Precious Achiuwa had few laughs with media and reflected on his sophomore season, learnings from 76ers series, trusting Toronto's vision, Thad Young's mentorship and more.
- How are you feeling physically?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Tired, very tired.
- Precious, how satisfying was this year for you to show that you're not just a pick and roll big, that you can do more than just screen and roll to the rim? And given all the opportunities you were given this year, how satisfying has it been for you to showcase that?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: I mean, it's just-- it's good to go out there, play my game within our game, of course, and just show different aspects of my game, and just continue to grow. So it was definitely big. I think I grew as the season went on. And that was really big for me, important with the growth of my game.
- What is it about this organization, coaching staff, team, whatever that enables that kind of development and can foster that over the course of the season?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: I mean, it's just confidence. We always talk about going out there, doing the things that you work on. And I work on my game a lot, so it's just that if the coaching staff are putting-- if they put in a lot of hours in with you to work on something or work on your game, I think they would love to see you do it in the game, you know? Kind of frustrating if they're working with you on something or a few things, and you just don't do it. The whole point of being in the gym with me every day or whatnot is for me to eventually translate those things into the games.
- Precious, there's always some level of uncertainty going into the offseason. I mean, you know that as well as anybody.
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Yes.
- But you guys do have a core of young guys that are under contract for next season. Masai and Bobby both spoke after the trade deadline about wanting to build around you guys and to see where you can go and what you can do. Is that something that's a little bit reassuring going into the offseason, knowing that you guys have that core, that you guys can grow together?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: I mean, I don't know what to say to that. Absolutely not. I think we have a good core of guys that could play. But you never know.
I heard the same thing last year, too.
- I was going to ask that. I mean, it's like your two seasons are like night and day, everything that-- your role on the court, your team, everything. So did this year almost in some ways feel like restarting over again, just was so much different after your first year?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Yeah, to a certain extent, I kind of consider this year my first year in the NBA, just based on the opportunity that I had here playing, I didn't really get a lot of those last year. I didn't get a lot of opportunity to really showcase my game or grow my game, you know? And it's not putting-- it's not bashing anyone or anything. It's just the situations, it's different.
And I think the situation we had here this year allowed me to grow my game, you know, and expand. And to an extent, I consider this like my first real NBA year.
- To that point, having been with a coach that allows you to define who you want to be on the court, working from that, did any of the aspects of your game that you were able to add to surprise you at all in terms of where you were able to explore what you want to do on the court?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Can you please say that again? I'm sorry.
- No worries. Just with the ways in which Nick kind of has this philosophy that he wants players to almost define what they want to be on the court without him telling them so early, were there aspects of your game that you were able to explore that you maybe not were able to explore in year one?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Yes. There's a lot of my game that I couldn't explore in year one the way I was able to explore this year. And that just goes to what you said, you know, Nick, he allows us to play-- basically play free as long as you're playing within the system of what we're trying to do. And I think to a really, really big-- in a really big way, we had success playing that way.
Guys were playing free, playing within their games. And I think we had a lot of success playing that way just because people work every day, you know? And it's just-- you don't want to put all that work in and then not ever try to put it in a real situation.
And he preaches that a lot, you know? This is what you do. He sees the coaching staff working with you on this every day. If you do it in a game, it's not no whoa, you know? It's kind of like, OK, we see he's put in this many hours, this many reps. It's not catching anyone by surprise, I believe. And it's just playing within that flowing within the flow of the offense, of the team.
- Precious, I'm sure there's disappointment with the way that things ended. But based on the growth that you guys have seen as a team throughout the year, the growth that you've experienced and some of the other young guys, is there a feeling of optimism, going into the offseason, of what you guys might come back looking like in a few months?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Yes. I think everyone-- damn.
I think everyone-- [LAUGHS]
Yo, I'm weak.
- He's just getting back, guys.
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: No, that is jokes. [LAUGHS]
OK. All right, well, yeah, I think this offseason, we-- we got to experience the-- we got to experience the postseason, which is the playoffs. And like you said, we have a bunch of young guys, myself, my second year, Scottie, his first, OG, Gary. Just being in those situations, just getting those experiences at such a young age is big. We can always build on that.
And now we know what it's like to be in those situations. We know what it's like to be in the postseason. We know what it's like to play heavy minutes in the regular season.
And I think those experiences are huge. And a lot of people, I think-- at first, it was, we weren't going to be good. And then it was like, midseason, like, OK, we could be good, you know? That's like the outside-- that's what people on the outside said about us. But we knew how good we could be.
And as time went on, it was like, OK, this young group of guys could really play. You know, we could do something. And I don't think-- I think the series, we had a great opportunity to win that series. I think if you take away youth and just put in more experience, I think we would have won that series.
But I think-- I don't see it as a bad thing. And I think it's a great learning experience where we got to be in that situation, and we got to learn from that. So this offseason, we know what to work on. We know the type of focus we need to put into our work to avoid a situation like that, or to grow and become better next year or whatnot.
So that's how I look at it. I look at it as a positive rather than whatever people are out there saying, you know? And that's how I look at it. I think it's good for us, our development as a team, as a young group of guys. And just moving forward.
- Precious, what did you learn from this series, going up against Embiid, about the roster construction for you in particular as sort of one of the few big guys, relatively big guys on this roster?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: We learned that it's tough to guard guys like that.
And especially damn near 300 pounds, battling every day, it's not easy. But yeah, you know, it's just the way the roster is constructed, it shows you the defensive vision that the coaching staff and Masai and Bobby has when they put-- had when they put this team together, just guys that could-- switchability, guard multiple positions on the defensive side, and offensively of course, be versatile and play with each other.
I mean, for most of the series, it was lined up so we just switched everything out. It wasn't like no mismatch, especially me, Scottie, Thad, OG, Pascal, that lineup-- you know, sometimes, with Gary as well. It was like, who are you going to call up? Every screen, on every pick and roll, there's someone 6' 8" and up. And if you manage to go past that person, you're meeting someone else at the rim that's about or taller.
So I think that's the vision they saw. And I think this series kind of gave us an idea of what we could do defensively. And like I said, we just got to go back. We're going to grow from this. We're going to go watch all the tapes. And it's going to really-- I think for me especially-- I believe I can speak for a lot of other guys, it's going to give us a different type of focus on what to really, really focus on or work on this summer and for this season coming up.
- Can you do that over the course of a season? You said it's really tough. Do you have to put on 300 pounds? But that would take away--
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: No I'm not putting on 300 pounds.
No, absolutely not. No. I like the way I look.
- Does that work at your size, to be able to do that over the course of a season? You said it was, like, really hard.
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: To put on 300 pounds?
- But like, you need to--
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: No, I don't need to put on 300 pounds. No, I'm not doing that. No, I like the way I look. I like the way I run, the way I jump. I'm going to stick to that.
But yeah, definitely get stronger, lift more, but not with the goal of hitting 300 pounds. But get stronger, definitely. All the guys get stronger as well, and yeah.
- Precious, how specifically do you game plan in the postseason? Does that provide greater clarity on how you need to improve compared to, say, if you only had the regular season?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Yes, yeah. And in the postseason, it's definitely different. Everything is a lot more succinct. It's attention to detail, as every detail is very important. Even the little ones, you know, it's just as important as the big ones.
And earlier in the series, I noticed they were like, let me shoot the ball. The last two games, they did not let me shoot the ball at all. And I came to the bench one time, and Freddie looked at me and was like, yeah, they're not letting you shoot the ball, bro.
But you know, it's just like now, I got to figure out other ways. Like, it's a learning experience. Like I said, it's my first postseason that I'm playing in. Moving forward, it's just I got to-- OK, this is how they're guarding me. This is what I got to do.
It's just, like I said, go back, watch the tape, learn from it, be more deliberate on the things to work on and whatnot, and move forward from there.
- Precious, how important was Thad's arrival in your development?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Oh, big-time, really big, just having that-- someone that's been around for a really long time. And we have ties. Thad is from the city that I went to school at. He's from Memphis. And know a bunch of guys, kind of like mutual friends.
And he knew OG before. And I'm really not close with OG. It was just kind of like-- and then just having him around, breaking the game down while the game is going on, telling you what to do, what you could have done different, it's really big just having that vet on the team that's been doing it for a really long time, so--
- Does he keep your confidence high?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Like, he keeps everybody's confidence high. I've never seen him not-- you could take a crazy-ass shot, Thad would be like, yeah, you're good.
You know, he's kind of like that. He's going to tell you, like, yo, probably don't shoot like that. But then he gonna be like, you good, you good. It was great for me, especially. I learned a lot from him this year, definitely.
He was one of the guys that after almost every game, he was like, hey, you did your thing. You could have done this or-- he's always encouraging. And that's big.
- You talked about Nick, Thad's impact on your game. But as for the rest of the coaching staff, I know Pascal was really high on Earl this year, saying how he impacted his game. Was there a member of the coaching staff [INAUDIBLE], and how do you feel like--
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: All of them, but specifically Fab and Mike Springer. Those are my guys. I can't thank them enough with how much time they put in with me this year. I'm talking about just the talks and the film and the on-court work. It was a lot, you know?
And they were really, really detailed with the information and the way we worked. So those two guys were definitely big for me this year. And I really, really appreciate them a lot.
- Did they cheer you on like Thad after you came to the bench?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Oh, I don't think you guys have heard Mike Springer cheer anyone. That guy, he's always positive-- the most positive person I've ever seen in my life. You can miss three shots in a row, he's like, (WHISPERS) yes.
The next one is going in. Too-- way too positive, but yeah.
- Precious, what have you learned about the city of Toronto, being here now for almost a year? And is there any experiences that have stood out to you here?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Yes, it snowed three days ago.
We're in April, guys. What's going on? I'm like, yo, that was different. I grew up in New York, but did not snow in April. Yeah, but no, Toronto-- I love the city of Toronto.
Diverse-- it's very diverse. You meet people from all over the place. I love that. I like to meet people. I like cultures. I'm very cultured, myself. So I like to learn about people's cultures, you know.
And the fans are crazy, but I love them. Yeah, I say that.
- You had some good food here?
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Yes, a lot of good food. I love food, so that's always nice.
- Thanks, everybody.
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Thank you guys.
- Thanks, Precious.