Mike Taylor Ascending

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

The summer of 2007, Mike Taylor was booted off the Iowa State University squad for disciplinary problems. As an NBA prospect, he was essentially left for dead. Fast-forward about a year: After a productive season with D-League's Idaho Stampede, Taylor became the first D-Leaguer in history to be selected in an NBA draft when he was chosen by Portland in the second round at #55, then traded to the Clippers.

Since then, Taylor has zoomed up the Clippers' depth chart at point guard and has dazzled Clipper fans with his transition game and quicks. Last week he made his first NBA start against Utah.

I sat down with Taylor after the Clippers win over Dallas yesterday afternoon:

TrueHoop: First off, how's it going in Los Angeles?
Taylor: Real Good. Real Good. I'm taking every day as a learning process.

Going back to the Summer of 2007: How did you regroup after you left Iowa State? How did you get from Ames, Iowa to Boise, Idaho and arrive at your decision to go to the D-League?
For about two months after ISU, I didn't touch a basketball. But I had to make a decision: If I wanted to stay in Division One, I'd have to sit out a year. I could go to a D-2 program and play right away. So I went on a couple of D-2 visits, but I didn't see myself getting better as a player in D-2I talked to Curtis Weathers, my AAU coach in Milwaukee. He sent me out to Sacramento to work out with Gus Armstead. I spent about one or two months out there. That's when I met the assistant coach for Idaho. Once the D-League came calling&I'd rather be there than a low-level D-2 program. So I set my mind on the D-League.

The D-League held their draft on Friday. If you had to give three pieces of advice for a D-League player who wants to make it to the Association, what would you tell them?

First: Pray. I did a lot of that every day.

Then, never expect anything to be given to you. Through my whole time there, I never looked for a call-up.

Last, play to your strengths, but also play for your team.

After you got done with the D-League season last summer, what was the process like?
It was a grind. I worked out for 14 teams. Two-hour workouts. Every day -- new city, new hotel, lots of fast food. But I was chasing my dream.

Tell me about Draft Day. Did you expect to have your name called? Were you glued to the tube?
My agent told me that I was projected late first round/early second round. I watched the draft with my family back home in Milwaukee. I stopped watching at, like, #45. I went into my room, and my phone was dead. But I left my agent my sister's number. So a little later, my sister comes running into my room with her phone. And my agent said, "I'm not sure when you're going to go, but the Clippers are going to make a trade for you. It was ironic, because I thought I was a higher pick, but that's been the story of my life. Getting picked so low made me feel that I gotta prove myself. So I was satisfied.

Guarding NBA point guards is a far cry from defending PGs in the Big 12 or the D-League. And Mike Dunleavy is known as a hard-nosed, defense-first coach. How are you adjusting?
I always had a lot of energy. But in college, I was looked upon as a scorer. What I've tried to do here is channel that energy into playing defense. I can move quick laterally, and I don't like anyone beating me off the dribble. I take pride in that.

Coach Dunleavy clearly likes your style, and you got your first NBA start last week. How did that go down?
He told me after we played Utah the first time. He said, "We're going to start you the next game. It was exciting.

What part of your game do you want to work on the most this season?
Court vision. I want to continue to learn how to be an NBA point guard. It's a learning process every day.