Monday, October 25, 2004

One-on-One with Yuta Tabuse

By Masayoshi Niwa,

---- How have you been spending your days since when you arrived here in early September?
Tabuse : I was just working out with some of my teammates in the team practice facility in Phoenix.

---- Then the Rookie Transition Program in New York?
Tabuse : Yes, a month has past since then.

---- It was your birthday yesterday. Any special celebrations?
Tabuse : Not really, but during the team dinner, they got a cake and sang "Happy Birthday" for me (laughs).

---- Was that to surprise you?
Tabuse : No, I don't think so. I don't think they knew about my birthday, but Coach D'Antoni mentioned it during dinner.

---- Speaking of the coach, he is a cheerful guy?
Tabuse : He is really friendly, and I especially like the way he separates hard practices and fun times. I like those types of people, and actually, the whole team is like that.

---- He also likes the up-tempo style of basketball?
Tabuse : Yes, that's right. Otherwise, he would not pick up a player like me, and that makes me think that I want to contribute as much as I can.

---- Assuming that you know how things go now, do you think that you were able to enter camp smoother so far than last year?
Tabuse : Yes and I also feel that I was lucky, because, for example, I already know the set offenses since I have been playing on the Suns from the summer league. Now, it's like a review for me.

---- In a way, you are on the same starting line as last year. Is there something that you see now but could not see last year?
Tabuse : That would be...the idea of how I could make full use of my skills. Last year, my first priority was to make the team, and my mind might have been set solely on "competing against someone". This year, however, my mindset is not like that, and instead of just competing against someone, in some pats of the game I try to learn from the strengths of the other three point guards, and in another part I try to play against them with my strength of my game. That's not the approach of one against one, but the mentality of how I could function better in the team, and how I could make full use of my abilities... That's the difference.

---- Challenge, in a way, is a risk. Ichiro of the Seattle Mariners had said something like this about challenge, but how do you consider your challenge as?
Tabuse : I am far from where Ichiro-san stands. But as a Japanese athlete playing in the United States, we share the similar situations, and in that way the fact that I am in the similar situation as him is a big challenge for me...

---- ¡½So you think there are basically no differences in challenges, but people just have their own hurdles to overcome?
Tabuse : Right, but as for the Japanese baseball players succeeding in the Major League, they are here because the teams want them. On the other hand, I need to first show them my skills and have them recognize me, and that is a big difference. And comparing us is another issue. Well, this year they decided to keep me after watching me play in the summer league, and that's an honor as well as a source of confidence for me...Yeah, I will try and find a way to stay on this team.

---- Mentally and physically, are you playing now with intentions of pushing yourself to the limit?
Tabuse : No, not really. I am more relaxed because I have the experiences from last year. Of course, I am doing the things that I am capable of doing on the court everyday with full effort, but I am not that caught up. Yesterday, one of the things that Steve Nash told me was, I first need to get used to playing at this level. He told me that the most important thing for me right now is to adjust to this level of basketball. He also advised me to play without being afraid of making mistakes, and I totally agreed.

---- Are you the type of player who uses positive energy as a boost to your motivation? Or the opposite? For example, are you able to convert a negative remark into a positive energy?
Tabuse : Well, I'm the type who relies on the efforts and experiences, so I try not to expect too much from anything more than that, even though those "positives" might come into effect somewhere. I just think about doing what I have been doing, and that is to play hard.

---- So, experience is what is carrying you?
Tabuse : Well, yes. I focus more on the process, not the result or the outcome. I look to fulfill each day with improvement, not just satisfaction. This way, I don't think I will regret even if the results don't turn out to be the way I want them to be, because I know that what I had done is not wrong. The thing I hate the most is to regret, and so for me, it's not the results that counts.

---- Isn't that something that is hard to do without believing in yourself?
Tabuse : Yes, if I wanted to goof off, I could, and what I do is a problem of my own. But looking at the efforts of the starting players, they stay until the last minute to practice their shooting, and the fact that I too am working hard with those players helps me gain more confidence. I believe that it's the little efforts that count in games.

---- Is that a part of your message to the kids who play basketball?
Tabuse : Partly yes, but what I really want to say as my message is that playing basketball is not just about coming to the United States, and I don't want the kids to misunderstand that "if you come here, things will turn out fine somehow". Speaking from my experience, I had learned many important things through playing in Japan which I still treasure, and I feel proud of that. Some things can be learned as well as anywhere in Japan, for example, fundamentals of greeting people. It is the same with basketball. I think that the fundamentals of the game are the most important aspects that are taught in elementary to high school. As a matter of fact, I use those fundamentals to the fullest now, and those things are the aspects of the game that I would like to teach and pass along.

---- You are an active player now, but at the same time you are going to have to be the one to carry the future of Japanese basketball. When you think about this, do you have anything in mind that you would like to do in return to Japan for the support? For example, Nash saved a wandering junior basketball league in Vancouver by becoming its sponsor after the owning team, the Vancouver Grizzlies, moved to Memphis.
Tabuse : Well, that's if I get to that level... Right now, I don't really think about it since my goal is to stay on this team, but when I have some room to think about it in the future, I would like to teach and do things like that. One thing I always think about is to try to be the one who could give the kids dreams and hopes. As a child myself, I always went to watch game of players who I looked up to, and whenever they came to talk to me, I was more than happy. Now, I really hope that I could do and be the same to the kids. I would really love to do whatever I can to give hopes and courage to the young basketball dreamers in Japan, and hopefully that will help make basketball become a major sport in my home country.

---- That's exactly where the significance is. Right now, people in Japan are starting to direct attention to basketball through one individual, named Yuta Tabuse. This may result in expanding the base of basketball culture in Japan.
Tabuse : Yes, I also value these things too. Right now, I am the only one who is in this position (getting a shot at the NBA), and therefore I am the only one who is able to experience this whole thing. I truly wish for many others to be able have this precious experience, and in that way, I really want to contribute.

---- Was there a specific moment when the dream of wanting to be an NBA player turned into some kind of an impulse within you that made you actually aim for it, some form of confidence that you can do it, just like a glimmer of light in the darkness?
Tabuse : That would be the moment when I changed my thought after finishing the first season with Toyota (a team in the Japan Basketball League). From that moment on, I said to myself that I will not be allowed to turn back after starting my challenge, and I didn't want to turn back. Even though I had participated in the Hoop Summit and others after high school, making the NBA was still a dream, and I had a feeling somewhere in my mind that I could not make it. But after playing for Toyota for a year, I thought about it a lot, and that was the moment that decided that I really want to stick to the NBA, and I will not turn back.

---- Was there any feelings of fear?
Tabuse : No, not at all. I felt like I had nothing to lose. And that was why I was able to just look ahead and keep my head up. I had nothing to carry on my shoulders, and therefore I could stay very positive about it.