Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity of speaking with ESPN’s Ryan Ruocco about Spurs basketball and other NBA related topics.
Ryan Ruocco works for YES Network and calls Brooklyn Nets games while also calling NBA games on ESPN and hosting his own ESPN radio show, Stephen A. Smith & Ryan Ruocco.
Ryan Ruocco will calling tonight’s Spurs-Lakers game on ESPN at 9 p.m. CT with Hubie Brown, making the opportunity to talk basketball with him yesterday even more sweeter.
Check out the entire conversation transcribed below! Ryan Ruocco talks key matchups for tonight, Spurs draft-and-stash prospects, and what’s like to be in the booth so you definitely do want to take the time to read our conversation!
Scroll through the slides to see what Ryan Ruocco had to say!
Conversation taken from phone conversation between Ryan and I. The conservation has been slightly altered for grammatical correctness.
Jay Desai: Hi Ryan, thanks for taking the time to speak with Air Alamo about Spurs basketball and some of the other topics in the NBA! How are you today?
Apr 11, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Houston Rockets guardJames Harden
(13) dunks in the second quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The basket was called off. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Ruocco: I’m doing well and how are you?
Jay Desai: I’m doing well also. My first question I have for you is based on your play-by-play announcing on ESPN for the Houston Rockets-Minnesota Timberwolves game in Mexico City. What was it like covering the game in Mexico?
Ryan Ruocco: It was great! I don’t about how much people know about the way basketball is coveted there but it is beloved in Mexico City and those fans were amped up. None of the fans left even as the game got out of hand in the fourth quarter. They loved getting to see Dwight Howard play to the crowd. You go on a trip like and you get a feel of how global this game is which I think is great and is useful for a person like me who loves this sport and loves to get a grasp on it as much as I can.
Nov 5, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forwardTim Duncan
(21) talks with shooting guardManu Ginobili
(20) during the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 94-92. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Jay Desai: Awesome! So let’s talk a little bit about Spurs basketball here. I’m sure you are well aware that the San Antonio Spurs trio of Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker just won their 500th regular season game together. They are currently 39wins away from catching the all-time leading trio in wins of Larry Bird, Robert Parish, and Kevin McHale who played for the Boston Celtics. The Spurs trio does have more titles though, four championships to the Celtics trio’s three. Who is the best big three in NBA history in your opinion?
Ryan Ruocco: That’s tough. That’s a good question. I guess if you want to go with the longeveity and the total wins you would go with the three you mentioned, the Celtics. If you wanted to go with most dynamic, you probably want to go with the Lakers trio of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy. The Spurs trio is right up there though. They have that continuity of having one coach the entire time which I think just brings about even more of that feeling of unity that they have. Plus, what I think is so unique about their group is that they all come from different countries too. They all learned basketball in different nations and they were still able to come together like this and have this sustained run which is pretty unbelievable. It’s still a tough choice to pick a best big three.
The funny thing is you could just put Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in that conversation by throwing in a third player such as Toni Kukoc, Horace Grant, or Dennis Rodman. You could even say the Lakers trio in the 1968-1969 season with Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor. That was another ridiculuos group but it’s not the same time period. I don’t know, but I guess you would say Bird, Parish, and McHale had the most sustained run but this trio, the Spurs, is going to go down as one of the greatest trios of all-time and they are going to be mentioned with any three you want to take from those Laker championship teams, they are going to be mentioned with McHale, Parish, and Bird, and they are going to be able to hold their own, no doubt about that.
Jay Desai: Yeah absolutely.The next question I wanted to ask is about tonight’s matchup between the Spurs and Lakers. What player matchup are you most looking forward to seeing tonight?
Nov 11, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dunks the basketball during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 113-100. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Ruocco: Well, I think I’d like to see if Kawhi Leonard is going to guard Kobe Bryant because at this point in time when you look at the Lakers offense people keep getting on Kobe for shooting but he’s trying to empower his team. Kobe is saying all the right things verbally to try and empower Jeremy Lin specifically and all of his teammates for that matter, trying to get them to initiate the offense and not rely on him. It’s something that Byron Scott had to call them out for. Scott said you can’t keep looking at him and wanting him to do everything. If you look at the Lakers, and who’s a threat, I don’t know anyone else you would put Kawhi on besides Kobe? Are you going to put him on Wesley Johnson? I don’t think so. Are you going to put him on Jeremy Lin? I don’t think you need to do that. I don’t think you want to create cross-matches for Parker. I gues I’d have to go with Kawhi on Kobe because you’re talking about for Kawhi a guy who is still so absurdly young, he just turned 23-years-old, and has as much two-way talent as any player in the NBA outside of maybe LeBron. He just won the Finals MVP playing the same position as LeBron a year ago too. You get to watch him try to shut down a guy who is trying to do something no guard has done at this age and right now Kobe is on pace to do some historic things even if his team is struggling at times. So I definitely want to say Kawhi against Kobe.
Jay Desai: Nice! Let’s go with a little quicker question just to get some numbers out. How many missed shots from Kobe tonight?
Nov 10, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots over Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) in the first half of the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Ruocco: I’ll say he will miss 11.
Jay Desai: Let’s talk a little bit more about Kawhi Leonard. You mentioned him earlier as a player who is really coming into his own and blossoming into a nice player. He has increased his free throw rate this season from 19.5% to 33.8% this season, one of things that will help him establishhimself as an elite player. What else do you think he needs to improve to become that superstar?
Ryan Ruocco: I think it’s what coach Pop talks about all the time. It’s about consistency. When you are a superstar you don’t show flashes. You don’t bring it in one out of every two or three games or two out of every five games. You bring it every single night. When fans buy floor seats to see Kobe Bryant they know they are going to see him score 20. When fans buy seats to go see LeBron James they know they are going to see him score 20, put up eight boards, and six assists. These guys don’t have these nine point, two rebound, or seven point, eight rebound games. No, they don’t have nights like that. I think with Kawhi it’s a matter of being consistent, like what he did in the Spurs recent back-to-back games against the Clippers and the Warriors. He needs to make sure that happens with incredible regularity. I would say for me, it’s just about him doing it consistently night in and night out so that you know when you go watch a Spurs game, you’re going to watch Kawhi Leonard put up 17 points and seven boards every single night.
Jay Desai: Just a couple more questions here. The Spurs have some great international products that they have acquired through the draft-and-stash process. Davis Bertans is one of those guys. He is averaging 14.0 points and 3.5 rebounds
May 25, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward/center Aron Baynes (16) goes up for a dunk in front of Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) in game three of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
on 50% shooting this season in the Spanish ACB League. Livio-Jean Charles is another name. What international Spurs prospects are you most looking forward to? Who do you think will have the biggest impact in the NBA?
Ryan Ruocco: I feel when it comes to international draft-and-stash products, I always want to see how they will fit into an organization. There is no one guy who I look at and say “I can’t wait to see him get here,” because I think if you look across their roster you see all of their international guys beng productive. Aron Baynes is an example as a guy who has an impact on this team this year. Obviously we know Manu who was a 57th overall pick when they took him. You’re getting about as far down in the draft as you can possibly be. You look at Boris and what he’s done coming over from France, but I don’t feel like his game was fully appreciated until he was with the Spurs so I almost just assume that any player that this organization puts in a Spurs uniform is going to find a way to have a positive impact. I always look forward to seeing those players when they get here.
Jay Desai: Final question, what is it like to work with Hubie Brown?
May 10, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; ESPN TV announcer Hubie Brown before game three of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs between the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 102-92. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Ruocco: It’s amazing! Hubie is respected by every single person he comes into contact with. Everybody involved in the game of basketball is a huge admirer of Hubie Brown. I’ve learned so much of the game of basketball from Hubie. It’s not just about the game though. I also learn about life. Some of the best life quotes I have that I think about on a semi-routine basis, I’ve learned from Hubie. Working with him is incredible for me. That’s one of those, “I get to work with Hubie Brown,” type experiences. He knows the game, he loves the game, he is still passionate about the game as ever. His passion is infectious. His knowledge is something you have to behold and appreciate and hope you can gain a sliver of. Working with him is one of the coolest things I have ever done in my career and one of the coolest things I will ever do in my career.
Jay Desai: If you guys ever need a third person in the booth give me a ring!
Ryan Ruocco: (Laughs)
Jay Desai: Thank you for taking some time to talk to me though, hopefully we can chat again some time about the Spurs and other things NBA.
Ryan Ruocco: Yeah, sure! Best of luck with everything!
Jay Desai: You too! Thanks!