Q&A: DeMarre Carroll

Courtesy of Dime

Martin Rickman: You’ve had kind of an unorthodox journey which has led to today. It’s obviously an exciting time for you, but what has that journey done for you? What perspective has that given you along the way?

DeMarre Carroll: It’s given me great perspective on life in general. I think anything, I always say this quote, “Hard work is a talent.” Ever since I was a little kid growing up, there’d be a scenario when I was in school, and I wasn’t the smartest person in the classroom, but I always did the extra credit work, did my homework, and I got the same grade every smart person in the classroom got. I felt that same way about my basketball career and my life. I’m going to work just as hard to reach the same goals as other people. My main goals and my main journey in life is to be a role model and inspiration for others. I think my journey and my story can speak to them.

I know each of your stops along the way has held particular importance for you. What does Birmingham mean to you? 

Birmingham is where it all started. I think Birmingham has really embraced its basketball players, and I’ll always have pride for it. Without Birmingham I wouldn’t be here.

What was your mindset heading into free agency? What were you trying to accomplish?

My mindset was – after sitting down with my agent – to have an open mind. Don’t be married to one fit. I feel like that was my whole thing. I didn’t want to be married to anything. Atlanta’s obviously been a big part of my career, and I feel like Atlanta gave me the best opportunity. So I really wanted to come back to Atlanta, but it didn’t work out. It didn’t end up being the best fit for me, and they had some salary cap things going on. And that’s when I had to move on with my career, my basketball career, and Toronto came after me hard. I think Toronto sold me the most.

What was appealing about Toronto to you, and what basketball-wise made you stop and think this was the place for you?

They came in first and foremost and embraced my family. I just got married, and I have a daughter. They told me about how basketball is obviously important to their team, but family is even bigger, and that sold me. Then coach Dwane Casey came in and told me I was going to have a bigger role. I was going to have a lead role. And the enthusiasm from the top on down was big. When a coach comes in and has that sort of confidence in you, that’s a big thing. Most importantly the came in with a four-year offer, and that’s something I really worked for. Financially that’s so big for my family. But Detroit was right there too.

Is Masai as hardcore as he seems? Does he command the room the way he does publicly?

[Laughs.] He’s a good guy. He came in basically, I think he understands the NBA players and you don’t have to go all the around and play with you and tell you thinks he doesn’t really mean. He just comes in straightforward and tells you how he feels.

What did you learn this season from the Hawks in particular?

I learned that anything can be accomplished when you all work together and have the same goal and are on the same page. That’s what I learned from the Hawks. They’re trying to take on that same model as San Antonio. I’ll always have love for the Hawks. The biggest thing for me as I move onto Toronto is to keep grinding and keep playing my role.

What did you learn this season from the Hawks in particular? What was it about Mike Budenholzer’s offense that made it so effective?

It was confidence. We shared the ball, and every guy on that team believed in each other. Everybody was clicking, and that’s what makes it so tough to stop. We worked so hard because we had so many guys taking care of each other.
How much did the knee injury affect what you wanted to do against the Cavs the remainder of that series?

It was big, man. It affected me a lot. I played through it on one leg and the doctor telling me if this was the regular season there’s no way I’d be playing. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, but at the same time I just tried to go out there and give it my all.

Does that just kind of play into the ‘Junkyard Dog’ nickname you earned at Missouri? It fits your style of play. They’re going to have to put you down before you’re going to stop playing.

You can have all the talent in the world, but you’re not given anything. At the end of the day, my teammates know I’m here for y’all and I’m going to battle. That was my biggest reason for coming back [in that series]. I knew I wasn’t going to be that effective, but I just wanted to give them a little more confidence and motivation and hoped that would help put them over the edge.

What’s the biggest thing you learned from Mike Anderson at Missouri? Is there anything he told you that’s stuck with you along the way?

He always said this one thing, a thousand times, every time I see him. You don’t have to play like you have a chip on your shoulder – I always play that way – so he wanted me to play like I had a log on my shoulder. The log is everything. Don’t ever take anything for granted.

Does it feel vindicating to see all that hard work pay off and to see all the little things that you do – because I know you focus so hard on those little things – build into something bigger? 

Oh, yeah. It’s so big for my family to see this all pay off. At the same time, man, it’s not over yet. There are still so many goals I want to accomplish. And I’m really excited to join my new team and start pushing towards those goals in Toronto.

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