Nobody was more disappointed in Jerryd Bayless‘ NBA rookie campaign than Bayless himself. After destroying the ’08 Vegas Summer League (29.8 ppg), Bayless went into the regular season as a darkhorse Rookie of the Year (or at least All-Rookie Team) pick, but soon found himself sitting behind Portland starters Brandon Roy and Steve Blake, and fighting for backcourt minutes with Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez. While Bayless had some standout moments — like scoring 23 points in a Jan. 15 game at New Jersey, and dropping 19 on the Hornets on Feb. 2 — for the most part, the 6-3 combo guard’s first go-round in the League (4.3 ppg, 12 mpg) was pretty forgettable.
Going into Year 2, Bayless is on a mission to turn things around. Although the Blazers signed another point guard this offseason, projected starter Andre Miller, Bayless is still determined to prove he deserves more time. Earlier today I caught up with him at the adidas Nations camp in Dallas, where Bayless, 20, is one of the NBA counselors working with some of the best high school players in the U.S., plus some of the top teenagers from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Dime: Last year you were the talk of the Vegas Summer League. This year you put up numbers (18 ppg, 4.3 apg), but didn’t get as much attention. How do you think you did in Vegas?
Jerryd Bayless: I think I did good. It was just a different situation this year. Last year I was going in with the mindset that I had to make a splash and I was really looking to score. I wasn’t looking to score as much this year; I was trying to do more creating, running a team and getting other people involved.
Dime: So you’re trying to be more of a “pure” point guard?
JB: No, I wouldn’t really say that. I think just being me, just being Jerryd, is good enough. That’s what I’m trying to do. My only goal is to continue to get better and be ready for next year.
Dime: What do you think your role will be on the Blazers next year?
JB: I don’t know yet. We just signed Andre Miller, and I haven’t had a chance yet to talk to Coach (Nate) McMillan about my role.
Dime: When you first heard about the Miller signing, what was your reaction?
JB: I thought it could be a good learning experience for me. I just gotta take it for what it’s worth and learn from it. Andre Miller’s a great point guard, so it’ll only help me get better.
Dime: Not many Lottery picks get to be in the playoffs their rookie year. What was that experience like?
JB: It was cool … It was definitely cool, I just wish I would’ve played more. But just getting to see it and watch everything was a great experience. I’m sure it’ll benefit me later in my career, having been through that.
Dime: Other than the Andre Miller thing, have you been following the NBA offseason moves?
JB: Not really. The only thing I’m worried about is me, and getting more minutes next year.
Dime: Do you think there’s something you need to do more of — or less of — to get those minutes? Or is it just a matter of being in the right place at the right time?
JB: Yeah, it’s kind of that I think, being in the right place. All I can do is continue to get better, and my opportunity will come somewhere. Hopefully it comes soon.
Dime: Have you been working out at the U of Arizona? I understand a lot of NBA guys go back there in the summer.
JB: No, I haven’t been to U of A. I live in Phoenix, so that’s where I’ve been working out. There’s not too many NBA guys from Phoenix, so I haven’t run across a lot of guys this summer.
Dime: Off the court, how was the transition going from college to the NBA lifestyle?
JB: It went well. I’m still figuring things out, like figuring out what to do to take up all the free time you have. You gotta continue to stay busy because there’s a lot of distractions out there. So far I’ve just been working out a lot, getting ready for the season.