I had a sit-down today with J.J. after he signed his new deal at Hawks headquarters. Thought you might want to peep the Q and A:
Q. Can you take me through the process of when you met with the Hawks, they made the offer and then you also had interest from other teams?
A. “It was pretty much the free-agency frenzy that was going on. It was a fun time. I enjoyed it. All along I pretty much felt like Atlanta was the place for me. I have had five great years here. I haven’t regretted anything since I’ve been here. I’ve had a lot of fun. The team has improved every year. The coach and the ownership have done everything possible to improve as a team. I think right now, it is pretty much our time. We have just got to believe in ourselves.”
Q. Did the Hawks discuss their plans for the roster during the meeting?
A. “We kind of sat and talked. They pretty much said how they felt about me coming back to the team and how much they wanted me back. It was a great meeting. They said they are going to do whatever possible to improve the team. They have been doing that since Day One. You can’t argue with that. . . . It was really a brief meeting. We didn’t really have to sit and talk long. I understood where they were coming from, and that was that.”
Q. What did it mean to you for them to offer you the maximum deal?
A. “It meant a lot to know they have got the confidence in me to try to lead this team in the right direction and over the hump. I think we can definitely get over the hump. Knowing they have my back like that makes me want to work even harder. I’m sure I won’t let them down.”
Q. You know how it goes when guys get maximum deals. There’s going to be even more scrutiny of your performance. Are you prepared for that?
A. “I know it’s going to come. I can’t really worry about that. I have to control the things I can control and go and compete night-in and night-out and have fun with it. At the same time, this is definitely my job. I am up for the challenge.”
Q. L.D. has talked about making changes in the offense to get the ball moving more. He says that will help take pressure off of you. Are you cool with not having the ball in your hands so much?
A. “It definitely takes a lot of pressure off of me. Me and Drew talked about it. He wants me doing a lot more catching and shooting. Not creating so much until late in the game so I am not so worn down. I respect his opinion on anything. He is our head coach now. He is definitely going to make the right decisions.”
Q. Your agent said you planned to recruit other players. Any ideas on the guys you’d like to come play with you?
A. “(Laughs). We have to go out and see what is out there. Honestly, I think we have the team now we can win with. That’s no question. The last two years we have averaged 50 wins. We all know it’s time to step up and take it to the next level. I think with the team we’ve got right now we can do that.”
Q. Some fans still have hard feelings about your comments during the playoffs. It seems like that has contributed to some of the negative reaction to the news that the Hawks were offering you the contract. Now that some time has passed, do you have anything more to say about what happened?
A. “It was just in the heat of the moment. We had a tough battle against a great team in Orlando. I think I can speak for a lot of guys on the team [that] there was some frustrating moments. I was just really speaking out of frustration.”
Q. What would you say to the fans who are still mad about it?
A. “There is nothing I can do about it now. I just look forward to the season and getting out there and playing. This is my job; this is what I do. I am going to come out and try to have fun and hopefully change their minds.”
Q. There has been lots of criticism from media and fans around the league about your contract. Have you seen or heard it?
A. “Naw. Uh-uh.”
Q. There are lots of people saying it’s a bad deal for the Hawks. Does that bother you?
A. “There is nothing I can do. You have got to deal with it. You deal with the bad. It doesn’t bother me at all. I am going to still come out and do my job and be effective and do whatever it takes to win. You can’t worry about what people say about you. You have got to move on.”
Q. Do you feel added pressure to live up to the contract?
A. “Not at all. I don’t feel no pressure at all. All I have got to do is keep playing my game.”