Kent Bazemore understands why the Atlanta Hawks draw comparisons to the Golden State Warriors. The Hawks' general manager, Travis Schlenk, spent five years as the Warriors' assistant general manager and 12 years with the organization. In June, Schlenk's front office drafted a pair of guards with deep range -- Trae Young and Kevin Huerter -- in the first round. Atlanta's new coach, Lloyd Pierce, even spent a year in the Bay Area, developing a relationship with Stephen Curry when the two-time MVP was in his second season.
"A lot of people have a hard time of looking where people came from and then they try to compare us to who they are now and see if we can get there," Bazemore told CBS Sports. "And there are a lot of comparisons. Kevin is feeling his way around. Trae is a dynamic scorer. Omari Spellman may be the biggest steal of this class when we look down the road three to five years, and then you look at a Draymond Green -- we came out together, he's definitely the biggest steal in my class if you look at it. You can go down the list; you see a ton of different looks and a ton of different comparisons. Travis knows the model of what it took to get to where they are and I'm sure he's following it step by step."
Bazemore himself is a former Warrior. He first earned national attention on their bench, celebrating his teammates' highlights with such enthusiasm that "Bazemoring" entered the NBA lexicon. Since then, he has established himself, earned a long-term contract and become a mentor for the Hawks' younger players. On the phone, Bazemore told CBS Sports that their future is bright and he thinks they can surprise people this year, too. He also discussed his "summer of enlightenment" and how he dealt with persistent trade rumors in the offseason. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity and flow.
CBS Sports: What's been different in this training camp under Lloyd Pierce?
Kent Bazemore: The intensity has been ramped up. I don't know if it's because we have a lot of younger guys, but the intensity every day, the energy has been great every day. The coaching staff that he's brought in, they jell really well with the younger guys. It's a very loose environment. We have fun, but when we need to be serious, we can be. It allows you to be yourself. Not saying that wasn't the case with coach Bud -- he and his coaching staff did an amazing job there; obviously, going to the playoffs all those consecutive years, 60-win season, coach Bud actually won Coach of the Year. I just think, with the younger guys, we needed someone in there that was kind of up for the task of rebuilding.
CBS: I know it's just preseason, but Trae hit a Spurs. What does it say about him that he wanted to take that shot, from that distance, in that situation?against the
KB: It says everything about him that you need to know: He's going to be fearless. He plays with an enormous chip on his shoulder. People always criticize him for his size, but he plays very physical. He's not afraid of contact, he tries to go through guys. He's been that size all his life and he's made a name for himself playing the way that he plays, and he's on one of the biggest stages ever and he's capturing the moment. It's fun for me to watch because I love to see people defy the odds.
CBS: I love his passing, too. Does he remind you of anybody? What's it like playing with a guy who sees the floor like him?
KB: I played with Kendall Marshall in L.A. for a short stint there, and it's heartwarming to know that, if you're open, you got a guy who's going to get you the ball or a guy that can create for you. As a person who likes to run the floor like I do, it's even more reason to run and get out. He spreads the wealth. He's a good passer in traffic. He's very underrated in that aspect. You get some guards who are only good passing going to their right hand or whatever, but he can pass going both ways. He's a good student of the game. His IQ is super high to be only 20 years old. I'm excited to see what the future holds.
CBS: What do you see from the second-year version of John Collins compared to the guy you saw as a rookie?
KB: John's game has expanded tremendously. He's putting the ball on the floor, he's shooting it from the outside and now he's really learning how to use his athleticism. He's going to be a force to reckon with these next couple of years. I love to see guys get better. I see a guy who came in highly touted, and he's continuing to work. He's not, like, taking it easy because he was in the rookie All-Star game last year. He wants more.
CBS: What's it like having Vince Carter around?
KB: Just like I'm a leader for the young guys, he's a leader for me, to kind of help me understand the ins and outs, going into your prime, how to really maximize it. And also how to lead. I'm learning a lot from him, just like other guys are maybe learning a lot from me.
CBS: You're the only one left from the 60-win Hawks team -- is that a little weird?
KB: Yeah, but it's the nature of the league. This is my seventh season. I've been traded, I've been through a free agency and I know a lot of people who have dealt with the same things. You just understand it's the nature of the league and you count your blessings that you're one of the guys that remains -- the organization and the front office thinks enough of you to keep you around and kind of help lead the charge with the young fellas.
CBS: With your story -- going undrafted, making a name for yourself -- do you feel like you have some wisdom to pass along to those young guys?
KB: Yeah, because at the end of the day it's all about just continuing to work. Once you get in, it's harder to stay in. It's harder to keep your niche. There's so many other guys that try to make their way into the league, and as a younger guy, not having a guaranteed contract, I had to stay the course, couldn't get frustrated I wasn't playing and understand that you gotta pay your dues and this is a very long season and a lot happens. That's my message to all the young guys: just stay the course, stay hungry and keep working.
CBS: When anyone goes to Kelford, they are now greeted with a sign saying "THE HOME OF NBA PLAYER KENT BAZEMORE." When you saw that this summer, what kind of memories did that bring back?
KB: This summer was a summer of enlightenment. I kind of took the time out and took a step back and really appreciated where I've come from, what I've been through and what it took for me to get to where I am. That was just the icing on the cake. To see so many familiar faces, the people who sacrificed their time and energy to help me chase my dreams, it was eye-opening. It was a very heartfelt moment. Shed a few tears, thanked a lot of people for allowing me to get here. It just brought me back to ground zero, where it all started. My success this season, that day will play a big part in that.
CBS: Can you tell me more about the summer?
KB: In my first six years in the NBA, there's a ton that's happened. Undrafted, to finding a niche on a team and signing a lucrative deal and you're playing, you're playing, you're playing, you're traveling, you're playing in the playoffs, you get married, all this stuff is happening and you really don't have time -- or you really don't give yourself time to be in the moment and sit there, just being off. I took some very cool trips this summer. I went to Montana, Hawaii and Italy, three of my most favorite places on Earth because it's just so serene and quiet. You've got a lot of time to yourself. I spent a lot of time just getting away and really thinking about what I've accomplished and what I've done. It puts a smile on your face.
We live in a society where stress is abundant, everyone is stressed -- even when you don't have to be, your body finds some way to be stressed, your mind just finds a way to be stressed. I really just started working on that and working to getting back to who I was, really smiling a lot, really playing with that joy that got me here that people saw when I was on the sidelines Bazemoring as a rookie for the Golden State Warriors. Just trying to get back to that kid playing a game has truly uplifted my life.
CBS: Youwhen you were younger you'd spazz out on the court and be angry. Is this sort of still an evolution from there?
KB: Yeah, so, what I've found out about myself: A lot of my frustrations on the court don't even come from things that happen on the court. It's much bigger than that, it's larger than that. It's making sure that you take care of your home, your relationships off the floor. You know, everything that you're a part of, your family, making sure all those relationships are just massaged. You really have to put time into that stuff, and it's all about balance, too. You can't really put too many eggs in one basket or take things too seriously. When you realize how small we are in the grand scheme of things, we have no reason to be upset. Just go out there and play. I mean, yeah, we play with a lot of passion, sometimes it's OK to be human. But at the end of the day, if it's taking you out of your realm or messing with your energy, it's not really worth it.
CBS: Your name was in trade rumors a lot -- how did that fit in with what you're telling me about your summer?
KB: I worked out Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, three times a day with weight training, footwork and agility and then some gym work -- just getting after it. I just controlled what I could control. I didn't go into my workouts thinking about getting traded because then I'd take a couple reps off being frustrated with that. That was kind of my practice of being in the moment. I'm getting it in, I'm maximizing the time that I have in that moment. And I'm reaping the fruits of my labor now: I feel great. My body's a lot stronger -- I've put on a few pounds -- and my mind is a lot clearer. Obviously I'm human, I still get in those old habits of trying to get frustrated at things, but I just remind myself, I write little small things on my shoes, I wear wristbands. Anything I can do to help me get back to center is what I'm about now.
CBS: What do you write down on your shoes or put on the wristbands?
KB: I have a muse. She has been great for me. She [recommended] this book called The Energy Bus. I write that on my shoes. I have a wristband that says "remember they doubted, make your presence felt" and another wristband that says "it's go time." When you're in tune with things like that, you get this weird -- my body just kind of goes into this weird state like I'm ready to go. It works for me.
CBS: You said you have a muse?
KB: Yeah, I have a muse. She will remain anonymous. She's awesome.