heartbeat. I love it here, and if I knew I would be able to call Kyoto my home for the next five years, I would be a very lucky and fortunate man. But at this phase in my life, I have learned to accept whatever will be, will be. If I am meant to be in Kyoto next season, then I will, and I will be grateful.