I did an interview earlier with Dove Men+Care and they asked me to describe Black people in one word. And I said inspiring. I look at Muhammad Ali as someone who was willing to give it all up. Colin Kaepernick is the same way. He didn’t know it would cost him his job, but at the end of the day he’s been very vocal that it doesn’t matter. Ending systemic racism and fighting for equality is way more important and I have the utmost respect for guys like that because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.
What was your personal high point on the court inside the bubble?
You can definitely say the -point game in the win was huge. The 57-point game was great but we lost. That’s a great stat. It’s an honor. But we lost the game. Ultimately it was just being able to become who I thought I can become as a player, as a vocal person that’s speaking out. And quite frankly, being able to give back to Jacob Blake’s children, to help with their education, with myself and Adidas. That was a big high point for me because I’m a big advocate for education reform and I think we should have equal education as kids continue to go through school. To be able to donate the proceeds from the first day of my new shoe towards their education, that was something I was really happy about.
You’ve been a dynamic scorer since you entered the league. But to average 36, 5, and 5 against the same team, even if it’s just over a 7 game series, is remarkable. Did it feel like a leap for you?
I think the biggest leap I took was as a leader. Of course there’s another leap and level I can take it to and will take it to once I continue to put the work in. But I think that’s really what the leap was, just continuing to find ways to attack. And not just as a scorer. Everybody sees the 36 points, whatever, but there’s games where I’m getting 8 assists, 9 assists. My goal is to get 10. My goal was to become a better playmaker. I feel like I got to that point. Leading my teammates in every aspect on and off the floor and becoming a guy that they look to. I feel like they look to me at the end of games but now it’s setting the tone early. Setting the tone in the weight room. Setting the tone in the locker room.
The Jazz didn’t have Bojan Bogdanovic in the bubble and that obviously hurt, but what do you need to make a deeper playoff run? It’s probable that the roster is mostly the same next season. Is it just on you to improve?
I think you have a good point there about the pieces we have. I think we’re really confident we can contend…I shouldn’t even say that word. Not even just contend. We can actually just go out there and win. I think the biggest thing is having Bojan back. I think that opens up a lot of lanes. When you lose a 20-points-per-game scorer…Bojan is a tremendous player. He’s a seasoned vet, knows how to get to his spots and he’s just a threat the defense has to respect. We have myself, Mike, Rudy, Joe, Royce, Georges, Jordan Clarkson. I think one thing the bubble did was allow guys to see what our potential can be. But I think the biggest thing now is, alright we’ve gotta raise our level to be who we want to be.
Did you have any trepidation after testing positive for coronavirus about stepping into the bubble and playing?
Quite frankly I thought the season was over, to be honest with you. I had mentally checked out because at that point we didn’t know much about the virus. I didn’t know what the hell was gonna happen. Even when they started having talks about the season coming back, I still didn’t think it was gonna happen. The biggest thing was trusting the [player’s association] that they wouldn’t put all these guys in a bad situation. There was definitely speculation with a lot of unknown. There was a lot of unknown while we were down there. But at the end of the day, I think our league has done it the best out of anybody. Not one positive case is, quite frankly, amazing.