The Warriors weren’t shy in their plans before this season: they needed an inside scoring presence to complement David Lee. The Warriors lack of an interior presence (even with Lee) was a major concern for Mark Jackson, and the addition of Carl Landry has been an ideal fit for a multitude of reasons. Landry officially signed his two-year, $8 million deal (second year being a player option) on August 1st and has since provided the scoring presence this team sought from the second unit — 10.6 PPG, 6 RPG in 23 MIN this season — along with toughness and a keen veteran presence. In his first season with the Warriors, Landry has cemented himself as a key contributor to a playoff team. Landry was kind enough to spend some time with me after practice this past Friday to talk about his first season with the team, Mark Jackson, the history behind his flexing celebration and much more.
Q: Let’s go back to before the season for a second, you signed with this team on August 1st, could you see this team being this successful this soon with so many young players? Has the team’s success surprised you?
A: I thought we could, as long as we just stayed healthy, gelled, had great team chemistry and played hard on both ends of the floor. The pieces were there. We were a playoff team on paper, we just had to find a way to put it together.
Q: You also mentioned when you signed here that Jarrett Jack, who you played with in New Orleans, helped recruit you here to the Warriors? Safe to say he played a huge role in your decision to come here?
A: It definitely helped. I understood the type of player he was and having a guy like that on this team that comes to practice, is a vocal leader and also leads by example is going to have carry over. It’s going to have a domino affect, and I feel I can do the same thing and only make this team a better ball club.
Q: Mark Jackson is often regarded as a players coach, you guys are on your way towards a playoff birth, how has he been in your first year with this team?
A: The best coach I’ve ever played for since I’ve gotten into the NBA. I love what he stands for as a man, he motivates me everyday, no matter if it’s practice or games. It’s an honor to have an opportunity to play for him.
Q: You’re listed at 6’9″ 250 pounds, some people call you a “tweener.” You’ve played both power forward and center for this team this season, how tough has it been throughout your career to have that moniker? I’m sure that might’ve hurt your draft stock as well coming out of college?
A: I don’t care what I am, my dream was always to play in the NBA. If you ask any little kid across America if they’d like to be a “tweener” and be in the NBA 100% of them would say “Yes.” It doesn’t matter what people label me. I’m here, I’ve been here for six years and hopefully I’ll continue to play here for a long time.
Q: For a young team with so many new players, this team sure seems to have great chemistry. Can you attest to that? Is this the best “team” you’ve been on?
A: Bob Myers, the front office, Coach Jackson and the coaching staff have done a great job of doing their research and putting a good group of guys together. Nobody on this team is a knucklehead. Everybody is in the gym early, staying late, working on their game, paying attention to detail no matter what it is — practice or games. We just have a really good team and that’s hard to find.
Q: The frontcourt for this team was limbo for awhile with Andrew Bogut being in and out of the lineup. Now that he’s back and looking relatively healthy, how has that changed this team and your game personally?
A: It’s good to have him in there and having a chance to battle against him in practice. It’s making me better — Festus, Draymond, D Lee, Biedrins — just his presence alone. He blocks three or four shots a game and alters about ten shots a game too. We need that. We’re a good offensive team but just to have a guy like that out there that can alter shots is really good.
Q: I ask that and noticed that you haven’t shared much floor time at all with Andrew this season. Any particular reason for that other than just the rotations?
A: No, that’s just the way its been. I usually come off the bench, he starts, so his minutes are played mostly with David. That’s just the way its been. We’ve played together in practice and slight minutes together in games. I understand his game and he understands mine. If we do have more minutes together the connection will be there.
Q: You’re 29, in the middle of your seventh NBA season and you consider yourself a late bloomer. What particular things are you still working on to enhance your game?
A: Just trying to become a better basketball player and further develop my basketball IQ, especially on the defensive end. I’m also trying to stay in the best shape that I can by taking care of my body. On the offensive end, I’m working on stretching the floor a little bit and hopefully being able to add a 3-point shot to my game at some point.
Q: Your 3-point shot, is that a recent development or something that you’ve been trying to add for awhile?
A: It’s something I’ve been working on after practice. You have guys in this league that are stretch 4’s — Patrick Patterson, Channing Frye, Dirk Nowitzki and even guys like Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh and Zach Randolph. If these guys are given the opportunity to shoot the three, especially the corner three, they can knock it down.
Q: You mentioned your defense. A lot has been made of David Lee’s defense this season and at times yours as well. How much can you take into account these stats that say you may be a bad defender or yourself and David aren’t a solid defensive frontcourt? Is all that overblown in a sense?
A: No, we do need to get better on defense. If you ask anybody on this team if they’d like to be a better defensive player, I’m sure all of them would say “Yes.” We just have to continue to get better. Having Andrew back definitely helps this team. It’s a team game, there’s no “I” in team and that’s what we’re going to have to do every night if we want to continue to have success.
Q: You’ve been to the playoffs three times in your career, twice with Houston and once with New Orleans. How important is your playoff experience going to be for this young team come playoff time?
A: I think it’ll be key because I’ve been there. I guess you can say I’m the wise man on this team. The rest of these guys are young and strong. I’ve seen the playoffs and experienced the atmosphere(s). I’m going to have to be a vocal leader during that time and having guys myself, Andrew Bogut, Jarrett Jack, Richard Jefferson, guys who have been there, will be beneficial to this club.
Q: How often do you check the standings? Do you have a preference on who you’d like to play in the first round behind closed doors?
A: Only when we lose really is when I check the standings. Right now, we’re just worried about taking care of ourselves and taking it one game at a time.
Q: Earlier this week Jarrett Jack mentioned Stephen Curry in the MVP conversation. Would you agree that he deserves votes?
A: I thought he was an All-Star [Laughs]. Who knows what’s going to happen. He’s a guy that’s going to continue to lead this team and be the floor general. If you ask me, he’s definitely in the MVP conversation.
Q: This team has had a lot of great wins this season, but that 54-point showing by Steph had to be a special night.
A: It was crazy. I’d never seen anybody score 50 points in a game. He scored 54 and unfortunately we lost, but it was an amazing night.
Q: Your younger brother, Marcus, is also in the NBA. How cool was it to see him win the D-League three point shootout in Houston during All-Star Weekend?
A: It was big. That’s something he’s been working on for a long time. It’s an accomplishment and he wants to do great things in the D-League so he can get called up. Unfortunately he recently went down with a sprained MCL, but being the D-League three-point champion means a lot to him. He played well in the game too. I told him everything happens for a reason and he’ll get his chance if he continues to work the way he did this year.
Q: You’ve been traded three times in your career. How tough is it going through a trade or just signing to a different franchise? It’s a business, but there has to be a human element to everything too.
A: It’s tough. You get used to playing with certain teammates and develop certain friendships, eating at certain restaurants, doing certain things in the city you’re playing in. Having to go to a new place and make new friends and play for a new team where that team might’ve been your enemy but now it’s who you’re going to war with. It’s different, it’s tough, but it’s a business.
Q: You have a player option coming up after this season, have you given that option any thought at all during the season?
A: I’ve been in this position before and it’s something you can’t focus on. If you do it can definitely affect your game. It’s also something you can’t control once the time comes. I just have to worry about it one day at a time and doing the best I can for the Golden State Warriors.
Q: Without saying it, are you leaning one way or the other?
A: Coach Jackson is the best coach I’ve ever played for, this is a good team that’s going to the playoffs, right now my heart is in Golden State and that’s the only thing I can think about right now and hopefully I can continue to play here for a long time.
Q: What is the origin of the flexing celebration?
A: I’m a huge Packers fan and one of my favorite players is Clay Matthews and he flexes all time. I love the weight room, it’s a huge part of my game in large part because people called me a “tweener.” I think my strength is one of the things that has kept me in this league. I just see a combination of Clay Matthews, myself and I just like to flex. One of my friends, Steve Novak, whose also from Wisconsin, does the Discount Double Check too.
Q: It must’ve been weird for you to be a Packers fan this past season when the 49ers knocked them out.
A: Yeah, we watched the game as a team. It was a tough loss but the Packers are a better team. We can’t win all the Super Bowl’s [Laughs].
Q: You’ve played in Houston, Sacramento New Orleans and now the Bay Area. You hear so much about Warriors fans and Oracle Arena, have they exceeded your expectations?
A: Without a doubt. 20-something sell outs, and even the game that aren’t sold out it feels like it’s sold out because the crowd is so energetic. We need that every night. It’s a long season, 82 games, and anytime you can get extra energy and extra push it helps.
Q: This week Bill Russell came and visited practice, how was that experience?
A: Crazy. I never had an opportunity to meet him and just to have a chance to listen to the words he said and deliver to the team was crazy. He’s a legend. He just told us to play with confidence and he watches us all the time. It was good to hear.