JJ OUTLAW – CLEVELAND CAVALIERS’ ASSISTANT COACH – EPISODE 396

JJ Outlaw

Website – https://www.nba.com/cavaliers/

Email – johnjerome.outlaw@gmail.com

Twitter – @justoutlaw

JJ Outlaw is in his second year as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.  JJ previously spent three seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, including the 2018-19 campaign as an assistant coach focused on player development. Prior to that, Outlaw worked for the Los Angeles Lakers as a player development coach and video coordinator from 2011-2016 and as director of basketball operations for the Marist men’s basketball program from 2009-2011, where he also served as assistant coach during his second year.

Outlaw played college football at Villanova, where he was a standout wide receiver. Following his collegiate career, he was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles for parts of the 2006 and 2007 seasons and played for the Rhein Fire of NFL Europa in the spring of 2007.  JJ and his Father John share their unusual career paths, beginning as professional football before finding their way to careers in the NBA.

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Listen to this episode and learn from the unique career path of JJ Outlaw, assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

What We Discuss with JJ Outlaw

  • His introduction to the NBA at six when his Dad was a coach for the Denver Nuggets
  • Grabbing Burger King with Laphonso Ellis before Nuggets games as a kid
  • His Dad’s path from playing in the NFL to coaching in the NBA
  • Playing both football and basketball through high school
  • “The more you can do, the more valuable you are.”
  • Always wanting to understand what every position was doing on the court or on the field
  • How his Dad’s friendship with Bernie Bickerstaff led to an opportunity to leave college football coaching and work for the Nuggets
  • How being a great communicator helped his Dad advance in the NBA from community relations, to scouting, and eventually to coaching.
  • The story of an NBA prospect who never burned any bridges…
  • Looking for honesty and transparency from draft prospects
  • “The ability to play hard for a long time and have a lot in your tank, I truly believe is a skill.”
  • Playing hard translates from one level to the next
  • Guards must be able to defend the pick and roll to play at the NBA level
  • Players have to get their shots off quicker and with a higher release than they do in college
  • Looking at team defensive schemes in college when evaluating a prospect
  • “Defense travels, and when you can pick it up and when you can be a consistent defender in the NBA or just not a liability defensively, I think you can start to see more minutes.”
  • Using film and short-sided games to help young players learn defensive schemes, coverages, and techniques
  • “Everybody wants Swiss army knives that can do multiple things.”
  • Bigs shooting threes, the premium on spacing, and the evolution of the game
  • “Basketball has always evolved and it’s going to continue to evolve. I don’t know what it’ll look like 10 years from now, but I know one thing’s for certain, it’ll be different than it is today.”
  • The growth mindset of NBA coaches
  • “In the regular season, most teams are really trying to be good at what they do.”
  • “I think in the playoffs where it changes is, not only do you have to be good at what you do, but you also have to be prepared for the tendencies of what the opposing team is going to do.”
  • The quality of play in the NBA Bubble and the players’ ability to focus
  • When NBA players have a bad game they want to get back in the gym or the film room
  • How NBA Practice Facilities have changed in the last 20 years and the amount of time players spend in the facility
  • The increased emphasis on nutrition and how team chefs play a key role for players’ longevity
  • “It’s the nutrition before you work out, but also what you’re putting in your body afterwards, the things that you’ve lost out on the floor.”
  • How improved travel has made life better for players and coaches
  • His pro football experience
  • His journey from entrepreneurship to coaching basketball with Chuck Martin at Marist College
  • Getting a call from Mike Brown to join the Lakers as their video coordinator and his connection to Brown through Bernie Bickerstaff, his Dad, and the University of San Diego
  • The smaller coaching staff and ability to be involved with the entire team appealed to him as a basketball coach, football didn’t offer those same opportunities
  • Trying to learn the terminolgy of the NBA game
  • “We all need a little help at the beginning to kind of get going in our careers”
  • His first experience scouting a pre-season game for Mike D’Antoni
  • Working with Kobe Bryant and the story of when Kobe complimented an offensive playbook JJ had created for Mike D’Antoni
  • His memories from Kobe’s last game at the Staples Center
  • The number one key to Kobe’s success? His ability to focus.
  • When JJ was working Kobe out, Kobe never talked
  • “Kobe had the ability to do the exact same thing, no matter how complicated or simple the exact same way over and over and over again”
  • Kobe’s ability to remember specific plays, actions, and outcomes from past games without even seeing video clips
  • The opportunity to coach in Memphis under David Fizdale, JB Bickerstaff, and Taylor Jenkins
  • What he learned as an advance scout with the Grizzlies
  • Learning from the coaches he’s worked for how to handle situations within a team, with the front office, the fan base, or the media.
  • Taking the time during quarantine to do a deep dive into what other teams are doing schematically
  • JB Bickerstaff – “Whenever the NBA is throwing a party, we want to make sure that we’re invited.”
  • The Cavs looking forward to the new season under JB Bickerstaff
  • Colin Sexton & Darius Garland working on their outside shooting and playmaking
  • The Cavs’ process for evaluating free agents
  • Why the internal development of the players already in the their building is so important
  • JJ on JB Bickerstaff – “If it’s not about basketball and it’s not about winning, then he’s not about it.”
  • “The coaches that communicate with their players and get their players to compete on a nightly basis are the ones that have success.”
  • JJ on the Cavs – “We are going to do absolutely everything in our power and I know our organization and team is going to do absolutely everything in their power to get back to the top and be a highly competitive, basketball team.”

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THANKS, JJ OUTLAW

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TRANSCRIPT FOR JJ OUTLAW – CLEVELAND CAVALIERS’ ASSISTANT COACH – EPISODE 396

[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host, Jason Sunkle. And tonight we are pleased to welcome to the podcast from the Cleveland Cavaliers, assistant coach JJ Outlaw. JJ, Welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.

JJ Outlaw: [00:00:12] Thank you. Appreciate you guys having me.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:15] We are very excited to be able to have you on and talk some Cavs  basketball and some NBA basketball, and learn more about what is a very unique journey that you have to getting to this point in your career.

So let’s go back in time to when you were a kid. Talk to us a little bit about how you got into basketball and what your sporting life was like when you were young.

JJ Outlaw: [00:00:37] My sporting life was, I mean, sports was my life, when I was young and I’m fortunate to be able to say that it still is. I got into basketball or I was introduced to basketball and the NBA, at the age of six, where my dad was working in coaching for the Denver Nuggets.

And it was one of those things, like it was every day for me, [00:01:00] Mike like whether it was asking my dad questions or going to shoot arounds, as kids were allowed to do, back in those days at the old McNichols Sports arena in Denver, Colorado, but basketball was everything for me.

And I really consider myself to be very fortunate to have been introduced to it at such a young age,

Mike Klinzing: [00:01:19] Who are the players that you looked up to at that time, who are they? Who are your guys on the Nuggets that kinda tolerated you? And let you let you get some shots up while they were on the floor.

JJ Outlaw: [00:01:30] Everybody! Laphonso Ellis was great with me when I was younger. When my dad and them were in coaching meetings he’d get to the arena earlier, for shoot arounds. And in those days you didn’t have the chefs and all the meals that we have the luxury of having now.

So guys would just go to they’d come in and get a little treatment and then they’d go up the street to Burger King. And so he would take me with him to Burger King and yeah those are things [00:02:00] that you’ll always remember, but Dikembe Mutombo, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf all of those guys were amazing.

I mean, Rod Strickland gave me my first bottle of cologne, when I was in ninth grade. And so those are things that you’ll always remember. Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, those guys

Mike Klinzing: [00:02:20] Did you in the moment when you were kind of going through and getting that. Behind the scenes access, for lack of a better way of saying it.

Did you have an understanding of how lucky or fortunate you were to be able to have those experiences or was it more a case of, I was a kid and it was the only experience I knew, and I didn’t have anything to compare it to. When you look back on it, how did you perceive it in the moment?

JJ Outlaw: [00:02:46] You know, in the moment, I didn’t, I knew it was different than some of my friends at school because everybody thought that it was so cool. you know, some of the things that I got to do on a random Tuesday night when everybody [00:03:00] kind of went home and did their homework, my dad was picking me up from school or I’d rush home from school and we’d head right to the arena for a game.

And so those things. became just normal experiences to me, but to be honest I knew it was different, but I certainly have a better appreciation for it now than I did then.

Mike Klinzing: [00:03:21] So, when you think about the game of basketball, obviously you got this early exposure to it, both through your dad, through the players that you were able to interact with and just being involved and being around the NBA game clearly is going to have an impact on a kid and make you fall in love with the game.

But it wasn’t your only game that you played. So just maybe tell us a little bit about what your multi-sport. Athletic experience was like, because we all know that today there is much more of a trend than there was even 10 or 15 years ago for kids to be. I don’t want to say forced into it, but there’s a lot more pressure on kids [00:04:00] to specialize in only one sport from a younger age, if.

They want to get to a certain level. They get pressure from coaches or club teams or whatever parents. So just talk a little bit about how your experience maybe was different and what you really appreciate about it. As you look back on the totality of kind of your athletic life as a player.

JJ Outlaw: [00:04:20] Well, the thing I appreciate is just the exposure, the things that I was exposed to, the different people that I was exposed to, the amount of coaches and teachers that I was exposed to. My father played in the NFL for 11 years and, ended up coaching college football for 11 years at North Carolina Central University.

And then, made his way to the NBA in a number of positions before becoming an assistant coach. So, football was always in the forefront football, like I always say, it was kind of in my blood and basketball was my nature. Right. So, yeah. You know, with my father, [00:05:00]  I idolize, him he’s my best friend and I still can bounce anything off of him to this day.

So he never really pushed me one way or the other, I loved football. I loved, the ability to compete. I love the physicality of the game. And, for me the two kind of just went hand in hand. I always felt like, I brought some of that physicality to the basketball court.

And I think, it still shows itself today in my style of coaching.

Mike Klinzing: [00:05:30] Was the mental side of football and basketball. When you think back to maybe your time as a high school player, did you bring a different mental outlook, a different mental preparation, a different mental attitude too. Each one of those two games or was it you came in with sort of the same mentality.

How would you describe the way you looked at it from a mental step?

JJ Outlaw: [00:05:55] Well one thing my dad always taught me is the more you can do, the [00:06:00] more valuable you are. And so, I always tried to know what everybody’s job was on the football field. Right? Like I always wanted to understand the blocking schemes from the lineman.

I wanted to understand the blocking schemes and the run schemes, with the backs. I wanted to understand the reads from the quarterback and in my position, the wide receiver position. Obviously I wanted to know the route so that I could play as many of those positions as possible. And so. when you can understand what 11 people are supposed to do on the field at any given point in time, it’s pretty easy to be able to direct as a point guard and know what five guys are supposed to be doing at any point in time on the basketball floor.

So from a mental standpoint, understanding the game of basketball, I won’t necessarily say that it was easier. but I was probably a little bit more quick on my feet on the basketball court, then I was on the football field just because I was trying to figure out what everybody’s job was.

Mike Klinzing: [00:06:58] Okay. So in order to be [00:07:00] able to do that, that’s not a normal ability that most people have to understand not only what their role and their position does. On the field or on the court, but also to be able to understand what everybody else is supposed to be doing. There’s not a whole lot of players, especially when you start talking about doing that at the high school level, there’s just that many players who are capable of doing that.

So is that something that just came naturally to you and then you. Poured your passion into figuring out even more, or was it something that you felt like right from the beginning you had to really work at, and it was just important to you because you had this desire to be able to understand what was going on around you?

JJ Outlaw: [00:07:40] I won’t say that it came natural. I think that it’s something that I worked at in practice and just kind of years and years of doing it, I always felt like, again, having a father who was a coach, and was a lifelong coach after he finished playing, I always tried to look at the game from that [00:08:00] perspective.

And so, just knowing what the roles were of everybody, kind of helped me prepare in that way, but it wasn’t something that came natural. I think it’s just the way that I’ve viewed the game.

Mike Klinzing: [00:08:13] Yeah. When you have a dad who comes home and I’m sure was talking to you about different things and pointing out stuff and being able to talk you through it.

That probably ignited your passion number one. And then two just gave you an insight and an insight and understanding that a lot of kids who, maybe who their parent, wasn’t a coach, especially not at that level. Didn’t have those same insights. Let’s talk a little bit about your dad, because I’m sure as we get more into your story here, as we go along, we’ll kind of see the parallels, but let’s just talk a little bit about your dads.

Path. So he’s a college football player, a professional football player, and eventually he makes his way into coaching in the NBA. So just tell us how that happens and then tell us the why behind, why did it happen? Why does your [00:09:00] dad want to go that route or what happened that enabled him to do that?

JJ Outlaw: [00:09:04] Right. So, he played football, at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, and was drafted by the New England Patriots played five years with the Patriots and played six years, with the Philadelphia Eagles. And then, upon retirement started coaching college football, at North Carolina Central, he coached, defensive backs and was the defensive coordinator and associate head coach.

And he actually had 11 DBS, go to the NFL from a division 2 North Carolina central, at that time. And, he wanted to get into the NFL, in coaching, in the NFL. And, even for a former player who had played 11 years in the league, there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunities for black coaches at that point, in the eighties, in the NFL.

And so, my dad’s Best friend and who’s, who’s like family, Bernie Bickerstaff, in 1990, got the job with the Denver Nuggets as a general manager. And would [00:10:00] eventually become president, general manager and head coach of the Nuggets, but he brought my dad with him. I was six at the time.

And so that was my introduction to the world of basketball. And that was my introduction to the NBA. It kind of all happened at one point.

Mike Klinzing: [00:10:16] So what was your dad’s first position with the Nuggets?

JJ Outlaw: [00:10:19] So his first position with the Nuggets was director of community relations or like player relations.

So, one of the things that my dad has always been very good at is, communicating. And I think those are some of the things that made him a good coach is that he was able to communicate with players. And so, one of his first responsibilities that he had was to help get the guys out into the community.  Sometimes dealing with professional athletes that can be a tough task. but my dad was pretty good at it, communicating with them. they understood that knew where they were coming from, how busy their schedules were and I think they responded [00:11:00] well to him, whenever he made requests, for those things.

Mike Klinzing: [00:11:05] All right. So how does he eventually make his way from that job to getting a chance to be a coach on the floor and actually has some input from a basketball standpoint.

JJ Outlaw: [00:11:15] Right. So, so after that, he kind of worked his way up. Once he, once he learned the game a little bit more, worked his way up into a scouting role, collegiate scouting role, and, and served in that capacity for a few seasons, and then worked his way up, to eventually becoming an assistant coach.

And my dad was never, like a huge X’s and O’s guy. he was more of a communication type of guy. He was, like I said, he was really good with players, communicating with players and oftentimes served as somewhat of a liaison or a conduit between players and the head coach or players and the front office, at that time it was a different NBA, back into the [00:12:00] nineties and early two thousands, than where we are right now, and I think at that point, those things were, of high value to a coaching staff.

Mike Klinzing: [00:12:09] All right.  So I want to ask you this question. And that is, I know at some point in time, your dad told you some kind of funny story or something that happened during his time coaching. Is there a story that you’re from your dad’s days coaching in the NBA, one that you can share that kind of is maybe off the beaten path or something that was funny that he shared with you at some point, is there one that sticks out.

JJ Outlaw: [00:12:35] Yeah, there’s a, there is one that sticks out and not that I don’t remember the player’s name, but I do know that they were in a draft interview or a player workout interview with a player, in college. And as I’ve come to realize not everybody in college basketball has a clean slate.

Some of these guys have been through a lot of things, but a lot of [00:13:00] these guys are super talented and they can play at the next level. So, in one of these draft interviews, as you guys I’m sure know, you have to dig into some of the things in their past and just kind of see how they react to it, how they talk about it what they’ve learned from it.

So on and so forth. And so in one of the draft interviews they were asking, one of the players, they said we understand that you, you had some issues in college and you got caught smoking weed or you failed some drug tests and you really burned some bridges.

And the guy’s response was he said, coach, I’m not going to lie to you. I did get caught smoking that stuff and I learned from it, but whoever told you I burned down bridges, they lied. I never burned any bridges.

Mike Klinzing: [00:13:52] That’s good stuff.

JJ Outlaw: [00:13:56] Yeah. So that, that was something that always kind of stuck out to me.

And, [00:14:00] as I’ve gone through that process now being on the, Being in the players’ shoes at one point, but now being on the coaching side I always try to remember that these guys are going through a job interview and to try to keep it light because some of these subjects are pretty touchy, but if you’re investing in players, you’re investing in young men, you kind of have to get into that stuff.

Mike Klinzing: [00:14:22] All right. So two things, one, just to comment on that, I’m sure every time you hear the phrase. Burning bridges. There’s no doubt that that story immediately pops in here

JJ Outlaw: [00:14:31] it’s changed forever for me.

Mike Klinzing: [00:14:32] Absolutely. There’s no question about that. All right. So number two is one of the things, and we’ll kind of go forward here and then jump back to more about your playing career.

But I think this is a good point to ask this question, when we’re talking about draft interviews. So this year clearly the draft has been kind of goofy with it being pushed back and the season and everything that’s going on with COVID and the quarantines and everything, and just the whole process has been quite [00:15:00] different.

But one of the things that’s changed over the years, especially from when your dad was sitting in on interviews, is. The guys that you’re interviewing typically now are much younger, two, three, four years younger than those guys that your dad was bringing in, where typically you would only have had, maybe you had a hardship junior that was coming out.

But for the most part you were talking about four-year college players that were coming out back in those days. Whereas now you’re talking about kids that are 19 years old. So when you talk about it, Keeping it light and yet still trying to dig into finding out more about their personality. And I know there’s some things that you can and can’t share, but just talk maybe a little bit about what that process looks like when you’re trying to get to the bottom of what kind of guy is this, and is he somebody that we want to bring into our organization and trying to balance that with the fact that.

You know, these are 19 year old in essence kids that are you’re trying, you’re trying to figure out what are they going to be? Three, four, five, six, seven years down the road. Talk about maybe just what that process [00:16:00] looks like a little bit.

JJ Outlaw: [00:16:01] Right. Absolutely. So we understand that things happen, not for everybody, but we understand for some players, some people, things happen.

And so I think when, when you start to get into issues of a checkered past, or some trouble that they might’ve gotten into on campus  it’s not the same as it was back then, because now a lot of those things, because these are big time programs and the media is covering them.

A lot of these things are public knowledge. they they’ve been on the Bottom line of ESPN they’ve been scrolling across if the kid got suspended or whatever the case may be. So ultimately we’re just looking for honesty and transparency. If anybody’s listening to this, that would be going through that process.

The teams already know the teams have done their homework. They’re not asking those questions. We’re not asking those questions to find out what really happened. We already know [00:17:00] what happened. We’re just looking for honesty and transparency, and to make sure, if it was something really bad that those guys are contrite about it.

And if a 19 year old kid tells you the truth and he tells you what he’s learned from it you can pretty much bet your money that that’s a standup guy and he’s about his business and he’s gonna become a good pro from that standpoint, but sometimes if a guy tries to back his way out of it and talk his way out of it and say it wasn’t my fault.

And you wonder if he’s really learned from his mistakes and if you haven’t learned from your mistakes, then you’re bound to repeat them again.

Mike Klinzing: [00:17:42] Yeah, absolutely. All right. Next thing about the drafting process. When you look at a college player, are there skills, or I should say what skill or skills do you think most clearly translate from lower levels of basketball [00:18:00] into the NBA? So in other words, if this guy’s a great rebounder in college, does that typically in your mind translate to the NBA? And if it’s not rebounding, what’s a skill that you look at. And when you see these college guys on film or you watch them in a workout and you see them do X that there’s a pretty good chance that X is going to translate up to the next level that you guys need them to perform at.

JJ Outlaw: [00:18:25] You know, it’s interesting that you bring that up, right? Because we talk about it and at this point where we are, playing hard is a skill, right? We’ve seen a lot of guys make a lot of money from just bringing energy and effort, onto the basketball court, especially on the defensive end of the floor, right?

Whether that be the ability to switch and play multiple positions, whether that be the ability to grab rebounds. The ability to play hard for a long time and have a lot in your tank. I truly [00:19:00] believe is a skill. So a guy that plays hard when you watch his film, every game that you watch and every time that he’s on the floor, he’s giving a maximum amount of effort.

I think that always translates because that’s hard and that’s who that kid is. Right. I think shooting, translates. I think the difference in shooting is, as you move up, the ranks is your shot has to get off a little bit quicker, at this level a lot quicker actually, and so you try to look at things like mechanics to see like, yes, the shot goes in, but how slow is the shot?

Ho low is the release. okay. But I think rebounding, translates, but ultimately more than anything, I think just playing hard translates for smalls, I think it’s the ability to compete on the ball. This league is, very, very, pick and roll intensive.

So, the ability to compete on the ball, to get over to the screens, the ability to defeat the screens, is a skill that that will translate [00:20:00] well into the NBA.

Mike Klinzing: [00:20:02] All right. Let’s ask the reverse question. What’s something that you see from a college player, and again, not talking about a specific player, but just in general, what’s something that you see on film that you might think, wow, this guy was really good at this in college, but I’m not sure that this automatically translates that he’s going to be able to do it at the NBA level.

JJ Outlaw: [00:20:24] Well, I think you have to look at defensive schemes, right? Like some guys are really good defenders at the college level, or we’d say good defenders at the college level, but they might have kind of an issue defending,  in the NBA. Our players are bigger, faster, stronger, They’re are a lot longer. and so sometimes in college I believe guys can, become very, very good system defenders and very good team defenders. and we have a few more isolation possessions, in our league than in college. And so I think that’s a [00:21:00] skill that may not immediately translate, but the good thing about that is that you can get better at that.

And again, at the end of the day, those are just effort plays as well.

Mike Klinzing: [00:21:11] How long does it take, let’s just say an average rookie in your mind, to be able to grasp some of the defensive schemes and concepts. That they may have done at the college level to some degree, but certainly MBA defenses are far more sophisticated than what you see in college.

So how long do you think it takes for the typical rookie to sort of get that? Where they can. Make the right rotations and be in the right places and close down the right passing lanes and the right driving lanes. What does that process look like for bringing along a rookie, to get them up to speed, where you’d like them to be?

And clearly it’s an ongoing process, but just where you feel like they at least have a grasp of it where they’re not going to kill you.

JJ Outlaw: [00:21:55] Right. Well, let, let me, let me answer it this way. I think it, [00:22:00] it takes maybe two to three seasons for a players to fully develop in the NBA. And so with that being said, I think it really depends on how many minutes and how much live game action guys can get early in their career.

And I think anybody can do something well for one or two possessions, right? I think where you really start to see the maturation and some of these young guys is when you start to see consistency night in and night out. you know, one of the things, that coach Bickerstaff always talks about and Coach Fizdale talked about a lot, is that defense travels, right?

So offensively, you’re not going to have it every night. In fact, we see a lot of these guys run into that, that rookie wall that we talk about, but defense travels and when you can pick it up and when you can be a consistent defender in the NBA or just not a liability defensively, I think you can start to see more minutes and coaches have a [00:23:00] lot more trust in you out on the floor.

Mike Klinzing: [00:23:03] So for a guy who’s not playing, obviously during a normal NBA season, the amount of practices that you’re getting once the season starts is pretty minimal. So if you have a rookie or a second year player that isn’t playing much, what do. You as a coaching staff, try to do to enable that player to continue to grow and develop, even though they’re not maybe getting the reps that they need out on the floor in order to do it, is it a lot of film work?

Is it a lot of. Before and after games, are you getting any time out on the floor with those guys? Just describe what that process might be.

JJ Outlaw: [00:23:39] It’s a lot of film work. and I think you have to be specific with it, right? I mean, obviously we all know Rome wasn’t built in a day. so you have to find really good examples of good possessions, defensively, where guys can see people doing and put other players doing the right thing. and again, it always [00:24:00] helps if you have some good clips from your team, and what you’re trying to do, schematically defensively, but from a development standpoint, short-sided games, after practice,  before practice at times, before games, if those guys aren’t getting a lot of minutes and to where you can really mold the action and you can really just kind of hone in on the action that you want to cover, that you want to work on, whether it be pick and rolls into multiple pick and rolls, whether it be second side action. but wherever you are, with those short-sided games two on two, three on three, I think you can really isolate a lot of actions and get guys a lot of reps, to the point where they’re comfortable in those situations.

Mike Klinzing: [00:24:45] How would you say compared to when you first came in the league, how has the, the general overall level of players shooting ability improved from your first year in the NBA with the Lakers [00:25:00] versus where you are now with the calves, just across the board, have you seen the shooting improve? Obviously as the style of play has changed and there’s become such a premium on spacing over the last 10 years.

What does that look like in terms of the skill level of players? Cause to an outsider, to a novice observing the NBA game, you just see so many more guys now who can shoot the ball when you compare it back to the early 2000’s. So just what do you see from a guy who’s inside and getting to see these guys day in and day out?

JJ Outlaw: [00:25:33] Well, I think you see a lot of guys working on their shots. A lot of guys that you wouldn’t have seen when I first came in the league 10 years ago, a lot of times your bigs would, the bigs when I was with the Lakers were Andrew Bynum and, Pau Gasol in that second year, we got Dwight.

And, not to say that those guys weren’t capable of walking out on the floor and shooting a three point shot, but the majority of their [00:26:00] workouts were around the basket, working on their foot work, working on their strength, working on hooks on both shoulders and up and under and some of the traditional footwork stuff that we’ve come to know from post players. And now guys are mixing in a solid 25 to maybe 50% of, of their workouts out on the perimeter shooting threes, because everybody wants to play five out basketball. Everybody wants Swiss army knives, they can do multiple things.

I think with that, you get bigs that are now better playmakers as well. Not only scorers and shooters from the perimeter, but you see a lot of the bigs in our league now that are able to make plays that you’re able to run on offense through that are able to assist other players getting shots.

Mike Klinzing: [00:26:49] What’s the sentiment inside the league in terms of the trend of how the game has become so focused on sort of the [00:27:00] analytical idea of threes, layups free throws that some teams like the rockets have taken to the extreme and all just about every team has embraced it to some degree. What’s the sentiment among coaches in the league, as far as.

That style of play coaching it. Is there any, is there any thought, is there anybody talking about, Hey, there could be some things that we’d like to change about the game to maybe bring post, play back into it a little bit more, or are people just fully embracing where the game is now? Just what are people talking about when you sit down in the coaches office?

What are those conversations sound like in terms of where the actual game is today?

JJ Outlaw: [00:27:42] I think everybody’s embracing it. I mean, I think you have to, right? I mean, we’ve seen, the scoring go up in the NBA, from night to night, like you said, you mentioned the Houston Rockets, it’s basically threes, layups, and free-throws, for them.

But you have to embrace it. [00:28:00] You know, basketball has always evolved and it’s going to continue to evolve. I don’t know what it’ll look like 10 years from now, but I know one thing’s for certain it’ll be different than it is today. So, one of the things that I applaud. a lot of the coaches in our league, is they’re extremely smart.

They’re very intelligent and they all have growth mindsets. And so they’re willing to change maybe what they originally thought as they were growing up in their coaching careers and  most of them do a really good job of evolving with the game and not only the game, but evolving with the personnel that they’re working with.

Mike Klinzing: [00:28:40] Yeah, I think that’s something that you, when you’re looking at how you coach your team and figuring out, okay, what do we have on our roster? What do we have guys that do well and trying to scheme and maximize what each individual player has. And then you take that and put it into the greater confines of the league and what the style of play is and how [00:29:00] different teams are going to scheme against you defensively to be able to take away your strength.

And I think. With the, just the sheer amount of, I’m sure the statistics that you guys have available and all the film work and things compared to, again, think back to the time when your dad was coaching and you’re popping in the VHS tape and trying to watch video that way and how much more of a challenge that was at that time compared to what you guys can do now in terms of.

Being prepared. And I think that’s one of the things that is always fascinating about playoff basketball is compared to the regular season. You just have so much more time to be able to. Prepare your team to play the same team over and over again in a seven game series. And you can really dive down deep into what they do, whereas in the regular season, maybe you don’t have as much time, but certainly the coaching staffs have to take in taking into account a what’s our style of play.

And then what’s the other team going to do to us. And what is our personnel going to allow us to do? And I’m sure that takes a tremendous amount of time. [00:30:00] Maybe talk, can you talk a little bit about the difference from a, what it’s like to prepare for. A playoff series with the coaching staff that you’ve been with compared to maybe what it’s like to prepare for a regular season game.

JJ Outlaw: [00:30:11] Absolutely. So my first playoff experience, I was fortunate enough the first year, first two years that I was in the NBA with the Lakers under Mike Brown that first year. And then, the second year Mike D’Antoni, his first year there in LA, we went to the playoffs. And if you remember, well, my first year was the lockout season.

So back then we had back to back to back games. And I think there was only one day in between we played our last game. I want to say was on like Thursday, in Sacramento. And then we had the first game of the playoffs. I think that Saturday, versus Denver. And we were sleeping in the office.

We had air mattresses and pillows and whatnot. We were sleeping in the offices and we were grinding away at the [00:31:00] film. We were making sure that the play-off books were printed out. And at that point, I was a video coordinator, so I felt not necessarily pressure, but I wanted to make sure that everything was right.

And Mike Brown demanded that it’d be right. Yeah. So for me, he was an unbelievable person, to work for an unbelievable coach to work for, and that staff was, so amazing. And, and so for me, that experience was all out, I felt like that was exactly what you had to do in order to be successful.

We won that playoff series versus Denver and ended up getting knocked out in the second round, versus Oklahoma City. and the last time that I made the playoffs was my first year in Memphis, we ended up losing in the first round to San Antonio, but that the preparation for me was a bit different because at that point I had a greater advanced scouting role,  I was separated from the team for [00:32:00] almost maybe the last three or four weeks of the season. And, I was just following San Antonio around, digging into Coach Pop and what he was running out of  and all of their play sets and substitution patterns and everything like that.

But, I think in the regular season, Most teams are really trying to be good at what they do, right? Like you’re night to night things may change. You might tweak things, but if you’re really good and your team is really focused on what you do well, you have a chance and an opportunity to beat any team in the league on any given night.

I think in the playoffs where it changes is, not only do you have to be good at what you do, but you also have to be prepared for the tendencies for what. you’re you’re the opposing team is going to do. And so I think if you watch some of those bubble games, the play-off games, they were so intense because they eliminated the travel, they eliminated the energy, fans, and the [00:33:00] home court advantage.

And you really got to see a highly competitive, highly intelligent athletes and very smart coaches. try to outdo each other. And so I think that was really good for me to see and I did all my studying on each of those teams, because I didn’t have anything else to do cause we weren’t there.

Mike Klinzing: [00:33:19] Right. Exactly. Yeah. So going into that, here’s a question that I have for you going into it I don’t think anybody on the outside necessarily knew what to expect in terms of the level of play, because clearly. If you’re an NBA player, you probably have not played, especially if you’re a veteran, you have not played in front of nobody for a long time, because if you were an NBA prospect of your you’re in high school and you’re playing at a big time, a U tournament, there’s an atmosphere kind of, that goes along with that.

And in the bubble, especially initially when there weren’t anybody else that families weren’t there. And there was a limited number of [00:34:00] people. One of the things that Jason and I talked about on our. Podcasts. And we were talking about we talk MBA sometimes was we were wondering what.

The quality of play would like and what the, what the intensity level would be like and would the lack of fans and the lack of unquote normal atmosphere, would that impact in any way? And clearly that was not the case. I mean, I, if anything, I would say that it, it raised the level of play because it was just, it became almost so personal and you could hear everything and, and all those things that go along with it.

So going into it, what was your thought about sort of. The way that the games were going to play out from a competitiveness standpoint. And you mentioned about not having to travel and just all those things combining, it seemed like it really added to the level of play. Is that what you thought was going to happen going in or were you a little surprised by that?

JJ Outlaw: [00:34:50] You know, I wasn’t surprised by it, these guys, when you see them day in and day out, these guys are just unbelievable athletes. They’re highly [00:35:00] intelligent players. They really do a great job of film study. but I think the biggest thing is that it may have been a little strange at first, but so many of them have such a high focus level, I mean, obviously as it was on display down there that it was probably different maybe for the first, maybe during warmups and maybe the first couple possessions, but I give a lot of credit to all the teams that were down there for the amount of time that they were down there. I think the players and the coaches, did a really good job of focusing in and not allowing the lack of fans to be a distraction, if that makes sense.

Mike Klinzing: [00:35:38] No, it totally does. I think it certainly a huge challenge from a mental standpoint. I think one of the things that I thought about a lot is if you’re a player and you’re in a playoff series and you have. A bad game and you have to wait in this case they were playing every other day. So you have to wait a full day without a [00:36:00] game and then wait most of the next day until you play your game that evening, if you’re at home and it’s kind of a normal environment, or if you’re on the road, whatever, there are things that you can do to distract yourself from a poor performance.

So I can go out to dinner with my family or I can walk there there’s other things that I can do, whereas in the bubble. I have a bad game and I kind of got to go back and just sit in my hotel room and kind of stew on it. And yeah, I can watch film and I can think about it, but that was one of the things that I wanted to.

Did you talk to any of your friends around the league kind of about what it was like, especially after a loss kind of what teams did or how they tried to help players cope with that situation.

JJ Outlaw: [00:36:43] You know, it’s interesting.  I think the thing that the bubble, provided was also, even though it wasn’t normal, there still were elements to the game that could have been a sense of normalcy.

And what I mean by that is I think any player [00:37:00] who has a bad game, Especially in the playoffs or just at any time. Really, the first thing that they’re going to do is try to get back into the gym as soon as possible, right. They’re going to try to get shots. They’re going to watch film and all of those things were still available to them in the bubble.

In fact the ability to hop back on the shuttle or go to the practice facility that they might’ve had at the hotel or whatnot and get in the gym, I think was probably even more readily available than it normally would be if you were home. And so from what I know of guys, when they have bad performances, to a man, I haven’t been around anyone who’s wanting to get away from it at any point in time, most of these guys, what they want to do is just try to work through it. So, I think the ability to have everybody down there without their families, without any of the distractions. I’m sure there were a lot of coaches that were in the gyms, with players, the night after games or obviously early the next day, before practice.

So that [00:38:00] piece of it, I’m sure it probably stayed the same.

Mike Klinzing: [00:38:02] That makes a lot of sense. I guess, if you can go back and put your work in and trust in your process and then know that you’re going to come back and bounce back and have a better game the next time.

And I think one of the things that we kind of take for granted on the outside and you mentioned it is just so often I think you, you look at, you look at an NBA player and you see sometimes their physical gifts and we forget about the mental side of it and just how mentally tough and strong those guys have to be to be able to go out.

In front of obviously not in the bubble, but under normal circumstances, they’re going out and playing in front of 20,000 people, 82 nights a year and being judged publicly. And that takes a lot of mental strength to be able to, to be able to do that, to be able to have a good performance, a bad performance and continue to, to continue to work at it and have that growth mindset that you talked about with coaches and players have that same thing.

And [00:39:00] also again, knowing that if you’re, if you’re a guy who’s. Maybe not in the top half of the roster that you’re, you’re not only are you competing to help your team win and all that, but you’re also in many times competing to, to keep your job and keep your place in the league. And we all know that every year come draft time, you got you bring in another 50 or 60 guys that are looking to take people’s jobs who are already established in the league.

And so clearly I think that. It’s another way. I’m sure that the league has changed over the course of time that you’ve been in there just with the advances you mentioned earlier with team chefs and strength and conditioning and sleep and recovery, and all the things that science and medical has brought to the table that didn’t exist 15 or 20 years ago in the league.

I’m sure that that’s increased the player’s ability to bounce back and to be able to recover and put their best performance out on the floor night in and night out.

JJ Outlaw: [00:39:55] Yeah. I mean, the things that the guys have available to them, [00:40:00] now in, in the facilities from, obviously when I first got my first glimpse at the NBA in 1990, when I was six is truly remarkable.

As much as owners and organizations put into the guys to really make these facilities feel like home to the point where guys, once they leave practice, they might go home and, get a massage or eat dinner or whatever the case may be. But a lot of guys are coming back to the gyms at night and the organization certainly welcomes that and makes it easy for them to feel at home and feel comfortable so they can get their work in

Mike Klinzing: [00:40:35] That’s when you’re catering in Burger King?

JJ Outlaw: [00:40:38] Yeah. Yeah, no, not anymore. Not anymore. You know that the chefs do such, it’s such a great job, man. It really is, an unbelievable experience. And to be honest with you, from what I’ve heard, a lot of the bigger colleges and stuff like that. They do a really good job of trying to mimic some of that service to make sure that their athletes are well fed [00:41:00] and have the right nutrition, as well.

Cause that’s such a big piece of it, especially when you’re talking about longevity.

Mike Klinzing: [00:41:06] Yeah. It really is. All right, so let’s piggyback on that and kind of jump back to you as a player. So when you were at Villanova and you’re playing football there, what did your nutrition habits look like? What did you do as a player?

Was that something that you were conscious of or was that something where you were just like, I’m just going to eat whatever it is that I eat, or were you already aware of it at that point? How important that could be in your performance?

JJ Outlaw: [00:41:34] I started, it kind of came in waves. I’m being honest. you know, as a freshman, I think I had to get used to what that level of competition meant.

And, so after my freshman year, the spring of my freshman year, I really started to kind of try to hone in on my nutrition as I truly believed that it was making me a better player. It allowed me to be [00:42:00] faster. It allowed me to have more power, to get more separation and then, I had to kick it up another notch, my senior year as I was preparing myself for the NFL.

And so, I recognized that there was, gonna be a big jump from, not only the level of competition, but from a strength standpoint as well and so I really try to really hone in on my diet, hone in on my weight training at that point in time in my career as well.

Mike Klinzing: [00:42:30] Did that come from you or did that come from the coaches at Villanova or an outside influence or your dad, or where did that focus or where did that ability to understand that come from?

JJ Outlaw: [00:42:43] I think at first it came from my coaches at Villanova and it came from, our strength and conditioning staff. We kinda had a revolving door. We had like three different programs or four different programs the four years that I was there, but [00:43:00] then, afterwards, I was able to get with a trainer who was training a lot of guys that were already in the NFL. And so, he basically just broke it down to me. He said these teams, they know what you can do on the field, but they’re essentially paying you to eat right. And take care of your body. And so that was a wake up call when you put it in those ways.

And that’s essentially the message that I try to pass on to guys, without beating them over the head with it. At this point we have a lot of things that are at their disposal and a lot of information and education about nutrition and those things.

Mike Klinzing: [00:43:38] Are there guys that still come into the league that are uneducated about those things, or are most guys at least.

Somewhat familiar with what they should be doing?  Not that they have perfect habits at age 18 or 19 years old, but are most guys at least aware of what they should be doing? It’s just that a lot of times I’m guessing that they’re young and they can bounce [00:44:00] back and they’re fantastic athletes. So they can kind of maybe get away with some cheating that other people couldn’t?

JJ Outlaw: [00:44:05] I haven’t met one that knew it when they came in.

I mean, just simple things about now you’re in the NBA and. You know, guys wouldn’t eat breakfast before they come in for a workout. So now you’re putting them through an NBA workout and then 15, 20 minutes into the workout, they’re dying.

And you’re like, wow, like, is this guy out of shape? And it’s not that he’s out of shape, he doesn’t have any fuel in his body. And so they learn those things quickly, but they don’t know that coming in right away. No, not at all.

Mike Klinzing: [00:44:42] So when a guy’s at home, how’s the team impacting them when they’re making choices about what they eat at home before they come into the facility.

JJ Outlaw: [00:44:56] So, a lot of guys they’re, they’re probably not eating at [00:45:00] home. They’re probably eating breakfast, they’re going to eat their breakfast at the facility. So, we have a nutritionist. We have two chefs that are very good at, number one, finding out if a guy has allergies, if he’s allergic to anything, they can make meals specific to each guy, according to their needs.

and again too, we give a lot of credit to our strength and conditioning coach, Derek Mullinder and his staff. They do a great job, with our team, our nutritionist Kylene Bogdan, our chef, Terry Bell. Like they do such a great job with our people that we’re with our team and our people and with our staff as well. They’re certainly available to give any information.

Mike Klinzing: [00:45:44], I’m just curious what that process looks like. So let’s say you’re going to have practice on an off day in the season. How many meals are the guys eating in, on the team from the team, how many meals are our [00:46:00] guys eating from the team?

Wherever that may be?

JJ Outlaw: [00:46:02] Are we at home? Are we away?

Mike Klinzing: [00:46:04] Let’s say we’re at home.

JJ Outlaw: [00:46:06] Yeah. Well, it’s usually kind of like a buffet style and, and most of it is, is healthy every now and again they’ll throw the guys a bone and give them something that is unhealthy, but still tastes good.

Every Tuesday we have some sort of like Taco Tuesday, I think that’s pretty universal around the league. But, yeah, I mean, it’s buffet style. So unless a guy has some specific dietary restrictions or something a guy might want, some guys need to lose a little bit of weight.

and then some guys need to put some on and that’s just not from rookies. That’s across the board. I mean, everybody is going to have a recovery shake or at least everybody’s going to have one made for them, whether they drink it or not. but those things are important.

It’s the nutrition before you work out, but also what you’re putting in your body afterwards, the things that you’ve lost out on the floor.

[00:47:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:47:00] Yeah, it’s just amazing to me. When you look at the amount of change that has been undergone in those standpoints, from nutrition to recovery, to sleep, to strengthen conditioning and just where we were 20 or 30 years ago, you look at.

Let’s take the era of when Larry Bird played and you have just the things that guys in that era did or had to do. And. Didn’t have the knowledge of all the things that, an advantages that guys have today. I think what’s striking to me most often is whenever I look at, and I’ll see old pictures from the seventies of guys who are playing, or you see old basketball cards from that seventies and eighties era, and you just look at the guys’ bodies and you’re like, wait, these guys are NBA players.

They look like they’re in high school. I know. I remember seeing, I remember seeing a picture of. Doug [00:48:00] Collins in his in his first year and yet on the gold chain with the, from, from the era and Doug Collins seriously looked like he could have been like a 16 year old high school guard with like the tiny, skinny little arms.

And it’s just amazing when you look at the bodies and the physical tools that these guys have today, compared to what players had 20 or 30 years ago. They were smoking cigarettes and drinking beers at halftime. Weren’t they? At some point I remember some point at

JJ Outlaw: [00:48:29] Very true.

Mike Klinzing: [00:48:34] Yeah. You look at, I laugh too. When you look at like the old pictures from like the Bill Russell era Celtics, and you look at the pictures of the Boston Garden or these other arenas where it’s all hazy because all the fans are smoking in the arena and you know, you just think, Oh my God, like how.

at what level could these guys reach with some of that, and then you think about the travel the way you guys travel compared to the way even those teams of the eighties [00:49:00] would have traveled were in a lot of cases, teams were still flying commercial. It’s just I mean, it’s incredible just the way that the game has evolved.

And as a result, the quality of play and the level of play how good it is today.

JJ Outlaw: [00:49:15] The NBA travel of the eighties and before that was very similar to some of like the way like the G league would travel now. Right? So like if you had a back-to-back and when I was working, for Byron Scott, with the Lakers he would always tell us some of those stories, but it really does shapescheduling.

It shapes the league, it shapes recovery rate. So like, Back then if you had a back-to-back you still stayed the night in that city because you were flying commercial then everybody just got up extremely early and basically caught the first flight into the next city. And then you’d get to the hotel, you sleep throughout the day and, and then you’d have to play.

That night they didn’t have, [00:50:00] chartered flights where they were leaving and getting into that city and getting a good night’s rest and the ability to sleep in like guys do now. It just didn’t exist back then. And so it’s hard to kind of tell guys like, Hey, well this is the way it was back then.  Because again, the way they know is the way they know. And I’m certainly thankful for that. I’ll be honest.

Mike Klinzing: [00:50:24] Yeah, no question. I mean, I think you look at it from a coach’s perspective too. Just the, you look at the, the way that the staffs have grown and you mentioned it with the nutritionist and strike the conditioning and all the different people that the mental, the mental side of the sports psychologists, and you look back on some of those teams again, back in those seventies, eighties, and you have like there’s a head coach and there’s maybe two assistants and that’s it.

I mean, that’s the whole, when there’s a, and there’s a trainer and basically that guy was there to probably hand out band-aids and tape up an ankle.

JJ Outlaw: [00:50:56] Yeah. Gary Vitti used to [00:51:00] tell all these stories from back in the eighties, how he was the video coordinator, he packed up all the video equipment and that’s all they had.

They didn’t have coaches behind the bench. They didn’t have any of the the luxuries of a staff that we have now.  I’ve certainly benefited from that.

Mike Klinzing: [00:51:20] Absolutely. All right. So let’s talk a little bit about your journey. So you get done at Villanova as a football player, you get some opportunity to play in the NFL.

You get to go to a couple of training camps with the Eagles. Just talk a little bit about your professional football experience. And then as that. And then you start to shift your mindset and you move into basketball. So just talk a little bit about your professional football experience and then when, where, why, how you transitioned into, Hey, I want to become.

A basketball coach.

JJ Outlaw: [00:51:53] Well, Mike, you just summed it up. That was it right? There you go.

Mike Klinzing: [00:51:56] Story’s over.

JJ Outlaw: [00:51:57] Yeah, no, as far as my [00:52:00] professional football career was concerned that was it. I signed as a free agent with the Eagles and was fortunate enough to attend a couple of training camps with them and played a season over in NFL Europe and so when that was over, a group of friends, we started a sports nutrition company and I loved that. I loved the grind of entrepreneurship and the ability to build something from the ground up. It was very similar to coaching, right? We all had our different roles.

We all had, things that we were good at. One of my good buddies was very good at sales. One ran the warehouse, the packaging. I had another, that was really good at being a digital creator. And so he made the websites and we all had our strengths.

We were able to kind of like build this company, from the ground up. but when I got an opportunity to coach at Marist College for coach Chuck Martin [00:53:00] it was it, it, it wasn’t paying much money at all, but it wasn’t about the money for me. I just wanted an opportunity to get into coaching, something that had been a lifelong dream for me.

Again it was something that I had seen my father do. And so the thought of coaching college basketball was all I needed. And Chuck hired me and I was there for two seasons about a season and a half. And then it was on New Year’s Eve of that lockout season.

Obviously in college basketball during that winter period, that New Year’s Eve Christmas period, there’s no school. So a lot of college teams will go two a days during that time period. So we had a practice on New Year’s Eve that morning and then I went back and got lunch at my house.

And in between those two practices, Mike Brown called me and, [00:54:00] asked me could I come to LA as his video coordinator? And I said, absolutely there was no hesitation. And so, yeah, he ended up calling and talking to Chuck and, and by the time I went back for that second practice that night I was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and, and that’s how quickly things changed.

That was a Saturday. I was in Poughkeepsie, New York working at Marist. And then on Tuesday, I was on the floor with, with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. We were playing the Golden State Warriors. that Tuesday. And so that’s how quickly it changed for me, man, that was 10 years ago. And I’ve just been fortunate enough to, stick around the NBA and in a multitude of positions  with a few different teams.

Mike Klinzing: [00:54:47] All right. So two questions, one why basketball and not football is number one. And then number two, clearly these opportunities don’t arise out of nowhere. So how does that call from Mike [00:55:00] Brown? Come to be? How were you connected to Mike Brown and just what led to that phone call coming to JJ outlaw, not somebody else.

So why football not basketball? And then how does that phone call from Mike Brown get to you?

JJ Outlaw: [00:55:16] Well, I always enjoyed the dynamic of coaching basketball. I loved having a smaller staff, but everybody having an input on the game plan from an offensive defense standpoint and the development piece of it.

So that was always intriguing to me. Nothing against coaching football or football coaches, but I always felt like, from my experiences, that everybody didn’t have an impact on the game plan. You might do what you could defensively or work with your position group.

And so the ability to work with the whole team and have personal relationships with the staff and the whole team was always really intriguing to me. So, that’s [00:56:00] why I was coaching basketball over football for me and again, I mentioned when we were in Denver, my dad was working for the Nuggets.

My godfather, who was Bernie Bickerstaff, he is a USD grad university of San Diego grad, as well as, as Mike Brown. And so he gave Mike Brown, his first opportunity in the NBA as a video coordinator with the Nuggets. I think it was in like 1992. and so I had known Mike, pretty much my whole life or since I was about eight years old.

And so, he knew that I was coaching at Marist and that first year that I was at Marist, he was he was actually out of the NBA and just kind of working with his sons, here in here in Ohio, in Cleveland. And so I reached out to them. Because I was just getting into college coaching and so I wanted to know the lay of the land as far as Cleveland AAU was concerned. And, I knew that his son Elijah was probably, [00:57:00] too good of a player to play at Marist, but I figured there may be some other guys around and if you know, Mike  could point me in the right direction to kind of get the lay of the land as far as a few coaches and things like that.

And so he knew I was coaching, at Marist when he got back into the league the next year with the Lakers. And so, I’m extremely fortunate, extremely blessed, that he called me and like you said, not someone else, and gave me an opportunity to come in, at the bottom, as a video coordinator and work my way up.

Mike Klinzing: [00:57:32] What do you remember about the first one or two lessons or things that you’ve learned? About the league. When you first got to the Lakers, what’s some things that stand out to you that that first year just really popped in your head. They’re like, man, this is this is some high level stuff.

JJ Outlaw: [00:57:50] It was the terminology, Mike, honestly again, I was coming from Marist College and, we weren’t very good.

We worked hard, but we just weren’t [00:58:00] very good our record  didn’t show for us. And so, When I got there at that point, like I was still learning, right? So like I was still learning on the fly. So, at that point I was still trying to learn the way that coach Chuck Martin wanted things done at Marist and, the players that we had there and all of a sudden in a matter of days now I’m rebounding for Kobe Bryant or chopping film for Pau Gasol or I’m doing something for Derek Fisher and the terminology of everything that was going on was somewhat overwhelming.

But again I just kind of stayed with it. the people that were around me did a really good job of helping me along and probably holding my hand through a lot of things at that time. And so, because of that, I’m always willing to help people out and realize that not everybody, none of us know anything,  but we all need a little help at the beginning to kind of get going.

Mike Klinzing: [00:58:58] Yeah, absolutely. So as you [00:59:00] start to grow and develop there, eventually you move out of the video room. You get an opportunity to be more of a coach on the floor, on the player development side. What did that transition look like for you? And what was the learning curve there from going from the video room out onto the court to actually work with the players.

On the basketball floor, as opposed to just cutting up video for them.

JJ Outlaw: [00:59:22] It was an amazing transition. I’d love to tell you that it was smooth. and I think I’d be lying. but I remember my first scout was with. With Mike D’antoni, it was a pre-season game.

And, he gave me the scout and I forget the team that we were playing. It was a team from overseas that we had in a preseason game. And again, having the scout means that you watched five or so games on that team. You break down the film. you break down their personnel their favorite plays or [01:00:00] ATO plays, everything that you can remember about the team, it’s your job to break it down, explain it to the coaches and then explain that information to the team.

So, my first scout was in. a pre-season game and it just so happened that we’re in Staples Center and it happened to be like the American express, like fan kind of experience, right? So normally when you do a scout it’s to an empty gym, it’s just the team and the coaching staff, but this particular one.

Yeah. happened to be in, in front of about five thousand people So, that was an experience and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but I was confident in the information that I was given. And so that part of it made it easier for me.

Mike Klinzing: [01:00:47] Yeah. When you have good information, then you feel confident about what you’re doing.

It can obviously ease the transition into trying to do something like what you just described. So what was the highlight of your time [01:01:00] with the Lakers? Is there one thing, one player, one moment, a story that you can share from that time that really sticks out to you?

JJ Outlaw: [01:01:07] I think the one that meant the most to me is I had the ability to work with Kobe Bryant for the better part of those five years.

And, I that just meant that I was getting up early with him at some of those 5:30, 6:00 AM workouts rebounding. We worked together a lot on the road, as he was one of those guys. as you can imagine that always wanted to be in the gym. He was coming back from injury. One of my jobs was to kind of put the offensive playbook together for Coach D’antoni basically he just drew up all the plays and I just kind of put them into the program, on the computer and then produced the book for him. but as Kobe was coming back from, from his Achilles injury, he [01:02:00] wanted to go through the offensive playbook. And so I gave him my playbook. And, he returned it to me probably about maybe two and a half weeks later, in the film room. and in typical, like Kobe fashion, he didn’t say much, he just brought it and he just kind of put it in my lap and he looked at me and he just said, it’s a good book.

It’s a good book. And you know, it, it gave me a feeling having that endorsement From him was amazing. I think that’s something that I always try to like carry with me now, even if I’m having like a bad day or even if you mess up on something, that one moment when the greatest player in the world gave you a compliment on a project that you had done.

And that, that, that meant a lot to me. And then the second one was probably his last game in Staples, that was an exciting thing to be a part of. And, I knew it was extremely special then, but, [01:03:00] given the events that have transpired, that’s something that I’ll always hold near and dea to me,

Mike Klinzing: [01:03:05] What makes a guy like him the best in your mind, because clearly when you look at players in the NBA, you have guys that have tremendous physical gifts all throughout the league. And it’s not necessarily that Kobe was more physically gifted than anybody else in the league. What, in your mind sets apart, those guys who are the top 10, top 15 players in the league, is there one thing, multiple things that you can point to that set those guys apart from everybody?

What sets that top 1% apart from everybody else?

JJ Outlaw: [01:03:47] It was his ability to focus, right. And his his ability to focus on what he was doing, his ability to focus on the game plan, his ability to focus, in his work ethic, in [01:04:00] his workouts.

And I think that is what separates. I’ve seen a lot of talented guys certainly come through, the NBA, but I’ve never seen anyone with the type of, work ethic and focus that Kobe had. And I think that’s what ultimately separated him.

Mike Klinzing: [01:04:18] How does that focus manifest itself compared to other players?

Like when you say he’s more focused, does that mean that he can dial in during games, in adverse situations? Does that mean that he’s able to practice longer, harder than other guys that made he puts more time in in the film room? What does that focus mean? How does that show itself?

JJ Outlaw: [01:04:38]  So I’ll give a couple examples.

So the first example, would be whenever he worked out, like he never talked. Right. So, if he was making say 30, 40, maybe even sometimes 50 shots at a spot or 50 reps of a move. [01:05:00] you know, we never talked. So if his number was 50, whenever he was at 48 or whatever, whenever he had two more left, whatever the number was, I just call out 48. And then he would know that he had to make two more and then he’d moved to the next spot. So like, we never talked, the most that I ever said was eight, you know? And so  he would just lock it in here. I never saw him kick a basketball. I never saw him get mad at himself.

I never saw him talk to himself. I never saw any of that. He just continued to lock in and focus throughout the whole time. Sometimes we’d be in there for three hours, man. Like it And he wouldn’t talk, he’d just work and just be drenched in sweat. And he had the ability to keep doing the same thing over and over again for like I said, sometimes it’d be 50 reps of the exact same move.

And that right now is like very difficult with a lot of players that we see around the NBA that a lot of them you ask them to [01:06:00] do something and they might do it the same for maybe two times. And then that third time there’s some sort of variation, right? Because they’ve gotten bored with it or whatever the case Kobe had the ability to do the exact same thing, no matter how complicated or simple.

The exact same way over and over and over again. So that’s one example of the focus. The second is, prior to games, obviously we’re watching film, you’re going over the scout information and as he got older, he needed more work on his body, obviously, right?

So he’d have somebody working on one leg, he’d have somebody working on another leg, he’d have like that big, huge, oversize ball that he was like kinda playing around with and stretching out and he’d be doing his activation and. You’d look at it and you’d be like, well, there’s no way he’s paying attention to this film.

And then out of nowhere, he’d just be like, stop it, stop it, [01:07:00] or pause right there. And then he’d like break down something that was happening on the film. And he’d be talking to another teammate, letting them know, like, look when they do this, like we’ll be able to exploited here and you’ll be like, he wasn’t even watching the TV.

Like there’s no way he could’ve known what was going on, but he did. And, and, and He knew it, he knew it all and, and that was that was super impressive.

Mike Klinzing: [01:07:25] Yeah. I think there’s probably, I’m sure you see it, that there are varying degrees of guys that have that kind of understanding. Like obviously there was a lot of talk in the bubble about, as the Lakers win the title that LeBron and Rondo kind of had this mind meld of they’re two guys who can kind of do what you just described with Coby that not only can they understand what they’re supposed to do, but they know what everybody’s supposed to do. They can anticipate a move ahead of what the defense is going to be doing.

And it just seems like. To, to be able to develop that one, the amount of reps in basketball that you [01:08:00] have to have experienced in order to have that. And, and I think that there’s, I think there’s a gift in there too, to be able to understand and be able to, to process what’s going on on the floor. Like some guys can see the.

The plates in front of them. Some guys can see the next play, but guys like Kobe or LeBron, they’re seeing two, three plays ahead of everybody else. And then you combine that with their maniacal work ethic and you combine that with the physical tools that they have, and there’s no secret why, why the best or the best.

JJ Outlaw: [01:08:34] Right, right. And they can break down any play, right? Like any play that happened in that game, they have the mental capacity and the gift to be able to break down a play just off memory and that’s special.

Mike Klinzing: [01:08:51] Does Kobe have, was he a guy who could go back to some random, regular season game from two years ago and you could pull up a clip and he could [01:09:00] remember what happened in that particular clip?

JJ Outlaw: [01:09:03] You wouldn’t even have to pull it up the clip. He could just tell you like, like, like if you were pointing something out you could say like last year, two years ago in your series with Dallas, you know what happened here? And he could tell you everything.

It was quite amazing but again, you’re talking about one of the elite of the elite and those are the things that separate guys.

Mike Klinzing: [01:09:28] Absolutely. All right, let’s move from the Lakers. You get an opportunity to go to Memphis, talk a little bit about how that came to pass and what your role was in Memphis.

And some of the things that you remember from your time there.

JJ Outlaw: [01:09:40] That was a great opportunity for me, like I said, I spent five years with the Lakers and then went to Memphis for three, that first year under coach David Fizdale  was awesome. I really enjoyed Memphis as a city.

I enjoyed the organization. You got a chance to work with [01:10:00] some unbelievable players. You talk about Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Carter. Tony Allen, Zach Randolph it was amazing. And then to end that the end of the time in Memphis was Jaren Jackson and even two months, with Ja Morant.

So under Taylor Jenkins and obviously JB Bickerstaff in between, Coach Fizdale and Taylor, but, Memphis was an amazing experience. it allowed me to grow. My first role there was as an advanced scout. So, I wasn’t around the team, as much as I had been before, but it kind of gave me an opportunity to really study coaches, study offenses and defenses, and really know what coaches and different organizations are trying to do, schematically.

And so, that was a really awesome experience for me that first year, and then the next two years, I spent on the coaching staff as a player development assistant coach in a player development capacity.

Mike Klinzing: [01:10:57] So as you’re at these two places and [01:11:00] everywhere you’ve gone, how do you go about collecting your experiences and the things that you’ve learned?

Are you putting that into a file? Are you putting that into a notebook? Are you mentally categorizing things? How are you sort of consolidating all the things that you’ve learned over the course of these different experiences that you’ve had in the league?

JJ Outlaw: [01:11:23] Well, it’s changed, early on, we were using big binders. and then at some point during that, we went to hard drives. and at some point during that the hard drives crashed. So then you start to it, you start to figure out, yeah. You know, other ways of keeping your information.

right now I use an iPad and I have about three hard drives that I try to keep fresh, with them. not only just just notes and different thoughts and adjustments that we’ve made throughout the years, but also again, like I said, the game is completely evolving and [01:12:00] always evolving.

So some of this stuff that I had in my early years in LA  is no longer relevant. And you could say the same in Memphis, right? Like, so from the X’s and O’s standpoint, some of that stuff might be a bit outdated. but I think the biggest thing that you can take with you is your experiences.

How different coaches handled certain situations, as they came up with the team, both positively and negatively. And so for me, it’s the personal piece more so than the X’s and O’s or anything that they could happen schematically, it’s more studying the different coaches that I’ve been around and strengths and weaknesses and how they handled certain situations.

Like I said, whether it be with the team, whether it be with the front office, whether it be with the organization, whether it be with the fan base or with the media.

[01:13:00] Mike Klinzing: [01:13:00] Yeah, I would think, trying to figure out how to go about handling those different situations that coaches face all the time.

And like you said, the X’s & O’s are constantly evolving and I think you’re probably you’re constantly learning and updating what works and what doesn’t, and clearly the things that worked 10 years ago or things that have evolved and changed over time, but it’s those things that are kind of the enduring.

How do I deal with these situation with players or between teammates or how do I handle when a player comes to me with this or an owner comes to me with that, or the GM comes and we have this conversation, those are all things that I’m sure as you go and you get an opportunity to work with some of the people that.

You’ve been able to work with that. You’re picking their brain and you’re watching and observing what they do. And just putting those all in your, in your file, on your iPad and your hard drive, wherever you want to put it so that you have it so that you can so that you can pull it out when the time is right.

Our let’s jump ahead to, to what you’re doing now with the Cavs. Talk a little bit about. Your role, exactly what you’re doing [01:14:00] day to day. Let’s take it from both what you’ve kind of been doing day to day when there’s nothing to do during the quarantine. And then maybe more of what your day-to-day looks like when hopefully we get back to normal at some point.

JJ Outlaw: [01:14:11] Yeah, so obviously super excited to be going into my second season here in Cleveland with the Cavs, day to day has been different. In quarantine we have a lot of zoom calls. I’ve kinda taken a deep dive into what a lot of teams, a lot of the trends and stuff that were presenting themselves.

Down in the bubble gave me an opportunity to kind of just kind of get back to the basics and see what coach Brad Stevens was doing, or what Frank Vogel was doing or what Erik Spoelstra was doing or what Nick Nurse was doing. That was a really amazing experience for me because after every game, the next day I could take my time and kind of do a deep dive of different defensive schemes or different plays or different  [01:15:00] sets, that they had going.

So during COVID, it’s been, it’s been a lot of that, coupled with a lot of zoom calls, we were able to have our market bubble here with the team, and that was really good to just kind of get back with the staff, get back with the team and be able to put in some good work and hopefully, prepare us well as we get ready for training camp, whenever that is.

Guys are back in the gym and we have different precautions that we have to take in order to be able to work with our guys. One-on-one but it’s certainly nothing like it was prior to COVID. And so I think we’re all just kind of learning how to deal with this new normal.

Mike Klinzing: [01:15:41] How are the players handling it? What are you hearing from them in terms of how chopping at the bid? How much, how ready are they to get back out on the floor? And start playing and start competing again. I can’t imagine at this point, your career, especially for some of the younger guys you have on the roster [01:16:00] to, to sit around and not be able to play in an NBA game for whatever it’s going to end up being by the time, by the time games kick off.

I can’t even imagine that w what, what they’re going through, trying to just keep themselves ready to go. And, and then still, we don’t know for sure when the season is going to start.

JJ Outlaw: [01:16:18] Yeah. I think our guys are more eager than most. Obviously the coaching change happened at the all-star break last year.

And, this team, as it’s currently built under, J B. we only got 11 games and I think the guys started to really kind of find their stride, as a team. And we were starting to play some more inspired and more competitive basketball during that time. And so I think the guys feel like they got robbed almost.

We’ve kind of used this as a way to come together. And to say that as JB puts it whenever the NBA is throwing a party, we want to make sure that we’re invited. [01:17:00] And essentially what that means is if it’s playoffs or whatever, we want to make sure that we’re all on that invite list.

And I think it really hurt to not be involved in the bubble in Orlando, we certainly understand where the league was coming from in their decisions and obviously we weren’t alone in that. But you know, for us, Anytime there’s an elite group of teams getting together, to play competitive basketball we want to be a part of that group. And so we’ve kind of used that as motivation and to not take anything for granted and to always put our best foot forward, when we get an opportunity to play basketball.

Mike Klinzing: [01:17:42] All right. Let’s talk for a second about, just the two young guys that we have on the roster, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.

And what they’re looking at coming into this season in terms of what have they been working on to try to add to their game so that when the league does come [01:18:00] back, what are they going to look like coming out of this layoff, what are some things that they’ve been trying to add to, to their game?

JJ Outlaw: [01:18:07] Well, both of those guys have an unbelievably driven work ethic.  They’re different in their day to day. but  both of them are extremely hard workers and very focused. So for, for both of them, it’s been outside shooting, you look at the bubble and both of them are extreme students of the game, right.

So you look in the bubble and you see Jamal Murray and Damian Lillard and, some of these guys pulling up from deep. Deep deep threes. Right? And, and it seems as if that’s going to be a continuing trend because it makes it harder to get into pick and roll coverages that far out on the floor, makes it harder to defend  that far out on the floor.

So, both of those guys are working on it, extending their range, both of them obviously are our [01:19:00] guards. So, the ability to play make for other people is extremely important. and we started to play. bigger down the stretch with Larry Nance jr. at our three spot. And so, I think just having the ability to play with some with bigger players, but also having essentially three pick and roll players out on the floor with, Larry,  K Love and, and Drummond out on the floor.

I think we’ve really helped those guys. So their ability to playmake and see the floor is something that they’ve really been working on.

Mike Klinzing: [01:19:35] When you guys are looking at what you’re going to do in free agency. And obviously players have decisions to make and you guys have decisions to make about where money goes and what ends up happening.

But when you look at kind of the free agents landscape, just rather than talking about specific players, just maybe talk about kind of the process. That you, as the coaching staff go through to work [01:20:00] with the front office, to make those decisions about maybe who you’re going to target, who you’re going to resign.

If it’s a current player who’s going out and it’s kind of scouting the free agents that are already in the league, what does that whole process look like from an organizational standpoint?

JJ Outlaw: [01:20:17] I think it’s taking a deep dive into your roster and the DNA that you have. And I think, with any team, one of the biggest things that you want to make sure, as you try to acquire free agents or draft picks, is that player going to fit in well with the nucleolus that you have, or is that player going to fit in?

I don’t really like using culture, but the environment that you have in your building. And so I think that’s important and again, not just specifically for us, but for anybody. Defense is at a premium, right? So you’re always looking for the best lineups on the floor that. [01:21:00] can be highly competitive and defend against some of the, the elite players in the league. But, most importantly, Mike, I think before you start to look at free agents and draft picks, I think you, you, as a staff, you have to make sure that you’re doing your job and taking the right steps to develop the guys that you have.

And I think the guys in your building, become the most important and, and I think that’s what our players feel. Certainly our mission is to make them the best basketball players that we can before we start to look outside the building.

Mike Klinzing: [01:21:35] Absolutely. Yeah. That’s a great point is if you can internally develop the guys that you already have.

Clearly there’s value in that rather than having to go out and spend new money and bring in a guy that you may think what you’re bringing in, but there’s obviously no guarantees, whereas a guy that you’ve already had the opportunity firsthand to see what they could bring to the table. If you can get that internal improvement, that’s really where you have something we’re coming up close to an hour and a half.

[01:22:00] JJ. I want to ask you one final question. just about coach Bickerstaff and. Now that you’ve had an opportunity to work with them. And obviously you’ve known him for a long time. And you were with them for a little bit of time in Memphis. What if you had to describe one or two of his biggest strengths as a coach?

What is something that he brings to the table that you think is going to lead to him having success with the Cavs over the next several years?

JJ Outlaw: [01:22:25] He’s an unbelievable basketball mind. He’s obviously, an NBA lifer, he’s seen so many different situations. There’s no situation except for maybe COVID, that’s come up he hasn’t seen and, and I’m extremely proud of him and our staff, to be the leaders through this period.

Not only with the COVID, but a lot of the social unrest and issues that we see, in our country right now that affect all of us, but especially our players. He’s done a great job at leading [01:23:00] them through this, as it was all unchartered territory for all of us.

But also too, just from a pure basketball standpoint, JB’s a basketball purist he doesn’t have an ego. He’s not one of those me guys, he’s not me first. He’s all about the players. And if it’s not about basketball and it’s not about winning, then he’s not about it.

And so, I think that’s what our guys know about him. and, and they believe that, about him and it’s genuine and it’s authentic. but. But his biggest strength is that he’s a basketball purist and he’s also a great communicator in that regard and at this level, that’s one of the things that is extremely important.

There’s a lot of guys out there that know a lot about basketball. Like I alluded to before we have some great coaches in this league. but the ones that communicate with their players and get their players to compete on a nightly basis are the ones that have success.

Mike Klinzing: [01:23:56] Well, I know I can speak for Jason and myself.

We’re looking [01:24:00] forward to seeing the Cavs back out on the floor and getting a chance to watch and see what JB and you and the rest of the staff can do with the players. And hopefully we can work ourselves back up towards playoff contention this coming season, whenever that season ends up being, and we cannot thank you enough, JJ, for spending an hour and a half with us tonight.

It was a true pleasure. I don’t know if you want to share out how people can reach out to you if they have a question just after listening to the podcast, or maybe they just want to talk some basketball with you and then I’ll jump back in and wrap up the episode.

JJ Outlaw: [01:24:32] Yeah, I appreciate you guys having me, man.

This was an awesome experience. We are going to do absolutely everything in our power and I know our organization and team is going to do absolutely everything in their power to get back to the top and be a highly competitive basketball team. Again, if anybody has any questions for me, I’m always willing to answer. Direct messages on Instagram, that’s probably the best way to find me, at justoutlaw on Instagram, but [01:25:00] if anybody has any questions about anything basketball, how to get into the business or just any coaching questions at all, that is probably the best way.

Mike Klinzing: [01:25:07] Fantastic, JJ. Again, we cannot thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule to join us tonight.

We truly appreciate it. To everyone out there, thanks for listening and we will catch you on our next episode, thanks.

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