National Spotlight on Dominique Wilkins
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Prior to the Wolves-Hawks matchup, Jonah Ballow and the Wolves Vision crew caught up with NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins. The two-time dunk contest champion shared his thoughts on the league and his nephew Damien.
Jonah Ballow: Talk about what you're up to now...you're in the broadcast booth, how's that been for you?
Dominique Wilkins: It's been good. This is my third year doing television, and it's funny -- when you're in management, this is something you're so far away from. Management wanted me to do a little of both, so I'm still doing my vice president duties, and I'm also doing television, among other things.
Jonah Ballow: As a former player for the Hawks, how nice is it to watch this team on a night-by-night basis and they've grown up in leaps and bounds, I mean this is a team now contending in the East. What do you think about your former squad?
Dominique Wilkins: This is a team that's found maturity, they have chemistry now, you've kept this core group together for more than two or three years, now they're used to playing with how they know each other's tendencies. You build good teams from that, and that's what this team has definitely done.
Jonah Ballow: What have been your impressions also -- some of the guys like Josh Smith, we saw him in the dunk contest a couple years ago…
Dominique Wilkins: Well, the guys have become more basketball players now than just athletes, so to see his maturity and growth has been good.
Jonah Ballow: What do you think about the NBA as a whole? There's a lot of great teams in this league…
Dominique Wilkins: There are some great teams in this league, but I thought last year there were more teams that had winning records than there is right now. But, again, it's still early in the season. Teams are still trying to find their way, find their chemistry, some of those teams have trades and new players, so it takes awhile for them to build that.
Jonah Ballow: You're thoughts on the Wolves this year.
Dominique Wilkins: They're still growing, still building, still trying to figure out where their place is at in this league, so it's going to take awhile for them to really find cohesion, but again that's what you have when you have young teams.
The WolvesVision broadcast team of Nicole Cartier and Michael Siegel specifically talked with Dominique about his relationship with Damien Wilkins and memories of playing against the Wolves coaching staff.
Nicole Cartier: How's Damien doing?
Dominique Wilkins: He's doing good. I think he's in a situation right now where they trust him, and he can become one of the leaders and build a relationship here in the city and with the team and the coaches, because you need veteran players like that as you're building your team. Quality veteran players that can help you win games, guys who can help develop the younger guys, be a mentor. That's something that's good for him.
Nicole Cartier: Obviously having such a big impact on the NBA yourself, what advice do you have for Damien?
Dominique Wilkins: Well you know a thing that I told all young kids was 'as a young man, if this is something you really want to do in your life, become a basketball player, you have to make sacrifices. You have to be willing to work hard. More importantly, to become a good basketball player, work on the things that you don't like to do. Everybody's great athletes and stuff, but learning how to play the game on the ground as well as in the air -- that's becoming fundamentally sound. [Damien's] an all-around player. He's a fundamentally sound player, there's no question about it. People haven't seen it the way they should have -- with that kind of kid you have to let go. I think in this situation here, they will see that. He's the guy that's going to work hard, never going to complain, and he's a hell of a player, to be frank. I'm not saying that because he's my nephew, because I've never put myself on the line saying a guy can play when he can't; he can play. Years ago, when we had a chance to pick him, that's one of the things I said. I said, 'Don't look at his last name. I'm telling you, he can play.' But, I think this will be a great situation for him for years to come, because as you're building this young team you need guys like that.
Nicole Cartier: Kurt Rambis has always said to Damien, to the other players, that he is the leader on this team. Earlier today he said he's the first one in at practices, he's already got the sweat working out, does that surprise you?
Dominique Wilkins: No, he's always been that way. That comes a lot from his dad, because his dad prepared him for the NBA. When nobody else took a chance on him, Seattle did. The kid, in my opinion, should have been a first-round pick, but no one took a chance on him. When he went to Seattle I said, 'hey, it's okay. Now you have to make it the hard way. Now you have to represent that name on the back of your shirt. How do you do that? You go make your presence felt from the first day you step on the court. Stay ready.' And his dad had him ready to go.
Nicole Cartier: I know at the Thunder he had maybe a down year…
Dominique Wilkins: In a way, it's amazing to me why … well, when it came right down to it, they were developing the younger guys so sometimes you have an odd man out, and he was that odd man out. It wasn't about him not producing or because he couldn't play, they wanted to see what they had in those younger players. A lot of times I don't understand that, on any team. If you have guys that who can play, play the guys who can play, and you still can develop your young people. Because now you get that experience from your older guys, who can pass that on to guys who have just come into the league, and now you're building a relationship, you're building that chemistry. That's how good teams get better. They don't get better to sitting the guys down who can play. So, I think it's a great situation for him here -- I mean, they have a great coaching staff, I played with all those guys for many years, we had some great battles. They understand what Damien is and what he can bring.
Nicole Cartier: Kurt Rambis said that you had one of the greatest in-game dunks. Playing against these guys that are coaching right now, what was that like?
Dominique Wilkins: It was tough. Especially playing against Lambeer particularly, Rambis… In our era, those guys were hitching. You didn't just walk down the lane and dunk. You had to pick your spots, because in those days they made you pay for spectacular dunks. You had to make sure you picked your spots, and they were very physical guys. We had a lot of respect for one another. We might have acted like we hated each other on the floor, but we had a lot of respect. Lambeer, Kurt, Reggie... a lot of mutual respect.
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