Last Thursday, Luka Garza's lifelong dream was realized when the Detroit Pistons selected him with the No. 52 pick in the NBA Draft. The next day, he hopped on the air with me and Alex Kuhn on AM-1600 KGYM Radio in Cedar Rapids.
Here's a transcript of that interview:
Q. What was (draft night) like for you?
Luka Garza: Thank you for having me. (Draft night) was a dream come true for sure. Now it's time to go to work. I'm very excited for the opportunity to be with the Pistons and be reunited with my guy Tyler Cook (who has since been waived by Detroit). I'm very excited.
Q. What have you and TC (Tyler Cook) talked about? It's kind of funny how things work out sometimes.
LG: It definitely is funny. I saw him (Friday) morning at the press conference. That was really fun. We're in the gym (Saturday) morning, kind of similar to how it was when we were at Iowa. So, I'm excited to get to work and to share a floor with him again. It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm just really grateful to the organization for taking a chance on me. That's all I needed. I'm going to go in there and do whatever I can to make as much of a positive impact as I can.
Q. The last time we saw you was at the combine and people were clamoring over the fact that you dropped 20 pounds. What was that process like for you to get to that point and was that something that came from the last couple of years of feedback that you got from the NBA?
LG: It was a big adjustment. I had to really self evaluate and understand what I felt like I needed to do to have a chance to put myself in a good position in the NBA Draft. The biggest thing was slimming down, losing some weight. I know I wasn't going to be posting up as much in the NBA as I was in college. I knew I needed to make a little bit of a change. That's why I've kind of been adjusting my body while still keeping the strength I have but becoming a little more slim so I can move better and to be able to be more of a stretch five type of guy.
Q. When you guys go through the NBA Draft process, you're being evaluated and people pick your games apart. People have doubted you for years, though. Did any of the criticism get to you during this process?
LG: Absolutely not. For me, I never thought that I'd be in this position to hear my name called. I always wanted to work as hard as I could. I was able to achieve a life-long dream. I'm excited to continue to achieve the dreams that I still have that I haven't accomplished yet. For me, I know that I'm probably the most criticized player in the draft, critiqued. I embrace that. I'm a guy that wants to know what I have to work on. I have a lot of people telling me (laughs). So, I'm going to make sure I work on those things to the best of my ability and become the best version of me possible. I'm very thankful and grateful to the Pistons for seeing what some other teams didn't.
Q. I'm sure you've heard it a million times from the NBA world. They're wondering about you defensively. Can you guard ball screens? How much does that give you a chip on your shoulder with something to prove?
LG: That's the biggest thing I've tried address with losing the weight like I did is being a little bit quicker and moving a little bit better on the perimeter so I can put myself in better situations defensively. It's something I will continue to work on. I'm very well aware it's a weakness in my game. But I know I can work as hard as I can to be solid on the defensive end and that's all I'm looking to be. I know I can go on the other end and be very impactful.
Q. What was (draft) night like for your dad, who has helped you out so much along the way?
LG: Definitely it was a big moment for both him and myself. For him it was an accomplishment because he knows that all of the work that he's put in and invested into me to get to this point has paid off. I think he was just extremely excited. Obviously stressed during the draft but very excited and relieved after. Now he knows it's time for me to go down here in Detroit and do what I do.
Q. You said now the work begins. You've been doubted your whole career. Life is not easy for a second-round pick. How much do you push full steam ahead knowing that?
LG: Like I said, I'm ready to go to work. I'm in the gym (Saturday) morning (after the draft). That's just who I am and what I believe in. I'm very excited about this opportunity I have and I know what I have to do now. It's go out there and show people that I'm a guy who can play in the NBA for a very long time. That's all I'm focused on right now is just going out there and competing, helping the Pistons win and doing whatever I can to help the team. So that's what I'm focused on. If I'm able to do that, I'll be able to show the organization that I'm a guy that you want to keep around.
Q. Detroit is a young team trying to rebuild. You saw a similar setup when you arrived at Iowa. Do you see similarities and feel like this is a group that can grow together?
LG: Absolutely. And just being around the organization and all the people, there's so much momentum and feeling going into this season in terms of the pieces they had last year and what they've added in. I think everyone is really excited and understanding this team has a lot of potential. With what we have, we're just going to continue to work and work and work until we put ourselves in a great position as an organization and as a team. I'm very excited to be along for the ride.
Q. What was your reaction when you saw Joe Wieskamp's name go off the board and have you had any contact with him in the last day?
LG: Oh, I was extremely excited. I may have had more of a reaction with his than to my own. It was really, really cool and very special and I'm very, very happy for him. I think it's a perfect fit for him in San Antonio. I think he's going to really excel there. So, I'm excited for him. And, yeah, we have talked throughout the day. We both headed out to our respective cities (Friday morning). It was a really fun time. It was nice to have someone going through it with you. I'm very excited for him and his family. He definitely deserves it. He worked very hard to put himself in that position. I'm very excited for him.
Q. Keegan Murray's name is starting be heard more in terms of next year's draft. What type of future do you see for him?
LG: I'm extremely excited to see what he does. This is a year for him that's going to be huge in terms of him stepping up into a much bigger role. I think it's great for him. I think he's ready for it. He works extremely hard. So, I'm excited for him. He's an NBA player. I know that very well just watching him this year, how he handled this season playing in the role that he did and excelling and being that guy off the bench that just saved us a lot. I'm very excited for him. It's going to be a great year for him stepping up into a bigger role like I said. He'll continue to show people why he'll hear his name called here in the future.
You can listen to the interview HERE. Our conversation with Garza starts at about 30:00.