Yesterday, Drew Goodman and Scott Hastings of Drew & Scott on Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan had an extensive interview with Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri, who was in Houston, where JaVale McGee is currently training with Hakeem Olajuwon. (On Twitter, please follow Drew here: @ROOTSPORTS_DG, and Scott here: @ScottHastings). They talked about the Andre Iguodala trade and The Dream’s work with McGee and Kenneth Faried.
Before reading further, please be sure to listen to their original broadcast here, as the transcribed quotes below are only a fraction of of their discussion, and of course in writing much of the personal feel of the conveersation is lost. That said, in addition to listening to the interview, it does seem worthwhile to see some of what Ujiri said in writing, as he conveyed a lot of information rather quickly, and much of it is worth a closer look.
Excerpts from Ujiri’s answers* in the interview are after the jump:
On how Iguodala is an upgrade who will improve the Nuggets:
We as a team have studied teams that play the way we do. Phoenix did it, even in the past some other teams have done it, we do it. The one thing I think we struggle with is defense, and we thought bringing in a defensive minded player would kind of affect the athletes that we have. We do have good athletes and we do have good players that have potential to be good at defense. We’re always going to score.., we’re always going to be tough for the way George Karl coaches, but defensively we have to stop somebody. We can’t be 19th in the league on defense and think we want to make a jump. So I think that was where the upgrade was. We feel Iguodala is going to be able to score a little bit more because of the way we play. I think the Sixers played more of a halfcourt game and they played more in a halfcourt setting. We go up and down, and that’s his game. He likes to find people, he likes to make plays, he likes to attack the rim, and that’s how he plays. So I think on both sides we have somebody that can playmake for some of our other players and… an elite defender that’s going to help us be better on defense.
On what he saw and heard from others about Iguodala at the Olympics:
Even in that setting when he was playing with a bunch of superstars he came into the game and really changed a couple of games, like just defensively really jumping people and attacking guys on the wing, and rebounding and running, and just being versatile. I think he’s going to bring that to us and our system even fits him more than the rest of the places he’s played. So he’s going to show that on the Denver Nuggets, but I think the most important thing is he’s going to affect our players, too. If you bring a guy in like Faried, Faried affects people with his energy, he gets guys going, you can see it’s contagious out there. It’s going to be the same thing with Iguodala and we’re really excited about that.
On whether he was concerned about helping the Lakers get better:
No, there was no concern at all because there was a three-way trade, and when we… poked into it, it was already a deal that was going to get done. He was coming west anyway, and I think that we all knew that… So he was coming here, and they told me where they were, and they were looking to see if there was a fourth team to join… I have to be worried about the Denver Nuggets. We have to be worried about making the Denver Nuggets better. I think those teams are always going to be good, and we will try to compete. And we’re going to try to get to a level where one day we’re competing with those guys, and I think Iguodala is a good piece to take a step forward.
On JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried training with Hakeem Olajuwon:
I just came back from watching JaVale work out with Hakeem. I watched him all morning, and it was great. It was fun to see Hakeem again, and it was fun to see him go to work. And Amare Stoudemire and JaVale were in there. Kenneth Faried is in rookie transition this week and he gets here next week Monday to start his work here with Hakeem. but it’s fantastic to see Hakeem teach and to see JaVale try to absorb and try to learn. So I think he will keep working hard. As soon as he was done, Melvin picked him up and took him to John Lucas’ gym to go play pick-up basketball. And so he’s putting the time in, he’s dedicated to it, and it’s impressive to see and we’re very happy. And a lot of our players have taken this summer, in fact all of them have taken this summer very serious and we’re proud of them, and we’ll keep working getting ready for training camp.
On his hopes for JaVale working with Hakeem:
I think [McGee's] game has to slow down a little bit in terms of learning the game, in terms of making use of space, in terms of playing more controlled. Even when he plays fast, he has to be controlled. I think JaVale just has to learn how to play a little bit more. He has all the abilities. Hakeem told me he’s just amazed at his physical abilities and his athletic abilities, how long he is, how quick his feet are. I saw him working on keeping his feet away from each other and not tangling. Just little things that you take for granted. He worked high on his jump hook, and again his lift’s very high when he does that. And [Hakeem] tells him nobody can stop him, nobody’s as big as him if he gets his lift and his hand up. So there are so many things that Hakeem is teaching him, and he’s absorbing. But learning to play I think would be the most important.
On what Hakeem thinks of Faried:
He loves him. He said to me when we started talking about this, “Who’s that kid with a lot of energy running up and down? I like his feet, he has quick feet.” So he told me today that he’s really excited to work with him. He thinks he can get his footwork better even though he’s not a center or a big guy in what like Hakeem was. But he loves that Faried has very quick feet.
Again, please follow Drew Goodman (@ROOTSPORTS_DG) and Scott Hastings (@ScottHastings) on Twitter, tune into Drew & Scott on Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan, and listen to the archived broadcast of their original interview with Masai Ujiri. at 1043TheFan.com.
*Ujiri’s comments have been edited for clarity.