The last thing Kwame Brown said when we were wrapping up our interview Friday was “I cant wait for training camp. Those words have to be music to the ears of Lakers fans, given Browns importance in the big picture of this season.
The Lakers have invested $25 million into developing Brown as their big man. He’s only 24 years old yet going into his sixth NBA season. If Brown can pick up where he left off in the spring, when he averaged 12.4 points and 8.6 rebounds in 18 games with Chris Mihm out, the Lakers could be in business this season.
Heres a transcript of the interview. Were going to run a story in Sundays paper. As hard as it is to believe, training camp starts a week from Tuesday.
Q: How has the off-season gone? What have you focused on in terms of your game?
A: Im just trying to get my legs and hamstrings back in order where I can be consistent. Last year, I think I had a great finish to the season. But I just want to have a great start. Instead of a letdown in the beginning, I want to come out of the gate and try to start out like I (finished) last year.
Q: Are your legs still an issue from when you broke your foot in Washington?
A: Its just trying to get my hips and stuff balanced. The trainers know more than me. Some days everything feels good and then some days everythings not balanced and lined up. I worked on my legs a lot, getting them bigger and stronger, so now Im just working on my conditioning and trying to get my touch back on my shot.
I think thats the main thing for me. I can get to the basket with my jump hook so Ive got to add a little bit to my game where I can get some type of finesse (move) with a little 15-foot jumper or a little touch jump shot around the basket so I dont have to bang every play and get tired.
Q: When you look back at last season, how different would the year have been if you didnt get hurt early?
A: I was just thankful for the opportunity. I look back at it and say, `What if Chris Mihm would have never got hurt? I would have never got the opportunity. I was trying to show the coaches that they can still have confidence in me, that Im going to come back and try to be out of the gate like that now that Im comfortable in the offense and guys know what I can do, and if Im not doing it, they can hold me accountable for it.
Q: How much confidence do you have in your own game after the way you finished last year?
A: I have a lot. I think now my mindset and my teammates mindset should be if I have the ball on the block, let me go to work. As opposed to the beginning of last season (when) I was looking to just pass the ball and get the ball to Lamar and Kobe.
I think now that when I get the ball, Ive earned the trust in them and in myself to go ahead and go to work.
Q: Do you think teams are going to look at you this year as an offensive threat? A lot of teams werent giving you much respect even as you had a couple of big games at the end of last season.
A: It doesnt matter what they do. Its all about what we do. I think were going to be a very good team. Im working on my legs and defense first because I think people dont talk about it enough that it wasnt our offenses fault. We scored enough points to win games. Even (Game 6) that we lost. If our defense would have held, we had enough points to win the game.
I think were going to first work on our pick-and-roll defense. If anybody breaks down our tape, that was the main thing we were poor at was rotating and helping and showing hard on the picks. I dont know what our game plan is going to be against screen-and-roll this year, but I know thats the main thing that Im looking to try to get better at, whatever I need to do.
Q: When Mitch talked to us at the exit meetings, he said, `Kwame cannot afford to get away from the game this summer. Was this the best off-season youve had in terms of the work you put in?
A: I think for the beginning of the summer, I was on such a high off of last year, I started conditioning too early. I started running and running. Mitch pulled me in at one point in the summer and was like, `Why are you running so much at this stage? You should be working on your skills, getting jump hooks and jumpers. Thatll keep you in shape while youre working on your skills.
I think now Im more so working on my skills instead of running, because Ill get in shape during camp. If it kills you, theyre going to get you in shape. Now Im trying to work on my skills more because Mitch was right. He knows the game. Im just trying to come in and get off touch shots and get my jump hooks down and get my timing back on the floor.
Q: What kind of range do you hope to have? Fifteen-footers would be a sight to see.
A: Thats wasnt a long shot for me. I came in shooting that easy. I just got away from that. Like Mitch was saying, `If you work on your skills, its like second nature.
My problem is when I do something wrong or bad, I just work on that one thing. Ill come in and work on 50 jump hooks and then I get good at jump hooks and I have no jump shot. Youve got to do all of that. Now Im shooting a lot of jump shots but before I leave (today) Ill do a bunch of jump hooks.
Q: When Lamar came over from the Heat, he said it takes one year for a player to get used to being a Laker. Do you feel a lot more settled coming into this year?
A: Im trying to tell you that arena was very, very tough to play in. Its intimidating, even when youre (the road team). Its a big arena. Theres celebrities all on the side. Its a tough place to play. Its Hollywood, so youre a little wide-eyed.
Once you get comfortable and the fans understand youre going to work hard, then its cool. Thats any arena. Anybody that comes and plays us, theyre like wide-eyed. They always say, `Thats Denzel!
Q: You also had to learn the triangle, which is never easy.
A: The triangle was tough for me because as a post-up player, it bothers me with a lot of cutters around me when Im posting up. Especially as a young post player, I dont do well when there are a lot of cutters. That third cutter really bothered me because I want to go middle. Then youve got a guy coming up to the middle, so youre nothing but a passer.
I think Chris knew the system a little better than me, knew when to duck in. We have a couple of isolations. Now I think I know when to duck in, when to go one-on-one. My teammates started demanding that of me at the end of the season, to go one-one-one, once I started finishing. (The) first thing is catching, instead of rushing.
Q: Do you like the new ball?
A: I hate the new ball. Oh my God. The last ball, it would get a little play on the rim. This ball, if it touches the rim, its coming out. Its squirting right off the rim.
Q: What about handling the ball in the post?
A: The only difference about the ball is you can grip the ball a little better when its dry. When it gets wet, it gets a little heavier and lot more slippery than the other ball.
Q: So youre not a fan
A: Not a fan. Not a fan at all.
Q: Did you get a chance to talk to Kobe this off-season? Did you see him ever?
A: He was here. He was nursing that knee. He said hes going to be fine, as you would expect. You know Kobes going to come in ready to play. He had an injury and hes in better shape than everyone. Nobodys worried about him in that aspect.
Its good to have him around because hes always going to talk positive for us. If youre missing shots, the key words you always remember him saying is, `Will it in. You get down, hes always saying something that reinforces you in a strong way instead of a weak-minded way.
Q: Do you feel like youve improved as a foul shooter? I know its hard to say until you get into a game situation
A: Its not that I improved as a foul shooter. I improved mentally. Most of the time, I didnt even want to get fouled because I didnt want to go to the line. At the end of the year, all they would do is foul me, so Im like, `OK, Ive got to go to the line so you might as well stand in there and just make it.
Q: If you look back at last year, what was satisfying for you personally?
A: The only thing I think I did that I would say was satisfactory was gaining the trust of my teammates. Thats the most important thing to me is I want to be able to come out on the court and know I can look the other four guys in the eye and say, `You know what to expect. Im going to go hard. If Im having a bad game, Im going to rebound it. If Im having a bad rebounding game, Im going to play defense. Im going to give you something, and Im going to give it all Ive got.
I felt like at first it was defense. They knew I was going to come out and play hard defense. If I wasnt, Lamar or somebody would say something. Then it was like, `OK, now youve got to catch this damn ball.
Q: You feel like once you proved to them you could catch the ball and finish that was it?
A: Its just slowing down. Thats the thing everybody was telling me. I would be making my move before I had the ball. Once I slowed down and just let the game come to me, instead of trying to force the game . . . it was easy after I slowed down and read what the defense was doing.
Q: Could this be a breakthrough year for you?
A: Yeah. I dont like saying that because every year Ive said that, Ive gotten hurt. After my third year, I had a great finish with the Wizards, then I broke my foot that summer. I just want to come in healthy. Thats it. If I come in healthy with a positive attitude, then Im good.
Q: Whats the story with the 15-10 card Phil gave you? Did he actually do that?
A: After the season, he wrote (it) down on a piece of paper. He said, `With the free throws that youve been missing and a couple of rebounds, you could average 15 and 10. He said, `Thats what I want your goal to be.
Not that its going to be a letdown if (I) dont get it, but thats where he wants the bar at. The games where I had it rolling, a few free throws here, a few rebounds there, I could have had it. Lamar is such a damn good rebounder, were out there fighting for those rebounds.
Q: Do you still have the card?
A: Ive got it in my wallet. Its a little soggy because my wallet got wet, but its in there.
Q: Do you need to have a 15-10 season?
A: Thats just where the goal is. I dont know if I need to. Well see what weve got once we get in here. I saw Radmanovic shooting and he must have made freaking 200 shots in a row. Hes definitely going to help our team. That jumper is effortless. Were going to have an interesting team. We have a lot of guys that play the same position, but I think thats a good problem to have, especially when you have so many people that are skilled at what they do.
Q: How do you think its going to work out with both you and Chris at center?
A: Thats not my problem. Chris is going to do his job as far as getting in shape and coming out as hard as he can and Im going to do the same. Thats the coaches job (to figure out). Thats why they get paid the big bucks.
Q: Could you play that 4 spot on the wing if you need to? It seemed like last season proved you were a center first and foremost.
A: Anytime youve got a 270-pound guy on the wing, I dont think thats (to) his best advantage. Id definitely like to be down low, challenging guys and putting the pressure on people. But if I have to be on the wing, hey.
Q: How good do you think this team can be this year?
A: We have the potential to be as good as our defense. The only thing Im worried about is our screen-and-roll defense. Apparently (returning assistant coach) Jim Cleamons is a defensive guy. I think were going to improve. Just by having Radmanovic and a healthy Chris Mihm, were going to be a better offensive team.
The only thing I think we really need to improve on is our screen-and-roll defense, get a concept down and just keep doing it. We had so many different things we were doing from game to game. Wed come in with a game plan and then when it didnt work, we would kind of fall apart.
Its going to be tough with a team like (Phoenix) to trap and rotate, but for the most part I think we should trap, rotate and work on that.
Q: You said you were on a high going into the off-season?
A: You cant be on a high when every time you see someone its, `Damn, you should have won that Game 6. It was a constant reminder. When you look at tape (of Tim Thomas shot), I ran from the corner and I ran up to the top and I was thinking, `If I would have hesitated one second, maybe I could have blocked that shot.
But with him, if you hesitate a second, hell make it anyway. He had an unbelievable playoff series. That shot right there, I can remember it like its happening right now.
Q: Have you seen Phil at all?
A: You know how Phil is. Hes a funny dude. I didnt know he was that funny for a guy that smart. He comes in and he plays with you, jokes in a quiet way. A funny dude.
Q: Laron Profit gave Phil a lot of credit for how he approached coaching you last season.
A: I think because he knew my history, and Id had so much negatitivity that he never made anything a negative. Even when I was playing bad, he could have went in the papers and said anything because my game was reflecting basically nothing.
Even when the coaches said to me, `Maybe were playing you out of position, he was still positive in saying, `Just come in and give me what you can and play defense. He broke down the game in segments for me.
`If you dont feel comfortable scoring and doing all that, then run the court and get rebounds. Once you start doing that, lets take another step.
He broke the game down for me and I think that helped. Even when I was getting down on myself, he said, `You know what, dont worry about it. It takes some guys three to six months to learn this offense.
Im like, `Wow, hes still not killing me. It was crazy to see that approach. Most coaches, they cant do that. This is a business. It would have been easy for him to say, `Weve got this guy, he aint doing (anything), and that would have been it.
Thats the true meaning of a coach, when he can lift a player up. Im not saying everybody should do that, but some guys need different stuff.