Editors Note: This interview took place on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 before the NBA locked out their players.
Over the next few days, we will be filtering in a new interview series with Coach Paul Westphal. Before heading home to Southern California for what is shaping up to be a very long summer, Westphal took some time out of his busy schedule to hang out with us here at Cowbell Kingdom. We will kick off the discussion with a little Jimmer chatter, which seems to be everyone’s favorite topic at the moment.
James Ham: Coach, you just moved from pick no. 7 to pick no. 10, you picked up John Salmons and you picked up Jimmer Fredette – how do you see Jimmer fitting in right away? Is he a role player? Can he compete for a starting job from day one?
Coach Westphal: I really can’t envision him taking a spot ahead of Tyreke Evans or Marcus Thornton, assuming we re-sign Marcus. But if he can, he’ll start. I do think that we can rely on him to play significant minutes. I’d be really surprised if it doesn’t unfold like that and I think he’s a point guard. I think he is a point guard who has great leadership skills, great maturity, great fundamentals. I don’t think there is much concern about him not being a good player. How great he will become over a period of time, nobody can tell you that either, but there is nothing that leads me to think he can’t be a solid contributor right away.
Read more after the jump.
James Ham: His leadership skills have been talked about a lot, how do you see them translating at the next level? Do you think he is going to have trouble fitting in right off the bat in the locker room?
Coach Westphal: Well, I just know from talking to Tyreke (Evans) that people respect Jimmer’s game. You can see that he knows how to handle himself. He’s got confidence and he certainly has a feel for the game. He plays a position where leadership is demanded and at the same time, he’s smart enough to know that he doesn’t just walk into an NBA team and start telling guys what to do and how to do it. I think he is going to help us because he does have players’ respect and he can play.
James Ham: I know for the last couple of years, you have had to answer this question about whether Tyreke is a point guard, and I know your answer is that he is just a guard and there is no reason to designate him with an exact position. But now you bring in a guy like Jimmer who is a point guard. Obviously he can score, but he is going to play more of a point guard position for your team. Does his combination of skills, if they translate to the NBA level, make him the perfect fit next to Tyreke Evans?
Coach Westphal: I think he fits very well with not just Tyreke, but with Marcus (Thornton), with Salmons, with the bigs we have up front. I think that anytime you have somebody who, at their very worst, you have to guard because they can make shots from anywhere on the court, that’s a plus and he can play with anybody. On top of that, he’s a very good ball handler and a good decision maker, so you can run a lot of offense through him and a lot of offense away from him because he spaces the floor so well. Offensively, that kid can play with anybody because he can shoot.
James Ham: At this point, you just added two rookie point guards in Jimmer and Isaiah Thomas, and you still have Tyreke who can play the position. Are you looking to maybe bring in a veteran point guard or are you still considering Tyreke as the starting point?
Coach Westphal: Our roster isn’t complete right now. We don’t know for sure how the roster is going to end up. We need to make sure we secure Marcus Thornton. We hope we can bring back Sam (Dalembert), and if we can’t, we need some help up front. Certainly we are in a position to believe we can add help up front. When I look at our 1,2,3 spot, I don’t necessarily believe we need to add anybody. If it plays out when they get on the floor that we do, then we reserve the right to change our mind. But I think we are pretty well-situated there.
So for all of you Jimmer Fredette fans out there, it looks like the plan is to get him some substantial minutes early on in his career, but from the bench, not as the starter. I agree with Coach that what makes Jimmer instantly serviceable is his ability to shoot from anywhere. If he can space the floor it should really open up the offense for everyone, but specifically Evans and Cousins. There is no question that Jimmer has confidence in himself, but it will be interesting to see how he integrates himself into an NBA locker room early in his career.
Saturday morning we will run part two of the Coach Westphal summer series where he will answer some questions about the acquisition of John Salmons and the team’s chance of retaining Samuel Dalembert.