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Friday September 2, 2008 12:30 PM

Catching Up With D.J. Strawberry


Second-year guard looks to bring defense, versatility to Rockets' mix

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

HOUSTON - The draft is done. The free agent frenzy and Olympics are, too. Preseason is still more than a month away. Yep, we've officially entered hoops hibernation.

So to get you through the basketball void, Rockets.com will spend the next few weeks catching up with various members of the team to find out what they've been up to this summer. The tour continues today as we introduce you to the newest member of the team, D.J. Strawberry.

JCF: Your first summer league game this year was against the Rockets and you really filled up the boxscore (22 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists). Do you think that performance might have paved the way for you to eventually end up here?

DJ: I mean at that point I was just trying to play and have fun and impress the Suns. I thought I was going to get a chance to play there, but now I’m here and I’m glad to be here.

JCF: Did you have any sort of inclination that you might be traded?

DJ: They [ Phoenix] said it was a possibility. I really didn’t think much of it. I just kept working out, kept working on my game. When it happened, I was excited about it and I’m ready to get going for the Rockets.

JCF: How did you find out?

DJ: Actually, Steve Kerr - the general manager for the Suns - called and told me he had traded me to Houston. I was pretty happy. He said it would be a good opportunity for me here. It’s a business move and it’s part of the NBA. I just have to come here, have a good attitude about it and do what I can to help the team.

JCF: I know you haven’t been here long, but what sort of feedback have you received thus far?

DJ: They’re excited to have me here. They’ve been telling me that they’ve been trying to get me here for awhile. They’re excited to have me come in and compete, play hard and get the opportunity to make the team.

JCF: What have they said they want to see from you out on the court?

DJ: They just want me to come in everyday and work as hard as possible in order to get better everyday. As long as they see me doing that, they say I’ve got a good chance.

JCF: Your reputation is that of a guy with the potential to be a defensive stopper, but someone who needs to improve his outside shot and point guards skills. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?

DJ: Yeah, those are the things I need to work on. Obviously I’m not a natural point guard – I just started playing the position a couple years ago. I played one year there in college, and Phoenix just started using me at the one at the end of the season. So it’s not a natural position for me, so I have to get used to it. And the more reps I get on the floor and in practice, it will become easier and easier. So it’s something I’m working on and will have to continue to work on in order to get better at it.

JCF: What do you see as the key to you making this team?

DJ: Defense is what got me into the league and it’s probably going to be what keeps me in the league. So I have to maintain that, but at the other end I need to bring the versatility, play different positions, show that I can score, show that I’ve improved my jump shot and just play my game overall. I need to show that I’m a better player than I was last year.

JCF: What was it like going up against Steve Nash on a daily basis?

DJ: Oh, it was great. It was great for me to learn so much about the game. Steve’s not the best athlete in the world, he’s not the fastest, but he’s one of the smartest players in this league. He knows the game and he knows what to do in every situation on the floor. So with him telling me stuff like that, it couldn’t be a better experience for a rookie like myself.

JCF: How about off the court? What have you been doing this summer that’s not basketball related?

DJ: Nothing much, just hanging with my cousins and little brothers and sisters. Took them to some amusement parks a few times, but that’s about it. I’m really a low-key kind of guy, just staying at home with my family and friends and hanging out.

JCF: Are you a movie or video game guy?

DJ: Yeah, video games. We’re playing Madden, college football, NBA Live, you name it. All the sports game, we’re playing ‘em.

JCF: Are you a Live or 2K guy for basketball?

DJ: I’m a Live guy, personally.

JCF: Oh no.

DJ: (laughs) I can’t get into the 2K. I don’t know why. Probably just because I grew up with Live. I’ve heard 2K is good, I’ve just never really played it much. Maybe I’ll have to check it out.

JCF: You have to. It’s way more realistic than Live. What are your thoughts on the new Madden?

DJ: It’s a great game. We play it all day sometimes.

JCF: Who’s your team?

DJ: I like to change up my teams depending on who I’m playing. If they’re a good competitor, I have to go with a pretty good team. But if I’m playing with someone who’s not too good, I can go with my team, the 49ers.

JCF: Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty severe handicap. Hey, switching topics a bit, ever since the Olympics ended I’ve been asking everyone their opinion on this: Who’s better – The Dream Team or the ’08 squad?

DJ: Oh, you have to take the original Dream Team. You have to.

JCF: No question?

DJ: No, it’s not even a question. You have to. I mean, this Olympic team was very good. They were great. But the Dream Team had Magic, Jordan, Bird, Barkley… You can’t get better than that.

JCF: Well speaking of great teams, this Rockets team looks like it has the potential to be very good this season. Does it make you that much hungrier to try and make the roster so you can be a part of what could be a very special group?

DJ: Oh yes, definitely. Last year they went on that 22-game winning streak and that was amazing. Even us in Phoenix were looking at it and amazed by what they did. To have Yao go down, and then have guys like Landry and Aaron Brooks come in and play well, it was incredible. So this is gonna be a great team, and with the additions that they’re making it’s definitely inspired me to work hard and make this team because I think they can really do something big in the Western Conference this year. Artest is going to be good for them playing the three position next to T-Mac, while defending and scoring, too. He’s going to be a great addition to this team. So a lot of teams are good in the Western Conference this year, but I think this is definitely one of the better ones.

Have a comment, critique or suggestion for Rockets.com? Contact Jason Friedman via email at: jasonf@rocketball.com