Checking In with J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker
|12.05.08 at 12:09 am ET|
Last month Boston Celtics rookies J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker were assigned to the NBA Development League affiliate Utah Flash. Minutes are hard to come by with the defending world champions and the pair was headed down a road of DNPs. In just a few weeks, though, Giddens and Walker have gone from benchwarmers in Beantown to standouts in Provo. They caught up with WEEI.com in a telephone interview to explain why the grass is still pretty green in Utah.
Some players would rather forgo playing time to stay in the NBA, but you seemed to embrace the D-League. What was your reaction when you found out you were assigned to the Utah Flash?
JG: Well I was excited because I had an idea that I was going down there. My brother and some of my closest people talked about it, how it was going to be a good opportunity to go down there and get into game shape and just gain confidence and become better every day. So whenever I do get the chance from the Celtics to play, then I’ll be in the best shape possible and I’ll be able to take a good swing at it.
BW: I was excited to have a chance to be able to play again, so I was excited about going. J.R. was already down there and I just welcomed it.
After flying from a major city like Boston to Provo, what was your first impression of Utah?
BW: I just looked at the mountains and I was like, ‘Oh I’m not in Boston any more.’ I had fell asleep on the plane so that was the first thing I’d seen.
JG: I played in the Mountain West Conference so I had traveled out to this part of Utah before. I was just trying to soak up the culture. I was just trying to get a feel for it and just soak up the atmosphere out here and just enjoy the experience out here in Utah.
J.R. was assigned to the Flash a week before Bill. How excited were you to be playing together again?
JG: Well Bill’s my partner in crime so it’s like I was excited to have him down here. Just having somebody that you’re familiar with and you’re friends with playing with you makes it a lot easier … He’s made this transition a lot easier for me and I hope that I’ve done the same for him.
BW: It was fun. He told me all the things the team has been up to and helped me with the plays and everything. So he helped me out with that …You always want to go into something like this with somebody you know because it’s a totally different experience if you’re by yourself.
Bill, you mentioned before that you enjoyed rooming with Michael Beasley at Kansas State last season. Now you’re sharing an apartment with J.R. in Utah. How is having a new roommate?
BW: I wouldn’t say I miss living with Mike (laughs). He was just real funny though. Him and J.R. are kind of similar in the effect that they’re very funny guys.
Aside from keeping in touch with your teammates, what kind of feedback have you received from (Celtics President) Danny Ainge or (head coach) Doc Rivers?
JG: They just give me words of encouragement … It means a lot because obviously Doc Rivers, that’s my coach, so he’s pretty high on my priority list. So I’m just happy that he’s thinking of me and knows that I’m down here working to help the Celtics out.
You were part of two Opening Nights this season – one with the Celtics in October and another with the Flash in late November. How did the two compare?
BW: The Garden is definitely a different experience from anything I’ve ever seen, so I don’t think anything is going to be able to top that.
JG: One opening night was a ring ceremony and the other opening night was just kind of introducing the basketball season. There was a lot more tradition in opening night with the Celtics, but the Flash had a great turnout and the fans supported us and you couldn’t ask for a better turnout.
It took no time for you to become the leading scorers on the Flash. What kind of improvements have you seen in your game already?
JG: I’m just trying to be efficient and attacking the basket and finding teammates who are open and using my size to rebound and doing just more of whatever I can, whether it’s enhance or defense or make somebody better by running the court. Just doing whatever I can to help the team win.
BW: Just trying to cut down on my turnovers right now, pass out of double teams, so that’s the only difference. Just learning how to play in a 48 minute game, learning how to play hard but still pace yourself where you have enough to finish the game out.
You went from playing major minutes in college to hardly any in the NBA. What are the challenges in transitioning back to 35, 40, 45 minutes a night?
BW: You get a time where you’re on a break and you’re body is getting beat up that much because you’re not getting any minutes and then all of a sudden you’re thrown in there. It doesn’t matter how much cardio you do. Until you play in the games, that’s the only way you can really, really get into top shape.
JG: When you go from not playing to playing, I’d say the transition’s more fun than hard. It’s obviously difficult because you’re not in game shape and you’re trying to catch your rhythm, which you could be frustrated with your game or conditioning at times. But that’s just part of the game and you’ve got to stay patient. I’m just really excited to come back out on the court because, like I said, I’d rather play than not play.
Out of the two of you J.R. was the long-range player, but so far it seems like role reversal. Bill, a power player on the Cs, has actually taken more shots from behind the arc. What sparked your recent 5-for-9 performance?
BW: I’ve just had more opportunities to shoot the ball down here. With the Celtics you really just play off of the other guys, you’re really not a creator. That’s probably the biggest difference, just the mentality change.
J.R., you used to compete in three-point shooting contests with Ray Allen after Celtics practice. So far you’ve shot 2-for-7 from long range. How does your three-point shot feel?
JG: I wouldn’t say I’m struggling. We’ve only played three games and I’ve taken about six shots, probably less than ten. Now if I had shot like 100 and didn’t make that many then I’d say I’m struggling, but no, the three-pointer feels good. It just hasn’t been sinking but I feel confident and I know I’ll hit a high percentage.
After being away from the team, what do you miss the most about playing with the Boston Celtics?
BW: A lot. Probably being around the guys every day. Just watching KG and those guys play every day because it seems like one of them does something good every game. (Rajon) Rondo just had a triple-double so I missed out on stuff like that.
JG: Just learning everything from being around those guys, seeing how they are every day, and just being in the NBA. It’s been my dream and every experience, good and bad, you’ve just got to take it and just love it.
When you get called back up to the Celtics, which versions of Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens can we expect?
JG: I know I’ll be a lot more confident and feel more fluid with my movements on the court and I’ll feel like I’m in better shape. Being an athlete I feel like being in games in crucial because you use a certain amount of energy when you’re playing. When you’re not in game shape you’re not as quick and you’re not as on point as you normally would be.
BW: Probably a more confident Bill Walker. Just having some game experience on this level and knowing what I can do and what I can’t do, so I’m learning the ropes.
Through the first three games of the D-League season, Giddens is averaging a team-high 23.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and shooting 54% FG. Walker is posting 22 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and is shooting 46% FG. To keep up with their progress, visit www.utahflash.com.