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Talking to Brendan Haywood about himself and JaVale McGee

Long time readers are well aware of my mancrush for Brendan Haywood's game. He's the perfect Moneyball player; a guy who doesn't put up great counting stats, but does the little things to help his team win. Defending shots. Hedging pick and rolls even though it's not the best way to use his length. Defending top post options one on one. Making the box out to allow someone else to grab the rebound. Working on his free throw shooting extensively when it was costing him points. It was needless for Eddie Jordan to pick on Haywood. Haywood may have been a bit of a whiner earlier in his career, but did a lot of the little things to help teams win. You need guys like that, particularly when your core is all offense-first players.

Haywood was sitting courtside for yesterday's Timberwolves-Wizards Summer League game and I chatted with him for a few minutes about his offseason, the differences he's noticed between Flip Saunders and Eddie Jordan and (mostly) the progression of JaVale McGee. Unfortunately, my recorder didn't pick up a lot of the direct quotes because of the noise, so I'll try to summarize our discussion below.

  • Brendan says his offseason's going great. Working out, fully healthy, all that stuff. He certainly looked like he was in good shape.
  • He told me that while he doesn't know Flip Saunders all that well yet, one major difference between Flip and Eddie Jordan is the way Flip works with individual players. He told me Eddie Jordan's individual workouts and practices were more system-based, focusing on learning the nuiances of the Princeton offense and the like. Brendan described Flip's workouts as "skill based," working more on the fundamentals and repeating them instead of learning a system. He also told me he likes Flip's workouts, though he didn't explicitly say he didn't like Eddie's.
  • Brendan told me he hasn't worked a ton with JaVale McGee, at least not any more than the other big players like Andray Blatche.
  • Brendan told me that the biggest thing JaVale needs to work on with his post defense is learning to play his man when he doesn't have the ball. Brendan told me that, as a post defender, you always need to work on pushing your guy out of position so he's in a bad spot when he catches the ball. Right now, Brendan said JaVale isn't really committing himself to doing that, and as a result, he's waiting until too late to really get himself into the play.
  • As to whether JaVale needs to get stronger, Brendan obviously applied in the affirmative.
  • I asked Brendan to shed light on what inconsistent minutes does to a post player, since both he and JaVale's minutes were very up and down at different points in his career. He prefaced his answer by talking about how you need to be ready to play either way, and that's something JaVale needs to learn. However, he also said that consistent minutes really helps. I don't have the exact quote, but he said something along the lines of "it's really tough when you get 30 minutes one night, 35 minutes another and then 19 minutes the next night."
  • In response to whether he thought he needed another veteran big man to back him up, Brendan said he thinks Andray Blatche and JaVale are good enough right now, but another guy wouldn't hurt.
  • Brendan kept mentioning how he'd like to see JaVale as a "Tyson Chandler type of player." I assume what Brendan means is that he'd like to see JaVale be athletic and energetic like Chandler on offense, but also have strong enough post technique to defend a lot of top big men one on one. The alternative, of course, is that TC never creates his own offense, which it seems JaVale is trying to do a ton of here in Summer League.

Brendan Haywood's clearly a class act. He's a really smart guy, as I expected, and he's also very friendly to take time out of his team's game to chat with me. I wish he'd work a little more closely with JaVale, since I think he can do a great job teaching JaVale good post techniques, but he might do that more during the season. Hopefully.