Report Card/Exit Interview: Aaron McKie
As some of you may remember, BK and I doled out "report cards" at the end of last season for each player. We also provided the transcripts from last year's exit interviews. This year, we decided to try something new and combine them, providing each player's grade with their "adios" copy. Some will contain "teacher evals" from both K Brothers, some just one K Bro. First up: Aaron McKie.
Report Card: I don't think it necessarily qualifies as "going out on a limb" to say the front office would likely take a "do over" when it comes to last season's signing of Aaron McKie. Unless, of course, him playing 24 games over two seasons was part of some master plan (and if that's the case, I admire Mitch Kupchak's bold "outside the box" thinking, but advise another drawing board session). Fortunately, McKie took the disappointment of what may be his final NBA stop like a pro's pro, always working hard and trying to add a positive veteran presence. As I've said before, it bummed me out to see McKie's career wind down like this. Sympathy won't lead to grading his play on a curve, but I respected how he tried to make lemonade out of seriously tart lemons. Final Grade: F/Inc.
Hit the jump to read McKie's exit interview.
Q: How tough was it to witness, as basically an observer, what took place with this team down the stretch?
Aaron McKie: It was tough from a standpoint of, obviously, losing. I think this team had a lot more to give and it just didn't happen that way. Obviously, in the playoffs, somebody's going to win. One team's going to be better than the other. I thought the guys were competitive in the last game, but I thought there was there was a lot more energy needed to go out and beat (Phoenix), because they come out and they play with a lot of effort and energy.
Q: Have you had much of a chance to think about what's next for you?
AM: No, I just want to go home and spend some time with my family. Just sit back and think about everything and see what happens from there. I'll definitely keep myself in shape, just in case. I don't know. It's a decision that I have to make and obviously it's a tough decision, so we'll see what happens.
Q: When you look back at your time with the Lakers, all the injuries and never really finding your place on the court, do you feel like you did what you wanted here?
AM: (Without hesitation) No. I didn't. I felt like that I could offer something to this team being out on the floor. But with me not being on the floor, there was still more that I could do with the knowledge that I have of the game and the experience that I have, being able to help these guys through situations and through the season. You never want to be a cancer to a team. Obviously, you have that happen with some organizations, where guys feel they aren't playing and they feel like they should be out there playing, but I wanted to be more supportive. Not just to the players, but to the coaching staff as well. And I've learned a lot from being in this organization, from the coaching staff to the players. This has been a situation that was definitely different for me, because I've always been the young guy on the team. And now, I was the older guy, the elder statesman on the team. The guys look to me for advice from time to time, which I took pride in.
Q: What do you think this team needs to do to reach the next level?
AM: This was a young team. I don't think nobody really took that into consideration. Think about it. Andrew (Bynum) may have started half the season. Kwame (Brown) is still young. Luke (Walton). You know, the core guys that were out there playing. Mo Evans. Jordan (Farmar). Smush (Parker). Sasha (Vujacic). These are all young guys and they're still getting experience as far as playing and being in game situations. For that matter, playoff experience. That goes a long way. It took (Philadelphia, where McKie played for 8 seasons) a long time to advance. We always got knocked out in the first round. But each year, we learned from that. It sat in our stomach throughout the summer and each year we worked towards that. And I think that's something that these young guys have to understand. It's not party time when the summer comes rolling around. This is the time when you get better as an individual and be able to come together as a team to do it collectively. Try to set your goals to be an NBA champion, which this city and this franchise is accustomed to.
AK: You mentioned the experience and knowledge that you looked to share with the younger players. Could you feel any tangible results, either in their reactions or the way they carried themselves?
AM: Well, I don't think you'll see the results right away, because that's something that takes time. Once again, like I said, these guys are all young, so when I'm back in Philadelphia and I cut the television on and I'm watching these guys, how they conduct themselves, how they're playing, their feel for the game, then I can say, "Hey, maybe those guys got something from the conversations that we had."
AK: Is it almost like a "proud father" feeling, to some degree?
AM: You know, I would like to think. It's just somebody, a veteran just passing down knowledge and information that I received when I was in their shoes. When I was a young guy coming into the league trying to find my way, so I think that's just something that you do as a veteran, pass that knowledge down and hopefully, those guys will be receptive to taking it all in. And when they get to that point where they're in a situation like I was in, they can pass it down to someone. I've always looked at the NBA and being part of team as, it's not just about you as an individual. It's about everybody collectively.
AK: If you do end up choosing to retire, do you have any thoughts on how you'll look back on your career?
AM: I don't have regrets on how my career panned out. I've always been a worker from the time that I got into this league from the time that I finished, I did everything that was asked of me. Worked my tail off and I don't have anything to hang my head on. That's just the roll of the dice sometimes, the situation that you're put in, but I don't have any regrets. I enjoyed my stay out here and like I said, I wish I could have added more to it and played a little more, to be able to help these out, but that wasn't the case.
Q: Do you ever think about coaching?
AM: Yeah, I think about it from time to time. That's something that, once again, when I'm back home in the summertime, I'll sit back and consider it. Throw my name in the hat. Maybe talk to a few organizations and see what it is that I can do. There are things that I have to learn about that. I think, for the most part, the X's and O's of the game, the feel of the game, I know all that. But when you're put in different systems, you have to get a better understanding of that. We'll see what happens with that.
Q: Having said that you would have liked to have contributed a little more, what do you think you could have done for this team?
AM: I don't know. I could sit here and say, "We would have swept Phoenix." (Laughs) You want me to lie to you? I don't know. (Laughs) I don't have a crystal ball or whatever, but I just think I could have brought some experience to the floor and I think that goes a long way at this time of the season.
Q: You've had a leadership role on other teams you've played with. How do you think Kobe did growing into that role?
AM: I think that's something that takes time, especially when there's a lot of pressure on you to be a leader. I don't think a leader necessarily means you have to be vocal. "Hey, man! You get here! You go here! I think sometimes leaders lead by example and I think he's done a great job of that. Getting in here and taking care of his body, working on his game and getting out and performing. Things of that nature. I think, with a guy like Kobe, a lot of guys are gonna follow his lead. I think he's making strides. I haven't been here long enough to evaluate him from day one when he got into the league up to this point, but I've been knowing Kobe since he was in junior high school. He's always been a good guy in my eyes. That's just something you get better with in time.
Q: You sort of have to find your voice as a leader, is that part of it?
AM: I think you gotta get a feel for your teammates, what they can handle, the things they can take in. The dynamics of every team are totally different. Everybody's not going to be able to handle (everything) the same. That's something you have to gage from year to year, because each team, they make changes during the off-season and stuff like that. I think that with the core guys here, he understands them and they understand him.
Q: Of the younger guys, who listens to you the most?
AM: All of them. I've never had a problem communicating with those guys. I think sometimes it can be a little too much, especially when you're not playing. There's only but so much you can tell those guy, because at some point, they're gonna look at you like, "What are you talking about? You're not even playing." I never wanted it to reach that point, where it was like I was talking to them and they weren't listening. So I kind of did it with baby steps.
Q: Were there some that sought you out more than others?
AM: I think all of them. If you watched the game, I always sat down at the end (of the bench) and if they were taken out of the game, they would come over and we would have little conversations. I would say, "Remember this play? When this happened and that happened?" They would listen and I would say, "Try to do it this way." Sometimes that helps. You don't wanna try to go to a guy in the heat of battle, they just look at you like you got ten heads. You don't want that to happen.
AK: During one of the San Antonio-Denver playoff games, the commentator said that Allen Iverson cited you as one of the people he learned the most from about how to lead. Did you ever share anything with Kobe, in terms of leadership insight?
AM: No, because it was always part of my job. I never put a "C" on my jersey and said, "I'm a captain," or put a sign on my back and said, "I'm a leader." This is just me. I come to the games early. I work, get myself prepared mentally and physically. Taking care of my body during the summer. I think that's leading by example. It never was a thing where we'd be in a timeout and I'd be like, "Be quiet! I'm the leader! I'm talking!" I think guys, they get a great deal of respect for you when they see you go about your business. I think that's what becoming a leader entails.