Our 1st pick of the second round of this year's 2012 NBA Draft was Jeff Taylor. A player that was projected to go towards the end of the first round fell victim to teams that started drafting based on needs over “best player available”. I personally say HALLELUJAH for those teams passing over him and the Bobcats getting to take him where they did. Coming from Vanderbilt, Taylor joins former rival Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from Kentucky to become the 2 newest small forwards for the Charlotte Bobcats. Playing in the same conference, the 2 played against one another, with the elder Taylor often keeping MKG in check. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Taylor at the Bobcats Media Day. More than anything, I want to share the pre-interview story. It is one that to this day, I’m still scratching my head on…
Media Day was like every other Media Day before it (I guess this is true because it was my first one to ever attend). I will be the first to say that while being able to type up questions online and submit them to various players (Matt Carroll, I’m still waiting on some answers to Bruce’s questions), I am not the best of people to interview face-to-face. Since this is a hobby and not a career, I get a bit star-struck from time to time. I prefer being polite and snapping pictures, not to bother anyone or get into anyone’s way. For these reasons, I did not get many chances to interview a ton of people. After the press conference with Coach Dunlap, we were all allowed to venture back up to the practice court. At the practice court, there were going to be various players at various tables that would be accessible for us to interview. There were stations where the players’ photos were being taken for the NBA, The Charlotte Observer, etc. There was also a podium where certain players would be having mini-press conferences and fielding questions from the floor. This is where I started getting a bit fuzzy as to what I was and was not allowed to do. All of the players had “handlers” with them, guiding them to where they needed to be for photos, questions, tables, etc. I did not figure this out until much later into the process. I talked to Byron Mullens because I feel like there is a bit of a connection with him after last season’s interview. Byron is a good guy and he helped me relax a bit. Talking to him made me feel a bit more like I was around friends. I had noticed that all of the players were filling out some sort of questionnaire, and I didn’t want to interrupt them (seriously, it was like 2-3 pages, front and back, stapled together). After congratulating Byron on being a new father, I knew I needed to interview some folks other than him. I made some pictures of the players and they are out on our Facebook page. I noticed a group of “professional” reporters floating towards Jeff Taylor. I had made my mind up that he was a player I was determined to interview, so with my questions in hand, I ventured to the table where he was seated with these “pros”.
They asked him a couple questions about Coach Dunlap and the chance to be in the NBA, and then the opener question came. “So you’re from Sweden, right?” This was what they were asking him. He responds with a nervous sounding yes. The pros then start on a 2-minute drill of asking him questions about IKEA:
Does he have IKEA furniture?
Are the beds in Sweden as low as the ones they sell at IKEA?
Did he like Swedish meatballs?
If the “basketball thing” doesn’t work out, could he see himself being a spokesman for IKEA?
(I couldn’t even make this up. I have it recorded at home because I had taken a digital recorder to aid me in interviewing)
They all chuckled and said they’d stop with the jokes, they thanked him for his time, and off they walked. I stood there speechless. The guy is an NBA rookie, nervous about how the city will accept him, and he just was the butt of a series of stereotyping jokes by the local media. I was speechless…briefly. I really didn’t understand why they would have gone at him in the manner that they did, and to be honest, it took me about 15 seconds to figure out how to go about getting comfortable even talking to Jeff.
“Hey Jeff, Andrew Lail with Trade Street Post. I have a few questions for you and I promise that they have absolutely nothing to do with IKEA or Sweden.” He chuckled nervously and said OK. I had found a basketball player that was as shy as I am around strangers. I told him that I am a Purchasing Agent/Production Planner by trade, and Trade Street Post is a fan based blog site, ran by true Bobcats fans. He seemed to be more relaxed about it all and thought what we were doing was pretty cool.
As for the interview, here we go:
TSP: So, being a college senior coming into the NBA, do you feel like a rookie or do you feel more like you know what to expect this season, being one of the older “rookies” entering the NBA?
Taylor: I definitely feel like a rookie. I didn’t really know what to expect coming in, and everything feels very new to him.
TSP: Were you surprised that you fell to the second round of the draft?
Taylor: I was a bit surprised but I had prepared myself for it. I expected to go somewhere in the mid-20s, but I was also prepared for the possibility of slipping back. I am very happy being drafted at #31 by the Bobcats.
TSP: Often, as the first round starts to get into the 20s, you see teams start drafting for team needs instead of “best talent available”. Charlotte got lucky in that aspect and you fell to us. We’re happy to have you here.
TSP: What are your thoughts on going to the same team as your former division rival, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?
Taylor: It is very cool to go to the same team as Michael. We had some great games against one another during the season.
TSP: Do you believe it will be beneficial for you to both be on the same team? During last season, you seemed to win those battles, at least in scoring.
Taylor: It will be beneficial for both of us and we can learn from each other. We have become good friends and it is going to be a fun year.
TSP: Whom were your favorite players growing up? Did you follow any particular teams?
Taylor: I was a huge Reggie Miller fan and Pacers fan. I followed Reggie, Mark Jackson, Jalen Rose, Rik Smits…all those guys. I eventually transitioned into being an Allen Iverson fan and a Sixers fan. That’s probably the last team I followed. As I grew up, I just became more of a fan of the game and watched them all.
TSP: Could you compare your game to any pro players? (I got a “Tough Question” call from Jeff on this one)
Taylor: I honestly don’t know. I’ve been asked that before and I really don’t know what one player I could compare myself to. I play tough defense and I work to knock down open shots when I have them available. I try to get to the rim to get whatever that may turn into. It could be a lay-up, a dunk, or I could draw a foul; basically I do whatever the coach asks me to do.
TSP: Do you have any hobbies?
Taylor: I watch a lot of TV. I watch comedies, detective shows, and tons of sports. I spend a lot of time in front of the TV. I also go to the movies a lot and play a fair amount of video games.
So there you have it. My first face-to-face, sit down interview has now been completed and I have learned from it. I’ve also learned that Jeff Taylor is a really nice guy and should fast become a fan favorite. He has an incredible skill set in which he can shut down opponents with his defense, he can drive to the hoop and finish with great athleticism, or he can catch the ball in transition and sink those 3-point shots with the smoothness that I haven't seen in Charlotte since the days of Dell Curry. He had a great Summer League, and I think he may still have a few butterflies in his stomach during this pre-season, but that is to be expected from a rookie in the NBA. As he gets used to the flow of the game at the NBA level, he’s going to show us all just how great of a draft pick he was. Jeff, welcome to the NBA, to Charlotte, and to the family that I call the Charlotte Bobcats. As far as IKEA goes…I’ll leave those questions to the professionals.