Interview with Maciej Lampe

Maciej Lampe is one of the most important players in Polish basketball history. The power forward was drafted in the NBA in 2003 (30th pick) by the New York Knicks and played for the Phoenix Suns, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, Houston Rockets between 2004 and 2006.

After the experience in the NBA, he returned to Europe and played 10 years for some of the strongest teams on the continent, winning trophies such as the EuroCup, Spanish ACB league or the Russian Cup. After this, the big man left for the continuously growing Chinese basketball league, the CBA.

Please, speak a bit about your experience in the NBA. I know that you became the youngest player in Phoenix Suns history to appear in a regular-season game, as well as the first Suns player to play while being 18 years old.

The NBA experience was great for me, I came in the league very young, at 18 years old, so I was the youngest player not only at the Suns but also at the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder or the New Orleans Hornets. I think the only younger player than me at those teams was JR Smith. I came in the league very early and it helped me learn how to work the right way and later helped me to be a professional once I started playing in Russia, so it helped me tremendously. Many people said I should have waited, that I entered the NBA too early if I played a couple more years in Europe before the NBA it would have been better, but I believe it was the good move for me and I don’t regret it. I had three good years there, I learned a lot from a lot of people and then I continued my career in Russia.

What is the specific of basketball in China? Please, mark some differences between CBA and Euroleague.

The difference between Chinese basketball and the EuroLeague is huge because the CBA tries to copy the NBA for the most part. It’s more of an open, one-on-one game, for players to put up big numbers and play more openly. There are not so many plays, teams usually play a more open style, where you can take advantage if you are good offensively and it’s more for stats, while in the EuroLeague there is more team basketball and it’s a little harder to play there.

I think the Polish basketball grew a lot in the last decade. Is there a strategy based on homegrown players that made Poland such a great basketball country these years?

Polish basketball indeed had tremendous success the last decade and I believe the number one reason for the success is coach Mike Taylor, who has done a tremendous job with the national team, building confidence and being super positive in every situation that we’ve been in. Everybody saw the national team qualify to the Top 8 in the World Cup and it was a tremendous success for us.

Which coach helped you most in your basketball career?

I would say I learned a lot from all of my coaches that I’ve been with. I have been fortunate to play for some great coaches, but the guy that comes to my mind first is the coach that coached me when I was very young and he taught me the fundamentals, Joakim Samuelsson, a coach that I grew up with. Also, with coach Pashutin I had great success when we were at Unics. But I learned from everybody, from Xavi Pascual to Pini Gershon, every coach that I had has taught me something. As I player you have to take the best from every coach that you work with.

What was your most difficult opponent on the court?

Papadopoulos was not easy, but we have been able to beat him with Khimki while he was playing at Dynamo Moscow. It was a great matchup, it was really hard to play defense on him. Justin Doellman was also a problem, competing against him while he was in Valencia, and later when he was my teammate in Barcelona, he was hard to guard. Also David West was a great player which I played a lot against when I was in the NBA, he was a tremendous opponent.

What are your future plans? Where you want to be in 5 years from now?

I would like to play for another 2-3 years, hopefully, 2 more years in China after the Coronavirus situation blows over, then I would like to finish my career playing either in Poland or Sweden my last year. I will be releasing my book and I want to have my coaching papers done, because I want to stay involved with basketball and also have other businesses, so I can be independent and happy and I can continue to provide and be a good father for my children.

Photo: Euroleague

Interview made by Gratian Cormos & Imre Halasz