As of this writing, the Lakers are 24-46 on the year, last in the Pacific Division in one of their worst seasons in franchise history. Yet, one of the team’s few bright spots has been up-and-coming guard Jodie Meeks. The fifth-year player out of Kentucky is averaging career-highs in multiple statistical categories including 15.3 points and 1.5 steals in 32.8 minutes per game. He’s also shooting a career high 45.4 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from beyond the three-point arc. In his second season in Los Angeles, Meeks seems to be thriving under head coach Mike D’Antoni‘s system.
Before taking the court for the romp of the New York Knicks on Tuesday, Meeks took some time to speak with Dime on a range of topics, including the progression in his game this season, teammate Kobe Bryant, March Madness, video games and more.
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Dime: Despite team struggles, you are having the best season of your professional career thus far. What have been some of the most prominent differences in your game this year from past seasons?
Jodie Meeks: I think a couple of things. Coach D’Antoni gave me a lot of confidence and allowed me to play my game. He doesn’t worry about mistakes. As long as we are playing hard, he lets us play freely. I think this opportunity expanded for me here. I worked on my game a lot in the summer time and it has been paying off.
Dime: Earlier this month, you erupted for a career-high 42 points as your team upset the Oklahoma City Thunder on their home court. What was that experience like?
JM: It felt great, man. To do it against a great team like the Thunder was even more special. I feel like if you score a lot of points and lose, it’s great individually but when you do it and win, it’s a great team accomplishment. It felt great. It was almost surreal.
Dime: You also scored the 42 points while wearing the controversial sleeved jerseys. They’ve been criticized by players such as LeBron James and many others. What do you think of them?
JM: I don’t have any complaints with them. I had my career-game in them – I wish I could wear them every day (Laughs). They’re a lot lighter. Sleeveless jerseys are obviously the traditional ones and have been around longer, but I have no problem with sleeved jerseys. We should wear them more.
Dime: Kobe Bryant is considered one of the best players of all time, and is also known to be extremely intense and hyper-competitive. What is it like to play on the same team as him?
JM: It’s been great. I learned a lot from him, especially in my first year here. This year, I kind of got robbed because he’s only played in six games but the most important thing is his mental aspect. No matter how his body his feeling, whether he’s sick or injured, he doesn’t let that bother him. He doesn’t make any excuses. Whoever we have on the court, his role doesn’t change and he keeps playing the same way. He doesn’t worry about anything else, what people say about him or anything like that. I try to take that mental aspect of his game.
Dime: What are some individual career goals you have?
JM: I think just to keep progressing. This year was a big step up in confidence as a player. Personally, I felt like I could’ve played this way before but to actually do it and prove a lot of people wrong is gratifying for me.
Dime: Where do you see yourself in five years?
JM: I would like to win a championship, be on a really good team where I am contributing at a high level. Also, to make the three-point contest and win it. Who knows from there.
Dime: What’s your proudest basketball moment?
JM: In college, at Kentucky, I went for 54 points in a game. Getting drafted in 2009 was also a proud moment; it was a dream come true. Also, starting for the first time in my second year in Philly (as a member of the 76ers) against the Miami Heat in the playoffs and playing for legendary coach Doug Collins. This year, it’s been bittersweet. We haven’t been playing as well but I love playing for Coach D’Antoni and the Lakers.
Dime: Who’s the funniest guy in the locker room?
JM: Probably Nick Young. He’s always joking around and acting silly. When he’s on the court he’s serious, but funny in the locker room.
Dime: Did you get a chance to watch the Kentucky – Wichita St. game?
JM: I did. It was a great game, I was kind of nervous. Wichita St. had a great season and I knew it would be tough, but I felt like Kentucky would win. They have a lot of talent, big guys and a talented point guard. But their next game against Louisville is gonna be crazy.
Dime: Which team do you have winning that one?
JM: Obviously, Kentucky.
Dime: So have you filled out a bracket for March Madness? Who’s in your Final Four?
JM: I have Florida vs. Kentucky in the championship and my other two teams in the Final Four are Michigan St. and Arizona. You can’t go wrong with Tom Izzo (Laughs).
Dime: What are some activities you enjoy when you aren’t playing basketball?
JM: Believe it or not, I don’t do much off the court. I play video games… 2K, Madden, Call of Duty. I go to the movies, go shopping, hang out with friends and get a lot of rest. I don’t really go out and party.
Dime: Do you ever play as yourself in NBA 2K14?
JM: All the time, yeah… I got my shot down great.
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