HoopsHype.com Interviews

Wally Szczerbiak: "I would love to play for the Olympic team"
by Marc Narducci / December 13, 2005

You are played so tightly every game because teams are afraid to leave your open due to your perimeter game. How difficult is it to deal with such tight defense each night?

Wally Szczerbiak: You just have to make adjustments. Have me run off a few screens, or run off some pick-and-rolls with Kevin. So they just can't deny and ball hawk me the entire game.

Your team has exceeded early preseason expectations. Are you happy with the way things are going with the Timberwolves?

WS: Oh yes. We are playing good solid defense. We love our new coach (Dwane Casey). He is a passionate guy who works us really hard. He really prepares us. We've got likable guys on this team and good chemistry going, so it's not a surprise to us on this team.

Without Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, do you feel even more responsibility to be that second complementary scorer to Kevin Garnett?

WS: I am just trying to do what this team needs to win. Whatever they need on the defensive end, the offensive end, it doesn't matter.

You are a 50 percent career shooter and that is what you are known for, but I know you feel there is much more to your game. Could you talk about that?

WS: I don't want to be known as just a shooter. I want to be known as a scorer who can take the ball to the basket, post up, do a lot of other things and I think that is where my game is.

Is your game as well-rounded as it's ever been?

WS: I think so. I'm getting to the line quite a bit. Last year coming off the bench, I posted up a lot and was a main option in the offense when I was out with the second unit. I was the go-to guy and I think that really helped me to expand my game and gain more confidence and I think I'm bringing that 40 minutes a night.

Would you like the chance to play on the U.S. Olympic team?

WS: I would love to play for the Olympic team. I would absolutely be ecstatic to go. I think it would really suit my game.

What type of style would best suit the U.S. in the Olympics?

WS: You might have to re-think your philosophy because it is a shorter three-point line, but the NBA is geared to going inside, playing inside out. With that three-point line, you should take advantage of that if you have shooters.

In 2003-04 you only played in 28 games due to a strained plantar fascia in the left foot. How difficult was dealing with that injury both physically and mentally?

WS: I tried to stay upbeat, stay positive and work hard. Any time you get foot problems, it is a tough thing to deal with, because it can really spread into other things and that is what happened to me. I'm just happy I'm healthy. I feel good and will keep working.

Last season you played in 81 games, but started just 37. It didn't seem like you enjoyed coming off the bench.

WS: No, just because I felt like if I was playing more minutes we would have made the playoffs. If it would have worked with me coming off the bench, fine, but when it didn't work and the team wasn't playing well, that is what
I objected to.

While San Antonio remains the solid favorite in the Western Conference, can the Timberwolves earn the No. 2 seed?

WS: The West is really up in the air. Shaq is out of the West, so it is up in the air. But you could also slip down out of the playoffs very easily if you don't have a sense of urgency and play well. So we have to play well every time we take to the floor.

It wasn't always smooth between you and Kevin Garnett, but the two of you seem to have a good chemistry now. Could you talk about that?

WS: We have great chemistry. We have come a long way and been through a lot of ups and downs. It's our seventh year together in this league. He knows what I'm all about, I know what he is all about. There is no better teammate to play with.

Marc Narducci covers the NBA for the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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