Sam Cassell: "I'm using what Karl taught me against him"
What are you doing to lead this young Clipper team in the playoffs?
Sam Cassell: I'm just doing what I've been doing the whole year. Hopefully, I want to lead them and I want to show them how it is supposed to be done. But these guys, you know, they'll be fine and I don't have to say too much. Perhaps remind them a few times and I'm not talking trash talk, nothing nasty like that. Just competing and giving the team a momentum by competing against each other. That's how it is.
How happy are you of your performance and the performance of your team after two big victories in the playoffs against Denver?
SC: I'm not too happy. We missed some easy shots. I missed at least seven open shots tonight (Monday). Cat missed three or four of them, Corey missed a few and Elton Brand missed a few jumpers himself. So we haven't played our best basketball, and hopefully we can showcase that in Denver.
You seem to be very content on the basketball court.
SC: A-ha. It's two and a half hours when I don't get any phone calls, nobody can bug me with any of their problems. You know what I'm saying? As professional athletes, we deal with a lot of those problems, since we don't have too many problems personally.
SC: It was good in Milwaukee. I was second in the league in assists one year. But now, I'm just taking what they give me. They give me passes, I pass. I'm not doing anything spectacular. I'm just taking what they give me, you know what I'm saying? They want to play me with bigger, stronger guys. I know how to play against bigger and stronger guys. That doesn't distract me, and George knows that. George Karl taught me how to do that. Now I'm using it against him right now.
When you look at what happened to Minnesota this year, do you think you could have helped them to make the playoffs this season?
SC: No doubt in my mind. If I'm healthy, we're making the playoffs. But they made a move. They said that Sprewell and myself were major distractions. I think we were the best guys in the locker room, but that's where they wanted to go. They're there, and I'm here, and everything is going to take care of itself.
Can you even compare winning the two championship rings at the beginning of your career and leading these Clippers in the playoffs at the twilight of your days in the NBA?
SC: It's different, it's different, you know what I'm saying? Although, in my early years in the NBA, when you win two championships... Shhh, you can't replace that. That's something totally different. That helped to understand how to win the games like this. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to win playoff games. Compete, play defense, and hopefully make some shots. That's what we're doing right now.
You once said that every team you were on had an attitude. What is the attitude of this Clipper team?
SC: We give ourselves a chance to win, man. That's what I'm trying to bring to this team. That's competing, giving ourselves a chance to win – and that's what we've been doing.
Your self-confidence is a trademark of your career. After being traded six times, and having played on seven teams, how do you keep it up?
SC: This is NBA. It's only a handful of guys that stay in one team. 70 percent of the league gets traded more than seven times, you know. So that's the nature.
Not so long ago, you were criticized about the lack of enthusiasm for practice and shooting too much for a point guard. That all stopped now. Does that prove that your way was the right way to do it?
SC: I've been in this league for 13 years, so I better be doing something right. But I still don't like practice (laughs).
Did playing with KG changed your view about practice at all?
SC: No. He does it his way, I do it my way.
How did it feel to be a first time All-Star in the age of 35?
SC: The league didn't vote me to be an All-Star. But I don't mind about that. I'm looking for respect among my peers. I don't care about individual achievements. As long as the guys I play against respect me, I get my fulfillment.
Last season, when your injury-plagued season happened with Minnesota and you were 35, were you ever thinking of calling it quits?
SC: Never, never! I had a hamstring problem, you don't call it quits for that, are you crazy? All those games I had in my legs, and to call it quits?
SC: I know that the guys up in Minnesota are kicking themselves in the ass right now. Whoever made that decision. Wow.
How did it feel, since in the past you were traded for players like Jason Kidd, Charles Barkley?
SC: Yeah, that was something, this last trade. Like I said, I've been traded couple of times, but I've been traded for some helluva ballplayers. I've been traded for some Hall-of-Fame ballplayers. My stock is not going down with this last trade.
How's your son doing? I heard he is also a helluva ballplayer.
SC: Wonderful, I wanna be his agent (laughs). When he comes out, I'm gonna be his agent. He's not going to play in the same high school as I did, but he's gonna be nice.
Is he also a point guard?
SC: No, he can do it all, man. He can do it all.
Why did you choose Houston as your place of residence?
SC: That's where I started, no state taxes and I love it there.
Nebojsa Petrovacki is the editor of Sportska Centrala, a sports news agency from Serbia-Montenegro
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