Seemingly out of nowhere, New Jersey Nets power forward Kris Humphries has emerged as one of the most pleasant surprises in the NBA this season. Once a sparingly-used reserve, Humphries has elevated his game to the next level, posting double-doubles on a nightly basis while starting at the four-spot for the Nets.
With New Jersey set to play the NBA’s first-ever regular season games in London this coming Friday and Saturday against the Toronto Raptors, Humphries took time out of his busy schedule to chat about his experiences overseas with ESPNNewYork.com.
Here’s a recap of our conversation on Thursday morning. We’ll be posting these on a daily basis.
ESPNNY: Kris, good morning -- or in your case good afternoon. On Wednesday you tweeted that you were really excited to see some of your former Toronto Raptors’ teammates. How nice was it to be able to see and reconnect with them?
Kris Humphries: It’s cool. I got to catch up with all the coaches and staff in the lobby on Wednesday. And then I saw some of my former teammates at an NBA Cares event we attended Thursday. It’s really nice to be able to hang out with a lot of the guys I used to play with.
ESPNNY: Obviously, you mentioned some of your former teammates. Who were you closest with on the Raptors?
Kris Humphries: I was real close with Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani. But a lot of their team has turned over now [Kris played in Toronto from 2006-07 to ’08-09].
ESPNNY: Probably one of the oddest things we’ve noticed is that the Nets and Raptors are both staying in the same hotel. We know it might not be the same for you, per say, because you played with some of those guys. But how strange is it that both teams are staying in the same hotel?
Kris Humphries: Yeah. It’s kind of strange a little. In one sense your enemy is staying at the same hotel. But it’s kind of strange. It’s kind of like preparing to get at these guys and then saying “What’s up?” Before games, I try not to get too friend with the other team. I try to keep a tough mindset, since we’re going to be doing battle. You want to catch up and be friendly, but during warm-ups before the game you try and be all business.
ESPNNY: Why don’t we get into what you all did Wednesday. One of the things that kind of caught our attention was this Barclays event you had to attend. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about it?
Kris Humphries: It was an event that we held for the company that is our sponsor for the new arena in Brooklyn [Barclays, a British bank, paid $400 million for the naming rights to the Nets’ projected future home in 2012-13]. The event was just for people that are involved in that company thanking them for their support. We kind of just want to win them over with the presentation of what the new arena is going to look like and our plan going forward as far as the team’s additions [trading for superstar point guard Deron Williams to start] and how we’re going to add pieces going forward.
ESPNNY: Afterward, you mentioned that you and your teammates were supposed to go out to dinner together. Did that happen? And if so, where did you go?
Kris Humphries: Yes. We ended up going out to a Pakistani restaurant. It was just the players. Deron kind of decided after the event that we were gonna go to eat together. It was nice to be able to break bread, tell stories, joke around and just have a good time.
ESPNY: How often does the entire team go out to eat together?
Kris Humphries: We’ve been going out a lot together as far as team meals. It’s been good. We have a group of guys that enjoy hanging out together. In fact, this is probably the tightest team I’ve been on since my first year in Toronto when we had a really close group of guys. It’s very similar to that.
ESPNNY: We have to ask the question: Who picked up the check? We figure you must’ve played credit card roulette, right?
Kris Humphries: Of course. And it was Dan Gadzuric. The new guy. That’s how he gets welcomed to the team [laughing]. Credit card roulette, that’s how we always do it. It’s quite exciting. We do it with the last card being picked out of a hat. When they call your name, that’s when you can really feel the rush.
ESPNNY: Sounds like you guys enjoy gambling quite a bit. Do you play cards or anything like that to keep yourselves occupied when you’re on the road?
Kris Humphries: We play a few games here and there. But never for money. We don’t promote gambling. We just play a few friendly games for the record [laughter].
ESPNNY: You’ve been in London for a couple days now. What is your opinion of the people there?
Kris Humphries: I feel like everyone here is really nice. They’re very respectful. The city for the most part is really clean and nice to be in. Deron had mentioned that he thinks he could live here [the Nets would rather he live in Brooklyn]. Just the way the city is and the culture. It’s a nice place.
ESPNNY: Let’s try to clear there air here: How easy is it to understand the natives, given their thick accents?
Kris Humphries: It’s funny because it is English. This is the place where English originated from. It’s funny because sometimes when people get to talking fast with the accent, some of the words they use to describe things is a bit different. You find yourself not being able to understand what they’re saying. Of course, what makes it even more funny is my teammate Johan Petro. He has a thick French accent and when he was talking to one of the workers at the restaurant Wednesday night, I couldn’t understand anything they were saying [laughter].
ESPNY: We know you finally get to play a game tomorrow, but what do you plan on doing the rest of the day [it’s about 2 p.m. London time at this point]?
Kris Humphries: Well, we just got back to the hotel from practice now. Maybe I’ll go grab a little bite to eat. If I have the energy to go do something, I’d like to either catch up with the guys from Toronto or go somewhere with my teammates and see some sights. [Humphries was traveling on a bus with his teammates at the time of our conversation, and noticed that his teammates were playing “The World Series of Rock Paper Scissors” in the back of the bus]
ESPNNY: Before we let you go since we know you want to have a good time before you actually have to get down to busy on Friday, we’ve been getting a lot of questions from fans wanting to know about your block of Robin Lopez in Monday’s game. How did you do it? It was pretty surreal.
Kris Humphries: He had scored on me a few plays. It’s funny because after one of them I looked up in the stands and saw my dad. He never said anything to me, but he gave me this look like, you better redeem yourself. So when he was about to throw it down, I just timed him up. And I was able to put him on the ground -- legally.
ESPNNY: What did Robin say to you afterward? He must’ve been pretty ticked off.
Kris Humphries: He’s just like his twin brother [my teammate, Brook Lopez]. It’s always interesting to get his reaction. He said, “You got me. You got me good. But I got you first.”
ESPNNY: Where does that block rank among the best rejections you’ve ever had in your career?
Kris Humphries: Honestly, I don’t know. At the end of the day, it’s hard to tell. Hopefully one day I’ll look back when my career’s over and really be able to appreciate it. But right now, I just try to take everything one day and one game at time.
ESPNNY: Thanks again for your time, Kris. Good luck on Friday against Toronto.
Kris Humphries: Thanks. Later.