Basketball Pioneers: We have met many times. Do you still drink coffee before games?
Alston: Yes, it’s the same wherever I go. It hasn’t changed since I became a NBA player.
Basketball Pioneers: Which city has the best coffee? Toronto? Houston? Orlando Or New Jersey?
Alston: Oh, I don’t know.
Basketball Pioneers: You have played for a number of teams. When you join a new team, you need to adapt to a different tactical system. That’s probably quite frustrating?
Alston: I think adaptation to a different styles isn’t a big deal, for me the most difficult parts are learning the tactical moves of the new team and getting used to different personalities. These are things that need some time to figure it out. You have to really integrate with the team, understand your teammates. The successful experience in dealing with this person may not be feasible with another person. Moreover, as a point guard, you have to guide the team. This takes time and requires lot of effort.
Basketball Pioneers: What sort of team do you prefer?
Alston: I like a team with more experienced players. Dealing with experienced players is much easier. These guys (Nets’ players) are simply too young, They have yet to figure out a lot of the basics. When I was traded to Orlando, the team consisted of mostly experienced players, Hedo Turkoglu, Lewis…so many experienced players, pretty easy to play with. Just by playing against them in training, I have a clear picture of how they like to catch the ball, where they like to be on court. But some of these guys (Nets’ players) have not played a full season. Some are second-year players, some first-year rookies. They are still developing. I have to figure out their habits. That’s not easy.
Basketball Pioneers: Harris is injured, and you need to lead the team. How’s your form?
Alston: I’m ok, ready to go. I’m not getting any younger but it's still not a problem. But I hope the season isn’t going to be like this. Hope those injured guys get back soon.
Basketball Pioneers: What a coincidence! Keyon Dooling is also down.
Alston: Yeah, I look pretty lonely at the moment. Keyon should return soon. I’m not so sure about Harris but we hope he can stay healthy. You know, groin strain doesn’t seem to be a serious injury, but if you are not fully treated or rest adequately, it may relapse from time to time...pretty annoying. It’s better not to rush him for his return.
Basketball Pioneers: You not only have to run the team, but also score when needed. Can you manage?
Alston: I’m not sure. First off I am a pass-first point guard. I need to help everybody find their scoring touches. I need to read the game to see who hasn’t score for a while. If my man does not guard me closely, I would attack the basket. It all depends on situations.
Basketball Pioneers: On the losing streak, the team doesn’t look fluid in offense. They seemed lost at times.
Alston: We are more concerned about our defense, I am more disappointed with our defense. Offense is not an issue. We have the ability to score and that has been proven, but we also can give up a lot of points. We are not worried about our offense, sometimes you can knock down shots, sometimes you can’t. That’s normal. Sometimes you shoot 2-of-12, sometimes 8-of-11, these can happen. We have so many offensive moves. We’ll be fine offensively, Success will come when conditions are ripe. But the defense is the problem. You had to defense well night in and night out, and defend well every single play. But you look at us, we let the opponent have a shooting percentage of up to 50%, sometimes up to 60%. Defensive problems require immediate attention. You can’t take your time to rectify it. We have been losing since training camp. It’s a big step backward.
Basketball Pioneers: Is being young the reason?
Alston: Yes, it’s one of the reasons. If you have been in the league as long as me, you'll see pretty clearly. We haven’t shown enough effort, neither do we have the right attitude towards games and the desire to win. You can’t put in some effort for a while, get serious for a while, only to wait till the last 20 minutes before you have any desire to win. You need to have these things right from the first minute to the end.
Basketball Pioneeers: In fact, the first game vs Minnesota was winnable but in just a quarter the team collapsed.
Alston: Yeah, we did not play well for a few possesions and the whole situation changed. We thought we had the situation under control but the result was pathetic. Things like that have a negative impact and it's like a snowball getting bigger and bigger till it’s irreversible.
Basketball Pioneers: After that, the team lost to the Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic and the Wizards. Looks like it’s getting worse and worse?
Alston: Yeah, all the way down, like the water in a toilet bowl, just a swirl and off it goes.
Basketball Pioneers: At this point, as a veteran, what would you do?
Alston: I can only say that much. Things is people must be willing to listen and learn. As veterans, what we can say is limited, and we also need to walk the talk.
Basketball Pioneers: Though you didn’t play with Yi Jianlian for too long you probably know something about him, right?
Alston: I have the impression that last season, when he caught the ball, he would hold it and look around, not sure what to do next. Now he knows that he needs to attack. He has a good midrange jumper to begin with. He can also hit those three point shots. He has learned to get into the paint and attack the basket to create contact. That’s a new beginning.
Basketball Pioneers: He seems to have few opportunities to get the ball.
Alston: We need to find ways to get Yi to make more moves. He's attempted too many outside shots. He is very talented. He have both inside and outside games. We need to find him some sort of balance. I believe as the season progresses, coach will find a way to get him scored more. From a player’s point of view, if he goes through a period of time without touching the ball and loses his shooting touch, we need to get him involved. But he is so special with so much potential, we need to post him up and see who is guarding him, we need to fully develop his potential.
Basketball Pioneers: You have played with both Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian. Compared with Yao, is Yi Jianlian...
Alston: Yi is very quiet! Very much different from Yao. Everyone knows Yao is a funny guy, very talkative and loves to joke. But I must say that Yao is the most hardworking player I've ever seen. Yao Ming would be on the court two hours before team shootaround session, which means he had warmed up for two and a half hour before games started. Of course, Yi is very hardworking too. They are both very gracious persons.
Basketball Pioneers: So do you think being introverted is a problem?
Alston: I feel Yi tends to be more negative when things do not go well. Yao does not take things to heart that much. If Yao doesn’t play well for this game, he will work harder and bounce back in the next game.
(To a staff member: would you mind get me some coffee? This is tea, not coffee. Two bags of sugar and two cups of milk. Thank you!)