Interview: Jason Kapono

UCLA's high scorer, Jason Kapono, jokes with reporters, and then gets far too friendly with our reporter, Michael Miller...

BRO and a gaggle of reporters got a chance to trade jibes and jabs with Jason Kapono before Friday's shootaround. People should remember that Jason likes to joke around a lot and say outrageous things. He's just being Jason…

Question: Was the Alabama game the best game of your career?

Jason: I've had so many fantastic games at UCLA, I kind of lose track. When you're such a big star, great games are nothing to get excited about. No, seriously, maybe that was one of my top 3-5 games of my career.

Question: Did you do anything different in practice that allowed you to play so well, that maybe is allowing you to play the point guard spot better?

Jason: Well, practice makes perfect. You get better day by day, brick by brick, inch by inch. Do I sound like my coach? No, I'm not sure it's a question of doing anything in practice. I've just been getting more reps in the games, and that means I'm just more comfortable playing the position.

Question: Do you think Irvine will come in here and give you guys a tough time?

Jason: Definitely. They've got a lot of shooters, they're tough and scrappy, they're not scared of us just because we're UCLA or we have a bunch of banners hanging up there, they are going to come in believing they can win.

Question: Do you guys think you can stop Jerry Green?

Jason: I can't stop anybody, I'm just a slow, white guy. No, we see it as a challenge. He's a John Wooden Award candidate, one of the top players in the country. He will try and score 40 against us and we will have to show him we can play strong defense, prove to him that no matter how good he is, he can't come into our house and beat us.

BRO: You're the number two rebounder on the team this season. Do you attribute that to your off-season workouts, or are you being more aggressive getting on the glass this season?

Jason: Well, I'm definitely stronger, bigger. You can see what a well-shaped body I have, I'm pretty hot. I spend a lot of time looking at myself in the mirror. No, I'm not sure what it is. The coaches keep yelling at me to rebound more and I don't like to get yelled at. I am playing more point guard and they're still yelling at me to rebound more. They yell at me to shoot more too, even though I'm supposed to be the point guard. You guys keep writing about how soft Lavin is on his players, you should attend a practice and get a dose of reality.

BRO: We aren't allowed to attend practice…

Jason: See what I mean? Lavin is so brutal, he kicked you guys out of practice. I work hard all the time in the summer and add some new facet to my game, I'm always improving my ballhandling, my moves, my defense. Does anybody thank me for it? No, I just get yelled at. Write about that.

Question: How are you guys doing with the matchup zone in practice? Do you think it will really help you, and are you guys planning on sticking with it all year?

Jason: I think we'll stick with the 1-2-2. We might play some man at times, and we might still press at times. But we don't have the heart to play that kind of defense fulltime, that's what it comes down to. If you don't play with heart, you will get beat. It seems like every year we have to get slapped in the face before we play good defense. Same thing this year. We were all talking about how talented we were. Lavin tells us, "Talent won't win anything, you have to play with heart every game, play defense, play like a team." I guess when you're really good, you think you're all stars, you don't listen to the coaches. Then it's Ball State: Slap! Pepperdine: Slap! I guess we just had to get slapped around to finally get it through our thick skulls.

BRO: Where do you usually play in the matchup zone? Outside or in?

Jason: I've been working at all 5 spots in practice. Sometimes I'm the 1, like a point guard, and sometimes I am at the 4 or 5. I will play power forward tomorrow against Irvine, so I will start out inside the zone and then move out when I switch back to the wing or point.

Question: Does losing Matt really hurt the team?

Jason (giving the reporter a "I can't believe you asked that" look): Obviously. Matt's such a big player for us. With his injuries, he hasn't played to up to par with what he did for us last year. He was finally 100% for Alabama and you saw how good he was out there. He changes everything about our team and the game when he's healthy. He's a power forward who can drive or shoot, he was our point man on the press, he's such a great passer, he's our best defensive player. When we go with TJ or dre in his place, we're strictly low post and we lose a lot of flexibility and defense inside.

Question: How badly was Matt hurt?

Jason: Well, thanks for asking. We've all been nicked up this year, maybe it's the water. But as far as Matt, we were really scared. He was rolling around on the ground, he was obviously in excruciating pain because Matt never complains about being hurt ever, and he had to be carried off the floor and he was on crutches. We thought he'd broken his ankle. It's really shocking to see him walking in here without crutches, that's a great sign.

At this point, all of the reporters saw Matt Barnes and decided to ask him about his injury and Jason sat down next to me one-on-one.

Jason: My man Michael Miller! What's happening? You back to doing the website thing again?

BRO: Yup. I'm working for Tracy Pierson at Bruin Report Online. BRO. You should check out the site.

Jason: Do you have lots of pictures of me? If you do some highlight footage of my sweet moves, I'll definitely check out the site. Aren't you still writing movies?

BRO: I'm doing some of that, too. Plus, some legal work, and I'm working on some other stuff.

Jason: Mr. Versatility. Me, I just play basketball.

BRO: Well, you can cook, too. And I wish I was a basketball player.

Jason: What's with the beard?

BRO: It's a superstitious thing. I decided not to shave after the Pepperdine game. Now, I can't shave until you guys lose again.

Jason: So, you think your beard is controlling our team? Maybe you're taking too much medication for your back. How is your back?

BRO: It hurts. I've had three surgeries. I used to be able to touch the rim, now I can't even touch the bottom of the net.

Jason: My man had some serious hops. Maybe you could give me some of your genes and I could give you some of my mine.

BRO: I know what you're trying to say, but that sounds a little funny, Jason.

Jason: Don't worry, I have a girlfriend.

BRO: You tall guys always get the girls. She's really beautiful.

Jason: Yeah, she is. Her name is Ashley. Her dad was a pro football player and she's really athletic, too.

BRO: Well, that's how you do it. It's too late for your genes, but you can have 5 kids together and they can all turn pro and support you guys in your old age.

Jason: That's the plan.

At this point, the shootaround began…

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