Lawrence Frank Interview
New Jersey Nets coach Lawrence Frank spoke with InsideHoops.com and other major media outlets in a teleconference. Here are the questions and answers:
Lawrence Frank's Opening Statement: We’re very excited about the group of guys we have that have worked extremely hard. As you guys know we’ve had a great deal of changes in the offseason but we’re moving forward. Our guys have been extremely enthusiastic and have competed hard everyday in practice. We’re in Cleveland tonight and so we’ll get another chance to evaluate some of these newcomers and try to figure out our best combinations as we approach the season.
Q: How did you mentally prepare for the transition that took place in the offseason? And when the team was sold, were you ready for the personnel changes in the organization?
Lawrence Frank: After the team was sold, we had no idea the changes. It was made very clear that the organization wanted to, in every aspect, try to keep Kenyon Martin, who was our most marquee free agent. Denver’s ability to front load the deal put us in a situation where we couldn’t match. Once that happened, a series of moves subsequently occurred. Once all the moves happen you mentally prepare yourself and you plan ahead and do some contingency planning in terms of what the results and what the feedback is going to be. Nothing has really caught us off-guard, once the moves were made. Basically we anticipated the reactions that have occurred. But we’re very much living in the present and we’re not going to look back.
Q: After what has happened to your team in the offseason, do you share the perception that the East has narrowed the gap in the competitive balance between the conferences?
Lawrence Frank: Just like you said, it’s a perception. I thought the East has been pretty strong the last couple of years. Probably one of the reasons why perception has changed is because Shaquille O’Neal has gone from the West to the East and he is the most dominant player in the league. The champions came from the east last year, the Detroit Pistons. There are a lot of quality teams regardless of whether they are in the Western or Eastern Conference.
Q: Can you talk about Alonzo Mourning and how much you believe you can depend on him this season?
Lawrence Frank: Alonzo is such a special human being and he’s got such a great will and determination. But yet, we have to remember he had surgery on December 19 to have a kidney transplant. So we’re taking it little steps at a time and you have to crawl before you can walk. He hasn’t done much contact at all, but in the midst of receiving a pad made specifically for him from Nike, he’ll start doing some contact drills in practice. There’s no timetable on it and we just look to take little steps everyday.
Q: How has Alonzo looked in doing the things he was able to do?
Lawrence Frank: If you look at him from the outside, he’s an Adonis. He’s gained more weight, but his body fat is down from when he was with us last year which is unbelievable. But he still has makeup in terms of condition because he hasn’t really played basketball in a long time. It’s just going to take time.
Q: Do you plan to use Eric Williams at both the three and the four and what are you looking for him to contribute?
Lawrence Frank: We’ll play him at both forward positions. I think Eric is obviously a very good defensive player. He’s an extraordinary help defender and a communicator defender and I think he’s an underrated offensive player. With what we do offensively, I think he’s going to be a very good fit. Eric brings the presence in the locker room, behind closed doors. He’s a guy that the guys respect and look up to. This is his tenth year in the league and he brings the kind of mentality that we’ve had here over the past three years. He’s a blue collar type who is going to give you everything he’s got every night.
Q: You saw his (Eric Williams’) minutes increasing last year when he played about 28 minutes. Do you see using him more in the 30-minute range?
Lawrence Frank: It’s hard to say and we’re going to use this preseason to evaluate all our personnel. He’s going to be a significant contributor, but I couldn’t give you a minute total right now.
Q: Being one of the teams in the East that tries to push the ball up court, how important do you think it is to have an up tempo game rather than just pound the ball inside?
Lawrence Frank: As a coach it is important that you play according to your personnel. I think if you spoke to most coaches, they would like to be able to push the ball, but their personnel may not dictate it. I think as a coach you have to do what’s best for your team. So we’ve been very fortunate the past three years where at four of the five positions we had if not the fastest, one of the top two or three players at their positions in Kidd, Kittles, Jefferson and Martin. I think you play according to your personnel.
Q: Do you think more teams in the east will try to push the ball up now that you have Shaq in your conference?
Lawrence Frank: I don’t see them making a drastic shift that way. I think if their personnel dictates it and that’s the style they choose to do, they’ll do it, but not necessarily because of any players in the conference.
Q: Richard Jefferson has made a great difference to the team over the years, and last year he really blossomed. Can you talk about him?
Lawrence Frank: Richard’s really matured. For a 24 year-old man he has a lot of maturity. He’s a very bright individual. He has a tremendous work ethic. He’s the first one in the gym and the last to leave type of guy. He has started to show some really good leadership skills and he’s going to continue to get better because of his dedicated work ethic to the game.
Q: Can you talk about the pairing of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming in Houston. Are they the new Shaq and Kobe in the NBA?
Lawrence Frank: I don’t ever like to draw comparisons because each guy is unique. But I would say they are two of the better players in the NBA. They’re in a great system with coach (Jeff) Van Gundy out there in Houston and I think they’re going to form a dynamic duo. But it’s a team game, and they have other quality players as well, so it’s going to be, I imagine, a little bit of a process and will take some time for everyone to gel. But McGrady and Yao are two very good talents.
Q: How much does Kenyon Martin’s intensity play a role in how he plays the game and what are some non-statistical things he does to help his team?
Lawrence Frank: Kenyon is a great player and a phenomenal teammate. He cares so much about his teammates. He was always, for us, a guy whose skills continued to get better every year. He’s an emotional leader, he plays with such great intensity and he brings it every single day, not just on game days, but every single day he steps on the practice floor he has that same sort of approach. You can count on him every single day to put forth maximum effort. He has very good leadership skills and statistics never tell the story of a guy like that, who brings the intangibles and could raise the level of his teammates.
Q: Is it unusual for Kenyon to have that kind of mind set at such a young age?
Lawrence Frank: Well, look. He was the number one college player coming out. He was extremely well coached by Bob Huggins at Cincinnati and I think he grew. He had a very good rookie season but it was curtailed by breaking his leg. He’s a mature man who continues to improve.
Q: Can you give us a timeline for Jason Kidd? And are you concerned about the speculation about Jason and the fines at practice being something that disrupts the team?
Lawrence Frank: There is no real timetable. With the type of injury he had, I think all of us, Jason included, are going to take a very conservative approach. Jason is such a great competitor that he wants to get back on the court as soon as possible but we have to keep the larger picture in mind. In regard to the fines, all of that is behind us. We talk every single day and there is open communication. We don’t discuss fines publicly in the media, we keep that in house and everyone is on the same page.