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How will it be to play on Friday without Raymond Felton?
It'll be tough. Ray's doing a tremendous job this year and has grown so much being a general out there. But we're putting the team in a freshman's hands and coming into this I can tell you [Quentin] didn't think this early he'd be getting his first start, especially his home game. But we're all experienced and it's our job to make his job easier. We'll be fine.
After practicing and the exhibition games, at this point, what do you like about this team?
Defensively, we're so much better than last year. Everybody from top to bottom, including Damion Grant has played well in practice, blocked a lot of shots and running the floor. … This year the bench is going to be able to teach a lot of lessons early. The biggest thing right now is our defense is so much better than last year and our chemistry is 10 times better.
How much better shape are you in?
Like I said at the beginning of the year, I was in the best shape I've ever been in. … I'm right there where I want to be. Physically I feel great … I pulled my groin three weeks ago but I've been playing fine and it's just a little nagging injury. … [The difference] is unbelievable. Just being able to stop in transition, being able to guard people on the floor, I don't have so many nagging injuries, it just makes things so much easier.
On Jackie Manuel –
Me and Jackie have always had a great relationship. He's quiet and humble, he does everything Coach asks, everyone says he's Coach's favorite – Coach never yells at him – he always works hard and always seems to be doing the right thing. He's the quiet leader that nobody talks about. The fans love him because what he does is get our team going. … Jackie is an unbelievable leader and I think a lot of times people don't notice it because he's so quiet.
On going to Maui –
It's going to be a great opportunity for us to play road games. Last year we hardly won any road games and none of us in our careers have won any big road games. It's a huge test for us to go into Oakland and get a win and then go into Maui and get some wins. That's what I'm trying to take from it – seeing how well we can play on the road. …
On Santa Clara –
They're going to be good – you just know a team like that is going to be good. Steve Nash played there. Nobody knew about him and he turned into an NBA all-star. You know they produce good players, and my prediction is they're going to be physical and tough mentally. As long as we go out there with the same preparation that we've had every day in practice, we'll be fine. It'll be tough without Raymond, but we'll see how tough this team really is.
What is harder for Quentin Thomas, starting the season opener as a freshman or going against Raymond Felton every day in practice?
I'd definitely say playing against Raymond every day in practice. But playing your first game in your hometown – that's going to be tough. But playing every day against Raymond in practice, there's no other point guard you can get better by learning from him, by watching his tricks. They go at each other, and don't get me wrong, Quentin goes at Raymond, too – Quentin's good.
On the team's improved post depth –
We have 5-6 guys who can play the post. We have six guys who can get in there and play at any given time. As you have seen, Marvin is unbelievable. The kid is tenacious and plays so hard. Me, Jawad and Marvin complement each other so well. It's going to be hard to double team me and stop them at the same time. The post is going to be a huge focus for us this year. … I got two early fouls in the first exhibition game and Coach came to me and said ‘Just play. This year you don't have to worry about saving yourself. Just go out there and play.' That's my main focus this year, playing as hard as I can for as long as I can because I know when I come out the talent level is right there at the same level if not higher. I don't have to worry about pacing myself. I can play as hard as I can and get the job done.
On Jawad Williams –
Jawad is our unspoken hero. Nobody talks about Jawad. … To me, Jawad is the guy that nobody talks about and just gets the job done every day. He's had some injuries where he hasn't told anybody but me that he's hurting, but he'll go out and be the best player out there. When I came in, I looked at him as being the person who can get me better and I think Marvin is getting the same sense from Jawad – that is who he can learn from, who will teach him and show him how to be a great player.
On Rashad McCants' injury status –
Rashad's got a freak of a body. He hasn't practiced and yesterday was unbelievable in practice. For him to have, I think a small shoulder muscle tear, but he's still shooting the ball well, goes in, gets contact and finishes well. He's going to be fine – he's as tough as they get and he'll be ready to play.