Riders guard Darius Garland set three lofty goals before the start of the season and he achieved them all, he says in an interview with Tyler R. Tynes of GQ. Garland wanted to be a finalist for the Most Improved Player trophy, to be an All-Star and to reach at least the play-in tournament. He finished third in the MIP voting, played in the All-Star Game in Cleveland and got to experience the play-in atmosphere, even though the Cavs lost both of their games.
Cleveland got off to a strong start and remained in contention for one of the top seeds in the East for most of the season. But a string of injuries caused the team to slip to the eighth seed, leading to an early exit. Now that he’s had a taste of the postseason, Garland wants to go even farther next year.
“Being there, feeling the playoff experience, that atmosphere with the whole city behind you, you could barely hear in the arena,” Garland said. “It was lit the whole time, in Brooklyn [and in] the second game against Atlanta at home. That was probably the most intense basketball I’ve ever had in my life. So it was cool having that experience, but I definitely want to get into the playoffs.”
Garland, who will be eligible for a rookie-scale extension this summer, said he loves being in Cleveland and hopes for a long-term future there. He touches on that and several other subjects during the interview:
On coach JB Bickerstaff, who trusted him to take control of the team:
“Going into my second year, he literally told me, ‘You have the keys, this is your team, you just have to drive the car.’ That’s the analogy he gave me. I had to learn how to drive this car, with this team, coming in as one of the youngest guys on the team and I had to be the leader and talk the most. Being more vocal, being a leader, putting people where they want to be and try to be the best on the court at all times. Be the first on the court. Be the last one to leave. It’s all the little things we talk about.”
On lessons from veteran guards Ricky Rubio and Rajon Rondowho both spent part of the season with the Cavs:
“Rondo gave me the mental part of the game. We watch film throughout the entire season. Every game, on the road, on the plane, in the room, at dinner. We watch film no matter what with ‘Do. With Ricky, it was the game inside the game. He would tell me to play a game while we’re playing a game. Put people in pick and roll situations, go at him and see what he does. The next play: put him in the same pick and roll situation and see what happens. He was teaching me how to pick apart a defense. I picked those things up easy from those two.”
We Collin Sextonwho is headed for restricted free agency this offseason:
“I hope Collin stays around. I really like playing with him. He’s super cool off the court and we have a lot of similarities: we both like shoes and clothes and we love the game of basketball. He was like my big brother coming into the league. So, hopefully, Collin sticks around. Hopefully we get more some more years to play with each other and make some playoff appearances.”
“I never really thought about it. I try to stay in the present moment and work on myself. I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to get this team better. I’m trying to get this organization better. I’m working on myself. Those guys are true legends in Cleveland and the NBA so all respect to them, but I’m just working on my team and myself right now. I talk to ‘Bron and Ky after games and stuff, but nothing really ever about Cleveland.