This is about David Lee, who's having his best season in the NBA. But it's also how the West Coast offense in football leads to a good interview.
In the West Coast offense, the coordinator scripts several plays to start the game. Sure, he wants to succeed on those plays, but he also wants to see how the opposing defense responds. He is learning by calling certain plays.
Same goes for interviewing. I ask trial questions to see what my subject is like. I had a hunch Lee would be great. I had listened to his postgame interviews and he answered every question, and came off smart and polite.
I started off easy, asked why he was practicing at the Warriors' facility Thursday morning when the team was off. It was not a basketball question. It was a personality question. I was West-Coasting him.
"I feel a lot better being over-prepared than under-prepared," he said. "Also, to see the guys."
OK, now we had a preliminary direction. I asked what he gets out of seeing the guys
"We have good chemistry. I'd rather be around my teammates than home. It makes a huge difference between us being a decent team and a really good team."
For a while, he talked about improving chemistry. He said he and Stephen Curry are the team leaders.
"Up until this year, Steph wasn't real vocal in the locker room," he said, "just because he was young and he was trying to feel his way. Also, he was battling injuries. This year he's been a great vocal leader for us."
I asked Lee to give an example how he took a younger player aside in his role as leader.
"There were a couple of times this year with Festus (Ezeli) where he has to understand things in the NBA don't happen overnight," he said. "He's a rookie. He's helping us defensively, on the boards and blocking shots. If he has a couple of possessions where he doesn't make his layups, that's not necessarily hurting the team. It's hard to understand playing a smaller role is still very important to the team."
I kept making my questions more probing and in the next few minutes, he said, "I'm motivated by fear of failure a lot of times," and, "I've taken a new attitude this year. I started out the first two or three games struggling. I was 2 for 14 the first game. I started to think about it too much and worry — &‘I've got to be this captain for our team because we've got a shot to be really good this year.' Then I stepped back and said to myself, &‘I need to enjoy this more.' Now, my goal when I go out there is to enjoy the process of us becoming a better team this year."
I felt it was time to take a risk. I said lots of people accuse him of padding his stats and this implies he is morally questionable on the court. I said whenever people say or write a positive about him, they always include a negative.
He smiled. He nodded his head.
"Yeah," he said. "I like to think I'm a professional athlete and that's part of it. The other part is having a bigger contract. When I was in New York, I was the 30th pick and I went from being on the end of the bench to a starter to an All Star. Then I get here and sign a big contract and, all of a sudden, it's the way it was for the veterans in New York when I was there. It's &‘He's had a great season so far but ...' There's always two or three things."