As the summer comes to an end and I take a look back on it, I can’t help but be extremely happy and blessed with how things went this offseason.
Between my wedding, signing a new contract with the Jazz and going through training with USA Basketball, it’s been a really good few months for me. So many amazing things have happened that I haven’t really had time to think about it that much. It’s all gone by really fast.
I really enjoyed playing with Team USA this summer, and felt good about the way I played. I left the experience feeling like I did everything the right way. They told everybody from the beginning that they were trying to put the best team together for this tournament. Ultimately, they just decided to go a different route with the roster.
The way I interpreted it, they basically eliminated the swing position, and decided to go small on guards, and big on the bigs, instead of going with guys who were more versatile and could do a little of each. There are other teams in the World Cup that are pretty big, so I think they wanted to make sure they were big enough to compete against them.
Still, I’m definitely happy that I went and took part in it. If they wanted me to come and compete for a spot again down the road for the Olympics or the World Cup, I’d like my chances.
TALENT BREEDS CONFIDENCE
It was great being able to work with some of the talented players and coaches on the team. Coach Krzyzewski and Coach Thibodeau are very detail oriented — very similar to Brad Stevens, my coach at Butler. They make sure you’re focused on everything being sharp and precise. When we practiced, they weren’t necessarily long practices, but it was intense. I like that. When you practice, it should be focused and tough training.
I got great feedback from the coaches, and that’s was definitely a confidence booster. Those guys are really well respected. To have them pay you a compliment is a pretty big deal. They’ve been around the best ever to do it. I also picked up a lot playing with some of the great players on the team. It’s not a situation where you go up to a guy and ask him to show you something, but you can view them from afar when they’re training. After practices, everyone kind of went and did an individual workout on their own, so you can pick up little things that guys are doing.
A lot of the direct interaction that we had was trash talk and competitions — who can hit the most threes or who gets to five first, different things like that. But all of it helps you get better and builds confidence, and that’s something you can feel right away. Just being around some of the best players in the world and being given a chance to compete with them was probably the best part of the experience.
DOWN TIME WITH TEAM USA
I also got to know some of the guys on a personal level, which was pretty cool. Klay Thompson and Chandler Parsons were the two I spent the most time around because we play similar positions, The setup in camp promotes that. You’re doing a lot of shooting drills together, so we’d watch each other to figure out the plays that we’re running, and how everything is supposed to work.
This actually wasn’t the first time that Klay and I have played together. We were on the same U-19 team when we went to New Zealand, so we kind of already knew each other. We’ve always had a connection. Chandler was a guy that I could hang out with, and talk to about anything. It’s cool to build those relationships because you make friendships. But at the same time, it makes you want to beat them even more when they come to town. There will be some rivalries and trash talking to be had down the road as we compete against each other in the West.
We went to some great cites over the course of training with Team USA, but it kind of felt like it does during the season. You’re in and out of a place before you get a chance to see or do anything. When you’re with the national team, there are a lot of appearances to be made, so you’re running around doing a lot of different things. Everybody wants to be involved with what Team USA is doing. It’s a cool experience — I got to do some signings and individual appearances, different things like that — but it leaves you with very little down time.
That said, I did bring my laptop, and was able to game a little bit. Klay told me that one of his best friends is real big into League of Legends, which is something I’m big into as well. No one else in the league really plays computer games like I do. A lot of them of are big into FIFA and NBA2K, which I do play, but I didn’t get into any of that while they were playing during camp. I had my laptop and just turned it on to play when I had a chance.
The Chicago and New York parts of the camp were pretty quick and hectic, but in Vegas, there was some down time for us to do things. My wife was there with me, so we were able to walk around Las Vegas a bit. We went and watched the Cirque du Soleil show and a Celine Dion show. We both enjoyed the shows, though she definitely enjoyed the Celine Dion one a lot more than I did. But we both had a great time there. I was thankful that she was able to come and I could hang with her a little bit too.
HARD WORK TOWARD IMPROVEMENT
I’m really happy with where I am as far as training for the upcoming season goes. I put forth a conscious effort this summer to bulk up a bit. It’s not like I’m trying to get huge. I still want to be a basketball player. But I’ve been eating a lot better, and that’s probably thanks to my wife, who’s been cooking for me, making sure that I always have meals and giving me some protein shakes too. I’ve definitely been seeing positive results from that.
When I set out to do this, I wanted to gain weight, but I also wanted to ensure I had the same speed. In basketball, it’s one thing to be strong, but it’s an even better thing to be fast. I’ve had a lot of help managing that balance thanks to the guys over at St. Vincent’s Sports Performance, where I’ve basically been lifting five days a week. I’ve trained with them since I got drafted and they do a great job of not only getting me bigger and stronger, but making me a better basketball player.
Everything there is focused on being better on the court, and not just being a power weightlifter. They obviously have me do a lot of strengthening because I’ve gotten a lot stronger, but we also do a lot of mobility, flexibility and stability work.
I usually do a basketball workout in the morning from 9:00 to 11:00. Then I go eat and after, I’ll work out strength, conditioning and speed from 11:30 to 1:15. I do that five days a week. Once you get into a good routine, it really does help you out. The results have been undeniable. When I’m playing, I haven’t been knocked off balance hardly at all. I’m just a lot stronger and when I drive to the hole, I’m able to kind of brush people off me and that makes me a lot better.
The other things I’ve been working on are ball handling, shooting and defense. I think you can always improve in ball handling, and what I’ve done this summer is going to be huge for me. I’ve also continued to work on my jump shot, and all types of shots, for that matter. I didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well as I wanted to last year.
I want to make sure that gets to where it should be.
On defense, it’s just a matter of making sure that I’m playing hard. I feel like I have pretty good natural instincts and as long as I play hard, good things will happen. Being with Team USA helped me a lot in that respect. Coach K and Coach Thibodeau are both big on defense, so I wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could to show them that I wasn’t just going to be out there to shoot threes. I was all in for their team. I think I’ll be a better leader because of that experience. Once I get back to Utah, I’ll be able to feel that a little bit more.
When you don’t make the playoffs, it’s a long offseason. We’ve been done since the middle of April, so I think we’re all itching to get back. We have a lot of new faces and a new head coach. There’s a lot of excitement for what’s to come.
GOOD TIMES ON SOCIAL
As I wrap up here, I want to thank you all for supporting me, and keeping up with what I’ve been doing. I’m looking forward to a good year here coming up and I’ve had a great time interacting with you guys over the last few months via the blog and Twitter.
Basketball is what I do every single day. But it’s not all that I am. I do a lot of other things, too. I like some of the same things you like, and I enjoy talking about them. I hope you all enjoy that as well. Being able to talk about those things really is something that I love. It’s cool to have a forum for that, be it on this blog or in short form on social media. It’s great to interact with everyone.
Speaking of which, I had two moments on social media recently worth mentioning as I close this out. The first: A couple weeks back, my wife, Robyn, posted a picture of herself on Instagram with me in the background, gaming. She commented that she was waiting for me to finish playing, and she kind of looked like someone looks when they’re not happy to be waiting. It got some play on social media.
Halfway around the world, a guy from Japan picked it up, and did an animated version. He’s a gamer, too, so I think he thought it was funny. He’s been doing pictures like that for a while, and he’s done a few pictures of me. (He does animated pictures of players on the Jazz and the Trailblazers, and maybe a couple of other teams.)
But this one stood out.
“They made me look mean,” Robyn said. I had to laugh.
“Maybe you shouldn’t post pictures like that, then,” I said.
The other moment came while I was driving with a friend of mine. I bought a Tesla this summer. It’s a really nice car, and pretty fast, too. We were on the interstate when we heard a car pull alongside us, revving its engine like the driver wanted to race. We looked over.
It was a Toyota Camry.
We were like, “A Camry? A Camry is trying to race us?”
The driver of the car stared at us, and then started laughing and waving before we got separated in traffic.
Two minutes later, I got a tweet from the guy.
@gordonhayward Sorry I don't have a cool car like yours.
— Mike Stevens (@Mike___Stevens) August 27, 2014
It was cool for him to reach out like that. I definitely encourage everyone to comment on the blog. Tweet at me, and strike up a conversation. Talk to you all soon.