More Q-and-A with the Common man

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In addition to today’s interview with rapper-turned-actor Common (linked here), who plays the role of New Jersey Nets guard Scott McKnight in the movie “Just Wright” with Queen Latifa that comes out Friday, we have this:

With your game, you must be playing in some of the celebrity leagues?

I’ve started playing in them. Once we did the movie, I got the hunger back for it. You forget how much you love playing. I will say this: As I’ve matured, I’ve developed new aspects of my game. I used to drive more to the hole and get fancy when I was younger and quicker. Now I play much smarter.

After this movie comes out, if people on the street will call you Common or Scott McKnight. You really sell it as a basketball player.

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I take the character serious and do best to live that. I prepared a lot for this — as much as I could. I was still finishing “Date Night” (with Steve Carrell and Tina Fey) and I rode around and had long talks with (the Clippers’) Baron Davis, and I got to talk with Dwayne (Wade) and Raja (Rondo) and others, so I picked their brains. With Baron, I was his right hand guy following him around through the basketball training. The assistant Nets trainer was training me like an athlete, as if they were training a star. I did more cardio and only weight training and exercises based on speed and agility drills. It was a lot of prep. The sports coordinator for the film didn’t know if I played, but after he say me, he told me that when Denzel (Washington) prepped four months for “The Hurricane,” the boxing scenes were only two minutes, but he knew if people saw it, they’d have to believe he was a boxer or they wouldn’t follow or believe his character. I took heed to that.

How did you hook up with Baron Davis? He’s been more involved in the movie business lately.

I hooked up with him after I met him when I was performing at an Alonzo Mourning charity game. I played at halftime. Baron was there, Darius Miles, Quintin Richardson, Cutino Mobley … Back in 2000. I was performing in the bleacher section, it was kind of awkward. All the players were paying attention to something else, but I noticed that Baron was the only one paying attention to the concert. That feel good. From that point, we met later and stayed in contact. He was in one of my videos, “Drivin’ Me Wild.”

Did doing this movie kind of fulfull any aspirations you had of once playing in the NBA? Was this as close as you could get without really doing it fulltime?

Let me tell you, it was a dream fulfilled. I grew up wanting to be in the NBA and from the first month of shooting until the end, I was in the NBA for that time. You couldn’t tell me anything else.

How was it that you ended up playing for the Nets. Not the Bulls or the Knicks or even the Lakers?

Everything works the way it should. The Nets were very cool with it. They provided us with great opportunities. Potentially, it could have been the Bulls or the Knicks, but the Nets were more open to it and very supportive. And you know, when I was a ballboy for the Bulls, Rod Thorn was the general manager, and I had to write him a letter to ask for the job. Now, he’s with the Nets, so this has come full circle. Now I got to ‘play’ for him. And you see him in the movie, too. He’s in there.

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When people see you in the Nets uniform, who do they tend to compare you to? To me, you’re like Derek Fisher, but it’s easy to see you as Jason Kidd.

A friend of mine said he thought of Scott as more of a Jason Kidd at this point in his career. You could also say it’s someone like Derrick Rose 10 years from now.

That would be more for you, as a guy growing up a Bulls fan.

They were my home team. But now I think I root for players from different teams, like Wade and Raja and (Kevin) Garnett. And Baron and (Damien) Stoudamire, (Carlos) Boozer. I like their games.

What are some of your memories of being a Bulls’ ballboy? There was a story I read about how you were trying to get a Michael Jordan autographed ball but kind of messed it up.

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I knew of some fans who wanted an autograph from Michael, so I was hustlin’ back then, I took a ball to the locker room, and I guess Michael was in a playful mood and he said, ‘You go ahead and sign it.’ So I did — and I think I was just going to get $2 for it. I took it back to the guy and he was like, ‘Man, this is fake.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And he said ‘Because ‘Michael’ is spelled wrong.’ That was the worst. I felt bad in so many ways for doing that.
Another time I got a pair of Jordan shoes from his first year. I passed them on to my father. And one day I saw him wearing them to a show. I said, ‘Man, dad, you don’t need to wear them. Those are vintage, off Mike’s feet, he played two games in ‘em.’”

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One of the cool lines from the movie is where Queen Latifa tells you: “Basketball is what you, it’s not who you are.” Does that apply to you at all?

That was a powerful line because many times in our society we let what we do define who we are. That’s not the core of the person. I love to do what I do and that brings happiness, but it’s not only who I am. I think my life is well rounded as a human being and I strive for that. When she said that, it really made Scott McKnight think, I love basketball but I love other things, too. It makes me think right now, how someday I want to be married and have children and go out and do great things in the world along with being a leading man in films and making music. There are many other things that define who I am.

So who do you got in the NBA Finals?

It looks pretty obvious that it’ll be Cleveland and Orlando in the East. The Lakers are going to play the Suns — my heart is with the Suns. And the championship will end up … let me think … Cleveland and the the Lakers, with Cleveland taking it all. I know the NBA doesn’t want that messed up. That’s what they want to see, too.

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