It has been a rough start to the season for me, but my knee is doing better. I think the shortened camp and trying to work back into basketball shape so quickly really took a toll on it. We were called up really quick after the lockout, then I went through free agency so I couldn’t practice, and then I missed most of the rest training camp because of visa issues after I signed. There’s just no way your body can be ready that quickly for games. And when you try to force it, things like this happen.
My knee feels better and I’m ready to get back out on the court (Getty Images).
The rehab has involved a lot of strengthening in the muscles around my knee just to kind of get those stronger so the pounding won’t be as hard on the tendon. I’ve been doing a lot of balance work, and had some work done on the soft tissue around it to get it loose to the point where the knee is more flexible. Those type of things can alleviate the pain and help me get back on the court. You have to make sure you do the proper warmups, make sure your quad muscles and all the other muscles around the tendon are loose before you start playing. There’s really no cure for it that you can do or take that makes it go away. You have to just continue to limit and take away the pain as much as you can. I’ve been really focused since it happened on getting back healthy and getting back on the court.
As a player you want to be out there competing, so it’s not fun to be sidelined. Especially with us right now, it’s hard to watch knowing you want to be out there helping your team win games.
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
I’m very grateful for all that I have.
Signing a new contract this summer was a great thing for me and my family. But it was also an important step for my country and the future of basketball there.
Back home, everybody was happy for me. For someone from there to achieve this is a great honor and shows that it can be done. The probability of a player like me being in the NBA is so little. Coming from where I come from, my background, it’s not a place where people come from to the NBA. For me, it was the best when I got the chance to do it my rookie year.
I’ll always remember that rookie contract because it gave me the opportunity to play and the opportunity now to end up with this contract. I’m really happy to be where I am today because of it.
Anytime you can quadruple your salary, that’s always a great thing. I plan to make the best of it back home. Financially, I’ll be able to impact and positively affect the lives of others around Africa. That’s what I’m most excited about.
I’ve already begun working on the state of basketball in Africa, but there is much more to be done.
I have a lot of ideas about things that I want to do, but nothing is concrete right now. The main thing for me is to continue to develop the sport of basketball over there. Whether that involves building gyms or donating to high school and club teams over there to encourage young people to play, I’m going to do whatever I can. They need a lot of things over there. They need people that are willing to work with kids on basketball, and they also need equipment and materials to play the game. So there is a lot of work to be done to help develop the sport over there.
I see a bright future for basketball in Africa. I’ve already begun to focus on that through my camp and other things. There’s no doubt in my mind that there is a whole lot of talent over there for the sport. The challenge is that some of it goes to waste because of a lack of infrastructure and materials. That’s why again, being in the position that I’m in now, hopefully I’ll be able to impact that and raise the level of infrastructure there to get the kids to play more.
I’ve seen kids with a lot of talent, but they don’t have a basketball to play with or a court to play on so that talent goes to waste. By the time someone gets a hold of them it’s almost too late, because they’re too old. If we can build something there to get kids started at a young age and grow that talent to bring it up.
I’m sure that people back home were rubbing their heads wondering what they were going to ask me for next knowing that I can afford more things now too. I’m expecting them to come at me with some kind of lists of things to get.
UCLA MAKING GOOD IN THE PROS
It’s been a great year for UCLA alums in the NBA.
I wasn’t the only UCLA player to get a new contract this summer, and I’m happy for my good friend Arron Afflalo who got one from Denver. We spent a lot of time together this summer working out in LA. We were both restricted free agents and we have the same agent, so when I got an offer sheet from Denver, I thought we might get to play together again.
I would’ve loved to play with Arron like back in college. Me and Arron on the same court would be hard to beat. He’s a competitor, a great defender and a great offensive player. I’d always love to have somebody like that on my team.
We thought for a moment we might be teammates, but Arron and I are good as rivals too (Getty Images).
I wasn’t sure what the Bucks were going to do, so I signed the offer sheet thinking I might end up in Denver. I was just excited to get an offer at that point. But when I heard the Bucks matched, I was happy. It’s a city that I’m familiar with, that I’ve played in for the last two years, so I was comfortable coming back here. I was excited about the opportunity to go at it again with the same guys: Carlos, Bogut, Ersan, guys that have been here for a while. We want to build a strong future for this franchise together.
At the end of the day, I’m happy Arron got the deal he got. He deserved it. I’m happy I got my deal and I’m sure he’s happy for me that I got my deal. Now we just have to make the best of it.
SIZING UP THE LEAGUE’S BEST
I try to watch some basketball when I’m not playing or practicing. There are some really good teams out there, of course you’ve got Chicago, Miami and the Lakers, all really good teams, but one team that I think is really flying under the radar is Denver. They’re a very complete team.
The team that I’m really impressed with but not surprised about is Oklahoma City. That group is just really good together. They define that consistency I was talking about earlier. They do what they do night-in and night-out.
Russell knows who gets the best of our one-on-one matchups (Getty Images).
They’re a very hard team to beat and I think they’ll get further this year than they did last year. Russell is doing really well for them. He had a rough start to the season, but he seems to have found his groove. I’ve seen him play a lot better and I’m happy for him. Luckily for him other players don’t know how to defend him like I do. He knows if I’m on him, he’s not scoring. We talked about it all summer. He knows.
It’s kind of crazy to look back at all those guys we had on that UCLA team. Russell and Kevin Love are probably going to be All-Stars again this year. They’re both doing amazing. Then you look at myself, Arron, Darren Collison, Jordan Farmar, we had some really good players coming through there at that time. It says a lot about that program.