With Kings training camp just a week away, the fan letters have started to arrive. Thank you Mike and Tim for reaching out. Looking forward to a great season!
We’re in the middle of a back-to-back with the Nets, one of the most talented teams in the NBA.
Last night, they got us in overtime on a shot by Joe Johnson. He’s a phenomenal player and this is not the first time he’s made a shot like this. We tried our best to win that game and we fought hard, but we get to play them again and a chance to redeem ourselves.
When we played them earlier in the season, we played them pretty well. But since then, they went through kind of the same thing we did, changing coaches and they’ve been playing better. That makes preparation a little different. Still, I think if we can come out and play the way we play, move the ball offensively and stay solid defensively, we should give ourselves a chance.
It’s definitely a big game, but when you’re in this situation of fighting for playoff position, every game is a big game. You have to approach it with the mentality that this could be your last game because you don’t want to be looking back at the end of the season and feeling like there were a couple of games that you really didn’t play up to your ability.
Every game you can win, you should win. That’s why it’s crucial that guys approach the game that way and play with urgency. It’s about coming into each game with a big game mentality and big game intensity.
All the games that we play from here on out are going to be very key games. You can’t afford to lose games that you’re supposed to win and you also have to try to steal some games against the really good teams.
We’re in our second month with coach Boylan in charge after taking over for coach Skiles and it’s going well. It’s pretty much the same philosophy because coach Boylan had been with coach Skiles for many years. But I think having a change can be good for the team. Sometimes a change is something that brings a boost. When the change happened we went on a roll where we won a lot of games.
Our problem is we’ve slipped defensively. We need to get back to playing at a high level on defense. Every time we play at a high level on that end, it really helps us. We’re able to create turnovers, get out in transition and do things that have worked really well for our team.
If we can move the ball instead of letting it stick on the perimeter, we’ll have offensive success (Getty Images).
But the story of our year has kind of been the way we’ve played offensively. We have a lot of good potential but sometimes, for some reason, the ball gets stagnant. When we’re not moving the ball well, it really hurts our team. So we’ve made it a point of emphasis to move the ball and get everybody involved.
I think the All-Star break should help us. Some teams come out of the All-Star break playing at a high level and some teams come out still in vacation mode. But I think we’ve taken the first approach and come out of it with a lot of energy. We’re trying to turn things around, so hopefully guys are rested and ready to close this second part of the season out.
Physically, I’m doing pretty well. I’m still not where I’d like to be. I’m still figuring it out, coming back and all that stuff. But I think I’m getting stronger. There’s still a lot of season left, so I’m hoping to continue to get stronger and peak here soon.
I want to thank all the fans for all their support through my injury, surgery and recovery. I truly appreciate it. It’s been a long road, but we’re almost there. It’s tough going through surgery, but I’ve been fortunate to have the support of the fans, and I’m looking forward to having a good season for you this year.
My knee is getting better, but it’s a long process. I’ve never been through a recovery like this for an injury like this, so it’s tough. But I think it’s a good learning experience. It’s just about dealing with the situation.
I’ve been able to play, but pain is still there. It’s tough to deal with, but comes with the territory (Getty Images).
The surgery I went through is not a common surgery. It’s not an X-and-O surgery, like if you break your ankle they put a screw in and you’re good. It’s something that’s different for every person. The recovery time fluctuates for different people.
I’ve talked to some other players about it, but there aren’t a lot of guys who’ve had surgery for their patella tendon. I’ve just been doing a lot of research, and having different trainers from college and that I know from high school even, and they’re trying to find ways to help me out.
I had the surgery in Los Angeles, and spent most of my rehab time there working with trainers and physicians. Being away from that can be hard, but we have good trainers and a good staff in Milwaukee that have been helping me get through it. That’s the main thing, having people around who can help you get through it. So far, it’s been working well for me.
The doctors said that I’m going to have to deal with pain for a little bit post-surgery. As I play in the games, it’s about getting my body and my muscles accustomed to it again. It’s not something that’s fun, but it’s the road I have to take to get healthy. I think I’m going to start doing some different stuff off the court to help it along, like acupuncture. I’m going to throw a variety of things at it and get it better.
I’m excited to be out there playing again, but I’m still not feeling the way I really want to feel. I’m still going through pain and stuff like that. It feels a little better having gone through surgery and rehab, but the fact that I’m still having pain is hard to deal with. Still, it feels good to be out there playing, and I’m optimistic that the pain is going to go away as I strengthen the muscles. I’ll be back to 100 percent and pain free soon.
Obviously, my conditioning is not the best as far as playing a lot of minutes, but also I’m still dealing with the knee and we haven’t had a lot of practice time. It’s just been game, day-off, game, and rest. Whenever I can get a rest or take it easy on it, I do, because right now, the most important thing is playing in games.
As we go through the season, I’m just trying to fit in. Missing training camp and the early part of the season didn’t help, but I try to go in there, give everything I got, play hard defensively and help offensively as well. I’m hoping to ease my way in so I can contribute.
We’re off to a pretty even start to the season, but we could be much better.
Our problem so far has been on defense. We have to, as a team, try to get better in that department. That’s our Achilles heel right now, and we’re far from where we want to be on that side of the ball. But it’s something we’ve dealt with in the past. We need to continue to tighten it up, and just get better on the details. I think if we do that, we should be ok.
If we get our defense together, we’re good enough offensively to win games. One of the reasons for that is our guard play. It’s great playing with Monta Ellis. Offensively, he draws a lot of attention and makes plays. He’s a guy who can score anytime, and also can pass the ball. It’s good to have a guy like that on your team.
Playing with guys like Monta is great for our offense, but we all need to pick it up on defense (Getty Images).
Some of our younger guys are getting a really good chance to play early because of some of our injuries. Guys like Larry Sanders and our rookies, John Henson and Doron Lamb, are doing a good job. They just have to stay focused. When you come into the league as a rookie, you have to stay focused and stay ready. Sometimes you don’t play a lot, sometimes you do. It can be tough, but you just have to stay focused and be ready to do your job.
We have a really good group here. I think it’s one of the best we’ve had here in terms of camaraderie. Guys get along pretty good, and I think in the long run, that’s going to help our chemistry and help us win.
Eight Things to Watch in the second round of the NBA Playoffs
LeBron’s Post Game –I think LeBron learned from the Finals last year against Dallas that he needs to find a way to get inside and not just settle. He likes to drive, but a lot of it has to do with him having a halfway post-up game now. He gets the ball on that right block, closer to the basket and he’s able to post up and make a decision to either find a shooter or make a play himself.
The three times we played Miami, that’s one thing I noticed about LeBron. He’s making a consistent effort now to get the ball in the post. He’s such a good ball handler, almost like a point guard, that it’s tough to have him in the post all the time, but he definitely added that to his game.
Small Basketball – When Miami features LeBron at the four, I think it can cause a lot of problems. It’s going to force Indiana to change the way they play defense and possibly take David West or Roy Hibbert out of the mix for long periods of time. It’s going to force David West into a huge role and we’ll see how big he can play.
On offense, Indiana likes to play inside-out with those two guys, but if Miami takes that away with a small lineup, forcing the Pacers to play on the perimeter, Indiana will play right into their hands. The way Miami rotates to shooters on defense is second to none. They trap the ball really hard on the pick and roll. LeBron, D-Wade and Chalmers are very athletic guys. You could see it against the Knicks, guys like Steve Novak really didn’t have chance to shoot the ball even when it was rotating. They always had someone closing out to him and making him drive or pass.
Philly’s Backcourt – The Sixers guard the ball really well and their on-ball defense makes a difference. They good job in the first round of switching between Jrue Holliday and Evan Turner and giving the Bulls different looks. They made Chicago run a lot of sets instead of individuals taking over the game. That will be useful against Rondo, because he sets everything up for the Celtics. But they’ll be able to impact his decision-making by playing tight on the ball.
Both players are solid offensively as well. Turner is coming around really well. He’s turned into the player that they expected when they drafted him. Jrue is a very capable scorer, but he’s still able to control the game and run the team. He can shoot from the perimeter, but he also has a game where he can drive and make plays. What I like most about him is he’s very under control in his decision-making. He’s still young, but I think he has an advanced ability to make the decisions a point guard needs to make, whether it’s shoot the ball, pass or attack the basket. Playing against Rondo will be a great matchup. They’re both good on-ball defenders. I think they’ll both find ways to impact the game.
KG’s Renaissance – Kevin Garnett has really turned his game up this postseason. Offensively, he’s been able to get down in the post and they can get him the ball in a spot where he can make his turnaround jump shot.
He’s also been great picking and popping off screens. He’s playing a full offensive game. Defensively, he just brings that intensity on every play. He took it to Josh Smith in the first round, took him out of his spots. He’s a smart defender so he knows where his man is going to get it and what he wants to do with it.
I think he can have the same impact against Philly. He has the size to impact Elton Brand in the post. Brand is a really a good player, but I don’t think he’s as athletic or versatile as Josh Smith, so I think it’s going to be easier for KG to have that defensive impact.
Offensively, his ability to move around the floor and hit shots will be important. He can go inside against the younger guys like Thaddeus Young and just shoot that turnaround jump shot. Or if it’s Brand he can pull him out and hit some in the mid-range.
Duncan and Griffin – The matchup of power forwards in the Spurs vs. Clippers series pits two very different players. Tim Duncan has always been a great offensive player. He has a patient game and as a defender it freezes you up. When he gets the ball, you really don’t know what he’s going to do with it. For one or two seconds he’s just looking at the basket and you don’t know what he’s thinking or what’s going to come. That’s why when he goes for that up-fake, guys go for it, because you have to guard against everything with him.
Tim has a great feel for the game around the basket and plays great with his back to the basket. He can turnaround and hit you with that bank shot, he can drive and he’s developed that jump shot to the point where it’s consistent. On the other end, he’s just a smart defender. He can guard guys in the post because he knows how to position himself and how to throw guys off their game.
Blake Griffin plays at a high level. On the offensive end, he finds his way in there. It’s not always pretty, but he’s finding opportunities to score. As soon as he gets the ball he’s trying to drive and he uses his quickness to drive past guys. He’s been doing well at that, but he’s still not a dominant power forward at this stage of his career. He can get out in transition or use the pick and roll and get to the basket, jump high and get the ball up. That’s what’s effective for him.
Going against Tim Duncan will be tough for Blake. Duncan is going to expose Blake’s weakness, which is jump shooting, whenever he can. Duncan will force him to take jump shots. And when Blake does get around him, San Antonio will use help defense to try and minimize his impact at the rim. Boris Diaw might spend a lot of time on Blake too because he’s laterally quicker than Tim at this point and can stay in front of Blake.
Pop’s Coverage on Paul – The Clippers go as far as Chris Paul can take them. Offensively they rely heavily on Paul coming off screens and making play. They have other guys who can score, but that’s their go-to. He can come off a screen and make a play for himself or for Caron Butler on the outside or DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin with a lob. Containing Chris will be the number on priority for San Antonio.
Defending the screen isn’t Parker’s strongest suit, but he’s a good enough defender that he’ll find a way to compete and do his best. San Antonio’s system won’t leave him on an island. Popovich and his assistants will work up a coverage from their defense to limit Paul, make him go left instead of right, trap the pick and roll, or whatever they have to do. It has to be team defense that stops Chris Paul.
Westbrook Breaking Out – Russell Westbrook has been more aggressive this season and the Thunder have played well with him controlling the game. In the past, the Russell I remember tended to be passive. But now I just see him being aggressive and trying to score for the whole game.
He’s developed into a better shooter, but I think his bread and butter is driving to the basket. He’s physical and explosive in his drive. He’s one of the best players in the league at getting to the rim. The only guys that are better in my opinion are Derrick Rose, LeBron James and D-Wade. Russell is on that level and he should use that ability whenever he has the opportunity. He has the physical advantage over any point guard. Sessions is a bigger point guard, but he’s nowhere near as athletic and explosive as Russell. He has a clear advantage there.
The Kobe Show – If there’s one team that can matchup well with the Lakers bigs this postseason it’s the Thunder. OKC also plays more of a team defense. They execute their coverages very well. It’s one thing to say “we’re going to trap the pick and roll” but it’s another to go out and do it. They have a mobile big like Serge Ibaka who can go out and do it. Kendrick Perkins has always been a good defender and Serge has been tremendous this year. I think they’ll be able to guard Bynum and Gasol.
Kobe sometimes makes those shots that you can’t explain, you just have to make it tough on him (Getty Images).
Once you take that away from the Lakers it’s all about Kobe. Kobe has been great this postseason. What he’s doing right now, at his age, it’s amazing. You look at the other guys in his class, most of them aren’t playing anymore and none of the guys that are playing are playing at his level. The hardest part about guarding Kobe is how hard he competes. He makes so many tough shots and he just keeps at it.
Even when you have him missing five or six shots, he’s coming back with another one. He’s not as explosive and athletic as he used to be, but he’s a smarter player and he knows how and when to take his shot. You can play the perfect defense and he’ll still make the shot more than any player that I’ve seen since I’ve been around basketball. That’s Kobe for you right there.
We’re getting ready to start the second half of the season here soon, and I’m hoping for better things as we make a run at the postseason.
It’s been an inconsistent first half for us as a team. We win a few, then lose a few we should win (Getty Images).
It’s been a tough start for us. We’ve had an up and down season, very inconsistent. We win the really big games and then we lose games we’re supposed to win. We’ve had several games already where we were a couple plays from winning. That could’ve changed our record drastically. But we feel like we’re only a few games away and there is still a lot of season left. Right now we’re in the tenth spot, but there’s still a lot that can be done, knowing that we haven’t played our best basketball yet.
As a team we’re still searching for our personality and identity. That’s something we’ve been struggling with. We really don’t know what we do best. We pride ourselves on being a good defensive team and at times we look like a great defensive team for like two quarters. But then the next two quarters we don’t play good defense. Once we develop that consistency, I think we’ll be ok. We want to be known as a team that plays hard, plays good defense and is unselfish.
We lost my man Bogut again early in this season. He’s our defensive anchor and he’s also one of my best friends on the team. We’ve been here together for almost four years now, longer than anybody else. He kind of took me under his wing since I was rookie. It’s been tough not having him out there. He’s a tremendous player, probably one of the best centers in the league when he’s healthy. It’s unfortunate for him not to be in there with us, but he stays around the team supporting us.
Our team defense is different without Bogut, but we have to make it work without him (Getty Images).
We have to grind through it without him. Everybody has to step up to fill those shoes. No one guy can do it. That’s what it takes when you lose one of your best defenders and your best big. We’ve been able to win games without him and I think we can still have a great season. It just takes a lot more effort now. You know you don’t have the big guy behind you to block shots. It’s kind of like losing that security blanket. You have to do a lot more one-on-one with your man as a defender.
Brandon Jennings has been one of the guys who has really stepped up for us and had a strong season, pretty much an All-Star season. His ability to make shots and get his own shot is special. He’s improved every year and he’s become a very good player. He’s had an All-Star season individually, but I think a lot of times getting picked to go comes down to what your team is doing. We have to pick it up as a team and hopefully that helps him in the future.
The physical aspect of this season has been difficult, but at the same time it has been fun.
You’re playing a lot of games and that’s what we love to do. One thing that’s not good is we’re losing practice time. When something is not working, you want to go back to practice and make sure you can get it right. But I also think sometimes the best practice is in games. It takes you right back to that mentality that you always hear from the great players, to forget the last game right after it is over. You have to keep on moving forward and I think that’s good.
At some points during the first half, I felt almost like I was living out of a suitcase. We played 33 games in less than two months. That’s a lot more than normal. We were always on the go, home for a day or two and then back out on the road. Sometimes it’s not a long trip, but somehow, someway you’re travelling two or three times a week. The miles rack up. So I used the All-Star break to rest. I just wanted to find someplace nice and warm to rest and regroup.
The first half was really tough for me personally because of the way things went at the end of the offseason. I worked a lot on my game personally during the summer and fall, but I didn’t get the chance to play like I wanted to because of the lockout and my contract issues. I had to wait for everything to get worked out before I could join the team after the lockout was over.
Once the season got started, I’ve been playing different positions and my minutes have fluctuated quite a bit. I just have to be ready whenever my number is called. That’s the way this season is. You just have to try and be ready. It’s not always easy, but it’s just a reality of the season. You have to be prepared for your team and try to go out there and produce. It’s a process for me. I just have to make sure I keep at it and continue to work on my game, grow within it.
On the whole as a team we need to be more consistent in everything, defensively and offensively, in the second half. We have to play a full 48 minutes of the game. If we do that, then obviously we give ourselves a better chance to be a successful team. If we don’t, we’re going to keep having these periods where we win a couple games and lose a couple. It won’t get better until we make it better.
I’m looking forward to what’s ahead for myself and the team and I hope all the fans stay with us and enjoy it. It’s been a tough season, up and down a lot, but I’m finding my way. We’re going to grind it out and make it work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Being in LA this time of year has been really different. I was just talking to some friends about how, at this time of year for the last three years, I’ve been used to being up in Milwaukee and it being cold.
The weather is not this nice. I live in Santa Monica right by the beach and the weather this time of year is great. In Milwaukee the weather is just getting cold, the sky is grey. Here we just had a heat wave a few weeks back and it was like 90 degrees. I was just like, “Wow, this is great. »
It’s been a fun offseason, but I’m more than ready to get back to playing the game I love.
At the same time, my body is ready to get to work. I’m not used to sitting around at this time. This is the time when things get going. Because of that, I’ve been training a lot out here in LA. I’ve really been focused on that for the last two months. Hopefully we’ll be getting close to a deal real soon, so I want to be ready when the season starts.
But it’s kind of a weird situation working out during the lockout because you really don’t know when to peak in your workouts. You don’t want to peak and then have to wait two or three more weeks. That would be bad. So I’ve maintained a steady workout regimen where I’m right there in the middle, a week or two away from peaking physically.
I work out with a personal trainer to make sure I maintain my regimen. I’ve worked out with Arron Afflalo a few times because we have the same personal trainer, and we’re in the same boat with the lockout. We play a little one-on-one or do some drills together sometimes.
As an NBA player waiting this out, you don’t want to be in a phase when you’re going too fast too soon, because then when we get that call your body may be in decline and tired right before the season. I’ve just been trying to stay in the same phase of training.
I’ve been working a lot on my jump shot and my basketball skills, just so I can have my body right. I probably put up about 500 to 650 makes per day and with the shots and the basketball drills training, I’m in the gym for at least two hours every day. Then I have another hour and a half of weightlifting and doing body work.
CATCHING UP IN DOWN TIME
Other than working out, I’ll go to the beach here in Santa Monica a lot. I like to ride my bike around the beach and hang out with some old friends from college.
LA has so many things to offer, so I just try to do different things around town. I love jazz music, so I got to local jazz events when I can. Being in a metropolitan area like LA, there are so many different restaurants and other different venues. I’m trying to enjoy it while I can.
It’s a lot different to live in LA as a professional than it was as a poor college student. I can definitely afford better restaurants than I did while I was in college. As a college student you’re limited as to what you can do financially. As a pro athlete, I’m blessed to be in a situation where I can afford to do some things and explore a city like LA a little more broadly. It offers a different look at the city than when I was in college here and helps me appreciate everything I have.
I’ve definitely made the most of my time here. There are a lot of people here that I have reconnected with, friends from college that I usually don’t get a chance to see and who I haven’t talked to much in three years. So for me to have the opportunity to get back to them, reestablish those friendships, it has probably been the best part of all of this. It’s really great to see how they’re all doing and share my experiences with them.
I have visited the UCLA campus some and talked to different professors about what I’ve been up to with my camp in Cameroon. I don’t get much of a chance to talk to people in LA during the season, so it was good to be able to do that. I stopped by Coach Howland’s office a couple times while I was on campus and got a chance to talk to him a little bit. He told me about the team and what they’re trying to do to get better.
They’re definitely in a period where they’re rebuilding, but they should have a better team this year and definitely much better the following year. I’m excited for them, I think this is going to be a good year and set them up for a few really good years. Maybe I’ll even get out to a game or two.
It’s been a quiet last few months for me, but I’ve enjoyed my time out here in LA.
With the spare time I have had, it allowed me to take two classes at UCLA during summer school. It was definitely a different experience going back into the classroom, sitting there listening to professors, taking notes. Having been out of school for three years, I definitely forgot what it was like to do it.
UCLA was a lot like I remembered it and I went to all my old spots on campus.
But the two classes I took were very interesting subjects to me, so they kept my attention. One of them was in International Development Studies and it focused on the process of developing third world countries, specifically countries in Africa. That was a really good course for me, because working to develop the countries in Africa is something I want to do after basketball. So that was really informative, getting to look at the different aspects of economic development.
I also took a political science class on the policies in France and Britain, which was interesting to me to see the comparing and contrasting traits. I liked both classes, so that made it easier for me to sit in class, enjoy myself and have a good time learning. It could have been a different story if I took boring classes, but the fact that I took those two classes made it much more fun.
I ended up getting an ‘A’ in both classes, which was good given that I hadn’t been in the classroom for three years. I kind of patted myself on the back for that.
The campus was just how I remembered it. There were fewer students because it was summer school, but otherwise it was the same. I took my same routes, went to the same spots where I used to go eat, all the cafes. It was a lot of fun. I got to see some of the same workers that I always saw, the delivery guys and some of the guys who worked in maintenance. It was fun seeing them. It brought back some great memories.
Most of the people who recognized me were either seniors who were there during my last year or people who have worked there. The youngsters didn’t really recognize me since it’s been so long since I left school. So no Cameroon Crazies chants this time. I only have a few left to complete my degree. Hopefully I can get those done next summer.
LEARNING ABOUT THE LOCKOUT
I’m not in class now, because I didn’t want to get caught in a tough spot if the lockout were to end.
I stayed here in LA, rather than doing any traveling, because when it comes down to it, you really don’t know when deals are going to be struck. We’re hopeful that something is going to happen soon, so I don’t want to be caught up in going on a trip or have anything like that happening. I’ve put anything else off and just focused on training and staying healthy.
It’s a different feeling to not be playing basketball at this time of year. I’m always checking the news to see the latest and checking my e-mail to see if anyone has any news about whether we’re close to getting a deal. You just have to hope for the best.
But this is something I’ve been preparing for, we’ve all been preparing for over the last year and a half. We knew this was coming. I properly prepared for it and now I just have to wait and see.
I planned this whole summer out ready for a lockout. I was able to go back home early in the summer and do my camp, then when I came back I took the classes at school and now I’m just training and waiting. I planned ahead financially as well and made arrangements so I would be secure if the lockout went for a while.
Being a team rep, I have to be more in tune with what’s going on and in touch with the guys that are in the room. I’m always contacting the NBPA to make sure I get the right information about what’s going on with the state of the dispute. I want to make sure I’m informed in case one of my teammates calls me. But most guys do their own due diligence too and all the players are really in-tune with the talks.
I’ve attended several lockout meetings, because, as a player rep, it’s my job to know what’s going on. (AP Photo)
Being as involved as I have been and going to some meetings has helped me to understand the intricacies of the issues and how complicated it is. You get a feel for how big the decisions are and how they are made. As far as the details are concerned, I didn’t know a lot. Knowing some of these things has been a big help to my perspective.
It’s a lot more than meets the eye from an outside viewpoint. Being there gives you a broader perspective of what you do and how it impacts people’s lives. It gives you a greater understanding of it and once you have that, I think it allows you to better appreciate what you do, what other people do for the game and how important the fans are for the business.
I want all those fans to understand that this is not a strike. We are being locked out of our jobs. We want to play. We’ve made big concessions to play. We’ve proposed a deal to give back $1.1 billon to the owners, which should be enough to cover losses.
That to me should be enough to save the season. We’re sorry to make fans wait this long, but if it were up to us, we would be playing for you. Hopefully we can get this done so and get back to playing. It should be a fun season.
I’m back in the US after a great trip home to Cameroon for my camp.
With the lockout still in effect, I’m trying to find things to do outside of my workouts that I’ve always wanted to do. So I decided to enroll at UCLA for some classes to try to finish my degree in International Development.
I’ve wanted to do this for a while. I took two classes online during the previous summer session and now I have four more classes left to get my degree. Depending on how long this lockout goes, I might take more classes and then graduate at the end of the fall. We’ll see how that goes. My goal has been just to knock it off a little bit at a time with online classes during the summer sessions.
I think finishing my degree is a very important thing. I’ve always wanted to have a degree and that’s one of the reasons I went to UCLA. I think a degree from UCLA is something very prestigious and I value that very much. Since I left UCLA early for the NBA, I was committed to coming back and finishing it.
The things I want to do after I’m done playing basketball, like being a sports ambassador for my country, definitely require a degree. It’s also just important to me to have an education.
On UCLA campus in 2006 (Kurt Miller/The Press-Enterprise)
I worked so hard to get to that point and to only have a few classes left, I need to do it. My parents have been on me since I left school about finishing. It’s time for me to make them proud.
WAITING OUT THE LOCKOUT
Other than going back to school, I don’t have any real plans during the lockout.
I saw when the NFL was in lockout, Chad Ochocinco tried out for the MLS. If I ever had a chance to play soccer, I would definitely do it. Soccer was my first love, growing up in Cameroon. I still watch a lot of soccer and love the game. I don’t watch much MLS, but European soccer.
I’m also thinking about traveling a little more. That’s something I love doing. I want to see more things inside the United States. I’ve been to a lot of cities from playing basketball in college and the NBA, but we’re never able to stay long enough to see much outside of the arena. So seeing the States isn’t something I’ve really had a chance to do.
I’d love to just go around, see different places, tourist areas, places like the Grand Canyon. It just depends on the time and opportunity, but if I have a chance to go, I’ll go.
Most of all I’m going to just do more of the things I like to do: working out, talking with my friends, watching TV, playing video games, listening to music and reading.
I love all kinds of music, it all really depends on the mood. Sometimes I just feel like listening to jazz, so then I’ll just end up listening to that for the next three or four days. Then I’ll switch it up to R&B and listen to that for two or three days. Then I’ll go back to my African music, or somebody will send me a rap song and I’ll listen to that for a couple of days.
It just depends, but I like a variety of things and I have friends sending me things all the time, music from back home, Caribbean music, reggae, rap, everything.
SEASON OF UNCERTAINTY
I’m really hopeful that everything will workout with the lockout, but it’s really stressful, especially for me.
Not only do I not know when we’re going to be playing again, but as a restricted free agent, I also don’t know where I will be playing when we do get back to basketball.
It’s a tough situation. Not knowing when you’re going to be playing is one thing. But not knowing where you’re going to be playing is something else. You have your house situation you have to figure out, your family stuff and all kinds of other stuff to go through to get ready. It’s all very stressful and that’s why I hope they can solve this, if not soon, then sooner rather than later.
I can’t even remember the last time I didn’t know when or where I’d be playing basketball again, I guess before the draft, but even then I had a better idea than I do now.
Coming out of college as a guy drafted in the second round, no one really expected me to stick but I ended up starting more than half the games over the last three years, I think that’s success. I’ve strived to be one of the best defenders in the league, one of the most versatile defenders in the league. Those are all positives, but there is always room to improve.
When you look at playing NBA defense from the outside, you don’t realize how hard it is and what else goes into it. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am. I’ve always had confidence in my abilities. When I got drafted, I was selected based on my defensive abilities, so I’m not surprised that I’ve been able to do it. I just had to go out there and show I could do it. And I did that, and I’m happy, but now I have to take it to another level.
I’ve had a good three years in Milwaukee and I hope it can continue. The best part was definitely making the playoffs the year before last. It gave us a taste of what having a successful season could be like and that’s a chance that you always want to have. Once you taste the postseason, anything other than that kind of feels like a failure.
There have been tough moments with the Bucks too. Every year it seems like we’ve had seven new guys coming and seven guys leaving in, from the time I got there. That makes it tough to get comfortable. But we do have the same core guys who have stayed for those three years, which has built some good chemistry.
That 2010 playoff team had some really good chemistry and that really helped us, especially defensively, knowing where to cover for each other. That was big for us. We have to try to find that chemistry again and once we do that, we should be a good team then.
With my next contract, I want to be part of a situation where I have a chance to compete for a conference championship and an NBA championship. I want to be on a team that at one point has a chance to compete for those things. I think it can happen in Milwaukee if we all put the work in. But whether it’s there or elsewhere, being a part of that is my ultimate goal.
Greetings from Cameroon, where I’m conducting my second annual Luc Mbah a Moute Basketball Camp.
We completed pre-selection for the camp last week with visits to my hometown of Yaounde and also Douala. I left for Cameroon on Monday, July 11th and the Yaounde pre-selection was July 13th. Then it was over to Douala on the 15th to see the rest of the potential campers.
From those two tryouts, we narrowed down a large turnout to just 50 young players. We posted the names of the playershere on my website.
Last year was the first edition of the camp and it was really successful. To get the top 50 kids age 12-16 from the two pre-selections, we had to narrow down a group of about 350 players to just 50 for the camp. With those kinds of cuts, you get to the cream of the crop so it’s really the top players in the country. Then at the end of the camp, we select five players to represent Cameroon at Basketball Without Borders.
Last year, four of our five players made the All-Star team at Basketball Without Borders and the MVP of Basketball Without Borders was the same kid who was the MVP of my camp, so I was really happy with that. It was a really great experience.
Four of the kids from the camp last year are now in the United States on scholarship, going to high school and kind of doing what I did. To me, that’s my way of giving back. My goal last year was just to have one kid get a scholarship and go over to the United States. To have four now, all going to high school in the U.S, is incredible.
If every year I can have at least one kid that has the chance to go to the U.S. and get a better education using his athletic ability, that would be great.
That’s what made me who I am. I had a chance to do pretty much the same thing. So I think it’s important for me to go back and give back to the kids. Hopefully then, sometime in the future, they can become better basketball players and get a chance to become professionals.
TEACHING FROM THE TOP
The game has grown a lot in Africa, but at the same time, it hasn’t.
Where it has grown is that basketball is now the second most popular sport in Africa, behind soccer. You can tell just by looking at the NBA Draft. It was crazy for me to see how many players from Africa were selected. Back in the day, it used to be one or none. Nowadays it seems like every year there’s somebody from Africa coming in and making an impact on a team. That’s good. It shows how the game has grown in Africa. The talent is here.
But we still have trouble with facilities and equipment. It’s the same trouble that we had when I was growing up. That’s kind of sad because now we have kids wanting to play and ready to get involved with basketball but they don’t have the means. A lot of kids don’t even have basketballs to play with. They don’t have courts that they can go to and play. Sometimes, even if they have those two, there’s really nobody to teach them how to play.
That’s a big problem for basketball in Africa right now. It’s something that guys like myself and other players that go on and become successful in basketball have to try to address along with the federation and hopefully NBA Africa. We have to work on the infrastructure to help out the talent that is here.
It’s also one of the things I try to address at my camp. Every kid that comes to the camp, we give them plenty of gear including a basketball and shoes and then we try to teach them basic skills.
This year’s camp begins on Friday, July 22nd and I’m really excited about it. The goal of the camp, along with helping a select few kids try to get an education, is to help all of them learn the basics of the sport. A lot of kids here, they just get up and play. They don’t have coaching and it’s kind of hard for them to develop the knowledge of the things you need to play the game.
So in the morning we’ll have a drill session where we really teach them the fundamentals of basketball. We’ll do a bunch of different drills and break the group down into stations. We’ll do ball-handling, shooting, L-cut, V-cut. Just stuff like that. We put them in a one-on-one situations with the coaches so they can really learn.
In the afternoon, we come back and do some team stuff, like the five-man weave and other team drills. Then we’ll let them play for about an hour and myself and a group of coaches will sit there and watch them to evaluate the players. That’s how we select the top five.
We had a big partner who came on board this year and they’ve been doing a great job promoting the camp. I think everybody is excited. A lot of the guys saw what the camp did for last year’s top five, giving them an opportunity to travel, come to the United States and get a better education using basketball. So now, so many kids want to participate. I think it’s good that all of them are getting involved. It gives them something to look forward to and something to work toward.
Even for the kids who don’t make the top five, with those morning drills, we try to give each student a blueprint of what they can do on their own or with their friends to get better. By the end of the camp, you don’t have any more excuses. You have a basketball, you’ve been taught how to play, now make the best of it.
It’s a guideline for how to get better. If you go out everyday and you do what you were taught here at the camp, there’s no doubt that next year when you come back you should be a better player than you were the last year. Hopefully that will work out with the guys that were here last year. We’ll see this year how much better they got. The point is to just give them those drills and hopefully they can take that knowledge in and use those drills and the gear to become better players.
While I’m in Africa for the camp, I’m hoping to spend some time with my family and travel around the country a bit. I haven’t done that in a while. I want do the tourist thing for a couple of days.
I really appreciate the support everyone over here has given me and shows me whenever I come back. In the first few years after I went over the U.S., when I came back, a lot of people didn’t know about me, because they were all just big fans of soccer.
But over the last couple of years, with the success I’ve had and the growth of basketball, along with the different stuff I do here, I’m more recognized when I’m walking around. I always make sure to take time for the fans. It’s great to be back. People always show me love and support me in everything that I do.
I’m looking forward to another successful camp and a great trip home. Thanks for reading, everybody!
I hope everyone is enjoying their summer so far. I’ve been working out in Austin, Texas for the last few weeks, just trying to improve my game.
I’ve gotten better every year since I came into the league, but there are definitely things I feel I need to do to take the next step. I’ve improved my shot, which was something that was criticized when I came in. I think it’s made a lot of progress.
I’m continuing to grow my game offensively and I’ve also become a better defender. My goal is to continue to build my game. I think, if I can do that, I’ll be able to help my team and hopefully put myself into a situation to one day be Defensive Player of the Year.
I’ve been doing a lot of explosion workouts so I can get to the rim and finish better next season (Getty Images).
This offseason, I’ve been working on just trying to get my athleticism and some of my explosiveness back. I’m doing a bunch of body explosion and quickness training. I think it will help me offensively get to the basket and finish better. I’ve been focusing on that a lot. I’ve been working more on my shooting as well.
My jump shot is getting better. I have worked hard on that. I want to become a consistent three-point shooter. But I also want to develop a post game. I have a chance to go down in the post, create a mismatch and I want to be able to score down there. The explosiveness workouts are helping with that, so I can get to the rim.
In the offseason, my workout is broken down depending on the month. In July, I do a lot of body work. Then in August, I still do body work but I’ll phase in more basketball drills. I still do basketball stuff in July. I shoot the ball a lot all summer. But when August comes I’ll be working out on the court a lot more, doing drills and things of that nature.
It’s not easy to work on defense in individual workouts, but one thing I can do for my defense in the summer is watch some game footage. I like to go back to see how I guarded different guys, what I can do to limit the top scorers in the league. I look for what they did to bother me and what I did to bother them. I’ll watch a few games a week to get through the whole season.
For defense, there’s not one specific exercise that you can do in a workout. I personally have never done any exercise defensively that I can say helped me. But I think if you get your body in good shape, that helps. If you’re strong enough to hold your ground in the post, but quick enough to guard a smaller guy, you’re in good shape and you’re going to get there.
Offseason workouts are different for everybody, we’re all working on different aspects of our game, whether it’s shooting, ball-handling, rebounding, anything. But first and foremost it’s all about taking care of your body. If you always keep your body in shape and train for next season, then you’ll stay healthy. That’s the main thing you want to do.
My advice for younger athletes training would be to always go hard. Whenever you train, always try to go through game situations as much as you can. Then when it comes to the game, your transition will be smooth.
Even with the lockout, I’m still training as if the season is going to start in October. If it does start in October, I’ll be ready. If it doesn’t, I’ll just continue training some more. That’s my mentality about it.
I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and I know I need to continue to work hard to get where I want to go. It’s a long process, but this is the best thing in the world to do for a living. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
When you think about defense, it’s not always the skills. It’s willingness. You have to work at it. You have to want to do it. I’m really relentless when I get to work. I want to get better. I want to be the best. That really helps me when I go out there.
I’m in Africa now for my camp in Cameroon and some work with Basketball Without Borders. Check back soon for my blog about the camp!
This article was featured on ESPN’s TrueHoop.
6-8 Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is seen as one of the NBA’s best defenders. Virtually every night of the Bucks’ season, Mbah a Moute was asked to defend the opposing team’s star, whether that was a lightning-fast point guard or a seven-footer with unlimited range. He has been watching the playoffs, and offers this report on stopping the conference finals’ biggest stars:
LeBron is a lot like a point guard playing around with the ball and making decisions (Getty Images).
When you go in against a scorer, you have to know they’re going to get points. But what you have to try to do is making them have a tough night, make them get uncomfortable so they don’t get in a rhythm. When I go into a game, I’m trying to take them out of that comfort zone. I don’t want them to ever feel like they can take over the game at any point.
Every player is different. What might bother a guy like LeBron might not bother Derrick Rose or Kevin Durant. It depends on the player and the situation they’re in.
Here are a few tricks to handling each of them:
Strengths: Athleticism, power, versatility, handle
Preferred moves: Dribble-drive, dribble and shoot.
Best defense: Crowd him. Face guard. Don’t allow him space to dribble. Force decisions.
A common misconception about LeBron is that he’s so physical, he must be a drive-first player. Guys tend to play off of him. Players want to avoid contact and not get in a physical battle with him.
But I think being physical is the best way to defend him. When you give LeBron space and let him play around with the ball, he’s such a good ball-handler that it gives him more options. Space also allows him to get a head of steam on his drive.
So what I try to do is play physical, get in his face, don’t let him mess around with the ball. LeBron is a lot like a point guard playing around with the ball and making decisions. If you get into his face, you make him do what you want instead of having him play you. A lot of guys still back off him a little bit because they don’t want to get in that physical battle. That’s a mistake. The best way to play him is to crowd him, get in his face, make sure he doesn’t get to the basket and contest his jump shots.
You can force him to go to his left hand so he takes a jump shot instead of going right and getting all the way to the basket. You can make him pass the ball or use a screen and have help there for you. The key is to take him out of that dribbling rhythm and give him less time to figure out your defense.
Strengths: Quickness, penetration
Preferred moves: Drive to the basket
Best defense: Contest. Deny his spots. Take away the drive. Mix and match looks.
Dwyane’s ability to drive is incredible. He can get wherever he wants to go on the court. That’s what makes him special.
I try to make him take contested jump shots, because when he drives, he’s tough to guard. If he can get to the basket, it’s at least a foul on you or he’s going to get an explosive dunk, sometimes both.
What you want to do is give him a little space sometimes, but a lot of what I do with Wade is mix and match. If you play tight on him, he’ll figure it out so now you have to switch up and play off him a little bit. I try to give him a few different looks so he won’t ever get comfortable with the way I’m guarding him.
When you go into it, you have to have a game plan, but at some point in the game you have to change it up just to mess around with him. He’s a great player and he’s going to adapt.
The toughest thing about Dirk is that he’s a seven-footer who can shoot (Getty Images).
Strengths: Length, size, touch, stopping ability, confidence
Preferred move: Post-up fade-away jumper
Best defense: Play physical. Force the drive. Contest jump shots. Don’t let him get comfortable.
The toughest thing about Dirk is that he’s a seven-footer who can shoot. You rarely see that. Kevin Durant has it to some degree, but Dirk also has that post-up game and that fade-away that always seems to go in. So if you’re 6-8, or even 6-10, that’s a matchup problem.
But Dirk is a shooter, that’s what he does. That’s his game. So when you have a guy who shoots, you can contest his shots, you can body him up and you can take him out of his shots making it tough for him to get in a rhythm. I try to be physical with him at all times because most of these guys you come to find out that they don’t like contact. So you get in his face and if he can’t get his shot off the way he wants to, he’s going to be uncomfortable.
You want a player like Dirk to drive all night. You want to give him the drive and make sure the help comes or try to take a charge. Sometimes when he drives, he’s going to stop on a dime and pull up for a jump shot. But if he’s also making some contested shots, which he usually does, you live with that.
He made a buzzer-beater on me where I knew he was going to drive, spin and shoot the ball. You can see in the replay, I’m right there, I’m looking for the spin. But when he spun, he still got me. I was so mad, but he’s a seven-footer, so I tried to contest the ball.
I just remember watching the ball saying, “Please don’t go in!” and next thing you know it goes and I was so mad at myself. But when I went back and looked at it again, I couldn’t have played that play better. I played him for the spin, he did it, I was right there to contest and he just made it. You can’t get discouraged by a play like that as a defender. You just have to go back and do it again.
But if he’s making open shots or he’s on the block and you don’t body him up, he’s feeling like everything is coming easy and it’s going to be a tough night.
Strengths: Body control, ability to finish, explosiveness, athleticism
Preferred moves: Driving layup, pump fake, reverse at the rim
Best defense: Use length. Avoid the drive at all costs. Contest the jumper.
No one in the league has the ability to finish like Derrick Rose. His body control is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like that. He can be driving right, stop on a dime, jump, avoid the charge and finish on the other side of the rim in rhythm. There’s definitely no other player his size with that type of body control. He’s also gotten so much better with his jump shot that now he’s complicated to guard.
Before you could just make him shoot, but nowadays you have to respect his jump shot because he will pull up and shoot a 3 right in your face.
The thing that bothers him most is length. In Game 1, Miami did a good job of pulling LeBron onto him. If he gets a shot off, it’s going to be tough for him to see over the all that length to score a basket. If you can contest his jump shot with a guy who is 6-7 or better, it gets tough for him to get his shot off.
Letting him go to the basket is a mistake. He’s going to score no matter who is on him. But if you make him take a jump shot, over a bigger player, you have a higher chance of him missing those shots.
Me personally, I’ll play off of Rose because I know I’m long enough to contest his jump shot so I’ll give him a lot of space. He’s so quick that you can’t be tight on him, he’s going to get past you. You have to give him space and make sure you contest his jump shot. What makes him such a problem is that most of the guys that defend him aren’t big enough to contest. He can see over them and he has a better chance of making that shot.
Kevin has a really nice jump shot and he can get to the basket (Getty Images).
Strengths: Size, makes shots from anywhere on the floor.
Preferred moves: Mid-range jump shots, off-balance floaters
Best defense: Deny the ball. Keep him out of his spots. Play physical. Get in his face. Force him into the post.
You have to be very physical with Kevin. You saw a little bit with the Memphis guys, Shane Battier and Tony Allen. Whenever they tried to deny him the ball and get physical with him, it kind of took him out of the game. When you take him out of the game it usually leads to them forcing shots and trying to force feed him. When they do that, it’s a pretty good advantage for your team.
But Kevin is dangerous everywhere on the floor. The weakness of his game is that he doesn’t post up. He has a really nice jump shot and he can get to the basket. But the main thing is to have him try to take contested jump shots and be physical with him.
He wants to get to certain spots on the floor. But if you body him up, you can wear him down. At the end of the game, it shows, because he’s a guy that’s going to live by the jump shot. As a jump shooter when you really don’t feel your body and you’ve been beaten up all game, you don’t make as many jump shots.
Strengths: Speed, athleticism
Preferred move: Drive to the basket.
Best defense: Prevent penetration. Turn him into a jump shooter. Use length.
I’ve known Russell for a long time, starting in college at UCLA. His improvement has been one of the quickest of anyone around the league.
After practices in college, Russell and I went one-on-one pretty much every day. It was me, Russell and Darren Collison. That helped me because I had to guard smaller guys so I got quicker at everything I did. Even then he showed a lot of signs of what he’s doing now with his explosiveness and his athleticism to the basket.
Russell can drive as well as anyone in the league. He gets to the basket strong and is able to finish with contact. He has also developed his mid-range jumper and has a good pull-up game. So you have to make him take shots and try to contest them.
That’s where I use my length. I’ll play off him and I don’t let him get to the basket. If you let him get to the basket, he can really do damage. If you make sure he’s out on the perimeter taking contested jump shots, you can deal with the results.
I take a lot of pride in my defense. There’s no feeling like it when you can shut down a premier player on defense. You can score a lot of points, and that’s always great, but for me there’s no other feeling like making one of those guys frustrated because they can’t get into what they want to do. If they can’t score the points they usually score and they really look like they don’t know what’s going on, it’s a great feeling — especially if you get the win.
But at the same time, those guys are the best players in the world. They’re going to make shots. As long as they’re not getting anything easy, then I’m comfortable with that because then at the end of the game, they’re going to wear down. I want them to be worn down when it comes to crunch time and we’re fighting for the last couple of possessions.
I have a hard time, as I’m sure every Cameroonian does, digesting the elimination from the World Cup in the first round again.
In fact, ever since that great run in 1990, we have not gone past the first round at the World Cup. This time, we fell at the hands of Denmark.
All of Cameroon felt like Samuel Eto’o (Reuters).
The game started with Cameroon playing great, so much so that at the 10th minute, Samuel Eto’o scored our first (and only) goal of the Cup. The stadium went crazy! People were jumping everywhere. It was so bad that I found myself two rows from my seat, hugging people that I didn’t know.
Later, when everyone sat down, tears started streaming from my eyes. Not because I was happy, but because I realized that I got elbowed in the eye during the celebration. Man, it was hurting!
That was one of the most exciting moments of my trip.
It was also the high point. Denmark ended up winning, 2-1. Afterward, there were groups of people all around the stadium talking about the game and the team.
It appears to be a lot of internal issues on the team. I came back, called my travel agent, and went straight to bed.
Yes, Cameroon being out of the World Cup ended my vacation. I will not be going to Capetown for the last game. I’m going to go back home for a few days, then back to the U.S., get in the lab, and get ready for a big season next year.
Another great day in Johannesburg!
I was supposed to go visit the Apartheid Museum, but we ended going to the Argentina vs Korea game. It ended up being one of the most exciting games of the Cup so far, with a 4-1 final score.
Argentina’s people were the most exciting fans that I’ve seen so far, along with the South Africans. The whole stadium was covered with banners from Argentinian home clubs to pictures of Maradona and Che Guevara. The game was dominated by Messi and his boys from start to finish, and Argentina is now going to move to the next round.
Luc with Argentina’s finest.
The other story out here was the upset of France by Mexico, which adds to the high number of upsets that have been hapening so far in the tournament. Otherwise, it’s been quiet. It’s still really cold out here, so people tend to stay inside more than they normally would at a World Cup. Tomorrow, I’m going to the USA game vs Slovenia.
A panoramic view of Argentina’s fans
It is about 12:30 am Tuesday here in South Africa, and I just got back to the hotel from a long day in Bloemfontein.
It takes about four hours to get from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein, so we left early — around seven in the morning — because we wanted to beat the traffic leaving. We also didn’t want to miss the pre-game celebrations.
This is what it means to support Cameroon.
Sure enough, the « Pays » — as we call a group of Cameroonian outside the country — showed up. The Green Red and Yellow was everywhere, from traditional outfits to different homemade costumes. The Lions were represented everywhere. What was surprising for me was the support we got from South Africans. From adults to high school kids, they all came to the stadium wearing Cameroonian colors. I thought that was awesome!
TOUGH START FOR THE LIONS
The game itself was terrible. We did not play well at all. Cameroon only had one shot at the goal the whole first half, which explains why were down 1-0 after the first 45 minutes. The second half started with about the same pace the first half did. It wasn’t until the 80th minute of the game that we saw more action from the Lions, trying to tie it up, but by then, it was too late.
We ended up losing, 1-0. It was a very disappointing loss for us, knowing that this was a game that we should have won, especially given that we are playing better teams in Denmark and the Netherlands, respectively.
Talking to other people from Cameroon outside the stadium on my way home, everyone was disappointed. And like good Cameroonians, they all had something to say or argue about why we lost the game. They say there are 20 million coaches in Cameroon because each and every person has an opinion, strategy, lineup, or something to say about the national team. LOL…
For once, though, nearly everyone agreed, saying that the coaching decisions — especially the lineup — were the reason we lost the game. Looking at what happened, it is hard to disagree. Coach Paul Le Guen decided to sit Alexandre Song, the midfielder who plays for Arsenal. He started Samuel Eto’o on the right wing instead of center striker, which is his normal position. And he started three very young players, all who were playing their first World Cup, leaving players like Achile Emana and Geremi on the bench.
All these changes in the lineup, along with the loss, put a lot of doubts in Cameroonian heads as they wait for the most important game of the tournament — against Denmark on the 19th.
As for me, I’m just soaking it all in like a sponge. Tomorrow, I’ll be hanging out at the Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, where the ESPN studios are located. ‘Til then, goodnight everyone from Johannesburg!
I always dreamed about going to the World Cup, and what an experience it would be. And I can’t think of a better way to do it than go to the first ever World Cup held in Africa. So I’m here in South Africa, ready to go and blog about it, and live the dream for the first time.
Roger Milla, hero of Cameroon’s 1990 World Cup campaign.
You need to understand: Soccer is like a religion here in Africa. Almost everybody plays, no matter if they live in the urban cities or rural villages. Cameroon, my country, has always been one of the best soccer teams in Africa, participating in multiple World Cups (1982, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002).
The best memory of the team, which is nicknamed the Indomitable Lions, is when they reached the quarterfinals in 1990. That was the first time an African team went that far in the competition, and my first experience with the World Cup. Me and my brothers were too young to go, but I remember watching TV, trying to see my dad, who went. I also remember looking at the pictures later when I was older, and it just seemed like a wonderful experience.
For me, this is the experience of a lifetime, and for the weeks I am in South Africa, you guys will be able to live it through my eyes. I look forward to the different activities before and after games, all the different dances and songs from the countries and cultures represented. The crazy fans like the English hooligans, the Brazilians dancing the samba outside the stadiums. Also looking forward to visiting the prison where Nelson Mandela was held and — who knows — maybe meeting him, which is probably going to be impossible.
But as they say in my country, « Impossible is not Cameroonian! »
The playoffs start Saturday and everyone here in Milwaukee is ready. It’s a great feeling. There are a lot of players who go through their whole careers without even getting to this level. For me to be able to enter the playoffs in my second year is definitely something I’m happy about. Hopefully it works out well for us. If we play hard, we’ll have a lot of success.
I’ve played postseason basketball before and for three seasons at UCLA we went to the Final Four, but obviously it’s a lot different here in the NBA. It’s a different situation because in the NCAA Tournament, its pretty much win or go home. You lose a game and you’re done. Here in the pros, you’ve got a whole seven game series so a lot of things can happen to cause momentum changes, injuries and different things throughout the whole series.
But something that’s key, the mindset that you have to have from beginning, it that you have to be ready at all times for the whole series. Having postseason experience is good, because I’ve been in a situation where it’s the end of the season and we’re playing for something big.
Luc has been bringing it at both ends of the floor (Getty Images).
You want to be in that situation. That means you had a successful season up until that point. So, having that mentality, knowing that you have to go hard pretty much every day because every game could be your last, is definitely going to help me during the playoffs.
We get matched up with Atlanta and we’ve already had some good battles with them this year. They are a team that does a lot of different things. They switch a lot defensively and give you us a lot of different sets to look at.
The ability to compete is going to be big for us. Every time we’ve played them, we’ve always come out and competed. That was good, but we need to step it up even higher in the playoffs. I’ll have a particularly tough matchup that I’ll have to step up for.
Joe Johnson is very tough to guard, obviously. He’s one of the best in the league. Sometimes I think he’s underrated. He’s a special player and he’s just got so much talent. The best way to guard him is to just give him different looks. You can’t feed him the same diet. You have to be physical with him sometimes. You have to be quick. You have to change personnel and give him a bunch of different looks, try to make it tough for him.
When you’re in college, you just watch games and you don’t really understand how good guys are or what it takes to defend certain guys. So I didn’t understand much about him until my rookie year, I got get a little bit of a feel for Joe. But he’s a tough player. It’s a real tough matchup and hopefully our team will come up with a good scheme to go against him. Hopefully we’ll be successful in that.
The veteran guys on this team, Jerry Stackhouse and John Salmons have tried to prepare us for what we’re about to experience. It’s going to be much more intense and it’s going to be crazy.
But I don’t think anybody can tell you how it is. You just have to experience it yourself. I’m excited about that, just having the opportunity to go out there and experience it myself. They can try to tell you everything about it, but you don’t really know until you experience it yourself. They’re just trying to get everybody to stay focused and ready, stay engaged and be prepared for the whole series.
A FAMILY OF FANS
We have a really really good fan base here in Milwaukee. The people are very supportive of our team and some of our players, especially me. I feel like I have a good support group here, the fans have embraced me. I’m really happy for that.
Recently, I’ve been able to meet fans through Twitter giveaways and given out t-shirts like my Moute Kicks Boute T-Shirt. I did a ticket giveaway recently on Twitter and the response blew me away. It was surprising really, because I didn’t give any notice. I just did it one night. It was amazing how fast those people answered the questions, how well they knew me and knew all the answers to the questions I was asking. I think I might do another one during the playoffs.
It’s been a lot of fun and it’s a great way to interact with the fans and develop that relationship. Having that type of relationship with these people is important to me. You obviously want your fans to be behind you at all times. Developing a good relationship with them is the first step. Once you have that relationship with them, they get to know you better. They know sometimes you’ll have a bad game and they understand.
It’s kind of like your relationship with anybody in your family. Some days you’re going to be great and some days you’re going to be bad, but as long as you have a good relationship with those people and you understand that you’re on the same page, going in the same direction, it’s a good thing.
Luc will play a key role defensively when it comes to stopping the Hawks (Getty Images).
The people in Milwaukee are very characteristic of people from the Midwest. People from the Midwest are very nice people. They’re very warm and welcoming. They care about other people. You see the fans out there and they care a lot about how we’re doing they are here through good and bad.
The fans in Milwaukee, they’ve always been there, despite the bad years they’ve had. They have always been there. Once you have success, it’s also good for them. It shows in how important they’ve been to our run and the success we’ve had this year. I think we won like 28 games at home this year and it’s all because of those fans. They’ve been great.
They support us through the game from the beginning. They have stuff like Squad 6, which is Andrew Bogut’s section, and it’s pretty much like a student section in college. They’re up cheering the whole game.
It’s really amazing to see all those fans coming to the game with their different signs, the Fear the Deer movement and my Moute Kicks Boute shirts. Those people have embraced us and keep cheering us on,
supporting us throughout this whole season.
Bringing playoff basketball back to these people is huge for us. This city hasn’t been to the playoffs in a while and just brining back that atmosphere to the city, it will be great. I think it’s going to be good for the fans and for everybody involved.
Everybody is happy and everybody is excited. They can’t wait for the playoffs so hopefully when it comes, we can get everybody at the game and we get it crackin’.
AN EVEN GREATER CHALLENGE
We lost a big part of our team when we lost Andrew to that elbow injury.
It’s always tough when you have a player like Andrew go down. You really can’t replace him. The guy has been big, arguably the most improved player in the league. The way he’s been dominant defensively for us and on offense he’s given us that big presence inside too. It’s tough to lose that.
But it happens. It just means somebody else, and in this case everybody else, needs to step up. Everybody here has to do a little more. That doesn’t mean one person has to score 15 points and get 11 rebounds like Andrew does. It just means we each have to do a little bit more of what we do and be more focused.
For me, it’s about doing pretty much the same thing. Just grab an extra rebound or grab an extra loose ball defensively to get us an extra possession. We have to be solid and sound as a team, be there to have everybody’s back, be more aggressive on offense and do everything we can to help the team win.
Offensively, I think things are coming around for me personally. Sometimes it’s tough being out there in different situations with different lineups. It’s sometimes hard to get yourself going, but for the most part, it’s been going well. I’m out there making plays and helping the team. I find myself facilitating most of the time, but I take my chances when they present themselves. I just have to continue to work and get better.
I think we have a chance here. We need to just come out and play hard. If we fight hard, play good defense and we lay it all out on the table, we’ll see where it goes. If we can do that, I like our chances. But we have to do it. We have to come out every game, play hard and lay it all out on the table.
We’ve been on this great run lately and it’s just a product of a group of guys learning to play together. We’re coming together as a team, finding ways to win. Having guys like John Salmons and Jerry Stackhouse in the lineup has also been good for us.
Stack is a veteran and it’s great having him on the team because he knows how to win. He understands the game so well and he only helps all the other guys around him. He’s teaching us the way to go in every game. He’s also been shooting the ball pretty well and he’s a guy we can send down into the post to get a basket for us. It’s always good to have a veteran like him on the team. He’s been good for our team.
« [Coach Skiles] has a great attitude as a tough, hard-nosed guy. » (Getty Images)
A big reason that we’re winning has been the team coming together and gelling. Everybody is developing a solid chemistry and we’re going to need that to continue winning and go far.
Brandon Jennings has been a big part of that. From the start of this season he has been playing really well. Even when he’s not shooting well, he’s always running the team, making plays. I think he’s been tremendous and the future is bright for him. We need him to continue to play at that level for us to be good.
I’ve been understanding the offense better as the season goes on. I know now where my shots are going to come from. I’ve also been being more aggressive, trying to make plays for the team. My teammates are finding me in the flow of the game. Running the floor, the guys usually do a good job of finding me when I’m open.
Everybody has figured out what they need to do in order for us to be good. Whether it’s defending, or running the team as Brandon does, getting back and getting rebounds like Andrew Bogut and John Salmons usually do. Everybody is finding their role within our system and that’s been good for us.
Coach Skiles has certainly been the glue to that. This summer he told us we were going to have a good year this year. He said we were going to be under the radar. You just have to keep working hard and trust him because he knows what he’s doing. He has a great attitude as a tough, hard-nosed guy. He’s created that same attitude within our team and that’s been good for us, helping us to the success we’ve had so far.
All the work has paid off and I appreciate all that he does. Coach makes practices hard. Right now, we don’t really go as hard because it is March and he knows it’s not the time to be banging bodies or anything like that. But practice is always very focused, very business-like. We come in, do what we’re supposed to do, go hard and then go home.
That focus has prepared us for what we’re facing as we try to get into the playoffs right now. It’s been good. What you go through in a tough practice, guys going hard at each other, it definitely prepares you for the way it will be on the floor later in the season. Practice is the foundation of what we do. Some people say you play like you practice. So if we practice hard and practice well then you should play well.
A lot of people say that I’m becoming one of the best defenders in the league and defense has always been important to me.
I take a lot of pride in my defense. That’s what I do best and that’s what the team needs to do in order for us to be good. Every time I’m out there, I try to do my best to try and defend at a high level. Coach has put a lot of trust in me, guarding some of the best players in the league every time I go out there.
Taking a loose ball from Elton Brand (Getty Images).
But defending is something you can’t do by yourself. My teammates have been doing a good job of helping me. Every time I’m beat or I’m a step slow, they’re right there to pick me up, so that has been helpful.
I had to defend Kevin Garnett the other night and he is one player that makes defense difficult. Those types of players, you can’t really stop them. You just have to contain them as much as possible and try to make it tough for them. But I don’t think you can stop a player like Garnett when he’s on.
But again, it becomes a whole team concept. I’m smaller than him so he can overpower me. But when my teammates are there to come down and help, it makes it much easier.
One of the tougher players to defend that doesn’t get enough credit for it is Brandon Roy. I keep saying it, but that guy is one of the toughest guys to guard. He plays very well within their system and he’s very good at doing what he needs to in order to score the basketball. He does it in a variety of different ways. When he’s on, man he’s tough to guard.
But I’ll always try to stop him from scoring. You just have to try and do whatever you can, give him different looks, make it tough on him. It gets physical and I use my length, anything to make it tough. Usually it works.
There’s definitely a mental aspect to guarding scorers like that too. When you go against those guys you have to be mentally ready. It’s important to be mentally tough because they’re going to make tough shots and you can’t get down on yourself. They’re going to score. Those guys, that’s what they do best. You have to just keep at it and try to make it tough for the whole night. Hopefully your teammates can do a good job of helping you and you pick up the win.
STILL CRAZIE, KICKING BOUTE
Everyone needs to check out my spreadshirt store and pick up one of my « Moute Kicks Boute » or « Cameroon Crazies » shirts.
I want Bucks fans to get into the spirit just the way my fans did at UCLA. It’s something that I enjoyed when I was in college, a lot. In college, I didn’t have my family with me, so those Cameroon Crazies, those fans, were like my family in a way.
I don’t know who started it, but it just established itself. I just came in and looked at the stands one day and they were there with the Cameroon flag and jerseys. It was just a group of students who really liked me and my teammate Alfred Aboya. They wanted to show their love and appreciation.
They were always there in the stands cheering for me, waving the flag, writing my name on their bodies and all that crazy stuff they used to do. Obviously you can’t help but be appreciative of what they did and I still am to this day. That’s why I wanted to bring that culture to the Bucks.
It is a different culture because in college guys are really into it a little more. You can have people from all over the world coming to one college. In the pros it’s just about that city. But it’s the same concept you have guys cheering for your team and supporting the players that they love. It’s much the same thing in a way.
Hopefully some of you fans like the shirts enough to pick one up and show your support. I’m sure you will.
It’s been a tough season for my UCLA Bruins, but they’re rebuilding. They’ve had a tough year, losing a lot of guys to the NBA. It might take them a couple years to rebuild, but hopefully they’ll be back.
I still keep in touch with some of my UCLA teammates and when we see each other it’s always good. We talk about everybody’s season, UCLA and we reminisce on the good times we had playing there. That’s something I love, seeing someone I played with on the other side. I keep up with them and watch some of their games to see how they’re doing.
I also like getting to know some of my fellow international players in the league.
Made famous at UCLA, « Moute Kicks Boute » shirts — and a whole bunch of others — have made their way to Milwaukee.
We have a lot of international players on our team as it is and I’ve gotten to know some of the international players on the other teams. Every time we play each other we say hello and check up on each other to see how each other is adjusting and everything like that. We watch out for each other.
Last week I had a once in a lifetime experience. We were in Washington D.C. to play the Wizards on Friday and earlier that day I was invited to the Cameroonian embassy in Washington to meet the ambassador.
It was very cool. Very few people get that privilege to meet the ambassador like I did. To be at the embassy and recognized as an ambassador of Cameroon in the United States, I was really appreciative of that. I hope to continue to work with the embassy. I want other international athletes, especially athletes from Cameroon and Africa to go back to their embassies to try and develop that relationship. It’s important to work with them and help each other out.
The growth of basketball in Cameroon and Africa has always been important to me.
Whenever I go home, people definitely recognize me. I would hope it keeps growing. I’m very concerned about basketball growing in Africa and it has been growing actually. You look at all the stuff that the NBA is doing over there with Basketball Without Borders and all the stuff the stuff that FIBA is doing.
Basketball is going to continue to grow as long as guys like me, Luol Deng and all the African players in the NBA keep going back and doing things, along with the NBA and FIBA.
It means a lot to me that I can use the platform that I’ve been given to make a difference in Africa. That’s what, to me, it’s all about, impacting other people with what we do. Every time you step out on the court or go out in the community, you feel like you’ve impacted other people and for me especially, impacted the people back home. It’s always a plus. The more that we can impact those peoples lives, the better the world is going to be, that’s the way I look at it.
With that in mind, I’m going to be going back to Cameroon this summer and I’m running a camp for some of the players there. There are very few basketball camps happening back in Africa, especially in Cameroon, so my camp will be there this summer from June 4th to 6th.
I’m going to be bringing in the top 50 players from the country and we’re going to put them through a three-day camp. The top 5 students out of the camp are going to go to Basketball Without Borders and we’re going to try and get them scholarships to come to the United States and kind of do the same thing I did, go to school and get an education.
After being here for so long, with college and now being in the NBA, I feel like it’s only right to have a camp and help basketball grow in Cameroon.
WORLD CUP WATCH
Even though basketball is growing in my home country, it’s still well behind soccer.
Soccer is like a religion in Cameroon. I grew up playing soccer and everybody plays there. You can’t help but become a soccer fan. I didn’t start playing basketball until I was 15.
I’m still a huge soccer fan and I’m going to the World Cup this summer with the Cameroonian national team. I’m always involved and I’m always talking about the UEFA Champions league and other soccer events on my Twitter. I’m a big soccer fan.
I really wanted to go to the World Cup because I think its going to be a wonderful experience, the first time ever they have the World Cup in Africa. It’s going to be something special and I wouldn’t want to miss it.
I also play some FIFA Soccer on the PS3. I’m pretty good. I usually play leagues with my friends from overseas or here in the United States. We just play when I’m free and it’s a good time. One of these days I might give you guys my gamer tag on my Twitter so follow me @mbahamoute!