Interview: Diener on staying focused, staying loose and talking trash
Transcript of an interview with Portland Trail Blazers guard Travis Diener conducted Thursday at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin, Ore.
Diener on how he’s handled not playing:
You can take not playing a couple different ways. You can get frustrated and pout and not bring positive energy to the team. But all that does — I’ve been around enough basketball to see that that just destroys teams. Even if a guy’s not playing, that can infiltrate the team. You don’t want that. So, my main thing is, I’m just going to be positive. And whether I’m playing or not, I’m going to come to work everyday and be happy to be here. It’s easy now. We’re winning games. So, for me to go in there and tell Nate (McMillan), ‘I want to play,’ you can’t do that when you’re winning games. I realize I just got here three weeks ago. I don’t know everything that we’re doing quite yet; I’m getting it everyday, better and better. But I just try to come in and be positive with whatever humor or mindset I can bring in, and hopefully we can win games.
On working with fellow point guards Andre Miller, Jerryd Bayless and Patty Mills, and developing friendships on the team:
I think those guys, we do a lot of things in practice together. With Patty and Jerryd, you’ve got younger guys. It really doesn’t matter. I try to just be friendly with everybody. Crack jokes, and maybe bring a different personality that this group didn’t have when I got here. I just come in everyday, work hard and have fun.
On the personalities of the Blazers and their quiet nature:
The personalities are a lot more quiet, which is totally fine. This team comes to the gym everyday, completely focused on the task at hand. I think even off the court, some of the guys are quiet by their nature. And that’s nothing against them, I’m just more of a guy that will talk and enjoy it and say what’s on my mind. So, with the personalities that are on this team, I think there’s a great blend. Other teams, you might have too many guys that like to talk just to be heard.
If there is trash talk, it’s competitive and friendly. And once you leave the court, it stops there. It’s not, ‘I’m trying to take your minutes or something.’ I mean, everybody wants to play and everyone’s competitive. But I think everyone respects what each other is doing, and the ultimate goal is to win. And I think the coaching staff and the organization and the players have one goal in mind, and that’s to win in the playoffs.
On keeping his time in the NBA in perspective:
I have nothing to complain about. You gain that with experience. This is my fifth year in the league. I think maybe, if I was younger, I would have acted differently.
Coach is going to play — that’s why he gets paid to coach the team; he gets paid to make those decisions. Guys have got to deal with it, whether they like it or not. It’s called being a professional. It’s called coming in and being a positive influence on your team. Whether things are going right or wrong for you personally, you’ve got to put that aside and for the betterment of the team. That’s being a pro; that’s what you get paid to do. You don’t get paid to come in here and be a distraction; that’s not what I’m going to do. Whether I get to play or not, I just want to win, and that’s the bottom line.
On whether Blazer assistant coaches such as Bill Bayno, Joe Prunty and John Townsend are more hands-on than other NBA assistants:
I think so, yeah. It’s a lot different when you’ve got these guys that can actually — you see Bayno out here with those pads. … And that’s nothing against other assistant coaches; at that age, they’re not able to go out there and compete like that. And Bayno keeps himself in great shape, so he can come out here and bang with us and talk a little trash and keep everyone together. And I think that helps. To not playing, and then come in here and play against him and play against Patty, it helps to come in and compete a little bit. And I think that kind of eases everybody’s mind a little bit. You’ve got coaches that still treat you like you’re going to play 48 minutes everyday. And that’s one thing about J.T. and Bayno, they can compete and still play. Even Monty (Williams). Monty’s out there with Nicolas (Batum), and then out there with Dante (Cunningham) and Jeff (Pendergraph), doing pregame drills with them. So, it’s a different situation here.
On talking trash during practice:
You can’t get personal. That’s when things happen. You get personal and things get said, and you don’t want to cross that. It’s all in good fun and good nature. I think most guys in the league have it in them for it, it’s just sometimes their personalities — I don’t think that’s the case with this team. I think these guys are very focused, very laid back. I haven’t seen anything about being big time and having egos. That’s one thing that has really struck me about this team. How everyone, from the best player, Brandon (Roy), how he has no ego, to everybody else. This is a good fit for me, and I’m happy to be here.
Miller on Diener:
He definitely comes to work. He knows how to play. I played against him when he was in Indiana, running the point over there. He definitely knows how to play, and you have to respect his game a lot.
He keeps the fun in the game, and that’s what it’s all about. You’ve got different personalities on the team, and he’s brought a different personality to this team.
McMillan on Diener:
You can hurt the spirit of the team if you’re negative in situations like that. And when we brought Travis on, it was basically an insurance policy. Being with Bayless and Andre being our only point guards, and having a young guy in Patty possibly having to step in. We knew Travis could play. He could shoot the ball. Our goal was to get to the playoffs and move farther, and we would possibly need somebody like that. That was a reason that we brought him in. But nobody has gone down. And he’s having to sit and wait and be patient. And it’s very important that those guys keep a positive attitude. And if there are some issues and some problems, it’s not that you can’t talk about them or deal with them. But there’s a way to deal with it, and there’s a time to handle it. He knows why he’s here, and he’s going with the flow. I think the main thing is to have yourself ready, in case it does happen.
On Diener’s personality:
He’s been a class act. Guys like him. You come in and he does what we ask him to do, and if we don’t he’s getting his work in. It’s been good.