LAS VEGAS — Cleanthony Early is a name that grew in the basketball community as result of Wichita State’s impressive and unexpected past season. Many projected the 6-7 forward as a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but it was the New York Knicks who were shrewd enough to select him when he fell to them in the second round with the No. 34 pick.
As I watched Early during Las Vegas summer league action over the weekend, his game appeared balanced and his demeanor perfect for the organization. Some general managers are going to rue the day they passed on Early as he seems poised to become a solid pro in every sense of the word. I caught up with Early for a brief chat as he was setting up to do a motion capture sequence for his inclusion in NBA 2K15.
Dime: Have you ever been a part of anything like this before, doing a motion-capture sequence?
Cleanthony Early: No never. It’s pretty cool. I played 2K a lot with my friends.
Dime: Do you have a favorite NBA 2K and who do you run with when you play against your boys?
CE: I like the more recent ones because they are always improving and adding stuff to the game. We usually just play with random teams. Everybody likes to go after the top teams, OKC and Golden State, but we play randoms because we have been playing for a while.
Dime: So would you say that you are nice on 2K? What system do you play on Playstation or XBox?
CE: Yeah, I’m pretty good. And I play on both (systems). They are the same controllers really.
Dime: Transitioning to some on-the-court stuff…what do you think your role will be with Carmelo Anthony back in the fold?
CE: I’m real excited just to have him back. Just to have another great player there to help me develop as a person — I’m all for it.
Dime: Some might say you have come into a great situation with Phil Jackson in the front office and Derek Fisher as your head coach. What are your thoughts on that?
CE: It’s great because their experience is bar none. I mean we are talking about Phil Jackson, a former player and legendary coach and Derek Fisher also a former player. Both of those guys know the game in and out, so being able to learn under them is a dream come true.
Dime: You slipped a little bit in the draft by some people’s account. Did you have a workout anywhere in the draft process where you felt you did extremely well and made you say: ‘I might go there’?
CE: Atlanta I had a really good workout. Miami I had a really good workout…I had a really good workout in a couple of spots. But things didn’t go that way and I ended up in New York back at home, so I just go to do what I do.
Dime: I’ve seen that there seems to be a natural bond between you Shane Larkin and Tim Hardaway Jr. How did that relationship form? How did you get to be so close so quickly?
CE: Just being real dudes. We put out a certain energy and we are a certain type of guy. I think the way we played out there for instance, we were down with a few minutes left and instead of everybody breaking apart or being selfish, I think we just pulled together. We played team basketball because it was more important at that time. You know a lot of people in that situation will separate, they won’t make the extra pass, but we are just for each other. We are just cool.
Dime: Was your relationship with them preexisting in anyway?
CE: Nah, there’s just no bad energy or vibes with us. There was nothing preexisting. Just when you meet someone and you’re a certain type of person—it’s easy to be around, and you’re fun to be around. We can laugh and joke or talk about anything…even outside of basketball. We are intellectual guys, we are articulate. We are from the same type of environment but at the same time we haven’t had things peachy. We have had to work for everything we’ve wanted. That situation for us is just kind of similar. So we just vibe out honestly.
Dime: 2K looks like they are ready for you, but even in this process with them, your boys have been clowning you. They are making you get your motion capture last because you are a rookie. They certainly are playing the rookie card up on you a bit huh?
CE: They are funny. They use that all the time. Everything is rook this or rook that. It hasn’t been anything crazy. It just a whole bunch of jokes like they may say ‘hey rook can you hold this soda for me?’ and I am like ‘come on you got your arm right there.’
As Early walked into the 2K booth an exiting Shane Larkin ribbed him again saying “Ok rook it’s your turn but hurry up.” Early looked back at me and jokingly said, “See it never ends.”
What do you think?
Follow Warren on Twitter at @ShawSportsNBA.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.