Maciej Lampe – Icon Sports MediaFirst of all, tell us about your annual basketball tournament for kids, the Lampe Challenge that will take place next May 23th in Sweden.
Maciej Lampe: It’s been great. I’m excited to be there with the kids. One of my first coaches, Jojkim Samuelson, is helping me out. We’ve been in touch since I left to play in Spain with Real Madrid. The NBA noticed about the tournament and they have been great sending jerseys and other gifts for the kids. It’s one of the best things that has happened in my life and I’m very proud of this tournament. Hopefully it will grow and become one of the most important young tournaments here in Europe.
You were the MVP of the Russian Cup Final. Basketball powerhouse CSKA Moscow couldn’t contain your game and your team, Khimky, won the tournament. Looks like now you are achieving what everybody thought of your talent a few years ago…
ML: It was nice. I had a good game, my teammates [like Pat Burke] have a lot of confidence in me. We had lost our firtst matchup of the season by twenty points and lost the second by only two. Maybe they were a little relaxed and took them by surprise. Now I feel great about my game.
It seems like it has been a long time since you played in the NBA… And you will be only 23 years old next May.
ML: Yeah, you know, I was too young when I left Real Madrid to play in the NBA. You have to be lucky sometimes and I wasn’t.
ML: You know, I had some injuries. But I don’t regret going there, because it was a learning process. I’m not a teenager anymore; I’m a man.
Were the Knicks already a mess when you arrived in August 2003?
ML: I don’t know, I wasn’t too much around… It’s difficult to play there. The practice facility is too far away from the arena. I played for four teams and I can tell you it wasn’t the best organization by then.
Did they try to develop your game as an European top prospect?
ML: Yeah, all NBA teams worked me out good, it’s just that maybe I wasn’t totally ready for that kind of game.
When you went to Phoenix in the Stephon Marbury trade, you seemed to fit well in Arizona.
ML: Yes, I agree. It was the best time of my career in the NBA. There was a great atmosphere and then Steve Nash came to the team… I was playing. Mike D’Antoni had European basketball roots and was very good with me. I was happy, so obviously it hurt me when I was traded to New Orleans. I was in an uprising team and then I I was playing for a losing team.
ML: You know, I kept playing but then I was again traded to Houston and that was it. I returned to Europe and here in Russia I’ve grown up as a player. I feel respected and everybody recognizes my game.
In which aspect of your game have you improved the most?
ML: I would say that everything. Now I’m definitely stronger. I have a bigger body so I can do some damage in the pick and roll. When I was in the NBA I wasn’t in great shape. My outside shot has improved… I feel more comfortable in the court, an important player for my team.
You are very happy with Khimky but will you be available if an NBA team calls you?
ML: For the first time in my career I have the stability I needed when I was in the NBA. I have three more years with Khimky and although we are not playing in the ULEB Cup anymore, we have our chances in the Russian League. I feel I have the chance to do some big things here. But would I like to play in the NBA again? Of course. But if I return there, I will play big minutes. I want to be a big part of the team.