Oh, it's good, feeling great. I've got probably another month or so. I get cleared July 1, but I will probably take another two weeks to give myself a little more time. I've got to get rid of this bone bruise--that's the only thing. The micro-fracture has healed. They said it's better than what they'd expect. I don't see any reason why I won't make a full recovery.
How is your conditioning? You look like you have lost weight since February/March.
Yeah, I've dropped. Right now I'm back at Carolina in Chapel Hill with Jonas Sahration, the strength coach. For some reason, he knows how to get the weight off me. I'm still not where I want to be. I want to get down to 260. Right now, I'm still 275, but I'm down 12-14 pounds from what I was. It's been a long off-season. I haven't even started running yet. Once I start running, I'll get in better shape, better condition. Right now I'm nowhere near basketball shape.
What do you feel your prospects are for the coming season?
Personally, I feel like I'll be fine. My goal was to continue to play where I was when I left. Will that be hard? Sure. It will take me some time, and I'll be a little rusty. But with my game and the way I play--I don't play above the rim. Being able to think the game, I'm pretty sure I'll be fine. Adding Coach Brown to our team and the coaching staff he has brought along, I think it will be great. I'm hoping for nothing but good things this year.
Speaking of being back in Chapel Hill working with Jonas, what do you think about the three Tar Heels coming back?
Smart. The only guy I felt that would make it given that he played well in the workout was Danny. I felt Danny's game translates really well to the NBA because of his size and his ability to shoot the ball.
Wayne, for me personally, I wouldn't have left if we went to a Final Four and lost, just from a selfish standpoint. It's like getting to the promised land but not walking through the door. For me that would have been hard to do.
For those guys, I don't know what went into the decision-making for coming back or leaving, but I felt they all made a smart decision. I don't think any of them are ready, but to me, Danny's game and his size translates better right now. But that is just my personal opinion [that] no one really cares about. The NBA scouts are the ones who evaluate these guys. They are all great players, but I just feel right now that--I don't think any of them are ready.
There will be a lot of national championship expectations. You were on the last team to do that. It's natural to make comparisons: Raymond and Tywon; Rashad and Wayne; you and Tyler; Jawad and Danny on down the line. No two are exactly the same, but there are some similarities. How would you compare the two teams?
I think the teams are almost mirrors of each other when you talk about the first seven players. Marcus and Jackie, you can throw them in that bunch. I think talent-wise, they might have us beat, but the one thing you have to worry about, we had a lot of egos but Coach was able to make us put those egos aside. Is he going to be able to do it with this team? I don't know. Especially with four guys, five guys, probably thinking about the NBA. I'm sure it's going to be on Deon's mind, it's going to be on Tyler's mind. It's going to be on Wayne, Danny and Tywon--we already know it's on all their minds. That's going to be the hard part.
Coach, the only guy he really had to worry about our year was Rashad. Rashad made it known that he was only going to play one more year where everybody else just predicated it on how we finished the season, so I think that's the biggest thing.
To me, they are the most experienced team, the deepest team, they have the most talent, so why shouldn't they win? They have the best coach. It's right there. Hopefully, they will get it done.
Have you been able to see them play any pick-up games since you've been there?
Oh yeah, they play every night. Wayne and Danny are home for a couple of weeks, but everybody else is there, the freshmen are there. I think they are going to be fine. Tyler Zeller looks good. They have a nice group of kids, and hopefully they will be able to close the door.
Can you tell me how they will deal with expectations? There were expectations on UNC in the fall of 2004 to make the Final Four. They were 36-3 last year, made the Final Four. How would you advise them to deal with those expectations?
Don't worry about them. The only expectations that matter are the ones that Coach puts on you. Coach is going to tell them at the beginning of the year, like he does every year, that they are good enough, they are talented enough, and if they work hard enough to do it. It will be predicated on how they practice every day. He says that every year at the beginning of every practice, the first practice of every year, so I'm sure he will say it to them again.
Expectations that other people put on us, it's hard to look into those because they don't know what it's like to put that jersey on every day, to go out there, to do the things that are asked of us. I'm not asking for sympathy--I'm just saying as a player I think it's easy to fall into that trap of worrying what everybody else thinks. The only thing that matters is those 15 guys and those six coaches. That's the only thing that matters.
How do you enjoy the ride?
It's hard to take a step back and really appreciate it, and you really won't until you are done. You just have to find a way. You just have to enjoy it, enjoy playing, enjoy putting on that jersey because the one thing I always tell the guys is when I played my last game in the Smith Center against Duke, that game or after that game I never thought it was my last game. I really didn't appreciate it or cherish it. Looking back, it's a hell of a game to walk off that floor on, but it's still tough. If I had come back another year, I'd have had at least 14 more games to play in that uniform in that arena. That' probably the toughest part, so you just have to enjoy it. I can't tell you how; you just have to do it.
You are part of not just Carolina history but NCAA history, winning the national championship. How much do you think about that, and how much does it come up in conversation with other people?
Oh, we talk about it a lot, especially amongst the players that are there now and the former players that came back, and Jerry Stackhouse is back. You reflect on memories now that a lot of the '05 team is back in Chapel Hill right now for a couple of weeks. We talk about it, and it is a special time--to be a special part of Carolina history and basketball history.
When you do something like that--like I told Tyler, 'You were National Player of The Year, you are a hell of a player, but you'd give [that] up to be national champion in a heartbeat because I know your character, I know you as a person. That is going to mean more because more people are going to remember you for those things--that you were able to carry a team to a national championship.
I don't know what got into me those last eight games, but that's all everybody ever talks when they talk about me. They don't talk about any thing I did three years prior to that. They talk about those six games in the NCAA Tournament, which I think is great.