Can you explain to us who don’t play the game at a high level, the fans who’ve never been in that situation, why it’s important to start? We keep hearing from the organization, from coaches ‘It’s not who starts, it’s who finishes.’ And they point to guys like Manu Ginobili and Jamal Crawford coming off the bench and having success. Why is it important for guys in the NBA to start?
For some people it’s important. To others it’s not. It’s very prideful for me. I feel like I’m very talented. I feel like I can lead a team. That’s just how I’ve been raised and that’s just how I’ve always felt. I want to be the guy in charge. I want to be the guy leading the team. The head of the snake. I guess that’s just how I’m encrypted DNA-wise. I played quarterback in high school. I had a year I was a receiver. But I was more comfortable playing quarterback. I’ve just always been good leading my team. That's how I’ve always been, being vocal. And when the ball’s in my hand, I feel like I can make the right plays and just impact the team. I definitely want to finish the game. That is the most important. But I’ve never envisioned myself coming off the floor. I always felt like I’d start the game and finish and play every minute of every game if that’s what’s asked of me. That’s one of the goals I’ve had and I still have to this day.
How are contract negotiations going?
We haven’t really talked about it much this summer. I know my representation and the Thunder have been talking. But mostly I haven’t really gotten to talk super much about it. I’ve been busy. I think we’re just trying to figure things out and hopefully we can get a deal done.
Do you think something will get done before the deadline?
I’m not sure. I’m always hopeful. I’m hoping for the best, expecting the worst. That’s just how I kind of approach things. I’m just happy and blessed to be able to play basketball another day and wake up another day. Just seeing another day is a blessing. I hope to get things done. But if not, it is what it is. I can’t really dwell on it. I have to go out there and compete. That’s where I am. I have to go out there and enjoy the game and trust that my representation and us sitting down and figuring things out is hopefully going to lead to us getting something done before the deadline.
In your mind, what’s it going to take to get done?
Communication. We have to figure out things that we can do on both ends. What we envision for the organization from both ends. I’d like to play a certain way. When it’s all said and done and I hang up my jersey, hang up my shoes, I have many goals that I want to accomplish. So I think it’s going to be about what’s the vision for obtaining those goals from both parts and what’s the vision that we have moving forward.
Are you prepared if it doesn’t work out before Oct. 31 to go into restricted free agency?
I haven’t really thought about that. I’ve thought about it a little. But if that’s what happens, that’s what happens. Mostly, this summer I just focused on getting better to the best of my ability. Because you can map out a plan and talk about things, but they don’t always go the way you want them. Like I said, I’m hoping for the best. If it doesn’t come out that way, it is what it is. I have to go out there and try to show the world that I’m one of the best players in the world and I want to be the best. That’s my main focus. I would love to get a deal done, but if that’s not what happens, that’s not what happens. I can’t necessarily dwell on it and think about that too much. I have to go out there and compete.
How much are you paying attention to Eric Bledsoe’s, situation with him being a similar player and now being in a contract dispute with Phoenix?
I definitely have paid attention to it. But I pay attention to a lot of moves going on in the league. It’s a business. You want to figure out what every team is doing, not necessarily just from a contract standpoint. I want to figure out the landscape of the NBA and what teams are trying to do. What teams are really looking to contend and what’s the landscape and whats going to happen in the league. But I probably have paid attention a little more to his situation. But I just love basketball. I watch it all the time. I try to follow it all the time and figure out every little move that’s happening in the league, whether it be trades, trade exceptions, whatever is going on. I just try to pay attention to every aspect of the game.
To piggyback on that, what did you make of the deals Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons got this summer, and do you look at those extensions as sort of barometers for yourself?
Yeah. I definitely factor in all those things. Young players getting paid. Especially with Gordon, who I believe was the class before me, and then Chandler who was in my class. A second-round pick who I’m happy for. He went out and got a major payday, and hopefully he lives up to the expectations. I’m sure he’s preparing for this season. We met each other, I believe, our rookie year. Chandler’s a great guy. I know him a little bit. I’m happy for his success. But you definitely kind of have to weigh yourself on what’s going on around the league. So you have to look at guys around you in similar classes and similar positions to try to get a barometer for what you should probably make. It’s been some groundbreaking deals going on this summer, and I have to take that into account when it comes to trying to get a deal done.