This is a fresh start for all 30 teams and all 433 players (yes I counted each name) in the NBA. One player who built up a following over the summer was Charlotte Bobcats forward Jeff Taylor.
Following a rookie season that saw the second-round pick impress anyone willing to tune in to the team that Jordan built, Taylor didn’t sit on his laurels and bask in his achievements. No, the former All-SEC player had one of the busiest summers of any player in the league. First was a stop in Las Vegas to play with the Bobcats summer league team and that was followed by a stint playing for his country, Sweden, in the 2013 Eurobasket.
We got a chance to talk with Taylor and pick his mind about the improvements to Charlotte’s roster, the team’s new head coach, his summer, his role with the Bobcats, guarding the game’s best players and of course the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan.
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Dime: What’s it like to guard Carmelo Anthony, one-on-one with the final seconds ticking away?
Jeff Taylor: It’s a lot of fun. It’s why I love playing basketball. As a competitor you always look forward to moments like that. The game’s on the line and I’m guarding Carmelo Anthony â€” it’s just a lot of fun. It was just an exhibition game, but it’s still practice for the real deal and it’s fun getting those assignments and playing at the Garden.
Dime: How was the adjustment to the NBA as a rookie?
JT: It was rough at times, I had good periods and I had bad periods. Adjusting to the NBA, often times playing three to four games in five nights, it’s rough and as a player you have to find ways to motivate yourself and stay positive when things aren’t going well for you personally and as a team. I learned a lot and it was a great experience for sure.
Dime: Be honest, is the rookie wall real?
JT: I think it’s real. It varies from person to person, it doesn’t hit everybody the same way, some people get through it easier than others. I think all rookies get to a point where they look up and you feel dead tired like the season is about to be over, but you still have like 35 games left.
Dime: When would you say you hit your wall?
JT: Probably like around middle of January, somewhere around there, after New Year’s. You look up and there’s still a ton of games on the schedule and you already feel like you played an entire season; in college you don’t play more than 40 games, but it wasn’t too bad though.
Dime: Do you believe your preseason success, 11.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 45.7 shooting, will continue over into the regular season?
JT: I definitely see myself being somewhere around there. I can contribute in a lot of ways: On the defensive end I’m really good and I can shoot it, cut to the basket. I can see myself averaging about the same amounts.
Dime: What’s the Bobcats organization like?
JT: I love it here. Charlotte feels like home. I spent four years in Nashville, Tennessee and it feels very similar in Charlotte. Within the organization, everyone has been good to me from day one and they take care of us. Even though we’ve had some subpar seasons, the city still supports us and shows us a lot of love. I think a lot of people see we can be a good team this year if we bring everything together. There’s a lot of excitement within the organization and in the community.
Dime: Did you witness the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist vs. Michael Jordan one-on-one game?
JT: They played one-on-one in the post and it was Jordan against Gerald Henderson and Mike, Mike and Gerald would rotate guarding MJ. It was pretty crazy seeing MJ out there. He’s still pretty unbelievable. His turnaround jumper is still pretty unguardable, which is pretty crazy.
Dime: What do you think of Jalen Rose saying Jordan will come back for a game this season?
JT: I don’t know. I don’t think I can really speak on that, but I guess it would be amazing if he did because it’s MJ. I think that’s just speculation.
Dime: How will the addition of Al Jefferson help the team?
JT: A tremendous amount. Having him inside, a guy who can get 20 and 12 every night and demand double-teams. It’s going to make it a lot easier to get points and it’s going to make it a lot easier for the perimeter players on offense being able to cut and to play off Al. Having defenses focus on Al takes a lot of pressure off guys on the perimeter. We struggled scoring the ball last year, so now it’s great having a guy that you can throw it inside to and have him get a bucket. It’s rare these days to have an inside player that is that good with his back to the basket.
Dime: Now saying you had a busy summer is a tremendous understatement. What led to the decision to play for the Swedish National Team in EuroBasket this summer?
JT: I have wanted to play with them for the past few summers, but the timing just wasn’t right. I had the predraft stuff and all of that last year so I wasn’t able to do it, but when the opportunity came this summer and I knew I only had summer league to do and then I would be free until September I figured I might as well play. It was a great experience; it’s always great competition. A lot of NBA guys go to Europe and represent their countries in the summer. I felt like it would be good for me to continue on my summer developing and getting games in, it was a no-brainer for me.
Dime: Was it hard to become the “go-to” guy after playing a role for much of your rookie season?
JT: Scoring the ball and making plays happen, and things like that, has always been what I’ve done since I started playing basketball. It wasn’t hard at all. I just tried to do whatever my coach wants me to do and whatever that role is that is what I try to do to the best of my abilities.
Dime: Do you see yourself continuing to play for the Swedish team?
JT: Yeah I do. I enjoy playing and representing my country. I think it’s a lot of fun.