Roundtable: Hardaway, Novak Lay it Out

Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Zack Novak met with the media yesterday to talk about how the Wolverines have been turned things around to win four of their last five, and what's ahead.

Tim Hardaway, Jr.:

Question: What has been the biggest change for you that you've shown in this explosive, the aggressive in the last two to three weeks?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "I think it is me just being more comfortable just playing with everybody on my team and everybody just showing me that I have different options on the court rather than just shooting the ball and just being an extra guy."

Question: Did someone say that you have these options or did you just kind of realize it?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "I just kind of realized it. I saw Darius (Morris) and Stu (Douglass) getting to the basket. I just wanted to be that extra guy out there that could facilitate the ball just as well as they do."

Question: Do you like it better?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "Yeah I like it. It is cool."

Question: How much has your dad talked to you in recent weeks since you've maybe turned it around a little?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "The normal, the same as usual, just call me and says good luck and just go out there and have fun, play hard and that's basically all he talks to me about. He doesn't call me after the game. He just let us me deal with it."

Question: Is he there watching every game?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "Yeah he tells me. He always talks to me about the mistakes that I make or whatever like that, he knows that I'm in good hands with Coach Beilein and he is behind me."

Question: Fewer mistakes in the last couple of weeks (laughter). How much do you watch other Big Ten games during the year?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "Like other teams? Not really. I don't really watch those games unless we watch them in film, our next opponent. I just watch NBA games really. If it is college games, I'll watch other teams playing on ESPN or something like that but not in our conference."

Question: Did you watch the Celtic-Lakers last night?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "Yeah."

Question: You have four of the last five games, how much of the streak is based on you and the other younger guys really maturing over the course of the season?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "I don't think it is based on us younger guys playing, we're playing hard and we're playing good, but you can't relax on that. Our veterans are talking to us and just telling us to be consistent and play hard and just do the little things like rebound and play defense make that big play down the stretch like getting a steal or just taking a charge."

Question: At this point in the season is it a little harder to take it one game at a time when you just have six left, you are like if we do this and this over the last six games we might be able to make it to the tournament?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "It is not hard at all. Coach Beilein wants us to make sure that we take one game at a time because that next game is always the most important game. If you stay focused on that you have a better chance of winning."

Question: Does it feel weird that the freshman year is almost done?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "Yeah it feels very weird. It feels like we just got back from Europe yesterday. I don't know what to say."

Question: Out of what you've done the last couple of weeks in terms of going to the basket and being more aggressive is there moment that stands out, one or two plays that you say okay that is the kind of guy I was in high school and I can show it hear it is."

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: I think it was probably one of the plays at Penn State, when I crossed over and took it to the basket and finished for the last few minutes. It was just flashes, yeah I can take it to the basket and make things happen. It all boils down to in practice, being aggressive in practice and the coaches and Darius and Zach (Novak), you don't always have to be a shooter and just take it to the rack here and there and just mix up your game."

Question: Are you more comfortable in practice now than you were earlier too?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "Oh yeah, I'm very comfortable in practice. Just making great decisions on the court and the coaches are seeing that and they tell me to just keep on doing the right thing."

Question: You had one dunk against Northwestern that literally as was almost a vertical jump, straight up, are you able to do that a lot or is that something new for you?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "No, I was able to do that a lot, I just never had a chance to do it. It was a called play. We saw they were switching and so I just slipped the screen in and I was wide open."

Question: Is this a different team when you guys are able to get out and dunk, and throw alley oops and have a little bit of swagger and a little bit of flare to your game? Darius can thrown a behind the back pass or Stu can go up for a dunk. Is that a sign of you guys being looser and maybe a different team or is that just what comes up at that particular time?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "I guess you could say that. We feel loose out there. We feel like we're having fun out there. As long as it works then we're able to do it, but if it doesn't then Coach Beilein is going to get on us about it and we can't make the same mistake again. We feel more loose and we feel more comfortable that way."

Question: Did you realize you were grabbing so many rebounds the other day?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "In the first half I felt like it, but in the second half no not at all."

Question: What do you think that was a function of, them of letting the strategy of the wings come in and rebound?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "Our big man J-Mo (Jordan Morgan) and Evan (Smotrycz) and everybody else out there is boxing out their bigs just to make sure that they don't get the ball. Just keep them off the offensive glass and make sure that us guards come in there and clean it up."

Question: Are you going as aggressively to the basket rebounding wise as you always have been the whole year or is it different now?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "No not like it is now. I think it is different, I think I'm more aggressive going to the glass right now to grab rebounds because we need the possessions that we can get and we can't get them back if they get the offensive rebound."

Question: When did that strategy come into play just letting the bigs box out and let the guards come in and clean up?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "I guess it was after the six game losing streak that we had. We were watching film and they just showed us guards were leaking out. He said let us change something up and the guards go down there and rebound and try to clean up all the rebounds so their big man don't get the offensive rebounds."

Question: Beilein said that?

Tim Hardaway, Jr.: "Yeah Beilein said that and all the rest of the coaches. I think that is when it started to take affect."


Zack Novak

Question: When you have short turnarounds like this, is there something you do specifically to try and handle the body and stuff like that is or is it not necessary?

Zack Novak: "I guess the biggest difference is that I'll get in the cold tub right after the game, so our last game, normally, because we had to take the day off yesterday, I'll just wait to the next day but if we got a quick turnaround, I think it helps to start right away with recovering. Just normal maintenance stuff."

Question: When you're hot like this as a team, does that momentum carry over or do you not believe in momentum that way?

Zack Novak: "From game to game?"

Question: Yeah, because of the shorter period of time?

Zack Novak: "I don't think…if you're a team that is playing well I don't know if it matters. There is probably a difference between a couple of days and a week but the difference between two and three days is not really that big."

Question: Do you guys watch a lot of other Big Ten games; Minnesota-Illinois was on last night to kind of try and figure stuff on or do you stay away.

Zack Novak: "I was studying for a test last night. I didn't get to catch the game."

Question: In general, say you don't have to study do you do that?

Zack Novak: "If I'm watching a game, I just kind of watch as a fan more than anything. Our coaches do a pretty good job of breaking down other teams for us. As players, we just need to focus on our next opponents. If it is not somebody we're playing next, we worry about that later."

Question: When you are watching as a fan do you kind of have a rooting interest for which one might help you a little bit down the road?

Zack Novak: "I think you know which team you probably need to win to help you out a little bit. It is really just out of our control."

Question: Is the mood significantly different from a couple of weeks ago because everybody has a little hop in their step and the attitude seems to be a little bit different too?

Zack Novak: "It was a rough stretch that we went through, where we were coming close and just couldn't get over the hump. I think at Michigan State we finally closed out a close one and I think it just gave us a lot of confidence. We still got a lot of work to do, but I think it is good that guys are feeling good about themselves. We're just playing a lot better, aside from confidence. I just think we've gotten a lot better as a team. That's has been the biggest difference."

Question: How much of that is just the maturity of the freshman coming in?

Zack Novak: "I think that has a lot to do with it. They're really starting to do some high level things. They've done a good job this year. We've expected a lot out of them. We've pushed them and they've gotten frustrated at times just because we've asked them to do a lot more than freshman typically have to do. I think it is starting to pay off and they can see that now. They are starting to see this is why they were getting on me about not taking charges or not talking because it is just little things that are going to win games."

Question: We've seen that explosive out of Tim (Hardaway) more athleticism, going to the basket, foul dunks and stuff. Is that something you guys see in practice all year and he just didn't do it games or is he totally changing?

Zack Novak: "No, he has had that explosive step to him ever since he got here. He is really athletic. He is just so long, the dunks and everything. That's something we've seen. Along with all the other freshman, it is time of the year where freshman aren't really freshman any more. They've got experience behind them now. They've got a good feel for the game and know what they can and can't do and they're just doing what they can to help us win."

Question: Were you guys wondering or talking to him about where that was? How come we're not seeing this game and you're killing us in practice jumping over our heads and stuff.

Zack Novak: "It is tough for freshman just kind of do that right off the bat. He's played really well this year, all our freshman have. You really don't want to ask that much out of him. He's doing a good job."

Question: Do you feel like teams are starting to take you away a little bit more offensive, have you felt that at all?

Zack Novak: "I think they are just taking away a lot of our shooters. There has been games yeah where they've just tried to shut us out. I think with the progression of J-Mo (Jordan Morgan), he is really starting to get pretty good around the basket and he's learning. He's rolling hard and he's playing with a lot more energy. Hopefully, it will become a game of pick your position just with the way he is becoming as a player."

Question: When you see that as a shooter, finally, now I might actually get an open shot again?

Zack Novak: "No. We've got such great players that if you're taking shooters away like that, you got a great point guard and a great big man, it gives them opportunities to get open spaces. However, we can win the games. As I've said all along, I just want to win."

Question: Is this a different team now, it seems like there is a different swagger, Darius (Morris) and Tim's dunks and J-Mo's rolling and getting dunks like that, maybe there is a flash and a little that there wasn't at the beginning and it has come with this streak and things too. Is that easier to play with that you've got a little bit of that off your shoulders? And Stu (Douglass) trying to break on a dunk too.

Zack Novak: "Guys are just being aggressive. I don't want to say that we're trying to be flashy as a team because we know, typically solid team wins, flashy teams don't. You can flashy and solid sometimes, a lot of times you will be better off making a solid play. I think it goes back to the confidence that we have got going right now. Guys are feeling pretty good and as long as we can just manage that and just make sure that we stay hunger and keep working hard and playing hard then it will really benefit us."

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