ESPNLA.com’s Pedro Moura caught up with second-year Clippers forward Al-Farouq Aminu for a few minutes Thursday as the former first-round pick walked into the team practice facility in the afternoon to take a physical and put up shots. Here’s the transcript of the conversation.
Pedro Moura: Be honest: How boring did it get during the lockout? Five months of no official interaction with your team had to be weird.
Al-Farouq Aminu: It didn’t get too boring. It got boring, but not too boring.
PM: Was there a thought on your end to go back to school for the fall semester like some NBA players did? You’re halfway done with a communications degree at Wake Forest.
AA: I did think about it. But there was so much uncertainty, you know what I mean, that there would have been. Like if I would have started, it would’ve been real weird now, so I ended up not doing it.
PM: Your agent, Raymond Brothers, was sort of innovative in that he designed a plan for a few of his clients to spread out your checks so you didn’t feel any hole in your wallet from the lockout. You’re getting paid until next year from last season. How did that work out for you over the summer and into the missed time of the lockout?
AA: Yeah, I was really happy about that. I didn’t miss any checks, and other guys missed the November one. It’s a good thing we didn’t miss too many, but I’m really thankful for how he set it up.
PM: How are you, fitness-wise, compared to last year at this time? Are you in position to get where you want to be by Christmas?
AA: Yeah. Of course. I don’t feel like I’m that far from where I need to be already. I’ve been training, and I didn’t know my timetable, so I wanted to stay pretty close to game shape. I think I did a pretty good job of trying to maintain and pushing myself as well.
PM: How often were you working out? By yourself, or with other NBA guys?
AA: Maybe five, six days a week. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with other players. Not with anybody on the team or anything like that.
PM: What was it like when you heard about the lockout finally ending? Were you awake? The news broke pretty late here on the West Coast.
AA: I wasn’t awake. I woke up and, actually, my girlfriend told me first. She was watching TV. But I didn’t believe her, because everybody says it and then it’s not true, you know what I mean? It seemed like every time you thought it was gonna be over, with a deadline or something like that, it ended up not. Then I started checking all my social networks and stuff like that and the Internet and then my agent called and told me. That’s when I knew it was official.
PM: Did you get in a good session on the court that day? It must have felt a little different.
AA: It felt way better working out that day. It’s like it gave you a goal, you know? You’re always working out to stay in shape and stuff like that, but this gave you some real motivation.
PM: Did anybody on the team send out a sort of group text to the whole roster that day or the next, just sort of saying what was to come or looking to the future or anything?
AA: Yeah, definitely. Players reached out to me and it was refreshing. Just seeing their excitement, knowing that they had the same excitement I had. I like that about our young team. Everybody was just so excited that the season was starting.
PM: Obviously you haven’t had discussions with general manager Neil Olshey or coach Vinny Del Negro yet, because you’re not allowed to, but where do you think you fit in their plans? Do you think they see you as the guy at the 3 this year?
AA: Hopefully. Like you said, I haven’t talked to them, so I don’t know for sure, but I see myself as that. And I feel like they drafted me for that.
PM: You’ve heard these rumors about Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, those guys potentially coming to L.A. What’s your feeling like when you hear that being talked about?
AA: I remember my rookie year when we had a big offseason with all those big trades and stuff like that and people thought maybe some of those guys would come to the Clippers. It’s kind of like the same thing. You can’t do anything but what you can control, so you just let the chips fall where they may.
PM: On the topic of superstar players, your teammate, Blake Griffin, has emerged into a bona fide superstar this offseason after a dominant rookie year last season. Have you noticed him changing his attitude to accommodate those changes or anything like that?
AA: He’s the same old guy to me, man. Down to earth and everything like that. It’s hard to see any changes.
PM: Blake was in here earlier, as was (veteran forward) Brian Cook. You’re the only other guy to come in so far. When do you anticipate your other teammates making their way to L.A. and checking into the facility?
AA: I think by next week, pretty much everybody should be here. A lot of the guys are still in their home cities.
PM: You guys start training camp in eight days, the preseason in 18 and the season in 24, assuming all goes right. That seems to lend itself to rushing through the get-ready process, which could lead to muscle strains and those kind of injuries. How do you prevent that?
AA: I don’t know how. When you play hard, I feel like injuries don’t occur as much. That would be a big statement, everybody just playing hard and making sure they get into the shape they need to get in. I feel like injuries will stay low. Sometimes you gotta just play the hand you’re dealt, you know?
PM: What are the reasonable expectations for you guys this season? Can you easily make the playoffs?
AA: The sky’s the limit. Every year you go into it wanting to make the playoffs. You can’t sell yourself short.