Justin Dentmon is a 34 year old 183cm guard that was born in Carbondale, Illinois and is playing his 11th professional season and first with Elan Bearnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez (France-Jeep ELITE ProA). He has seen the world having played in countries like Israel, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Italy, China, Puerto Rico, South Korea and Lebanon. He also spent part of six seasons with The Texas Frisco Legends and had short NBA stints with the Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs. He played for the University of Washington form 2005-2009. He spoke to germanhoops.com before a Basketball Champions League game against Rasta Vechta in Vechta.
Thanks Justin for talking to germanhoops.com Welcome back to Germany. You were in Germany before playing Euroleague against Bamberg. What memories do you have of that?
The Bamberg games were always tough. They always had really good players especially the Americans. They always played me really tough. It was one of the toughest teams that I played in Euroleague. They always did a good job taking away the things I do well.
Your preparing for a Basketball Champions League game in Vechta. You have played for 18 organizations and in many countries. Have you ever played in a smaller city than Vechta in your career?
No I have not. Vechta is very small and not a lot of noise here. For me it’s hard because I’m used to exploring and seeing the city. There aren’t any malls here.
Your playing your first season with Elan Bearnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez (France-Jeep ELITE ProA). At this stage of your career winning titles is your biggest goal. The chances at the moment in the France Pro A and BCL seem difficult at the moment.
I feel that we have a chance. We need to figure some things out. We have had the injury bug which can hurt a team’s focus and desire. I need to keep the guys focused as a leader and help the team be successful until the rest come back.
You have been an explosive scorer your whole life. What other strengths in your game are you focusing on most this season in bringing your team success besides just putting the ball in the basket?
When I was younger I focused on more things like being a floor general and playing defense. Now my focus is just to be me. Now I am focusing on things that I do well and not on things I don’t do well. My focus is always on winning and scoring. The France Pro A and BCL haven’t seen my best yet. But when they do it will be scary.
At age 34, what are your biggest parts of your game that you are working on and how difficult is every new day when your in your mid thirties?
At this point of my career I’m thinking most about health, because I want to play as long as I can. A big focus for me now is getting to the free throw line more. I want to exert as little energy as possible. Getting to the free throw line is free
Let’s talk about your teammates. The team has a lot of experience and recently signed another veteran Ekene Ibekwe. He has seen a lot in his career as have you. How has it been exchanging stories of your careers?
The stories have been interesting with him. He has played with a lot of guys that I know and also have played with. We made a bet to who played with more teams and he won. He had something like 23 teams while I had 22. We have a lot of experience. We only have three players over 30 with Me, Ekene and Ronald Moore. We have to take the young guys by force and hope that they fall in line.
How easy have your guard teammates Tyrus Mcghee and Ronald Moore made your life easier on the court?
Moore does a good job bringing the ball up and knowing how to run the team while Mcghee shoots the ball well and it helps me be able to look for him. I don’t need to do as much scoring when he is on the floor.
Last season you played for three teams in the G-League, South Korea and Lebanon. The basketball globetrotter life has had no effect on you even now in your thirties. Is moving around so much in your life been in your blood?
I don’t know if it has been in my blood, but it has been fun and interesting playing in so many different countries and being able to explore so many different cultures. But I have to admit that at this age, I would rather know where I will be playing next season. It is hard bouncing around when your older.
You played your last NBA game in the 2012-2013 season, but since then played NBA Summer league during 4 summers and have not returned back to the NBA despite putting up great numbers in many different leagues. Has the NBA really got younger over the years? It seems like it’s more difficult for older guards to get a job or is the competitiveness and influx of many guards a reason that it is harder to land a job there?
All of that in one. A lot of it had to do with bad timing. Some NBA teams took me that already had guards that played like me while other teams took me not wanting a scoring guard which put me in limbo. Now adays everyone is a scoring guard. It’s all about who you know. Agents have a lot of control and leverage over teams. It is hard being mad about the situation when things are out of your control. Charlotte liked me, but they didn’t want two Kemba Walkers. I always liked to play NBA Summer League, because I loved basketball and didn’t want to be at home doing nohting.
Especially in the 2017-2018 season you averaged an overwhelming 28,0ppg in 24 games in the G-League. For me it’s mindboggling how you didn’t get a call up after something like that?
That was one of my most efficient scoring seasons in my professional career. I was #1 in scoring and three point shooting and #2 in steals. My agent talked to the Clippers and Knicks who were high on me. They wanted to see me play at a showcase. I was so confident that I was thinking who will it be the Knicks or Clippers, but then I got hurt.
You have played parts of three seasons in China putting up numbers averaging 30,0ppg, 24,0ppg and 23,0ppg. Americans really dominate this league. Do you feel like your game could profit from here despite it being a league where defense isn’t so much on the menu?
China helped me build more confidence and taught me how to lead a team. Chinese teams don’t have such strength except for their import players. I also learned to be a better leader and taught me when I had to score and when not to in tough situations. I helped small teams become big teams.
There was a time in your 30,0ppg season in China where you scored 30 points or more in 11 straight games. What did that do to you mentally. Did it rise your invincible scoring mentality?
I remember it well. I was on a different planet. I got away from this kind of scoring mentality after I played there. I should just go out and play instead of thinking about making mistakes. I also was encouraged by t Stephon Marbury who was playing in the league. I wanted to be better than him.
You haven’t played much in Europe, but proved in the 2013-2014 being one of the top guards in the Euroleague with : B.C. Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania-LKL, starting five) playing 29 games averaging 14.2ppg, 3.8rpg, 3.8apg, Steals-3 (1.9spg), FGP: 46.6%, 3PT: 39.6%, FT: 83.3%; and playing 24 Euroleague games: Score-2 (16.9ppg), 3.4rpg, 4.1apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 42.5%, 3PT: 44.3%, FT: 86.3%. How did it raise your game that season and what did it gain that you didn’t have the season before?
That was a great team and experience for me. They brought me in and right away treated me like family. I really liked playing for that team. That season helped me in that teams saw me as a European player and upped my status as a player for other leagues. I would have gone back, but they had money issues. Important also was that I was able to adapt to the culture and their style of play. I gave it my all in the Euroleague. It was hard to come back since China was offering a lot more money. Playing in Europe hasn’t always been easy for me with the travel and bus rides. It just isn’t a fit for me.
What memories do you have having the privilege of playing with legend Sarunas Jasikevicious? What did you appreciate most about him being around and how was your relationship with him?
I remember his composure, leadership and how he carried himself on and off the court the most He was a winner and leader off the court as well. I knew that when I did make a mistake, that he would be there every time telling me what I had done wrong. He was like a big brother for me.
Between 2011-2013 you played 8 NBA games with the Spurs, Raptors and Mavericks. Looking back did the NBA disappoint you that you didn’t hang around longer or were you just blessed for having the short opportunity?
It was a blessing and disappointment at the same time. It was a blessing with the first two teams that I made. I was just glad I made it. When I made the Mavericks, it was like a reward for playing so well even though they had no real intention of signing me. The NBA was a blessing and a disappointment because I wasn’t given a real opportunity to showcase that I belong.
You played two NBA games with the Spurs and was on the stat sheet with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard. What one instrumental thing will always remain with you from each player?
Leonard was quiet, shy and goofy. Duncan was a cool quiet guy that liked to get on his lab-top. Parker wasn’t the best for me at the beginning. When I came up, he thought that I was one of the equipment guys. There were many guys that were called up. He later apologized. Manu Ginoboli was the massage guru. But these guys were all about winning. The Spurs were the most professional team that I have ever been a part of. It was like family. They all knew their roles. What I regret the most is that I didn’t take any photos with any of them. That makes me sick, because I played with so many great players.
You have played for many many head coaches, but what is a positive attribute about Greg Popovic that not many know about?
He was straight forward and told you how it was. He was sarcastic with me and liked to joke around. I remember him saying that he didn’t know that rookies got massages. He didn’t care if it was Parker or Duncan, he would yell at you if it was wrong.
You also spent time with the Dallas Mavericks and was on the stat sheet with Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and Shawn Marion. What was one thing from each guy that will always remain with you?
Carter was one of the nicest dudes. He was always encouraging me. I remember at the NBA Summer League he was trying to get other NBA teams to recognize me. Nowitzki was goofy. I remember him beating me by one shot in a shooting contest. He was polite and said ‘Thank you young rookie for shooting with me’ and then walked away. Marion was instrumental in how I approached other people and how I dressed.
In your second professional season you played your first season in the D-League with the Frisco Texas Legends (D-League) playing 52 games averaging 18.7ppg, 3.4rpg, 4.0apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 50.9%, 3PT: 42.2%, FT: 84.3%. What memories do have of that time and how has the league changed? Weren’t there a lot older guys playing then than now?
Back then older guys were set in getting back to the NBA. Now the young players want to prove that they belong in the NBA. And if they don’t reach the NBA right away, then they are comfortable with staying there. A lot has changed in that time. There are different coaches and the playing style has changed. The Texas Legends will always be a part of me. They took me back even after I was injured. I have some club records, They are an unbelievable organization.
You played your rookie season with Hapoel Afula (Israel-Premier League) playing 22 games: Score-1 (19.8ppg), 3.8rpg, 2.8apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 50.8%, 3PT: 36.3%, FT: 82.2%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew you were very far away from home?
It was an easy transition. I had been used to being away from home a lot when I was in college. Every thing was so new and slow for me that I was going at full speed at all times. I was taught to pace myself. It was a very nice country and I didn’t feel threatened at all. It was an important part of my career as it is where it started. After that everything fell into place.
How important was your American teammate Steffon Bradford in your rookie season. Did he take you under his wing?
I only played two months with him as he came in late. He played very hard and had a lot of experience having had played on many teams.
After a stellar NCAA career at Washington, you had an amazing experience at the Jamal Crawford summer league averaging 42 points per game and had NBA workouts. Do you feel that 2009 class was so strong that made your chances of getting drafted more difficult?
Yes the 2009 class was a tough one. You can only control what you can control. Portland really wanted me. If they would have selected Patty Mills earlier then they would have taken me, but they then selected him late. I decided to go overseas and get a year under my belt and then came back and showed what I can do.
You played at Washington (NCAA) from 2005-2009 and reached two NCAA Sweet 16’s. Which of these runs remained most in your mind?
The title my freshman year was the most memorable playing with Brandon Roy and Bobby Jones. No one thought that we could win it all. Everyone thought that we would lose I the first round. We played very hard. We should of beat Uconn, but there were some questionable calls.
How important was it having Brandon Roy as a teammate in your freshman year? What memories do you have of him and how did your game compensate the most as a freshman?
I was a two time Freshman of the week and made the all-freshman team. Roy made me look good. He was one of the top players that I ever played with. It’s a no brainer. He could score and play defense.
A guy I had a lot of pleasure interviewing years ago when he was balling in Italy was your ex teammate Bobby Jones who seems to always get good responses from his ex teammates when I ask them about him. I’m sure that he also had a positive effect on you.
Jones was my roommate. He is one of the best teammates that you can have. He works hard, and is a great teammate. I have a daughter and he is a great father that I look up to. He is just a good guy.
In your senior year, Isaiah Thomas was a freshman and right away had a very solid season and would continue on to a strong NBA career. Were you like a mentor for him or didn’t he need it?
I was a mentor for him in his first year. After that he was Ok and started to grow. He also had mentors with Brandon Roy and Jamal Crawford.
How did head coach Lorenzo Romar groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
He prepared us mentally to endure the adversary that comeswith basketball. He also prepared us for the physical rigors. He was a father figure and a great leader. I liked him as a coach.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Isaiah Thomas?
Who was the toughest player that you battled at the NCAA level that reached the NBA?
Jerryd Bayless from Arizona (NCAA). Adam Morrison was also tough. He was the most unstoppable scorer that I ever saw.
Please construct your own personal NBA Rushmore. Which 4 heads past or present would you pick?
Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Lebron James, Shaq
What is your personal opinion of the never ending debate of who is better Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
Michael Jordan. I grew up with him. If there would have been no Jordan then there would have been no Kobe or Lebron. One should discuss the greatest players od each era.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Justin for the chat.