6 foot10 Australian forward Nathan Jawai is now in his second NBA season. He was drafted at #41 in the 2008 draft by the Toronto Raptors and has since been traded to the Dallas Mavericks and more recently Minnesota. He is averaging 4 points and 3 rebounds in just over 12 minutes a game.
Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis said he is intrigued by what Jawai can add to the team. “(Nathan) is an interesting player,” Rambis said. “He has good foot speed for a guy his size, is willing to learn, easy to coach and we believe this combination can turn him into the player we think he can be.”
We recently sat down with the Big Nate to get his thoughts on life in his second NBA season.
Q. You were signed by Toronto, traded to Dallas and are now at the Timberwolves. How are you finding living and playing pro basketball in Minnesota?
A. I love Minnesota. It’s a great place to play. The whole organization has been great.
Q. Coach Rambis is in his first year as a head coach and has introduced the triangle offence to Minnesota. What’s it like learning a new offence and playing under a rookie coach?
A. He is doing really well – he has learnt from the best (Phil Jackson) and despite the losses he is always positive, which is important to a young team’s confidence. When we have back-to-back games he makes sure we are always focused. He provides a lot of encouragement to our team. We have been playing the triangle all year since training camp so guys are now used to it. It’s not as difficult to pick up for big men.
Q. This is your second year in the NBA. What are you working on to become a better player?
A. In my second season I know what to expect with the schedule and keeping in shape in the offseason. My job on this team is to defend and rebound. Some nights you get more touches/shots than others, but we have a lot of guys on this team who can score. I have to stay focused and be prepared.
Q. What are your thoughts on team mates Al Jefferson, Kevin love and rookie Jonny Flynn? Who are you closest with on the Timberwolves roster?
A. Al is very good fundamentally, not as athletic as some other guys, but is a strong player and his right hand jump hook is nearly unstoppable. Kevin love is a great rebounder and has really worked and improved his mid range jumper. Johnny is very talented and can do a lot of things. He is young and will only get better. They are all great guys. Sasha Pavlovic is my closest friend on the team.
Q. How close are you with other Australian NBA players (David Andersen, Andrew Bogut and Patrick Mills)? Do you regularly catch up and talk?
A. I always receive positive advice from Bogut, which is great coming from a former #1 pick. He is playing really well at the moment. Dave Andersen gives me similar advice. They know it’s important to have Aussies in the NBA and the need to promote the game back home. Patty is a little tougher to get hold of (laughing).
Q. You played the world champion LA Lakers earlier in the month; a long team with players like Gasol, Bynum and Odom. Who have been some of your toughest match ups that you have faced in the NBA?
A. Bynum is tough. We both had a block on each other when we matched up. He and Gasol are very long and keep coming all the time. One of the toughest match ups I have faced though is Greg Oden. He is also very long and is always crashing the offensive boards. I haven’t played against Shaq for long but he was tough as well.
Q. Minnesota has had a slow start to the season with a rookie point guard, new head coach and injuries to key big men. Talk about the effect losing games has on you mentally and on team morale.
A. We are a young and inexperienced team but we are all playing hard, staying focused and we’re improving. No-one likes losing and it’s tough to take but our coaching staff has done a great job keeping us all positive and focused.
Q. The Boomers recently won the Stankovic cup in China while groups for the World Championship were recently announced. What are the Boomers chances at next years Worlds?
A. The Boomers victory in China was great but I was disappointed with how the NZ series ended. That won’t happen again. We have some good talent coming through, with guys like Matthew Dellavedova, Jorden Page and Brock Motum. Then we have players like AJ Ogilvy, Aron Baynes, Luke Nevill as well as Bogut and Andersen obviously. Everyone including myself is going to have to fight hard for their spot because the competition will be tough. I am looking forward to it.
Q. What’s the best and worst part of being an NBA player?
A. The schedule is tough, playing back to back days, late flights and arrivals in other cities, stuff like that. I have gotten more used to it in my second year and learnt a lot about looking after myself once the season ends. The best part is that I play the game I love for a living at the highest level.
Q. Do you follow the NBL while you’re in the US?
A. A bit. I try to follow as much as I can. The competition looks good this year and if you look at the ladder, there are a few teams that can make a run for the championship.
By Rodney Halprin for Basketball Australia