How is life in Russia?
Austin Daye: It’s not bad, man. It’s not the United States, it’s not home, my friends and family and I’m out here alone. It’s a little different. Takes time to get used to but not too bad.
How did this opportunity to play overseas come about?
AD: I was working out in Las Vegas at Impact and my agent Rob Pelinka came to me with an opportunity to help a team get to the Euroleague. They offered me a two-month deal for a significant amount of money, more money than a lot of other guys were being offered. They needed someone at my position because another guy got hurt, so I told them I was glad to come.
When you made that decision did you believe the lockout would drag on and there was a good chance we would miss NBA games?
AD: Kinda sorta. I didn’t think we would miss this much time, but I knew that we would miss some games just with how far apart the union was with the owners. The union is doing its best to get a fair deal. The owners are being a little more difficult than we would like. I hope we can get a deal done soon.
So your contract is only for two months. If the NBA season is canceled, will you stay there?
AD: I’m not sure. It’s up in the air. We need to see if the team would want to extend, if not it would be my choice to come home. I’m kind of eager to come home and work out with my trainer in Los Angeles. It all depends on playing time as well. I came to help a team with a player that was hurt and now that he’s coming back, I’m getting less minutes, which I understand. I knew that was part of the process.
What are some of the differences in culture when you compare Moscow to Southern California, where you grew up?
AD: Everyone smokes here, I can tell you that. It’s just a little different, but it’s how you would figure it to be, it’s the European style. Moscow is the main city, where a lot of money is and you see a lot of Maybachs and Porsches and nice cars.
What have you been eating over there? Has it been difficult to maintain your diet?
AD: It’s been difficult because I can’t really just go to the store and buy things because it’s hard to communicate with people. I try to go to good places to eat and get a different variety of food. I try to eat the best I can, but it’s different out here. In the NBA, I was fortunate enough to have a chef all year long.
How difficult has the language barrier been on an everyday basis or with guys on your team?
AD: The guys on the team, we understand each other. The younger generation out here speaks a lot more English than the older generation, of course. It hasn’t been too difficult. I’ve been in some parts of Southern California where I can’t understand people.
How have you kept in touch with your family and up to speed regarding news about the lockout?
AD: Skype is the only thing I got. I’m on here all day. I try to go online to ESPN, HoopsHype, NBA.com to keep up with the lockout. There’s no TV. Unless you can get English channels, it’s not even worth it. I’ve got my PlayStation 3 and a bunch of DVDs.
Do you have a solid day-to-day routine there?
AD: The team does. I don’t. They practice like crazy here. It’s understandable. It’s much different than the NBA because we have games all the time, two or three a week. Here we have one game a week if that. Then we have two-a-day practices, video before practice. It’s just different. Tomorrow we have practice at 5:30. Today we had practice at 9:30 and one at 6:00, so it kind of takes up your whole day. Each game out here is so vital and important because they don’t have as many games.
Are you impressed with the level of play there and do you see a much different skill set compared to the guys in the NBA?
AD: It’s much different. I think Spain and France have the most skilled players of all the European countries. I think the Russians are somewhat close with [Timofey] Mozgov and [Andrei] Kirilenko. It’s just a much different type. There’s more shooters than the all-around basketball types. I think they are more one-dimensional here. The players have skill and talent. It’s just different.
Are there some guys over there that you could see contributing on NBA teams if given the chance?
AD: That’s tough. Put it this way, going one-on-one and things like that, the guys here aren’t that great at it, at creating a shot for themselves. But here in Russia, they use the team aspect so well. They have sets for everything, they even have sets for counters so you can’t even make reads. In the NBA, you can come off a pick-and-roll and the guy who has the ball has the option to make the read depending on the defense. Out here, they want you to run the play exactly how they want it. And the tempo of the game here is much slower. The NBA is the fastest, of course. It’s timing and control out here. The coaches want to have control of what’s going on. I think they feel like the players would make more mistakes than they would like if they go off on their own. The pace is just different, that’s something that you have to get used to.
What is your team asking of you as far as a contribution?
AD: Just be aggressive. Shoot. Take shots. Make some plays for others. When I’ve been getting minutes I’ve been producing. They also know I’m here for a couple months and they’re not trying to throw me out there for 35 minutes and take time away from guys who will be playing the rest of the season. Whenever they have me in there, they have confidence in me and let me play my game. They don’t restrict me too much. The coaches just don’t want to see mistakes happen. They have a lot of pressure on themselves to win games and if they don’t, they get fired pretty quickly out here. I’ve heard many stories about that. In the NBA if you see a mismatch, first thing you do is go after that mismatch. Out here, if I set an on-ball screen and pop out and end up with a small guy on me, they don’t want me to run to the block. They want me to stay out and let the play develop.
Have you seen many people of color in Moscow?
AD: There’s not a whole lot of diversity. When I go to the mall, I definitely get some stares. But when I go to the mall in Detroit, I get stares too because I’m 6-11. But I get some stares out here that are kinda like ‘whoa’. It all comes with the territory.
According to your Twitter timeline, you’re enjoying the new Drake album.
AD: Definitely. It’s all I’ve been listening to on my iPod and I’m not going to stop until I know every verse to every song.
What is it that has drawn you to his music?
AD: I’ve liked him since listening to his first mixtape, So Far Gone, when I was in college. He never talks about things he hasn’t experienced, he just talks about himself. Obviously, Kanye West and Jay Z are the top of the top, but I would put Drake and Lil Wayne right up there with them.
You referenced Impact and working with Joe Abunassar. Has he been a big part of your development?
AD: I’m not really a needy guy, but I need someone to watch over what I’m doing just because I’m different. I’m a skinny guy, I need to watch what I eat and what I’m doing. Joe is like a second father to me. He is the first person I worked out with outside of Gonzaga. So when he saw me work out for the first time he was really surprised that not a lot of people were talking about me. He was pushing for me to get drafted as high as possible. He pushed me to get to that level. He’s always been tough on me when needed and always is working me out hard, pushing me in the weight room to where I can’t move my arms and legs for awhile [laughs].
The Players’ Union rejected the latest NBA proposal on Tuesday night. Do you support the union leadership and where do you think we are headed in this labor battle?
AD: I have no idea where it’s going to go. I’m just hoping the union can come together and find a solution to this problem. I’m a supporter of the union, I believe strongly that they are doing all the right things. Right now D-Fish [Derek Fisher] is working his butt off to get a deal done. There is so much pressure on him and hearing the comments Jerry Stackhouse was making kind of hurt. I know D-Fish is working real hard for the best interests of the players. I know Billy Hunter is trying to do the same thing. As far as the owners go, I understand, it’s a business. Hopefully they can understand that we have helped build this game back to having a great image. The last couple of years our stock has been rising and more people are watching.
Did Stackhouse’s comments surprise you, especially the timing and tone?
AD: The timing did. Jerry Stackhouse is a smart guy. But it’s not like D-Fish is making my fourth year deal or out there getting my extension. It comes down to how you play, regardless. Everyone knows that. Some guys get overpaid, but they worked to get overpaid and it’s a general manager who decided to pay them that money. It comes down to having a great general manager who knows what he’s doing and having a great system within your organization to build a winner. You see what Joe did with Chauncey and Rasheed [Wallace] and those guys. He built a winner. The Lakers are always going to be an attraction. But you have to be able to find different ways. Oklahoma City was able to draft great players. Golden State is right there trying to put together some great pieces. There are a lot of teams that are exciting and trying to make moves.
Read Part II of the interview here.