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Χρόνος ανάγνωσης 20’

Malcolm Delaney at SDNA: "When basketball becomes a business, you have to treat it like a business"

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Many of you may have had enough of "where will Malcolm Delaney end up finally?" stories. After all, and despite the rumors that he will be back in Europe for the first time after 2016, the American guard picked a new destination for his career: chinese league and specifically Guangdong Southeastern Tigers. After being accused even as "addicted to money", Delaney still doesn't care about what people in Europe think about him declaring though that he prefers to keep the positive reactions. His focus now is just to win another championship.

The former point guard of the Atlanta Hawks gave a 4.000-words interview at SDNA and talked about his perspectives on basketball, his past in Europe and his experience in the NBA. Delaney revealed a story that show why he has a strong bond with coach Giorgos Bartzokas from Lokomotiv Kuban's days and did not hesitate to express the opinion that he was the best guard in Europe back in 2016. Actually, there were many fans back then that would accept this, as he was doing great things leading Loko to F4.

As for the NBA experience, he underlined what went wrong with the Hawks and why the situation was not good for him and made him hate basketball last year. Delaney also explained why he treats basketball like business and why should a young kid from Baltimore see him as a role model.

- I will start with the toughest one. Give me three words to describe European twitter's users.

"Ah... I mean, I can't really say three words. I have a lot more support than ignorant fans who just say things. A lot of people are disrespectful and very ignorant, but for the most part I really appreciate European fans' support. Ι appreciate how passionate they are and that's one of the reasons I liked playing in Europe. But if the things don't go the way they want, it's totally opposite. I heard also racist stuff when I was in Europe.

The can't realize I am going to China for six months. But in six months, what if their team want to sign me and how would they react If don't want to go to that team because of their fans? They just don't understand that this is not the end of the world. I never said I am going to play in China for the rest of my career, I never said I wouldn't play in Europe again. You know, a few years ago, I had a situation with Fenerbahce fans. I ended up blocking 300-400 Fenerbahce fans, because they pretty much tried to attack me on twitter. And now, when I talked to Fenerbahce this year, they had a question about the situation between me and that fans and stuff. So that means that everything comes around. The fans should understand how that could effect somebody's perception on a club".

- Don't you think that it all comes from their different perspective on sports and how passionate they are with the teams and the results?

"Yeah, of course. They are the most passionate fans in the world and, like I said, it can be good or bad. For the most part, it's good. There are always people who are negative and they want to hate. But I am not going to say that all European fans are bad, because in my five years there a lot of fans really appreciated what I do and they loved my game. I am not worried about those, who always have something bad to say".

- Despite the hate and stuff. Doesn't it make you feel nice the fact that almost each and every European fan mention your name, when they are asked about which guard would they like to "run" their team? I mean you started from Chalon and zero Europeans knew you back then.

"When I played in Europe, of course my ultimate goal was the NBA, but after my rookie year and when I played in Budivelnyk, me and my agent had a talk. He told me: "We need to focus on you being the best guard in Europe". So my focus, besides NBA, was to become Europe's best guard and after one or two years at the highest level, NBA teams would come and offer me a contract. I tried to become better every year, I turned down money in Europe. Everybody was telling "sign for money, sign for money". I turned down offers though just to go to a team, where I would feel more comfortable. This always helped me out. The biggest step, I think, was when I signed at Bayern Munich. I took a deal, while I probably could have made more money, but they had a belief that I could make their team better, the wanted to build a team around me and it turned out to be probaby the best situation for me. I tried my best so I can get in the top of the Europe. The fans really appreciate me".

- Did you feel, back in to 2016, that you were the best guard in Europe?

"Yeah, I think I was. Not even just because I am talking about myself. I just feel like that when you look at what type of team we had in Loko, we were predicted to finish like 4th in the first group. We came out 2nd though and then we came out 1st in the Top 16. We knocked out Barcelona and eventually we reached the Final Four. When you look at the level of team we had, with the budget and all these things. We had couple of good players, but we were a group of players that never before had played deep into Euroleague. How I performed, especially in some big games getting to the Final Four and producing there, I think I was the best. Of course, there were other guards who had great year. De Colo, Teodosic. I can't take anything away from them, but I definitely think that this year I was the best guard".

- You 're still young and I guess that your mindset is that the best are yet to come. Let's suppose you retire tomorrow and you choose to write a book about your career. How many pages would you devote in Loko and would you keep a chapter for your relationship with coach Bartzokas?

"Yes. When you talk about coaches, he meant a lot to me in my career. A lot of people don't know, but my second year going to Loko, they tried not to cut my contract, but they said they didn't have enough money in their budget. So they gave me an opportunity to take other deals. I got in a situation, where the first day I got to Russia they called my agent and said they didn't have the money to pay me. I was actually going to take a deal in China. But I had a contract. The president said that if I find a contract with similar amount of money, they will release me. My agent found me a good offer in China, at Yao Ming's team. I was supposed to be leaving and coach Bartzokas called me 6 o' clock in the morning. He just kept calling me and I picked up the phone. He wanted to talk with me and learn what's going on. So I met him and he told me: "I heard you want to leave" and I told "No, that's not the situation. I don't have any reason to leave, they kind of asked me to". He told me: "I came here for you. I wanted to have you as my player for two years. I'll build this team around you, so I don't want you to leave. I will go to the president and the GM and tell them that if you leave, I am leaving". So, from that meeting, I have great respect for coach Bartzokas. Even throughout the season we had some financial issues or we had bad flights. Whatever it was, he was with the players. I think this was the biggest thing on our team. There are a lot of coaches in Europe that are scared of the club, are scared of losing their jobs and do whatever they tell them to. He was the total opposite, he was all about the players. Like I said, he gave me opportunity to be myself and to build a team around me with his system. It worked out perfect. Definitely that was my best year and that was one of the only years I really, really had fun playing. It was a fun year for me".

- Do you agree that the season here should be made shorter? Is the length of the season a major factor of an athlete to join Chinese league?

"That's a fact. It's way too long. I don't think that anybody should be playing basketball for 10 months in a year. The preseason also last a whole month and there also some leagues with lengthy play-offs. Euroleague has done a good job, but it should be the only league for its teams. I don't really think it's necessary to have one team playing in two different leagues. For me, it's a lot even for European players. They don't get a chance for a break, as when the season is over they have the camps with the National Teams. They don't get a rest and then you look for foreign players or Americans. We are pretty much away from our family for a whole year. People don't understand, European fans don't understand that we are leaving our families, we don't have holidays. For me, that five years, I got tired playing in Europe. I turned down bigger money to come to play in the NBA. People though keep on telling "money, money, money" things. I had more money offered in Europe, I had 2.5 million dollars offer in China for six months before I came in the NBA. That's not just about money. It's about being comfortable and, like I said, I got a chance to be around my family for two years, with my friends and back in my own culture. The European season is definitely too long. It definitely needs to be done something about that".

- In a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate your experience in Atlanta?

"Ahhh, probably it would be a 5. To be honest, I didn't enjoy playing basketball. My first year, it was weird for. Like I told Eurohoops, when I came to Atlanta the GM wanted me there. I am not sure how much the coach wanted me in Atlanta. We went into the season with the team having only two point guards, so I had to play. I was playing well. After the All Star Break, I wasn't comfortable with the role in the second half of the season. You know, Tim Hardaway started playing well and I didn't have the ball on my hands. So basically I just sit in the corner. Anybody who knows me, knows where I am at my best, when I play pick n' roll, when I am able to put myself in a rhythm. I can't just sit in the corner shooting 3s. That's not my game. So the second half of the season, I didn't really feel comfortable and in the end they brought in an older guy and played him over me. He wasn't playing better. It was the first time of my career, where I didn't play.

Going into my second year, I thought I was going to have a better opportunity. The coach had told me that he was looking forward to seeing me improving, and getting even better. So I thought that the opportunity was wide open. Dennis (Schroder) and Bazemore had guaranteed minutes and everything else was wide open. My approach during the summer was getting back to being myself. I was very aggressive in the summer. Talk to any assistant coach and he will tell you. I was probably the best player in the team. That's how I approach the summer. I had a good summer. Eveing going at preseason, I had a good one and I thought that I was going to play more minutes, I was going to have bigger role in the team because we weren't that good. The first game of the season, I didn't play. I played like 11 minutes. So for me it was all bad. And I asked for a trade last season, but it ended up not going through. I didn't have fun playing last year. I wasted a season after all, it didn't help me at all".

- So I guess you lost the joy of the game, right?

"Yeah, I hated basketball last year. Atlanta was good. I have respect for the coaches, I am not saying that the coach is terrible, but that's NBA. When I went there, I knew that it could end up being like this. I am not a star player in the NBA. The coaches' priority isn't to make me happy. I had to adjust, but I never had a role, so I never knew how I was supposed in Atlanta. For me, who always had a role and always had coaches trusting my abilities, it was surprising. I definitely hated playing basketball last year, especially since we were losing. I am competitive and I hate losing. So that was the biggest thing. I didn't get to play like myself and then we were losing. Some players got hurt and they let me play at "2". And when I played well, everybody was surprised by the fact that I can play shooting guard. If anybody has seen films or games from the past, knows that I can play both guard positions. In Atlanta, they didn't see that I am capable of it until the second season. It was kind too late though".

- Based on the situation that you 're presenting me, I guess you were now allowed to blame yourself.

"Νο. But that's how NBA makes you feel. You start to think: "Am I really that bad?". It's political but it makes you think. I had never been in such a situation in my career before. I was questioned about what I can do, I was told that I was taking too many shots. In the second game of the season, I think I had 9 shots and I was told that I was being too aggressive. I 've never had that in my life. I 've never had a coach tell me that I shot too much. All my friends and family wanted me to shot the ball and asked me why I didn't. I told them that they don't understand that behind closed doors somebody told me that I shot too much. People don't understand what's going on behind the scenes and how things work for a professional athlete. Like I said, I am not to blame anybody and I could still have done even better, but I could have been in a better situation which could have helped me more".

- My opinion is that, during your five years in Europe, you became "addicted" to responsibilities, because you were the leader everywhere.

"I didn't go to Atlanta trying to be a star. I didn't go there to take over the team. I knew I was going to be a back up point guard, but also you want to win games even when you are back up point guard. You just think that you 'll be let to do what you do best. And I didn't ever get the chance. That was my biggest question. Are we trying to win or what are we trying to do? If we want to win and you believe that I am a good player, you should let me do what I do good my whole career. Because I won everywhere I' ve been. And that was what made me frustrated. My biggest regret is that I didn't have the opportunity to help our team. Especially my first year, because I think that we could have win the East Conference Finals and they didn't play me in the play offs. We had a big problem with the Wizards and their guards and I know I could have helped my team out".

- Ιf you were an NBA team's GM, why would you recruit Malcolm Delaney?

"1. I am a great teammate, I 've never caused a trouble, I never had issues on or off the court, I am a good leader. Everybody who has played with me, loves me and you can also ask any teammate I had in Europe or in NBA. Everybody knows what I am capable of, everybody knows that I am a good guy and I work hard every day. I risk my body for anybody in the game, I take charges, I' ve went to floor, I defend the best player of opponent team.

I do everything that a team player should do. I am not selfish at all, I just do whatever I can to help my team win. And I 've talked to other people around the league who said they liked me. I definitely was surprised that I didn't get an opportunity this year to be into another situation. Like I said, I really don't get caught, I don't care. If I am meant to be in the NBA, I 'll. If I am not, I will do what I 've done during my whole career and be succesful elsewhere. I don't build my life around NBA. A lot of people tell me that I should be there, but for me it's not that important. I just want to play basketball. I don't care that much for the NBA. It's a lifestyle".

- Do you consider the league as fair in general terms? I mean in everything. From how much each player earns to anything else.

"The NBA is what it is. Very political. Everybody is not treated the same, but that's typical. Whoever gets more money is the one who gets also more attention. I went older in the NBA, I knew some things, so it wasn't a surprise. I knew that anything possible can happen and I knew that there would probably be these ups and downs. It's pretty much what I expected. It's a great league, the best in the world, with best players and you can't deny that. I definitely enjoyed the opportunity playing there".

- How many times had you seen a player in Europe and told "How can he not be in the NBA"? Were there many players that impressed you?

"For sure. There were many Euroleague players who can play in the NBA. Like I said, it's all about the opportunity, the situation. A lot of people though are comfortable playing overseas and they don't even care about the NBA. Why would you go there and take less money when you play at the highest level in Europe and you are paid a lot of money to do it with people supporting and appreciating you? Why would you want to go to a place where you will not be a star? As I said, lot of players can make an impact in the NBA. Basketball is basketball everywhere. Basketball in the NBA is not like rocket sience".

- Let me turn the question opposite. How many times did you feel that some NBA players did not deserve to be there?

"I feel like everybody thinks such things. For me, I kind of think that everybody is in a situation with an NBA team for a reason. Everybody has worked hard to reach this point. So I don't speak on who should be in NBA or who should not. A lot of people are being drafted higher than they should, but this is not their fault. You can't blame the player, if a team thinks that he is good and deserves this. For me, I don't really judge players. Such faults belong to the teams. Always you look in a situation and you think that you can do better than a specific person but I just go by myself and think where I can fit in".

- Growing up and rating your progress, do you think that you are a good role model basketball-wise for young kids from Baltimore?

"For sure. You know, my city is tough to make it out. We 've got a lot of basketball players who could have played in the NBA, but they got tied up in the streets selling drugs or making a turn on their lifestyle. You have also some players who set a good tone for the young players and guys to look up to. Like I said, I 've never been in trouble outside the court, I do what I am supposed to do on the court, I went to college, graduated, found my way overseas and reached the NBA. So for a kid in Baltimore, I think I could be the blueprint for something different. People don't understand how hard it is to go overseas first and then come back to the league. And when I came back, I came back on my own terms, because I had a good chance. Me and my agent always told that I should be back, not because I want to be in the NBA, but because some teams want to have me here. That's what happened".

- Having grown up there, where there times where you were forced to leave some of your friends because they followed dark paths?

"Yeah. Always there are good friends, who you have to separate yourself from. That was something that I couldn't get away of. My neighbourhood was my neighbourhood. I lived there and I wasn't a child who stayed in the house. I was around everything that was going on, I just knew what was right or wrong. I had an older brother who was very responsible and helped me know the difference between them and who I should be around or not. My parents also did a good job keeping me away from stuff like that. Eventually, I understood that if I want to play basketball or any other sport, I have to stay out of troubels and try to get better every year".

- During that days in Loko, I had seen an instagram post in which you had written in the description. "Throw me in a cage of wolves, I'll find a way out on top". Can you point out one situation in your career where you felt thrown in a cage of wolves?

"Let me think... I think even that season in Loko. I wasn't the top guard at the beginning, we were coming from Eurocup. I didn't have a great first season in Russia, because me and the coach didn't get along. I didn't like the situation during my first year. But we became a Euroleague team. We were underdogs and I felt like that we had a mentality to be different than the others. Many people were thinking that we were not going to make it anywhere and we made it in the Final Four. That was kind of my motivation: people not believing on what we could do. We were pretty much the only people that believed. Until they saw in the first round how good we are, they were questioning our chances. We forced people to respect us and that was kind of our mentality".

- Was there any aspect on European players' game that you were jealous of?

"No, I don't think so. Personally, I think that European players are very skilled, they play more on skills, while Americans are more athletic. When someone moves from the NBA, everyone talks about how strong, how quick he is. It's not like that in Europe. It can be a player over 32-33, like Spanoulis, who still can produce or Navarro who can play the game. It's two different styles of basketball. I really like playing in Europe because I am not the most athletic, I am not the fastest, but I understand how to play the game and it's team basketball. That's the part I respected most about European basketball. They appreciate skill more".

- My last question. You first came in Europe to play in Chalon for one hundred thousand dollars or something. Now you guaranteed a very good contract in China. Does the love for the game remain the same though?

"Once basketball became a business, the love of the game became different too. Basketball was my life growing up and playing in high school and college. When money are not involved, you really have to love what you do. Once it becomes a business, you have to treat it like a business. One day you may wake up and learn that your team doesn't want you. But once I am on the court, money means nothing. I am all about winning. Of course I think I deserve a certain amount of money, I have to be compensated for what I do. But again, once I am on the court, money will not win championships. The more money you make, the more responibilities you have, as the team expects from you more. The challenge is bigger when you make more money. When I wasn't making much money and saw players making more than me, I told that I have to prove that I am better than this guy. My concern is to prove now why I am paid this amount of money and why a team chose me as a leader. All I care about now is trying to win another championship. Everything else comes after that".

Malcolm Delaney at SDNA: "When basketball becomes a business, you have to treat it like a business"
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