During a recent Panini Trading Cards photoshoot in NYC, we caught up with a slew of NBA rookies — including UCLA standout Shabazz Muhammad and the Detroit Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Peyton Siva, and Tony Mitchell.
The newcomers discussed their upcoming seasons, expectations for their rookie year, and predictions for their ratings in NBA 2K14.
How you feeling today Shabazz?
Shabazz Muhammad: Feeling great. I’m just going through these drills they got us going through. It’s a pretty good environment.
Talk about Draft Night, when you heard David Stern call your name and that initial feeling you felt getting drafted.
Shabazz Muhammad: Oh yeah, that was a great feeling. Having commissioner Stern there and shaking his hand was [great]. Then, watching LeBron and Carmelo early in their careers, and watching them getting drafted early on TV, you get to fill those shoes up. It’s a great experience and I’m just happy to be here.
Obviously you’re on the Minnesota Timberwolves and you’re playing with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. Which player are you most excited to play with this upcoming season.
Shabazz Muhammad: Definitely Ricky Rubio and Kev. Kev is a UCLA guy, so you know, we got the connection. Ricky Rubio is really unselfish with the basketball. Playing with Kevin Martin, who could really score the ball. We really have a lot of variety of guys, so we’re really gonna be good.
What I heard was somebody is coming after Kevin Martin’s spot. That’s what I heard! His name is Shabazz Muhammad. I don’t know if I heard correctly, but you tell me man. (Laughs)
Shabazz Muhammad: (Laughs) I mean, I’m gonna learn from him. He’s a vet. He has a couple of years on me. Like I said, I put myself in a predicament in the summer league and it was very tough to adjust to the speed of the game, but I’m going to come in there and learn and try to learn as much as I can. I’ll think it’ll be a big advantage for me.
We obviously know you’re a talented scorer, but what do you feel is the most underrated part of your game?
Shabazz Muhammad: The most underrated part of my game, I think, is my ball handling. I mean, that’s one thing I’ve definitely been working on. If you could bring up the ball and handle the ball ,then you could definitely do anything on the court in this league.
NBA 2K14 coming out and I know you gotta be psyched. What are you hoping that you rating will be?
Shabazz Muhammad: Man, I hope they give me a decent rating. Man I hope it’s at least a 72. I’m gonna look to improve it during the season. I’m definitely gonna improve it. But a 72, I wouldn’t be sad with a 72.
What about the experiences from UCLA? What are you going to take from what you learned over to the league?
Shabazz Muhammad: Yeah definitely, just learn how to come off screens. I mean, just learn how to play defense and there’s a lot of smart plays that you have to make and read. So, those are some things that I’m gonna really improve on.
Here with the new look Detroit Pistons. How do you guys feel to be here?
Kentavious Caldwell Pope (#8 Draft Pick): Feel good man, just to be around your teammates and hang around the other rookies. It’s amazing.
Peyton Siva: Just blessed man to have the opportunity to be around these guys (looks at Rockets’ Isiah Canaan dancing) — the robot is about to come behind us (laughs).
Tony Mitchell: It’s a blessing man. I’m just living it up pretty much.
I heard, on the low, that you guys are plotting to takeover Detroit. I heard Brandon Jennings might have to take a backseat to somebody. I heard the shooting guard spot is open. I heard somebody is trying to come after Josh Smith’s spot. What’s going on? Are you guys plotting in Detroit? (Laughs)
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: Man, we ain’t plotting. (Laughs) We just gonna go in and work hard.
Tony Mitchell: Listen man! We ain’t trying to put nothing out there. (Laughs) We just trying to go out there and play!
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: We’re just trying to get the chemistry going with our team and learn each other.
Peyton Siva: Hey man, at the end of the day, I just wanna get a ring. I just wanna win. And that’s all I’m worried about.
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: That’s it. We just wanna win games!
What I want to know is, which one of you guys are going to have the highest rating in NBA 2K14?
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: (Slaps chest)
Tony Mitchell: I mean, he got just drafted high that’s why and that’s it! (laughs)
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: It doesn’t even matter! (Laughs) It doesn’t even matter about the draft spot. I think I’m gonna have the highest rating.
I mean, you could still have the high rating, but it’s all about the potential though.
Tony Mitchell: Exactly. (laughs)
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: Oh, my potential there too now.
Peyton Siva: I got the highest passing rating on the team!
Tony Mitchell: If they wanna say that, then the dunking rating I got that!
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: I don’t know. I think Andre might get you.
Peyton Siva: Maybe Josh Smith.
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: I don’t about Josh, but I think Andre.
In a dunk contest between Tony Mitchell and Josh Smith, who are you guys taking?
Peyton Siva: Tony Mitchell.
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: Tony MItchell. Josh just got that one foot. That one leg. I like that. That’s what I got. Tony got the 360.
Peyton Siva: I’m just happy I got both on my team. I could just throw the ball anywhere.
Now, in a shooting contest between you (KCP) and Chauncey Billups. Who are you guys taking?
Peyton Siva: I’m taking “Big Shot” (Billups) baby! (Laughs) I love my guy, but he gotta prove himself.
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: I have confidence in myself. I’m gonna give him a run for for it!
Peyton Siva: Yeah, you’ll give him a run baby! (gives KCP a pound and smiles). That’s my boy.
Now in a Skills Challenge, between Peyton and Brandon Jennings, who are you guys taking?
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: I’m taking Peyton. I’m talking Peyton baby.
Tony Mitchell: In a skills competition, I thinking I’m talking Peyton! (daps up Siva)
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: I’m gonna take Peyton. Brandon got a nice skill set.
How far can you guys go this season?
Peyton Siva: Like you said, we’re just trying to make the playoffs man.
Kentavious Caldwell Pope: We’re gonna get there. We’re gonna work hard and we’re gonna get there.