Q&A: RYAN BROEKHOFF ON RIO 2016, NBA PATHWAYS, AND THE BOOMERS’ CHEMISTRY

Q&A: RYAN BROEKHOFF ON RIO 2016, NBA PATHWAYS, AND THE BOOMERS’ CHEMISTRY

We caught up in Vegas, and I know you were a bit frustrated having a hip issue and being limited in terms of what you could do. The Nuggets’ physios were managing the situation, but what did you take away from the Summer League experience, and were you satisfied with what you were able show the coaches and scouts?

I think it wasn’t ideal dealing with that little hip issue, but I was happy with how I performed when I did get opportunities to get out and play, and during the last game when they rested a few of their contracted guys and draft picks. I was able to get out there and show a little bit more, and shoot the ball. I played a little bit more freely, and a little bit more as how I normally do. I think I was able to show what I can bring not just to the Nuggets, but to NBA teams with a bit of outside shooting, and get in there and play tough D, and rebound the ball. Hopefully that’s what [the Nuggets] got out of it, and that’s how I saw my performance.

On your current situation, you’ve been with Beşiktaş for a couple of years, where is everything sitting with your contract? Do you have a sense that you’ll be back in Turkey next season, or are you just leaving everything in the hands of your agent?

I am contracted to Beşiktaş again, for (I think) two more years. But there’s been some interest from other European teams who are willing to pay the buyout of the contract, so we’re just working through a few things with them, and trying to weigh up what’s going to be the best option for me going forward.

Having been in Vegas with Denver, was there any specific feedback from the coaches that really stuck with you, or struck a chord?

The feedback was generally pretty positive. They didn’t get into too many specifics with me. It was more just their observations of the day-to-day play, and they were really happy with the energy that I brought, and the defence, and they obviously knew that shooting the ball was my strength. They were just very encouraging for me to go out there and try and show what I can bring. There was nothing specific that stood out from their feedback.

I know you’ve earned the nickname ‘Rowdy’, and speaking to the guys in Las Vegas and being around the team since you’ve come home, I have heard nothing but positive reviews of your influence on the team on off days. What can you say about the chemistry of this particular Boomers group, and do you feel as if the guys are really building camaraderie ahead of Rio next year?

It’s a fun group to around, absolutely. I went through the Australian Institute of Sport with three of them; with ‘Delly’ (Matthew Dellavedova), Brock [Motum], and ‘Bear’ (Cameron Bairstow). Having that friendship before coming to the Boomers and obviously keeping in touch over the years has made it easy to come into a new group. To have a similar team over the last two years has really helped the on-court chemistry and relationship build. It’s been really fun to be a part of this group. We all get along, we have a laugh, we rip into each other; all the sort of stuff that Australian teams do. I think having that’s going to be really important going forward.

With Bairstow and Motum also participating in the Summer League, and other guys having gone through the system—Chris Goulding in 2014, for example—did you get a chance to speak to them about what they went through? With so many Boomers being right on the fringe of the NBA and Bairstow having been through the experience of playing with a partially guaranteed contract, do you ever discuss how to close the gap between where you are now, and snagging a 14th or 15th roster spot in the NBA?

Yeah, we did have some talks. Me and Brock are in similar positions; he obviously was in training camp [with Utah] last year, and we’re European players looking to come over. Our thinking is… Do we come into a training camp and maybe make the last roster spot on a non-guaranteed [deal] and then be bench players that work our way in? Or, if we do that and things don’t work out and we don’t make the squad, well then we’re left without jobs in Europe. So, it’s a bit of a balancing act with what’s best for each person, and how the feedback and the interest from the club in the NBA is. It’s different for each person. With Bear, listening to him and what he went through last year in Chicago and not playing a lot… Hearing his side of things is something else to take on board.

Of course. With respect to a pathway and eventually ending up in the NBA, have you ever had a chance to sit down with Joe Ingles, knowing the route that he took to get to the league (i.e. forging such a long, successful career in Europe)? He had to weigh up opportunities that are comparable to what you’re going through now; having regular NBA offers, training camp invites, and playing in the Summer League. Clearly, he decided to wait it out and find the ideal fit. Has he had any words of advice for you?

A little bit. He just said to me to keep going away and keep improving and that eventually, I’m going to get my opportunity to show what I can do at that level. We both have the same agent, so having that resource who has worked on the deals, and went through all of it with Joe, is someone that I can go to and hear about all of the behind-the-scenes work that has to go on to make that happen. Hopefully (in the near future) I can find a situation that’s as good as Joe’s found, to come in straight away and be a big part of the team. It’s all about timing and finding the right team. We’ll see what happens.

With this particular Boomers squad, you’ve been around each other for a couple of years now and have the chance to build something significant, with Andrej [Lemanis] at the helm of the program for a short while. What do you make of Andrej as a coach, the stuff that he likes to run (offensively), and the sort of role he sees for you in Rio next year?

I think the chemistry we’ve been building is going to be very important. Coming back after last year to this year, we were able to pick up where we left off. It took us a few days to get used to the systems and the offences again, but we had that familiarity playing with each other (and playing together), which will definitely help during times where we don’t have the longest amount of preparations for series or for games. Andrej’s done a fantastic job bringing us all together; getting us all to buy into his system, and his system is very much team-orientated and wants everyone to be a part of everything offensively and defensively. We’ve got a lot of open conversations during our meetings and during practices, just with guys who have had a lot of experience and their input, how they see the game, and how they see us being effective in certain situations. It allows us a little bit of freedom and to put in our input, which has been good for us over the European series we just had, and against New Zealand. It’s been fun, and it’s been a great learning experience to work with some of the more experienced Boomers guys.

One last question—and it was a nice segue there, on the topic of experienced players—David Andersen is a guy who’s been around the program for a really long time, and for one reason or another, gets a bum rap amongst the locals. He’s a bit of a whipping boy (at times) in fan conversations. With the accomplished career that he’s carved out in Europe, his (relatively) advanced age, and his upbringing, being a Frankston guy, do you get any added enjoyment being able to play with a guy who’s a product of the same region as you?

Yeah, it’s really good. We catch up during the offseason and things like that. It’s good to have a guy from down that way who jokes about the area, and we all know similar people, so it brings that extra bit of chemistry between us going through similar paths. I’ve been following his career footsteps with what he’s done in Europe and playing in the NBA, winning pretty much everything. He’s been a huge part of the Boomers’ program, and a huge part of European basketball over the last decade-plus. I see him as a role model, and I guess we’re pretty lucky that he’s still able to play and compete at the levels that he does. You saw him [on Saturday night] at Rod Laver, and he’s still one tough matchup, no matter what his age says or what people say about him. He’s still a fantastic player, and proves why he’s still a part of the Boomers.

Thanks for your time, Ryan, and I wish you the best of luck in the near future. Hopefully we can hear from you again during the season!

No worries! Any time, I appreciate it.