Summer League Q&A with Lazar Hayward

ORLANDO -- As Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said earlier this season, a team’s on-court communication can be intimidating for opponents.

Perkins’ teammate Lazar Hayward has taken that philosophy and run with it at the Orlando Summer League, becoming the vocal and emotional leader of the team. Constantly chattering on defense with his teammates, Hayward lets the on-ball defender know if a screen is coming or if he’s alone and talks with the bigs on rotations. On offense, he encourages his teammates, picking them up after misses and praising them after smart passes or big buckets. Even on the sideline and during timeouts, it is always Hayward’s voice that can be heard.

The 25-year-old is still a relatively young player in the NBA, and decided to come play in the Summer League in order to enhance his game and help his teammates like Reggie Jackson, Cole Aldrich and Perry Jones learn their way into the league more smoothly. The former Marquette standout saw action in 26 games this season, but his finest work comes on the practice floor, where it is his job to push Kevin Durant as hard as possible. After the Thunder’s victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, thunder.nba.com had the chance to check in with Hayward.

On his leadership during this week at Summer League:

It’s a slightly different deal, we have many, many leaders on our team. Kevin (Durant), Russell (Westbrook), Nick (Collison), Perkins. You can kind of just go down the line. I think here with the Thunder I took a little step back of playing the main vocal leader, and just kind of watch those guys and learn from those guys.

On what he hoped to accomplish in Orlando:

I just wanted to come here and get back into that competitive nature. I didn’t get a great amount of minutes, but that’s ok. We have a very, very talented team. So it’s all a process, just coming here I wanted to make sure that I really worked hard on being a leader, playing very, very hard and being aggressive.

On his job of making Kevin Durant better through practice:

It’s definitely a process but I’ve always been a guy that thought about his teammates first. I’ve never been a selfish person, being here and being with those guys is great for me. It is a process and I’m getting better. I’m doing a great job in practice working very, very hard and I knew that when I was coming here I would be doing a disservice to Kevin if I didn’t come out and try to kill him, not literally, in practice every day.

On how the team has played in Summer League so far:

I thought we’ve been doing a pretty good job. I’m actually happy that I’m here, playing with Cole, playing with Reggie as well. We’re kind of those young guys that came in together. Cole was here before us, but getting experience with them as well and getting into that maturation process is very beneficial to me and I believe to them to.

On what he wants to work on this week:

I would say maybe just fine-tuning, just working on my leadership, playing defense, playing hard. Nothing in particular, but just overall making sure that I play the best that I can and try to get us through.

On his intensity on the court:

I’ve always had that, sometimes I may not get to show it as much in OKC because we have a bunch of guys that beat me to it. I’ve been able to showcase that a little bit more.

On his vocal leadership:

I think it’s just a carryover from college. Maybe some guys get a little nervous, some guys may forget some things. I just want to make those guys feel as comfortable as possible. I don’t want them thinking that I’m any type of big-time player or anything like that. I’ve always been a guy that thinks about his teammates first and if I can do that vocally, then I’ll make that happen.