First of all, I just want to say thank you out there to all the fans. You guys really stood by us through some tough times this season, and even in those final games where we knew we were out of the playoffs, you still came out and supported us and that means a lot to all the guys on this team.
I can’t believe the season is over. Obviously it was a tough season for us as a team and for me individually. We didn’t achieve what we set out to do, but the veteran leadership on this team still made sure we closed out last night with a lot of positive energy in our win over Golden State. That positive energy really goes a long way and I know there were a few times this past year it kept me going. I had some injuries to battle throughout this 2008-09 season and it was tough. I still don’t feel like I’m 100% right now and I think my body hasn’t reacted well to being in and out of the rotation throughout the course of the season.
The role on my team, as well as my playing time, has obviously changed since playing at Wisconsin. I went from being a starter to a guy on the bench fighting for time and that transition isn’t easy for a lot of guys. For me, I just keep in mind that I’m playing on a team behind some unbelievable players. If I was on a team without talent, yes, I would start worrying about why I wasn’t getting playing time. But with the guys I have around me on this ballclub, there is too much to learn to worry about things like how many minutes I’m playing.
But even though this hasn’t been a great season, I’m still staying positive because I realize how incredibly blessed I am to be here. I came from a situation where things weren’t always positive and have made an effort to change that. I get to travel and do a lot of great things I’m grateful for. I’m also fortunate enough to do it with guys I’m close enough to that I consider them family.
If I had to choose an individual highlight from this season, or at least the thing I was most proud of from a personal standpoint, it would have to be getting that first start in Los Angeles. Alvin Gentry trusting me enough to put me in that situation meant a lot to me. The first start of my career coming against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers and scoring 16 points and contributing meaningful minutes really made me feel like I was capable of helping this team out on the court.
Today we had our exit interviews. It’s the day where guys finish cleaning out their lockers and meet with the coach and some people from the front office for the final time of the season. You go over the season a little bit and get an idea of what’s expected of you over the summer. In my case, it sounded like they just want me to work towards getting healthy and continuing to be me which is great (I mean, what could come easier?).
The Suns drafted me knowing I could score the basketball and know that when I’m healthy I’m capable of contributing. I know my weaknesses and I know the things I need to work on over the summer as far as my game goes. But the guys today let me know they really appreciate my attitude in the locker room and especially as a young guy, that’s just a great thing to hear. Even though we had some tough situations to deal with this year, I always tried to bring a little light to the locker room. That’s who I am, it’s a big part of my character. I love to have fun and it just comes natural to me. Shaquille O’Neal and I worked on a film this season with Steve Nash and most of it was us just improvising and having a good time.
A lot of work needs to go into being an NBA player, but it’s important to also have fun. It’s too long a season to beat yourself up and not enjoy things, and if you don’t keep in mind the importance of enjoying yourself, it’s really tough to stay positive. I joke around in the locker room because I’m excited to be playing with these guys. To come in here today and hear from guys like Alvin Gentry and Steve Kerr not to change is really special.
A lot of people have assumed I’ll take it a little easier this summer and that maybe my lagging injuries were credited to putting too much work in during the offseason. I was doing a lot of two-a-day workouts and really, really pushing myself. Regardless, I’m still going to head into this summer ready to work hard and I don’t want to slow down.
I’m always going to work hard but I think now it’s a matter of picking and choosing what I do a little bit better and trusting my body more. You’ve got to know your limitations both physically and mentally. I’ve really worked on the latter a lot this past year. I had the strong summer league showing and was really playing well in the preseason, but once I had the surgery which cost me the beginning of the season, it was really draining on me mentally. Not to say it wasn’t a challenge physically, because it definitely was, but maybe I just didn’t think the surgery could have that kind of effect on me mentally and got taken by surprise. Again, I don’t think the experience of this season is going to change me or my routine drastically. I don’t feel right going through a day without a workout but I’m going to take care of my body and listen to the trainers.
In terms of keeping myself busy away from the weight room and away from the practice court, I’m going to continue doing a little traveling. I’m going to visit my family and take a trip to Brazil with Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley. I’m really looking forward to seeing where LB grew up and experiencing that culture. I’ll definitely blog about the trip and let you guys know how it went.
I want to wrap up by again thanking you guys for all the support and letting you know the guys on this team are committed and really feel we got better as the season progressed. We hit some bumps during the season and to be honest, I think our confidence at times got shook. We had a much better killer mentality when the season started and expected to beat each of our opponents by 20. On nights when that ended up not being the case, I think maybe we started questioning ourselves and that cost us. Towards the end once the guys got back to playing the style of basketball they were comfortable with, I think that edge kind of came back a little bit and because of that, I think fans have something to look forward to next season.