Talking with James Gist

From playing college basketball at Maryland, being selected by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2008 NBA draft, playing overseas, playing for the Spurs at NBA Summer Leagues and currently on the Spurs’ training camp roster, James Gist has definitely been paying his dues.

This past summer at the 2010 NBA Summer League, things were looking great for Gist. He was putting up solid numbers with 9.0 points and 5.0 rebounds but unfortunately he injured his wrist causing him to miss the rest of the Summer League.

Now with the Spurs looking for another forward to backup Richard Jefferson, it seems Gist has a golden opportunity to make an impression and show why the Spurs selected him back in 2008. Though there is a report Partizan Belgrade is interested in signing him should he be released by the Spurs.

This preseason the 6’9″, forward has been averaging 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds but it’s what he does on the court that doesn’t show up in the box score what makes him an intriguing player. While I was in Pittsburgh to cover the Spurs’ preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, I saw first-hand the hustle, the defensive disruption he brings, the athleticism and more from Gist.

I caught up with Gist after last week’s preseason game against the Cavaliers for this Q&A. We talked about what he brings to the Spurs, what he is focusing on in the offseason and much more.

Jeff: What an exciting game in Mexico City. “Coach” Manu Ginobili drew up the final play which led to the dramatic ending by Gary Neal.

James: Yeah it was pretty exciting. We played tough the whole game. We fought back from a big deficit. Some guys made some key shots especially Gary Neal who knocked down the three and Manu drew up a great play. What that tells you about the Spurs is the confidence that coach Pop has in his players. I never been on a team like that.

What can you bring to this team?

I bring a lot of energy, a lot of defense and everything else falls in place as far as the offense goes but overall I just bring that energy. A spark. Something to get the team going if the team is not going well. If things aren’t going so good on the court I’ll get in there, I’ll get a couple of rebounds, couple of steals whatever I can do to get the game changed.

Playing overseas might be of an advantage for you to adapt quickly to the NBA game.

Definitely. I played at a professional level overseas and I got to see a lot of different types of basketball, a lot of different types of defenses, learned how to space the floor since spacing is real critical overseas. Especially coming into the NBA. You got to learn how to space the floor especially with the Spurs. So the transition been going well, learning the plays, keeping up with the plays, it’s been OK.

As far as your game, what are you focusing on in the preseason?

To stay focused, pay attention to what Pop has to say in the huddles, knowing the defenses and just being able to make key plays at critical times because that’s what the NBA is all about.

(I noticed he has a photo of his daughter on his cell phone) That’s a nice picture of your daughter. I’m sure she adds to the motivation to make the squad.

Oh yeah! That’s first and foremost. Everything I do is to take care of her.

You must be pretty much tired of the traveling in the preseason, such as going to Mexico City to Pittsburgh.

Traveling is just another part of the NBA. That can’t be a reason you are not ready to play.

You are an athletic forward and fit what the Spurs need at that position.

Definitely. Just because it says that on paper doesn’t mean that it is. I got to be able to produce on the court, got to keep at it and every chance I get on the court I got to show that.

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