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Exclusive: Corey Maggette talks BIG3, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Cavs, Rockets-Warriors, NBA Finals, and more

Corey Maggette, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, LeBron James

Ice Cube’s BIG3 League wrapped up it’s first season last summer. No one knew how big three-on-three basketball would become, but the nation-wide summer tournament turned into a huge hit and fed fans’ thirst for more basketball in the NBA’s offseason. Last year, 40 players joined eight BIG3 teams, and this year, a pool of more than 60 players joined in an attempt to be drafted, but only 19 were able to be selected in Thursday’s Draft.

Coming into the first season, many expected a team like Power to be up there with the eventual-champions Trilogy. Power finished with a 4-6 record this season, but were hammered by an injury right away as captain Corey Maggette injured his Achilles in Game 1. Later in the season, their second best player, Cuttino Mobley, suffered an injury as well and Power was shorthanded heading into the playoffs, where they fell to the 3 Headed Monsters.

With the BIG3 combine and Draft taking place last week, Maggette spoke exclusively to ClutchPoints about his second season with the BIG3, coming back strong, and what he’s looking forward to, as well as the 2018 NBA Playoffs, LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors, and the tough race in the Western Conference.

Tomer Azarly: Last year, your BIG3 season didn’t go as planned with the Achilles injury, playing only one game. How much are you looking forward to coming back strong and showing what you can do?

Corey Maggette: You know, I’m really looking forward to it. First of all, I was so proud of our team, the way we battled. We had a few injures that kind of cost us going into the championship game. We had chance to make it there, but had a few injuries. Cuttino got hurt later on and that kind of took a lot away from us. But again, me not being there, that first game getting knocked out, for me, I’m trying to come back with a vengeance. Trying to come back and be healthy, and of course, it’s just a way to enjoy the game. A lot of guys just played so long and never get a chance to play at a different level and different capacity as in 3-on-3.

Corey Maggette

LA Times

TA: Is there any one player or team you’re looking forward to playing against this season?

CM: For me, I’m looking forward to playing against all of them because I didn’t get a chance to play against those teams. I think one big mark on everyone’s calendar would be against trilogy. Trilogy went undefeated, they had a great year, they have a lot of talent on that team. Kenyon Martin did a great job picking the players on his team, having Al Harrington as one of the other captains, James White, Deion Glover, they really played extremely well, and also the MVP in the championship, Rashad McCants. They have a lot of wraps, a lot of good players, they play the right way, Rick Mahorn did a great job as their coach.

TA: What are your thoughts on adding more talent to the second season with the 19 players to be drafted from the more than 60-player pool?

CM: Well, I think the big thing is that the Olympics validated what the Big 3 is in 3 on basketball. So now guys are staring to see that, guys might have a chance to play I note Olympics doing this 3 on 3, and I think what Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz have done is build a different brand of basketball from a 3 on 3 perspective. There’s probably guys that sit at home and play at least once a week. Before I got injured, I was playing twice a week and so a lot of guys now feel that why not go and play in the big 3 an get a chance to play in a 3 on 3 setting. It’s not full court, but it is strenuous because it’s a half court and everything is fast paced. It’s going to be a great challenge for all those guys.

TA: Have you talked to your former Clippers teammate Elton Brand about joining BIG3?

CM: I didn’t. I was thinking about it, but Elton’s got a more important job as a GM of the 87ers, the 76ers G-League team. I think that job is a little more important for him at this time. You never know though, if it comes to it, I’ll send him a message and see what he says. If I was in his position, that’s something I would have to decline at this time.

TA: Any player you want to see join the BIG3? Maybe next season or in the coming seasons?

CM: I had a chance to reach out to Shaq this past year and talk to him a little bit about it. He’s going to have hip surgery soon and he’s like man, I would’ve played, it would’ve been fun to get back out there and beat some players ,’ but that would’ve been great for the fans as well as for the Big 3 to have him there.

Would be great if Kobe Bryant would be able to play. Kobe, as far as that basketball passion, the career has changed into movies. he just won an Oscar for a best short film, but those are the two main guys I wish could play. If there was maybe a Kevin Garnett. I think Paul pierce is a possiblity still. Just never know. It’s a lot of high caliber guys that can still play and could play at this level.

TA: Do you think players underrate how strenuous the BIG3 league is on your body?

CM: Yeah. Yeah, I totally believe that. Actually, I’m probably the first one to say that. When you get out there and play, it’s mainly one on one. You gotta take advantage of your matchup every single possession, and everything is fast paced. You’ve got a 14 second shot clock, so once the person scores, you have to get the ball immediately to the referee to take the ball out. And with that, there’s hand-checking, there’s a lot more physical contact in 3-on-3. That’s the way Ice Cube wanted it. There’s not 3 seconds, so you have guys waiting for you in the paint. They’re battling and I think with veteran guys playing, they’re a little smarter. They’re utilizing their gifts and individual talents on the floor.

LeBron James and Lance Stephenson

Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports

TA: I want to shift over to the NBA Playoffs, which just started this weekend. Who is your favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference?

CM: I’ve been going back and forth with this. Boston’s chances have really gotten slim because of the loss of Kyrie Irving. They had the big injury in the first game of the year to Gordon Hayward. They lost Marcus Smart and there’s a possibility he won’t be back til late in the playoffs with the thumb injury. Jaylen Brown got hurt and missed some time, so there’s a lot of things that stopped their path and their chemistry as a team. You still have a lot of talent. Their young guys, rookie Jayson Tatum has been playing great. Al Horford has kind of stepped up from a leadership role. That still gives them a chance.

But when you have LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, everyone is worrying about LeBron because of what he can do. No matter what other players are on the floor, LeBron James makes those guys better. When you have that type of talent that can actually change the game – when he’s playing, he changes the game. He changes the tempo, he changes the pace, the momentum switches because of what he can do and it might not just be from his scoring, it would definitely be from his facilitating and getting other guys involved. But you can’t relax on those other guys because now LeBron is in full throttle.

The Toronto Raptors are another team that have surprised a lot of people this season and with demar, Lowry, and also their bench has been great for their team. They continue to play the way they’ve been playing… We’ve seen that they’ve had a bit of slippage in the last month, but they can get back on track when the playoff start. Toronto is a high favorite of mine, but again, when you have LeBron, your chances against him are very slim.

TA: Let’s flip it over to the West, where it’s even harder to predict a winner. Who do you have coming out of the Western Conference?

CM: I think Golden State is still the most dominant team in the entire NBA, despite the injuries. The last few years, Golden State wa the most healthiest team in the league and it showed because they had more chemistry than any other team. This season, we’ve had multiple injuries to Stephen Curry, multiple injuries to Draymond Green, Klay Thompson going out, Kevin Durant. It’s been a lot, and I think at that point, you lose a little chemistry from those guys because you’re sitting and you have to get your timing back. I’m not saying they can’t do it because they are dominant scorers. They’re also a good defensive team. Steve Kerr hasn’t been happy with the way that they’re playing, because if you look at the way they’ve been playing the last three years, you have a little complacency. It’s almost like they’re bored at times because they are so good.

Rockets and Warriors

Getty Images

Houston is hungry. That’s probably the most dangerous team in the West because they’re so hungry. You have so many guys on that team that have something to prove. Chris Paul hasn’t made it out of the 2nd round in his entire career, so he has something to prove. James Harden over the last three years was an MVP candidate. This year will probably be the first year that he was the clear favorite to me. He still has something to prove because of the play in last year’s postseason. Clint Capela had an all star year himself too. If I had to pick a team right now that would have a better chance at getting out of the west, I’d pick Houston. I think when you’re hungry and you’re determined, not to take anything away from GS, but it gives you a chance to want to take stuff from people.

I’m gonna have to go with Houston. For some reason, I just think Golden State is still bored, and they haven’t found their mojo. They are the defending champions, but this year, the best ability is availability, right now, they don’t have one of their main guys available, so that puts a lot of pressure on them. I’m gonna go on a limb and say the Houston Rockets win the NBA Championship.

Stay tuned for Part II of Maggette’s interview with ClutchPoints, where he discusses his former team, the LA Clippers, Doc Rivers, Tobias Harris, and their 2018 season full of injuries.