The Japan Times has published periodic interviews with bj-league players since the fall of 2006. This is the first One-on-One interview featuring a former bj-league player now in the NBA.
In a recent phone interview, Golden State Warriors big man Jeremy Tyler spoke about his first NBA season. Tyler is spending most of his offseason in the San Francisco Bay Area getting ready for the 2012-13 season.
Ht: 208 cm;
Wt: 118 kg
Hometown: San Diego
Pre-NBA pro career: He played 10 games for Maccabi Haifa (2.1 points, 1.9 rebounds and 7.6 minutes) in the 2009-10 season; still a teenager, he played 34 games for the Tokyo Apache in 2010-11 (9.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 15.4 minutes).
Noteworthy: Tyler was drafted 39th overall by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2011 NBA Draft and immediately sold for $2 million to the Warriors. . . .
He averaged 4.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 13.5 minutes in 42 games (23 starts). Down the stretch, the Warriors gave major minutes to young players as the injury-plagued team was out of the playoff picture. Tyler had a season-high 16 points with nine rebounds in 44 minutes in the season finale and had a 13-point, eight-rebound effort in the previous game.
Summarizing your rookie season in the NBA, was it better than you expected? About what you expected? Or were you uncertain of what to expect?
I was definitely uncertain, (because) I felt I was going to a whole other league. Overall, the outcome was kind of what I expected. I really learned a lot and about how the NBA works, and that was one of my main (areas of) focus.
Can you describe this process?
(As a rookie), being a student of the game and trying to prosper and be competitive and try to do the best I can. Just learning from veteran guys and coaches and getting my mental approach right, it was really a big transition to my game. I learned to deal with situations while learning all the plays.
In the offseason, what is your typical schedule?
We had a few days off, but we are back in the gym, working year-round, watching the playoffs and still watching old film, coming in and going through some sets, just basically training hard, getting our bodies right, learning the fundamentals of defense and just preparing for next year.
We set our own schedules, have the (team) facility to work out in. We all try to get in at the same time every day . . . be each other’s motivation for each other. Lots of good weeks, lot of great weeks of training and I think we are coming along.
What do you consider the most important things you can work on to prepare for your second season with the Warriors?
Personally, there’s lots of different aspects to work on: my jumper and post moves and becoming more physical.
This year, I learned how to be physical in the NBA game; it’s a lot more physical than anything I’ve ever seen, and it’s one of the things to really put on my list and pinpoint.
Also, learning defensive rotations and playing the best defense I can, (including) becoming a better shot blocker and the timing and the reaction.
As a rookie, did you have to stop and blink sometimes to realize this wasn’t just a dream?
To see all the people there and see my jersey and see the words “Golden State” on it, it was definitely a blessing to see that. And it is something I looking forward to for a long time, I’m blessed and thankful for this opportunity. . . . Now I’ve got to go and do what I can to be the best (player) while I’m here.
Which players provided the biggest challenges for you throughout the season?
I had a tough time with Utah’s Al Jefferson, pretty hard to defend. . . . (Lakers center) Andrew Bynum was someone we played against in our conference; he’s a pretty tough matchup. But I think, all in all, (the Lakers’) Pau Gasol was probably the toughest I’ve played against all year.
What made Gasol so tough?
He’s very dominant in the post and very dominant throughout the court. He’s an excellent passer, and very skilled with his left hand and his right hand and all the moves. He’s someone I’ve been watching this offseason and I can learn from him.
How do you study Gasol’s moves?
I am usually breaking down footage at the team facility, breaking down everything I’m seeing.
Looking back at your 2010-11 season with the Tokyo Apache, what were the biggest things you’ve come to appreciate from those demanding months spent under coach Bob Hill’s watchful eye?
There’s a lot of stuff that Bob has taught me. (For example), what to prepare for, once I got here, and everything that he was telling me I was going to see, I’ve seen. And I really appreciate him for doing that.
My being in Tokyo, I don’t think there’s any place in the world that would’ve prepared me for that than Tokyo . . . That whole environment was so good for my (maturation) in basketball.
I just think that Bob Hill definitely taught me the essence of life is teamwork and with teamwork you can climb the mountains in whatever you do in life and have a positive surrounding for you as a backbone,.
How are Bob Hill and Warriors coach Mark Jackson, the longtime NBA point guard, similar and different as bench bosses?
Definitely, there’s some similarities because they are both coaches and they have both been around the game for so long and they understand the cycle. I think that Bob is very much experienced at being a head coach and Mark Jackson was just in his first year, but they both want to win and they both do it from the heart.
Bob trained me in the offseason and he didn’t get paid or anything. He just wanted to see me get better.
“Why did you train me before the draft?” I asked. And he said, “The biggest satisfaction for me is to see your name get called and the smile on your face.”
Me and Coach Jackson and my family all went out on Easter Sunday for lunch before we had to take a flight. And I just feel the same fatherly (respect) for Coach Jackson that I do for Bob Hill.
Are they both equally demanding?
They definitely give me tough love. I think they thought the best way to handle a player like me is tough love. They showed they cared.
I think that Mark Jackson pushed me hard this year and the times he gave me an opportunity (to play) was because he thought I deserved it. He said “When opportunity comes, go get it.” I said, “Yes, sir.”
Do you think you earned the extended playing time at the end of the season?
Yeah, I feel I put the hard work in.
We didn’t accomplish our goal for the playoffs so this upcoming season we’ve got to work hard.
Was your short stint in the NBA Development League (five games with the Dakota Wizards before being recalled on March 6 to Golden State) beneficial?
Yes. It got me back into my flow. It was something I needed. I was not really playing that much . . . and going down there and getting playing time and building my game back up definitely helped.
Do you remain in close contact with former Apache teammates and team personnel?
(We communicate via) Facebook, Twitter and emails with former Apache people, birthday shoutouts, etc. We created a relationship with people, that was a big part of being over there and making friendships with people from different backgrounds and you never lose sight of things.
I’ll probably always be in touch with all those guys from Israel and Tokyo.
What’s it like knowing you are financially secure now — $650,000 salary as a rookie, $762,195 next season — and that you can enjoy some of life’s finest luxuries while being employed in the world’s top basketball league?
You work hard every day — in the gym five hours a day — that this is something you are working for, something to make you feel that you are going to accomplish something so that you can take care of people you love.
To play a sport you grow up loving is definitely a blessing, and a lot of people don’t get that. There’s only 460 players each year in the NBA (and) 60 new players each year (in the draft).
It’s a short opportunity to live a dream . . . and it’s going to be an exciting career is the way I look at it.
Has anything that Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant accomplished so far in his career surprised you?
It’s not a shock that he’s as good as he is. He’s always been pretty good, and I’m excited to see how good he can be.
As far as his team, he has a lot of good pieces to the puzzle. The Thunder just have a chemistry and a team that works and they all play hard together. They enjoy playing with each other, like (Michael) Jordan had with the Bulls; they made Jordan who he is, they all clicked, they all won together.
Do you view versatility as an asset in trying to have a long career?
Playing against bigger centers and more skilled four men (power forwards) is definitely a way to help me learn to play both. If you can guard a four and you can guard a five, that’s something I’m going to use to my advantage.
Can you briefly summarize what it was like to be a rookie this season?
It was definitely an amazing adventure, traveling to all these places and all these arenas you grow up watching. An amazing journey.