My goodness. Lots and lots and lots of transcribing finally finished. Practice was a perfect storm today, with respect to the news that Andrea Bargnani is starting to open up to his teammates. After Reggie Evans told us all about Bargnani the new social butterfly, Sonny Weems, when asked about the chemistry he has with DeMar DeRozan, told us instead how he and the seven-footer hung out yesterday and also mentioned that he’s now sitting on the back of the bus with the team this season.
- If you haven’t heard, the team waived Ronald Dupree and the roster now stands at 15. I’m hopeful that this means Joey Dorsey will be with the team on opening night of the regular season. Why am I hopeful? You’ll read about it soon enough.
- Randon observation from practice: Leandro Barbosa was absolutely lights out today. Drilling three-pointers from all over the floor. That was fun to watch.
- Another random observation: Dorsey has to spend more time than anyone else on the team logging minutes on the elliptical after practice. It seems like he always finishes up practice by getting his sweat on.
- Okay, here’s Weems, talking about chemistry on the team and then revealing that he and Bargnani recently spent some time together outside of the arena:
“You have chemistry. That’s just chemistry. We get along well as you can see. Actually, I was hanging out with Andrea for a little bit yesterday. There’s a first time for everything It was good, man. Andrea talks more than I thought he did. Actually, he texts me a lot, bbms me. He actually came over to play FIFA yesterday. I wasn’t home, but the chemistry is picking up a lot in this team.”
- I didn’t realize the sitting in the back of the bus thing was such a big deal to the team, but clearly, it is. It’s no secret that Bargnani usually keeps to himself, but maybe he just hadn’t felt comfortable with the teammates around him until now. The best part about all of this would have to be the smiles that both Weems and Evans wore when talking about getting to know Bargnani this season. While it’s kind of sad to think that an entire season passed last year without the teammates getting familiar, better late than never, right?
Maybe before season’s end, everyone will be in the back of the bus:
“He sits in the back with us. Everybody is up front, the coaches and everything. Andrea is like the only European dude back there. It’s like me, Reggie, DeMar, Jarrett, Joey and it’s Andrea. It’s a big difference. I’m enjoying every bit of it. At first, everybody was sitting on the bus and he came on late. We were just sitting back there and all of a sudden we look and there comes Andrea and it’s like, ‘Where you going, to the bathroom or something? What are you doing back here,’ and he just sat down so we were like, ‘Yeah, we’ve got Andrea back here now, so it’s all good.’”
- My favorite quote of the day was when Weems was asked what Bargnani is like. He kept it simple and reminded all of us that Bargnani is a normal 25 year-old guy, even if he did have a different background than most of his American teammates. Basketball crosses all boundaries. I think that’s why this quote made me smile:
“Man, he’s down to earth. He’s a regular person, a real humble dude. He’s easy to talk to. Easy to get along with. He talks about the same things we talk about. it’s not like his background is way different than ours. When we have a conversation, he actually joins in. We’re joking on somebody, say I’m talking about DeMar, he jumps right in. It’s good to have him.”
- And then there was the topic of Weems and his jumpshot. Not looking nearly as smooth as it did last season, Weems acknowledged that “It’s not coming along as well as I want it to.”
No worries there, though, as he said he will be reprising the evening shooting sessions with Eric Hughes this evening. I asked him if he’d be bringing along DeRozan this year or if he was going to be going it solo this time around:
“I don’t know, he might come in. Imma try to do it a little bit solo, but that’s my man. We’re going to be in here a lot together this season.”
- And finally, Weems on starting, chemistry with the second unit and his “role” on the team as joker who helps get everyone to know each other:
- Starting vs. coming off of the bench: “I’m not too worried about what position, starting or coming off the bench, whatever. I’m just here to play basketball. I’m not the head coach. I can’t control anything. What I can control is what I do when I get out there on the court. If it’s starting or having a backup role, I have no problem with it.”
-On having chemistry with Jarrett Jack and Leandro Barbosa: “I think so. I have no problems with the second group. We come in and we create that tempo, we pick up the intensity on the defensive end. I like that group. We’re a very fast group and we play defence really well. I have no problem with that group.”
- On his attitude helping the guys bond as a team: “I think so because I like to joke. I like to joke around and have fun. Once you get everybody loose, it’s like a bug as you go around the team. I think that’s my job, you know, to try and lighten this team up a little bit. Sometimes, you keep going, you’ve gotta know when to bring it back. I think that’s my role.”
Little piece of info for you: I had to speak with Jay Triano about a feature I’m working on and Sonny came up in the conversation. Triano said that he has become one of his favorite players he’s ever coached. And to think that last year, all we knew about Weems was that he served as J.R. Smith’s dunk contest passer.
Continuing on with this, I asked Weems if he could have ever even dreamed one year ago that to start this season he would not only be on the rotation, but would have his image splashed over the hallways of the ACC and to have an action shot hanging up on the wall of the media room:
“I never thought that in a million years. Not one time. Coming from where I come from, in Denver, didn’t play at all and now I’m in the rotation, I mean, that’s one of the things I thank God for every day for and I feel blessed that I have this opportunity.”
Pretty cool that he’s getting the opportunity and Triano’s getting so much enjoyment out of coaching him.
Have to separate this quote from DeRozan on whether he thinks about being the face of the team:
:”It’s something I’m not really thinking about. I just want to go out there and play in the flow of the game. If that comes my way, or anybody’s way that’s out there, just keep going and feed off of them.”
If he -and everyone else on the squad- maintains this mindset, things will run a lot smoother for Triano and his “no superstar, everybody pitches in” model.
- Okay, here’s the rest of DeRozan:
- On offensive rebounding in the Phoenix game: “If I see it bounce my way I just want to go get it. Teams like that, a run and gun team, players, energy-wise, like myself, Amir, we feed off of it. You can see by the game that Amir had. He definitely fed off of that. It was beneficial for us, too, to know that we can run with a team like that.”
- On taking the contact to get to the line: “Yeah, I always wanted to play football when I was young. I was always used to contact. I like playing physical. Sometimes it hurts, but it’s cool. I kind of get mad a little bit, but try to go back at them.”
- On people figuring out their roles on the floor: “Everybody is learning their roles now. I think everybody is coming together as one. I think we’re really feeding into the defensive end. We’ve just got to stay consistent with it when the season starts.”
- On getting to the line: “It’s just getting the rhythm of and just being aggressive I like getting to the free throw line and try to get the team into the bonus early. I think we’ve got a lot of guys on the team who are great free throw shooters, I think that’s just more helpful for us.”
- How different things are on the offensive end this season, without a go-to guy in the middle: “It’s much different. Every time now, a play could be ran for anybody. I think it’s for whoever gets open, whoever has to best feel for the ball at that point in time in the offence. I think that’s the most different thing this year. It’s more fun, but at times, when you’re struggling and can’t make a shot we usually had that go-to, last year, but we’ve just got to figure it out.”
And, finally, we’ll finish up with Triano:
- On facing Chicago tomorrow: “We’ve added a couple of things the last couple of days in practice that we may want to try in the game. Our first six games were all about us, we’ve made a couple of adjustments to see if we can change things up a little bit with what we’re doing defensively and actually try it in a game rather than against ourselves.”
- DeRozan’s role this season: “I want him to be aggressive. We’ve asked him to try to get to the free throw line eight times a game… actually, we’ve told him to try to make eight free throws a game. He’s getting there, but he’s not making them. That’s an aggressive mindset to him. He’s obviously not the rookie that he was last year in that he’s had the experience playing against these guys so we want him to be better at the defensive end of the floor and aggressive at the offensive end.”
- DeRozan’s ball-handling: “He’s getting better all the time. He works on it and I think his ball-handling is better. I think his overall game is better and we’re pleased with where he is, but he can’t stop and he can’t relax. He’s got to keep working.”
-Thought these two quotes on the rotation were interesting. Looks like Triano knows what he likes out there on the floor and is ready for the regular season to arrive. The question about the number of players in an ideal rotation was one that often comes up in conversation, so nice to see his take on the idea and the reality:
On the rotation:
“I think I’m pretty set. Now that a guy playing poorly can’t be bumped out or a guy playing well can’t be bumped in. Unfortunately for some guys, the only way that they’re going to earn time in a game is through practice time now.”
The Ideal # of players in a rotation:
“I think it’s actually in the NBA, it’s more like eight. I think you have a back up point guard, you have a back up wing player and you have a back up post player. I think for a lot of teams that’s ideal. Not that you could ever stay with that because of foul trouble. I think right now, we’re in a good spot because we’re two-deep in every position and two-deep at positions that can contribute. Right now I’m feeling pretty comfortable with 10.”
- Does this make it more difficult for getting everyone enough time?: “At times. If I’m completely concerned with balancing minutes, yes. If a guy like say, DeMar and Linus are playing really well and Sonny comes in for them, there’s a good chance Barbosa won’t get the minutes that he wants or needs. But that would be just a one game thing and it’s something that could be completely reversed in another scenario where DeMar starts and picks up two fouls and Barbosa comes in and plays great and DeMar hardly ever gets back into the game. Right now I’m comfortable with 10 and everybody having a backup. I think that gives us depth should anything happen, knock on wood with an injury or anything.”
- How have players adjusted to needing to pick up bigger roles offensively this season?: “I don’t think we’ve had a hard time scoring. There have been games where we have had dry spells but that’s natural because it’s preseason. I think we have enough guys who know how to score and will hunt for points. Our biggest concern is going to be stops and rebounds and that’s going to be how you earn playing time. If we’re going to play in a 90-point game though, that’s fine. We’re going to have to defend.”
- Is this because they’re not concerned with who is scoring?: “I’d like to think that they are not caring who’s scoring, but I think everybody wants to score. I think we’ve been a little bit guilty when the offence has stalled this year with being a little bit selfish, but I think we’re getting better, we’re beginning to understand our roles and learn when to shoot and when not to shoot.”
- When the offence goes stagnant: “Trying to do things on your own, yeah. The defence in the NBA, we’re not creating something new. It’s about making guys play one on one and loading everybody to the ball and providing the assistance. When you go one on one everybody loads to the ball and it’s very tough to score.”
- How he assesses Sonny’s progress so far this season? “He’s had an excellent summer and he’s changing his game to fit within the concept of our team as we speak and that’s what’s going to make him an all-around player. He’s got great skills. He’s super quick. He knows how to find the basket and he causes problems defensively on the ball and we’re just trying to work on some of his weaknesses and make him better and he’s responding.”
- On his shot selection: “We told him if he takes 20 again his arm might fall off. We joked about it the other day. I want him to be aggressive, but there’s spots where he has to pick and choose where he can and can’t be.”
- Adjustments for the Bulls: We put a couple of different things in defensively so we’re going to try to throw them of balance a little bit. We’re a little bit more familiar with what they did offensively and let’s see if we can be more aggressive with our defense. When we played there they beat us and I’m pretty sure they’re confident coming in here and we have to make sure they see a completely different team.”