When I first met Nathan Jawai during media day back in October the rookie forward had a grin that stretched from ear-to-ear. And why not, he was living out the dream of going from playing basketball in Australia to the biggest stage in the world in the NBA.
That smile didn’t last long because back in November he was ordered to stay off the court until doctors could determine if his enlarged heart would force him to retire from playing basketball. He has since been given the green light to return but the time away from basketball has affected his conditioning and his confidence. Being a rookie in the NBA is tough, having to endure something like this just makes the burdens of being a rookie while getting used to a new country that much harder.
Hoops Addict recently sat down with Jawai to chat about his rookie season, how his conditioning is improving, what it feels like to have the Australian media following his career so closely and whether he has any plans to play for the national team this summer.
You can read the interview below or listen to it by clicking play.
Ryan McNeill: Normally getting five minutes of burn like you did tonight isn’t a big deal for a rookie, but knowing what you’ve gone through the past few months how nice has it been for you to get some playing time recently?
Nathan Jawai: It’s been hard work coming back. I’ve had my ups and downs even though I continue to play I’m still struggling with my confidence. I’ve been too tired recently to get the confidence back. I’ve been disappointed with myself with the way I’ve come back from my time out because I thought that we had the All-Star break and then we came back with two days of practice and I thought it would be a great time for me to make myself comfortable and confident. So I came in and worked with one of the development coaches, Eric Hughes, just trying to get in game shape. We worked on getting up and down the court and post moves. I just said to myself, ‘Let’s have some hard practices and it will pay off.’ I did that and I’m feeling more comfortable but I still have a lot more work to do.
McNeill: A big part of that lack of confidence seems to be you struggling to get your conditioning back because you couldn’t be on the court for awhile. How is the conditioning coming? What kinds of things are you doing to improve your conditioning?
Jawai: My conditioning is going good. They’ve done a pretty good job here of getting me back on the court and the strength and conditioning coach Keith (WHO) has been working with me. I’ve been working with him every day on back workouts, running, you name it. I’ve worked out two or three times a day individually trying to get back to game shape. But it’s different when you’re on the court running up and down than when you’re in practice. That’s why when I had the chance of two practices in a row I tried to push myself hard. Now I’m glad I did that because it paid off.
McNeill: Besides your conditioning, what kind of goals do you and the coaching staff have for the rest of the season?
Jawai: My biggest goal is to get healthy after I’ve dealt with some lingering injuries. I just need to get comfortable, I need to lose more weight, just get sharp and into the condition I did when I came out of the NBA Draft. I came out with confidence but after being out three months so after being out three months the biggest thing is just to get my confidence back. Get that banging feeling back and feel comfortable again in this environment. It’s just a totally different game than back home (in Australia). I’m getting comfortable here, it’s just going to take time for it to come. Hopefully these guys have patience in me and it will come soon.
McNeill: Last week Handle Magazine had a writer here working on a feature story and Hoops Addict had a photographer from Australia taking pictures of you. Does having this kind of media attention from people back home in Australia help build up your confidence?
Jawai: Yes, but it also puts a little bit of extra pressure on me because I’ve got to go out there and succeed. And I’ve got to go out there and do something instead of just playing ball. It’s something to represent my country – there are only two of us here – and to see Handle go out there and put me in a magazine, I don’t want to be put on a magazine and then come over here and do nothing. I want to do something (to warrant this attention). It puts a little bit of pressure on me but I think it’s a good thing and I think it’s great to see I have a lot of support from back home. That’s the kind of thing that keeps pushing me along after the time I was out. Right now I’m just blessed to be sitting here and I’m happy.
McNeill: You made mention of representing your country and you have Andrew Bogut, yourself and a great young point guard in Patty Mills. Are you tied to the national team? And if not, do you have any plans to play for your country?
Jawai: I’ve been in the training school for the national team but I had the opportunity to try out for the Olympics but I decided to come here and prepare for the NBA Draft. So I think I got cut from the team.
McNeill: Oh, I’m Sorry…
Jawai: It’s okay, that’s just part of the business, I guess. Right now I’m just concentrating on being here. I don’t know what is going to happen in the near future but after this season I’m going to head back home for the summer or stay here and work hard just to get back in shape. You’re body is a tool so that’s my biggest goal right now. I’m not thinking about the national team right now. When that comes, that comes.
McNeill: Thanks for your time and good luck during the rest of the season.
Jawai: Thank you very much.
Photo Credit: Nathan Gilbert