Ya boy was at practice on Thursday. And, guess what? After chatting with Jamal Crawford, Keith Smart and Kelenna Azubuike, he stopped and talked to us. Here you go (warning: it’s long).
How does it feel to be back?
Great, man, you know what I mean? Being around my teammates, start back doing what I love doing — that’s playing basketball.
Can you dunk right now?
What can you do?
Not too much, just a little jog, a little shooting. I’m just doing my rehab to get my ankle stronger. Just, really just balance work. That’s all.
What was that like, watching that nine-game losing streak? Did you follow it closely?
Uhhh, it was pretty ugly at first, but we’re on a two-game winning streak, so put that nine on behind us and move forward now.
Has this been the most agonizing part of your basketball life?
Yeah. That’s with anybody. You just sit out and just watch, watch something you love doing, it’s really hard. But, my fans, my teammates, the organization, everybody’s been supportive. My family. And, you know, I’m just trying to do everything I can to get back on the court, you know, to help my team win. That’s it.
What did you think about (Jamal) Crawford coming here?
I think he’s a great fit. With our style of play and his ability to score and pass the ball. And not only that, he can get after it on defense. I see that he’s tried to put people in good positions to make basketball plays and make our team better. So I think it’s a great fit for us.
Will it help you, that you won’t have to carry the point guard load by yourself?
In Don Nelson’s system, we really don’t have a point guard. It’s just get the ball and everybody run it up the court. So, um, it’s going to be pretty much like it was me and Baron (Davis) last year. I bring the ball up, he brings the ball up, and we just work off each other.
Are you ahead of where you want to be right now?
Slightly. I feel great. No pain nowhere. Just trying to get stronger. That’s it.
Are you any less worried now than after the injury that you’ll be able to come back 100 percent?
I was never worried.
You were never worried?
Never worried. At all.
So no doubt about it?
One of the things Don Nelson has said is that he’s not sure what kind of player you’ll be when you come back…
The same player I left. The same player I was before I left, or even stronger. No doubts about that.
In your mind, what is the timetable?
I couldn’t tell you that, uh, right now. I’m just going to take it day by day, um, rehab by rehab, and we’ll see how it goes.
Is it tough for you not to come back too fast?
It’s not tough because if you try to come back too fast, then you end up getting hurt again, and then you’ve got to sit out again. So it’s just, it’s a timetable, and we’ve all just got to get on the same page and hopefully get back to where we’re trying to get.
I know you have to go through the process, but do you have a date in your own mind that you’d like to be back?
No. Like I said, I’m not focusing on trying to rush back, I’m focusing on trying to get stronger, and get healthy to come back to do what I was doing before I got hurt.
You and Jeff Fried didn’t agree with the decision the team made. How tough is it going to be to put that all behind you?
I’ve been put that behind me, once it was over with. You know what I mean. It’s nothing. It’s just like a father and son disagreement, and they put it behind each other and come back together.
Are you excited to come back and play for this team?
Very excited. I’ve got great teammates, great coaches, great style of play and it’s just exciting to watch.
Looking at this team as opposed to last year’s, what do you see yourself bringing to this team?
Um, this year, I think I’m going to have to be more of a leader, trying to guide the young guys, because I see a lot of them going through the things that I was going through my rookie and second year, and try to bring them along, try to show them the process. (It’s) not Nellie just trying to get after them. It’s just he sees something in them, and he’s just trying to bring it out. That’s all.
Would you say your relationship with the organization is stronger now, after all of this?
Yeah, we’re good. I don’t have no problem with them. They gave me my contract. Why should I have a problem with them?
Are you concerned at all about the fact they say they still have …
I’m not concerned about nothing. I’m just trying to get back on the court and help my team win. That’s it. All the other stuff is behind me. I’m just focusing on basketball now.
So there’s no reason to think you wouldn’t be playing for this team again?
Oh, no. Oh, no. I’ll be here.
What areas of your game do you think will be stronger because of this time off?
Every part. Everything. Whatever everything is to you, that’s everything.
Can you compare this injury to the one you had in high school?
Nah. No way.
You mean this is much worse, or you just can’t compare?
You can’t compare. In high school, I was only out for two weeks when I had my injury.
I thought you had surgery?
Yeah, and I was only out for two weeks, and that was it. This is three, four months, so there’s no comparison. But I will recover 100 percent and be the same player I was before I left, or even stronger.
That injury dampened some of your numbers at the combine, right? Did you come back to early from that injury in high school?
Yes, because I was going through the draft at the time, and I had to come back.
And didn’t that kind of knock down some of your numbers in terms of the physical skills tests?
That’s what they say. I don’t know. I never tried to find out. I got drafted by Golden State and I put all that behind me.
What have this last six months been like, this roller-coaster — the contract, the accident, the rehab. What’s it been like for you?
Got the contract: lovely. Injury: setback. Now, everything’s peaches and cream. You know, I’m walking again, back around my teammates, shooting, about to get back to doing what I love doing.
Are you worried at all? This team’s 7-15. Are you worried they’re going to be too far behind, in terms of the playoff race, by the time you come back?
Nah. Ain’t nobody really doing nothing in the West but the Lakers. You look at everybody else, we’re not too far behind them. So, you can’t worry about that. It’s just whenever I come back, whatever the record is, we’ll just move on from there. You can’t predict, if I come back, we’ll go 10-0 or 20-0. We can’t predict that. Just got to come back, I’ll fit back in with the team, we’ll put it all together and see what we can do with it.
Is part of your confidence that you’ll overcome this that you’ve overcome this is because you’ve overcome so much before?
I’ve been in a lot of situations, and I’ve been through a lot. It was just how I was brought up. I’m just a tough person. I stay positive, never down myself, never try to down anything around me. I just stay happy, keep my family close, and my teammates, and just live life. That’s it.
Looking forward to being around the team and traveling?
Yeah, all that.
What’s going to be your role on that end? You haven’t been a cheerleader in your career yet.
I’ve been a cheerleader for three months now. (Laughs.) So it ain’t nothing new.
Many guys who have sat out say watching the game from the bench gives them a whole different perspective?
It does. You can see the good things and bad things, the things you need to work on, the things you’re strong at. It just really helps me as a player to help us as a team, to come back and give the input of what I’ve seen when I was on the sideline and put it together when I come back. Or before.
Where do you think you will help this team the most?
What do you mean?
What specific areas …
You know I do everything. That’s offense, defense, hustle, whatever. I do it all.
But you’ve been watching this team and know where the weaknesses are. So I guess I wonder which of those you think you’ll be able to address.
Right now, it’s leadership. Bring everybody together, put everybody on the same page, let everybody know what their role is and what we expect from them as a player on this team.
Is that going to be your challenge since you’re only in your fourth year, still a young guy? Is that going to be your challenge, being a leader?
Not at all.
Is that quality something that you really decided you want to bring since seeing this team play this year, or is it something you’ve been thinking about for a while?
It’s just we’ve got to bring Warriors basketball back — that’s running. That’s what I bring to the table, and that’s what I’m trying to bring back. The leadership, I always had that. Last year, I had put my input in and guys responded to it. Baron did what he did, and we all responded to it. But it’s just me more being, instead of 50 percent, it’s like pretty much 100 percent right now of being a leader. And I really don’t have to take the 100 percent because we’ve got Crawford now and we’ve got Stephen Jackson.
You and Baron were always an exciting backcourt. Can you and Jamal be similarly exciting?
Yeah, something like that.
Why? What is it about you guys’ games?
To be honest, I think we’ll be more exciting because both of us can run. Not taking nothing from Baron, you know what I mean, but both of us like to get up and run up and down the court, get fast break points. And so, like I said, when I get back it’ll be exciting to see us two.
Following up on one thing, you talked about leadership. A lot of people see this as Stephen Jackson’s team. Do you see this as your team?
No. This is the Golden State Warriors team. I’m just a player that puts in input. That’s it. We’re not trying to get into a debate about whose team this is. It’s all our team. All of us have got to put situations and a lot on our back to carry this team to get it back to what we do. That’s being exciting and running and hopefully getting back to the playoffs.
Can you say what happened in the accident?