On the eve of his first regular season NBA game, GB forward Joel Freeland has spoken of his excitement at the prospect of embarking on next chapter of his basketball career.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ season opener will be against the Los Angeles Lakers – a team packed with enough All-Stars and future Hall-Of-Famers to strike fear into the hearts of most opponents. But the 25-year-old can’t wait for the challenge.
“To play against the Lakers is going to be incredible,” he says. “To go up against Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol…to even be on the same court as Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash is going to be amazing.
“But we’ve got a job to do. We’ve got to get a win – somehow, some way…and I think we’re ready to do that. We’ve got a young team, a lot of energy, not a lot of experience…but we look good, and we’re going to grit it out to the end.”
Freeland won’t be the youngest guy on his team by any stretch. But despite that – and the fact that he’s had a very respectable career to date in Spain’s ACB – he recognises that he’s still a newbie when it comes to the big show of the NBA.
“They know I’m not fresh out of college – but, at the end of the day, in this league I’m a rookie. I’ve got things to learn. Obviously I’ve learnt things in the five or six years I’ve been playing in Spain – but this league is completely different. I can’t come into this team and expect to jump to the top of the list. I’ve got to work my way into the team – put in the hard work to earn my minutes, and that’s what I’ve been doing so far. This last month of pre-season has been tough. But I’m learning every day, and enjoying every minute of it.”
Joel’s third game of the season will reunite him with his former GB coach, Chris Finch, (now an assistant with the Houston Rockets) for the first time since the Olympics
“I haven’t had a chance to speak to him,” he says. “My schedule has been really busy [since] the Olympics. But yeah, I’m excited to play against him. It’d be good to see him again and see how he’s doing. I had some great times with the team – especially with him.”
Freeland says that participating in the 2012 Games helped prepare him for the League: “It gave me a better insight of how it’s going to be, playing against some great, top, all-star calibre of players.”
But he’s experessed disappointment, and some bewilderment, about why the Olympics failed to spark the interest in the sport domestically that many had hoped for.
“I thought that with the Olympics, it would have got a lot better than it has. I went through six years with the actual GB programme, and each year everyone put expectations on it getting better. And it got better. But it kinda got to a point where it just froze. I can’t put my finger on why. I thought after the Olympics it was going to blow up. But it just hasn’t caught on the way we would like it to.”
So, six years after being drafted by the Blazers, does Joel feel has a statement to make?
“Yeah, I think I’ve got something to prove – to myself more than anything,” he says. “I don’t feel like I should ever go out trying to prove something to anybody else. But as long as I’m trying to get better for myself – and my team mates – that’s all I can really do.”
Watch Joel Freeland’s NBA debut against the LA Lakers tonight (Wednesday) live or on demand via NBA League Pass. For more information and for a free trial before November 6th visit www.nba.com/leaguepass
Comments are closed on this post.