You look so different from when we last talked in Las Vegas. How much weight have you lost since then?
Twenty pounds. It’s a good twenty pounds. It’s helped me a lot. I’m lighter on my feet, quicker, and more endurance.
It’s quite noticeable how your play has changed since then but were you suffering some sort of injury in Summer League? Was something holding you back?
Yeah, I had a foot injury back in Summer League. I had a big burst on the side of my toe. It’s fine now but it was just holding me back a little bit.
The media has been saying you might not play much this year and now some are saying that maybe you could get significant minutes. Do you pay attention to all of that?
No, I don’t. All I pay attention to is me working hard and me doing what the coaches and the staff want me to do. I do whatever they tell me to do because I’m a workhorse. That’s all I know how.
Along those lines, have you been getting any good advice from Alonzo Mourning?
Oh yeah, he took me under his wings. He’s like my guardian angel (laughs). I’ve always wanted to be like Zo. Being a little kid, I used to watch him and he was one of my favorite players. I always wanted to walk in his steps but he never knew it. So when I got drafted by the Heat I was fortunate to have him here.
He gives me articles to read all the time about people with success and people without success. So I want to be successful and I want to be in one of the positive articles one day. It’s like, on the inside I tell myself I want to be a businessman like Zo off the court and be a beast like Zo between the lines. So that’s my whole motivation right now.
Has Udonis Haslem been giving you tips on losing the weight and playing in the NBA?
Yeah, UD took me under his wings too. He always has my back, no matter what. You can trust UD. I try to follow in his footsteps too because he went down the same road that I’m going through.
What aspects of your game have changed since you’ve been working with the Heat this summer? What’s the transition like from college to pro?
My IQ. I got a better understanding for the game right now. I get to be more physical in this league. In college, I couldn’t. I barely touched a guy with a finger and there would be a whistle. In this league it’s different, everybody’s strong.
How did it feel entering an NBA game, even if it was just the preseason?
I was pretty pumped, I was ready. I went out there and pretended I was at Texas. I closed my eyes, I opened them up and I saw all bright orange in the stands. That’s all I was doing. Just playing in my own environment and in my own vision.
You’re going to be fighting for minutes with other players like Big Z and Juwan Howard. But at the same time you want to be learning from them as well, right?
Yeah, I learn from them all the time. I study and ask questions to them. There isn’t nothing they haven’t shown me.
What player or team do you look forward to facing the most?
I want to play the Celtics with Big Shaq because I want to go up against him. Also, I want to play my best friend, he’s like my brother, DeJuan Blair of the Spurs. We both got the same type of game.