Daniel Sallerson: What's going on and welcome into the Pelicans Podcast, presented by SeatGeek, on this Wednesday. I hope everyone is doing well, staying at home, practicing social distancing. We have a great guest for you on this Wednesday as we're joined by Pelicans rookie guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker. First of all, Nickeil, how are you doing right now?
On how he is doing right now:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: I'm doing great. How are you?
On what is he doing to keep busy during these times:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: It is tough, but fortunately, I've been able to finally have some time to take care of things that I didn't get to during the season. So as far as my apartment goes, I've been kind of interior designing a little bit. Just finishing up the place. Making it look like more of a home. Adding some shelves and furniture here and there. So, it's been fun as far as that stuff goes."
On if he enjoys interior designing:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "This is something I just realized I like to do. I wasn't always into it, but the more I started to make my apartment seem like my dream place, that's what really got me into it."
On what he has been doing to stay in shape during the NBA 'Hiatus':Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "Fortunately, my agency has our trainer in Los Angeles doing Zoom workouts. And so I've been able to get on those Zoom workouts with them."
On his workout space at home:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "Fortunately, I have a lot of space, so it isn't too hard. I can still get what I need to done and still do the majority of the drills. Also, one of our other trainers Stan Williams has been sending me core workouts and then me and him will kind of compete with each other to see who’s staying on top of that. So it's been fun."
On how his wrist is feeling after the injury:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "I recently was in the cast for, I would say, a little bit over five weeks and just took it off. So, fortunately, I did not have to do surgery, which we thought I might have. So, I'm grateful and thankful that God has allowed my wrist to heal properly without it (surgery). It's starting to come back well. I'm in the soft cast, and I'll do exercises and make sure that the range of motion is coming back to where it used to be."
On summarizing his rookie season up to this point:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "I would say it's one of the biggest learning curves I've had to endure in my life, but it was probably the best year for me in terms of just learning and growing as a man. This is, in hindsight, really my first job, so just learning how to be a professional and not really finishing college and jumping into like the real world showed me and opened my eyes to really respect all that my mom does, and how easy it is, but at the same time how hard it is to be an NBA player. Every kid thinks about the glory parts, scoring and everyone knowing your name and being an All-Star, but not too many people take into consideration the process of it. And so it made me appreciate hard work more. It made me appreciate JJ (Redick) more. Just him and having some like him and Jrue (Holiday) to be like older brothers for me."
On what was the most challenging part of transitioning to the NBA:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "I would say on the court. Off the court, I pretty much loved it just because it was something super new to me. Being able to travel on our own plane and having the recliner seats. For me it was like the fan experience of the game. I was just loving it, soaking it all up. But, on the court the adjustment for me was really huge in terms of physicality, making the right play all the time, decision making, stuff like that. But, I think just adjusting to that and how frequent we're playing and how much intensity you have to bring all the time, I think, was my biggest adjustment."
On how much did it help having Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes with you during that transition:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "It's super big because the one thing about basketball is like the relationships you get out of it, and it's super helpful, and you never know how it can affect you down the line. And so, for me growing with them and just learning from them, learning from Jaxson's experience, which was totally different than mine. So, my insight might be able to help him from what I've seen and he can help me because we've seen different aspects, but we're all the same year. And so if we go through something and Jaxson starts to go through it now me and Z (Zion Williamson) can now help him with that. Or if I go through something that Jaxson and Z have already been through, it's kind of like a support system, and we have each other's back. Especially because, like you said, our relationship has been tight since the beginning, I think it's just helped us a lot."
On if he helped Zion through his recovery process:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "Oh, for sure. The competitor that he is and the talent that he is, especially it being his first year, you never want to tell him, ‘Oh you can't play,’ because that's just not something that he would take lightly. But, I think he helped us more than we know it. Just by seeing his approach when injured. I think that matters also too because, God forbid, but if that happens to us we can now all lean on him. But, we were always there for him every step of the way. He knew that. The good thing about our relationship is if anyone of us goes through anything, we know for sure that we can count on the other person. So, just like steam room talks, where me and him would just be hanging out after practice talking, I think I try and do my best to make sure that he knew God had a plan for him, and no matter what, he's still going to be a great player."
On what he has learned from JJ Redick in terms of professionalism:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "I would say JJ probably just saved my career. There's so much I didn't know and probably wouldn't know for quite some time if it wasn't for him. Honestly just his approach is second to none. He works super hard every day and just always willing to teach me, like to answer a question and to be that big brother, in the sense, and I needed that tremendously. Because like as a rookie and playing the guard position with so many other exceptional guards on the team like just learning from him and seeing what he's done in his career has helped me because like I said I've been able to now do things that I didn't think was going to be important, but now he's shown me the importance of it."
On the Pelicans players and if they genially enjoy each other:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "I honestly believe so. I think you can kind of throw in like D Fav (Derrick Favors), Jaxson (Hayes) and K Rich (Kenrich Williams) and all three of them are going to talk and get along. It's just like you can assort us how you would like, but everyone no matter what is still going to enjoy each other's company. We're all laughing together in the locker room, just joking around, and I think enjoying being a team, being a family in a sense, and I think it's fun to be in the locker room. The energy's always good, and I think we're really close, and some people just wouldn't know it."
On if he thinks the Pelicans could make a run down the stretch and possibly make the playoffs pending the NBA's decision for the remainder of the 2019-20 season:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "I think having Z (Zion Williamson) back also helps. Just because just his presence and all the tremendous things he's able to do. But, I think when you are a young group, and you're coming from a whole bunch of different situations, like the Lakers for J Hart (Josh Hart), Zo (Lonzo Ball) B.I. (Brandon Ingram) and then Jrue (Holiday) now having to be one of – Jrue and E'Twaun (Moore) being like one of the remaining guys that was there with Frank (Jackson), and then rookies come in. I think the whole stretch being a young team took us a little bit of time just because all of us came from different situations. So, putting it together and piecing the puzzle wasn't easy at first, but I think once we got over that little hump, we started to click, and we found our niche. Everyone accepted their role, which is huge, and it helped our team fight all the way back up to that ninth spot."
On how important it would have been to make the playoffs, have that experience and take in the atmosphere of a playoff game if the NBA season does not resume:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "I think experience is life's best teacher, so, for us to want to be a championship-contending team for years to come, I think just having the experience and making the playoffs. Just being there can also help because now you have a feel of the atmosphere. You have a feel of the intensity and the sense of urgency and now know what it takes to make it and then now you have to find that next level of knowing what it takes to win a series. And then the next level of winning another series. And then it's kind of just piecing it all together to build up. But, even just from a competition standpoint, going against the best guys in the world and seeing how they compete and guys who you're playing against have one championship, so they know what it feels like to be in this situation that you're in for the first time. And it's a great time to learn from your opponent as well. So, I think, all in all, having that promising future of knowing that we can make it with a young team, and now imagine when we all grow together, we all become more experienced what we can do."
On how big his shoe collection has gotten and if there is enough storage in his apartment for all of them:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "I’d say in the hundreds. But, honestly I did have to – the closet that I did have in my room I had to extend from there. I did have to turn one of my extra guest rooms into a closet. So, that's what part of the shelves were, like going to Home Depot and getting a bunch of shelves and getting them put up on the wall so now I can have more room and just show as much as possible there. But yeah, it causes a little bit of a headache, but I finally got it to work."
On who has the best shoe collection between Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes or himself:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "To be honest, I think it's safe to say I know what they would say. So, I think I can answer for all three of us by saying me. I think from a kid like it's just always been my thing, I just loved shoes. I had a thing for shoes and knowing about shoes and the history. My older cousin at the time was trailblazing away for me in terms of collecting shoes and what it meant to take care of his shoes. Having the zip lock bags and putting them in the bag and putting them back in the box, cleaning them religiously, making sure that you can wear them 10 times, but it looks like you haven't even tried them on yet. And so little things and seeing his passion for it. I adopted it to myself and just ran with it because it was something that kind of made me sort of at peace when I wasn't playing basketball."
On how much do you talk to your cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander during these times:Nickeil Alexander-Walker: "I think in this time, it's important that everyone looks after their families. Make sure they're staying safe. So first and for most, every day, we talk to each other, making sure we're all good. We have a group chat with my other cousin and his brother and our friend from when we were younger. So, I think we're all just talking, laughing, we'll send each other different shoes that are coming out, memes we see. But just keep that connection of just communicating with each other during this time, making sure we're all good."