A lot of players are blessed with ability that trumps effort. They have natural athletic ability that they have to develop, for sure, but it's still a gift they've been granted. Kasib Powell did not take the easy way. He went undrafted out of Texas Tech University. He spent time in Serbia, Greece, Bosnia and Russia, before landing in Sioux Falls. This year, in his second season with the D-League, he averaged 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. He also proved to be a leader for the Skyforce.
Kasib ended up being pretty valuable. As in, Most Valuable. After being called up to the Miami Heat, he was awarded the Most Valuable Player for the D-League. After his 10-day contract expired with the Heat, he was sent back to Sioux Falls where he collected his trophy. Five days later, the Miami Heat signed him for the remainder of the season. That night, he led the Heat in scoring with 18 points to go with 6 rebounds and 3 assists in a win over the Chicago Bulls. I talked to Kasib last week about what it meant to win the D-League MVP, and about his season with the ahem... struggling Miami Heat.
HP: Kasib, first off, congratulations on all the success this year, it's been quite a season for you.
KP: Thanks, man, I appreciate that.
HP: First, let's talk D-League. What led you to your decision to play in the D-League versus overseas this year?
KP: I just wanted to give it one more shot in the NBA. At my age, if I went overseas, the window may have closed. The last time I played in the minor leagues, it was the CBA. I had heard good things about D-League, and I wanted to give it one more good shot to try and get in the NBA.
HP: Did the D-League do anything for you to improve your game to the point where you could get the call-up?
KP: It really did help me. My time there helped me a lot with scoring with the ball. I got a lot of extra work in, with all the games and practices. I had a young coach, and we spent a lot of hours in the gym. The league has done a great job in developing players, and I benefited from that.
HP: How much did winning the D-League MVP award mean to you?
KP: It means a lot. I was on the verge of thinking about going overseas at the beginning of the season, and for me to come here and get the D-League MVP shows I made the right decision. It really made me feel proud of all the work I put in.
HP: Are you and the other guys from the D-League close on the Heat?
KP: Yeah, we've got a close bond. We stay together. We go to the gym together. We all came in together. We knew each other a little bit from playing in the D-League. Right now we're just trying to stay here in Miami.
HP: The Heat have obviously struggled this season. There's been a stigma against them because they have so many active players that are D-League call-ups. Do you feel that that criticism is fair?
KP: It's not fair, but at the same time, it's a great opportunity for us. We're trying to play well so we can be here. People can say what they want, and I'm not listening because it's a great opportunity.
HP: After the last Celtics game, Paul Pierce said that they were supposed to beat your team, implying that you were inferior because you have D-Leaguers on the roster. What's your response when you hear something like that?
KP: You can take it a couple of ways. He's an All-Star, they have a great team, the best team in the league. His comments didn't affect me or hurt me; they just made me want to work harder.
HP: How big is the adjustment to NBA-level play from Europe and the D-League?
KP: The big difference between the D-League and the NBA is that in the D-League I was looked at as a scorer, and in the NBA I'm a role player. It's an adjustment but not a huge adjustment. There's a difference, but you just have to adjust to it. The NBA is the highest level and you have to be ready to do what you need to.
HP: You were let go by the Heat and sent back to the D-League. Did they tell you they were going to resign you when they released you?
KP: I didn't really know if I was going to be called back. I just knew that they had some roster problems with the injuries. I wanted to stay ready in case something happened, and I was really fortunate to get that opportunity.
HP: When you came back, you popped off for a career high and led the team in scoring. Were you determined to make a statement that night, or did the game just come to you?
KP: It just kind of came to me. I wanted to be aggressive, and when I came in, I had some opportunities to score. I hit a couple shots and my teammates got me open, and the outcome was good for me and the team.
HP: One of the things I've noticed talking to the players is that they need a certain amount of time in the NBA to get used to the pace and speed of the game in order to get their confidence to a level where they can contribute. Do you agree with that statement and what are your thoughts on it?
KP: It's true. So many teams will just run and gun trying to score a lot of points. And the pace is so different, it's a hard adjustment. We play Memphis, and that's going to be a fast game. I like playing a fast pace game anyway.
HP: How hopeful are you of getting a full season contract next year?
KP: I just want to finish up this season strong, and hopefully we can get some wins. With the organization there will be a lot of changes. The only thing I can do is try and finish up strong.
HP: If for any reason you didn't get a long term contract, would you return to the D-League, knowing you can compete at this level, or would the overseas money be too good to pass up?
KP: In my mind, that's plan B and C. Hopefully, I'm definitely with a team next year. Hopefully this one. I'll make that decision next year; it's hard to tell right now. The D-League's been good to me, but it's really early to tell.
HP:Tell me about the website. How long have you had it?
KP: Probably a year now. I got some people helping me with it. My sister helped me with it. It was just for exposure and to get my name out there. and show what I'm doing in my community back home.
HP: Can you tell me a little bit about how it felt to step on to that NBA court the first time?
KP: A lot of emotion going. You're nervous, and you're anxious at the same time. It's a great feeling. It's something you've dreamed about as a kid. But once you get some sweat going, it's just another basketball game.
HP: It's obviously been a rough year for the Heat. What's the locker room like as the season winds down?
KP: The locker room atmosphere has actually been really positive. Everyone understands it hasn't been a great season, but they also understand we have injuries. Everybody's positive and keeping their heads up, trying to go out there and compete every night.
HP: Kasib, thanks so much for your time, congrats on the MVP and the call-up, and best of luck the rest of the year.
KP: Thanks, I appreciate it.