Friday, June 19, 2015

Calipari's PRE NBA Draft Press Conference

Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari

“Let me start by telling you the approach that we take with all these kids. We basically play position-less basketball and have for some time. It’s not trying to pigeon hole any player in one position. I want them all to be multi-position players. When you look at Willie (Cauley-Stein), Karl (Towns) if he had his druthers would’ve been a two-guard. Now you’re talking about a post player who could step out on the court, which was not unanimous. It was other players who were going to be that one pick. Now when you look at it, it should be him. We put Trey (Lyles) at the three position to make him more versatile. Now you’re talking about our guards, who are big. Because of Tyler Ulis, Andrew (Harrison) can play with another point guard. Aaron (Harrison) can play the three if he needed to because of his size. You’re looking at Devin Booker and you’re saying, ‘Wait a minute, that kind of shooting and that size?’ All of the sudden, you get what we were trying to do. Our goal is not just to help guys get into the league; we want guys to become all-stars. We had three last year, and if you took Derrick Rose as a fourth, then our goal would be to say, ‘Hey, half of the NBA all-stars started with us.’ It is about position-less basketball, and when you look at our guys, I think you say, ‘Wow, all of them do have the ability to play two and three more positions than before.”

On what is special about Willie Cauley-Stein ...

“First of all, you get a guy that’s 7 foot – he might be bigger – whose feet and hands are that of a 6-3, super athletic guard, which means he can guard five positions. He can guard a point guard or a big guy. He adds shot-blocking. In the schemes of what I’m seeing in the NBA, which are pick and run to the rim and make them play that guy, putting guys in the dribble drive motion, which you saw in Golden State where guys are behind that backboard. The guys in Utah used to do it. He can do all that. A lot of these kids have been groomed since they were 6 years old. Willie really started playing when he came with us. When I saw him in high school at an AAU event, he had two points and two rebounds in a game and he was from the state of Kansas and Kansas did not recruit him. What I say to you about his offensive game is he’s better than you think and you mold him into what you want him to be. People say, ‘He’s only coming into his own now. Why?’ Because he just started playing. I’m looking at him and saying he’s one of those guys that’ll do the things to get a team over the hump. The other thing that was thrown at me was, ‘Is he really a gym rat?’ I’ve had, in my time, three guys off the top of my head that I can say were gym rats. One was Derrick Rose. I used to drag him out of the gym. ‘You’re in here too much.’ Brandon Knight and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (are the others). Those guys were in the gym too much. But Willie plays and loves to play. He’s coming into his own. Anthony Davis wasn’t a gym rat and he’s OK. I think that’s been overblown and it’s almost like you’re trying to pick something out that he’s not. He hasn’t played as long as some of these guys. He’s going to be one of those guys next year that is well-spoken and the fans are going to love him wherever he goes. I have an idea of the three spots that are looking at him, but I don’t think he’s going to go (past) the third one. I understand the small ball. Small ball is because a 6-7 guy can move his feet and hands like a guard, but now you’ve got a 7-footer that can do the same. In three years, if someone has two 7-footers that can move their feet, then we’re going back to the twin towers. This is a guy that’s a unique 7-footer and can fly up and down the court. I think he’s going to be really good.”

On if he’s talked to Phil Jackson or Derek Fisher (New York Knicks) about Willie Cauley-Stein ...

“We haven’t talked yet. I talked to Mark Warkentien. He and I have known each other for 20 years or longer. When Phil came down, we spoke a little bit, but if they want to talk to me then they’ll call. It’s a little early right now. Guys are still formulating what they’re doing. I talked to a lot of teams about all these
kids, but it’s more background. They haven’t gotten to, ‘OK, if we do this ...’ Those calls will come next week.”

On the versatility of Karl-Anthony Towns ...

“He’s developed into a player. He had no real post game, and I told him, ‘You’re going to be a post player that can play out on the floor. You’re going to learn to play pick-and-roll defense. You’re going to have an idea of how to keep a quicker guard in front of you, block shots and play that way. You will fly up and down this court. You have a chance to be the No. 1 pick.’ Earlier in the year he would say, ‘What, Coach? I was an afterthought. They had this guy and that guy.’ I said, ‘You just stay the course. I’m telling you that you can do this.’ At this point, he’s going to have the opportunity as is appears. He’s a great kid and one of the nicest people you’re ever going to meet. He can shoot 3s, but that’s not going to be who he is. You’re going to have to guard him in pick-and-pops or if he’s trailing in the break. He has more ball skills than I would let him show. I told him, ‘You’re catching that ball four feet out and scoring or you won’t be in the game.’ I forced him. He had no choice. All of the sudden he became unstoppable late in the year. Believe me when I tell you, we coached him with the Dominican (Republic National) Team and Del Harris was the first to say, ‘Son, do you think you’re going to be playing if you’re shooting 3s? You have to be able to sit in the post.’ He had nothing then. He works hard and is a great teammate. I read something today that said, ‘They’ll look back on him and ask who the only guy to hold him under 20 points?’ Then they’ll say, ‘Calipari.’ I’ve had good ones, but he’s right there with those guys that you look back and say, ‘Whoever picks him may never trade him.’ There’s only a few of those in the league and he’ll be one of them.”

On Devin Booker’s overall game and what he brings to the table other than his shooting ...

“Devin Booker and Moss Point, Mississippi. I saw him play in the Global Games in Washington, D.C., and he barely got off the bench on one of the regional teams that played. My concern for him was defensively. I knew he could shoot. When we got him, my whole thing was, ‘You’re not going to be a standstill shooter. You’re going to create and go to the basket. You’re going to defend or you won’t play.’ He ended up being a much better defensive player than I ever imagined to where he rebounded. He’s almost 6-7. Everyone that’s brought him in has said, ‘Cal, we thought he was like 6-4.’ We all grew up shooting set shots. Everyone on this phone that’s listening – and you’ll smile right now because you tiptoed shots and you jumped three inches off the ground – and that’s when you really jumped. This kid, when he shoots around the elbow, will jump 18 inches and let it go. We had to get him to get it off quicker. In high school you just jump over them and nobody’s there. In college, if you jump then they’re jumping. You have to get it off quicker because they can’t jump as high moving as you can with the ball. You don’t want to be a guy in that league that is a catch-and-shoot guy because they’ll take that away. In rotations, defensively, you have to be able to get it to the rim. You have to be able to finish when there’s contact. You create the contact and finish. We worked on all of that with him and he came so far, but has a ways to go with that. That’s what the NBA will clean up. You’re talking about a big guard who can shoot, Klay Thompson-ish. That’s what he looks like. The league now is create a rotation defensively and take advantage of that rotation. With him out on the court, either you don’t let him get it and it’s four-on- four or you do let him get it and he’s looking for a pull-up 3 or drive to the elbow. You teach him to finish at the rim and it’s pretty good. In the league at his size, he could end up guarding someone that’s 6-4 or 6-5.”

On his conversations with Aaron Harrison and what feedback he’s gotten from the NBA on the Harrisons
...“I’m not worried. I think he’ll be drafted. And let me say this: I’ll go even further; I think he’ll be in the league for a while. And I believe that because of his ability to play multiple positions. He’s not locked into any position. (At) 6-6 and his size, everyone knows that this kid makes game-winning shots. There’s not a whole lot in the league like that let alone a guy in the draft like that. So I think he’s going to be fine. I think, again, and I’ve said this, I told both he and Andrew that we’ve got to finish this off because if we don’t, you’re going to get the undue criticism. It’s not fair, it’s not right. I’m just telling you. And it happened. But I’ll say this again: Andrew has played well in these things. I’m getting calls. You’re talking in that late first, maybe early second. But I think he’s going to bounce into that early first because everybody is like, ‘We’re not getting this (criticism of him). He’s this big, he’s this athletic, he’s this skilled. Left and right hand. There’s something missing here.’ With Aaron, just so you know, where he’s projected, most guys are worrying about their one pick right now so they’re not zeroed in on as much as, ‘OK, who are we taking at 35 to 45.’ So I haven’t talked to many of those guys yet. They’re more concerned with the guys in front of them.”

On Trey Lyles working out with the New York Knicks today and what they’re looking at from him ...

“I will tell you this: When they came in, they watched practice. Phil (Jackson) watched practice, watched shootaround, watched games. What I’m hearing is he walked away saying, ‘This is the kind of player in the Triangle who has great (size).’ He’s 6-10. We played him at a three. I could have had him closer to the elbows and basket, and he could have scored more and done more, but people that really know the game walked away saying, ‘Wait a minute, the kid can shoot, he can pass. He’s really skilled. He’s got size. He’s physical enough to be able to come in and guard his position right now.’ So I think they really liked him. The one thing people don’t realize about Trey because he is soft-spoken – they think, ‘Well, he’s not assertive.’ Let me just say this: If a fight breaks out, he’s not moving. He will not move. And he’s one that that stuff is in him, and it’s just like, OK, he gets in a competitive environment and it comes out and you go like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ Again, I think he’s a guy that, whoever takes him, they’re going to say, ‘We didn’t realize (he was this good).’ And that’s part of this (what we did this year). No one guy hurt in what we just went through. And everybody has improved their position from where we started to now. And now you’re saying with a guy like Trey, you’re talking the low number into what, 12? And again, he may be one of those guys that people pass on to take a flyer and they make look back and said, ‘Oh my god, 6- 10. In college they played him at the three. He’s a stretch four.’ When you’re talking about these teams that are going small, now you think about your four being a stretch four who can shoot the 3 and play that way, but he’s 6-10. He’s all of 6-10. So I’m not worried about Trey, and I’m also not worried when he gets in there how he’s going to perform because he’s got some fight in him now.”

On Dakari Johnson’s future and how he’s handled things over the last month ...

“I talked to Donnie McLean, who is working him out in California, and he was surprised. One, they were surprised at his size and his skill set. When he went to meet with the teams, the teams that I talked to came back with two things: They didn’t realize he was this young. Like, basically he would be a freshman because he reclassified (in high school). The second thing they didn’t realize is how smart he is. He looks older. So you look at him, he looks older. They sat down and they talked to him, and I basically tried to explain what his grandfather was, where he came from. His grandfather was an activist in New York, and I went to the funeral and it was like, who was this guy? And one person after another talked about what he had done for their lives. This kid has learned the right way. In the league right now, everybody is talking about getting smaller. Well, all of a sudden you have a chance late in that first round to get a 7- footer and you’re saying, ‘There’s just not many guys with this kind of body.’ When you talk about – hey, he can go bang with one of these big guys, he can. I think his game is all out ahead of him. From what I’m hearing, it’s late first (round). Maybe something happens where someone goes to those three teams that are saying right now that he’s right there and they get somebody and maybe he drops early second, but I just can’t see it right now. What I’m hearing back there is he’ll be in that late first somewhere.”

On what makes Karl-AnthonyTowns a good fit for the Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 1 and his character overall...

“The character, I don’t think there’s any question. Everybody that’s ever come in contact with him (loves him). The Timberwolves have probably contacted, and they’re like, oh my gosh, he’s one of the great kids of all-time – and he is. But there’s two things for Minnesota and Minnesota’s fans: The first thing is he is an unbelievable teammate. I want you to understand he’s the No. 1 pick, he played 24 minutes, and was fine, and cheered on Willie, and did everything he could to get Willie going and was fine with – if Aaron took all the shots, he didn’t care. He was a great teammate. That’s one. The second thing is, he likes
Minnesota. He said from day one, ‘I’ll go to Minnesota. I love it. Let’s build something.’ So I think those are the two things that are so important. And when you’re building a franchise and trying to get it done like Flip (Saunders) and Milt (Newton) are right now, which are with young guys – veteran guys understand how you’ve got to be together and how you have to be a great teammate to make it work. Young guys are going into the league just trying to score and get paid. Karl comes in, he is a great teammate. But more importantly, for the fans and the team up there, he’s fine. He said, ‘Let’s go Minnesota!’ So I think those are the two important things.” 

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