John Calipari held a lengthy teleconference today to discuss Thursday night’s draft with some of his favorite people in the media. He hit several NBA-related topics — no other questions allowed — and I’ve narrowed it down to 10 interesting statements from the entire 40-minute chat:
1 | The NBA likes the Kentucky kids’ winning attitude.
“One of the GMs said to me, ‘The great thing is your kids, they come with that attitude that they want to win and they’re willing to be a great teammate to win.’ And that’s what I’m hoping is that last gift they get from us before they walk in that league, that they have an idea about winning and playing to win. So, I’m proud of the guys that are gonna go this year and I’m proud of the guys that have performed in the league to this point.”
2 | He doesn’t believe Tyler Ulis’ “hip issue.”
“Did he look like he had a hip injury? So there maybe something structurally that they’re seeing, that they’re looking at that I don’t know about, but I just can’t believe it. I think that he did hurt his knee in one of the workouts. I don’t think the hip issue — the kid played every game and played 38 minutes a game, was a defensive player, was the energy of our team, and he went all year with it. When he had to take over a game — so if the hip, there is a question, it would be, ‘Wow.’ Now, if they want to know about hips, I had both of my hips replaced. They may be talking about me. They’re watching me walk and think it was him.”
3 | Jamal Murray used his office to meditate before games.
“I walked into the locker room — we have a video room that we meet prior to the game, and the light’s out. I turn the light on and there he is. This is early in the year. He’s meditating. I say, ‘What are you doing?’ He says, ‘I’m meditating.’ I said, ‘Well go use my office so I can get the board up.’ So that became his routine. He would go into my office, turn the light out. I’d give him his time, I’d put up the board as I prepared for the game, and then I would either knock on the door or he would come out and say, ‘I’m done.'”
4 | Murray wanted to shoot left-handed in a game.
“He’s ambidextrous, which maybe they don’t know, but he is. He can shoot both hands. I’d come into practice and he’d be shooting threes with his left hand. And I’m like, ‘What’re you doing?’ And he’s saying, ‘Watch.’ And he’d make like three. He said, ‘I’m gonna shoot this in a game.’ I said, ‘You’re not shooting a lefty.'”
5 | He believes Murray will lead all NBA rookies in scoring.
“I believe that Jamal Murray will be the leading-scoring rookie in the NBA. That’s what I believe.”
6 | Teams are interested in drafting Alex Poythress.
“I am so proud of Alex right now. These teams are calling me back like, saying, he’s gotten healthy, he has leg strength on both sides, which some of that falls on us where he was probably injured more than we thought throughout this year. But shooting and all that. All of a sudden, he becomes that solid second round — maybe he slips late first.”
7 | He takes the blame for Labissiere’s slow start last season.
“They’re working him out now and they’re looking at Skal saying, ‘He’s 7-foot tall. This kid is a good athlete. He can shoot.’ It’s huge in the NBA that you can make shots now. He can make perimeter shots. They are even calling me saying, ‘You know what? He’s more physical around the basket than we even thought he was.’ Now, you may say he didn’t show a lot of that in the year. A lot of that’s on me. I was trying to use the blueprint of Karl Towns and Anthony Davis. Guess what? That lesson plan didn’t fit him. It took me three months to figure out exactly what he was.”
8 | He would love to see Ulis to the Spurs at No. 29.
“If he could ever play with the Spurs and that organization, I would do a backflip on draft day. And the reason is, you’re around true professionals who are teammates that understand what do we all have to do to win and how does winning supersede everything else. It’s amazing what gets done when no one cares who gets the credit. That saying has the Spurs logo beside it.”
“I would probably say ‘Tyler, to go later in the draft would be better and show up in San Antonio,’ and he’d probably say, ‘Coach, I wouldn’t want to risk it. I probably think I’d want to go earlier.’ But I think he’d be ecstatic there and he’d be a great fit.”
9 | Jamal Murray is interested in Minnesota.
“Jamal, now I’m saying this to you and no one else — Jamal loves Minnesota. Matter of fact, that’s where he’d like to go. And again, when someone asked me earlier, ‘Are you more concerned with where they’re picked,’ well, I’ll be honest — selfishly, I like these kids when they’re the No. 1 pick, because the No. 1 pick should end up coming here. We’ve had four. There’s only been the No. 1 pick and No. 2 pick in the same draft one time with Michael Kidd and Anthony, in any sports league. So yeah, but these kids are also smart. And he looked at that situation and said, ‘They need me and I’d love to be there.’ He’s met Karl and been around Karl and knows what a great kid he is. But I’m not saying that’s — so Thibs has gotta take him, but I know that’s what Jamal likes, that situation, the young guys and what they have and what he would add to that team.”
10 | Skal Labissiere is doing this for his family.
“To see him go in this draft and to see him — I know he’s in the green room, so hopefully it plays out lottery — it’s just life-changing for his family, for him. And his thing is, when you ask him, ‘What is your why? Why do you want to do this?’ he’ll tell you, ‘Coach, my family. I’ve gotta do this for my family.’ And that’s what I said to him after the season: ‘Are you sure you’re ready?’ (He said), ‘Coach, what I just went through here, I’m ready to do this and I gotta do it for my family.’ And I gave him a hug and said ‘Well, we’re going to get this done.’”