Q&A with Jeff Ayres on winning a championship in San Antonio and returning to the NBA in January

Jeff Ayres is one of those great locker room guys. I enjoyed my daily conversations with him while he was with Indiana for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.

He didn’t get a lot of playing time, appearing in 57 regular season games over those two years, though coach Frank Vogel admitted that he wrestled with trying to find playing time for the forward. In the locker room, he was well liked and was a guy players could bounce ideas off of.

His contract was up after the 2012-13 season and he wanted to stay. He was married and had an infant daughter, but the Pacers only offered the minimum and he got a little better offer in San Antonio.

Ayres spent time earlier this season overseas and then in the NBA Developmental League before being called up by the Los Angeles Clippers, who needed depth up front. After originally joining on a 10-day contract, the Clippers signed him for the rest of the season on March 16th.

When the Clippers were in Indianapolis in late January — it was just his second game with LAC — I caught up with Ayres at morning shootaround.

What have things been like for you this season?

It’s been like a roller coaster, to be honest man. It’s been really cool. I went to China for a little bit; that didn’t work out too well and (I) came back early. Made it in time for the D-League draft and then I’ve been in Boise since then.

Jeff Ayres was with the Pacers from 2011-13.

Jeff Ayres was with the Pacers from 2011-13.

What do you feel is your role with Clippers?

I don’t specifically quite yet. There’s going to be stuff that I can do. Be a great teammate, always engaged in the game, know what’s going on in the huddles, know what’s going on on the floor, talk to my teammates during the game, be positive…

Like you always are…

Yeah, normal stuff that I do. [When I’m] in the game, play hard, run the floor, set screens, rebound. Just do all the little stuff like that until they tell me otherwise.

What do you make of what the Pacers have done this ear?

Yeah, it’s been interesting to watch for sure. I know the smallball is like the total opposite of what everybody’s been used to, how it was in the past. It’s a growing pains kind of thing everybody’s go through in trying to adjustment

It’s been really great to see PG playing really well, especially come back from his injury. To see him back, and to play in the All-Star game again. That’s awesome. I saw him yesterday (Jan. 25) and it was really cool to see him.

What were you doing?

We had optional shooting yesterday so after everybody was done I snuck around the back to see a couple of my guys. I saw Frank [Vogel], the coaches and stuff. I hadn’t seen them in a long time so it was cool to see everybody.

What’d you think of the new setup in the locker room?

Yeah, it’s nice. Like wood walls, venier walls, a fancy kitchen in the locker room, brand new lockers. It looks nice, man. It’s really cool.

And signing with the Clippers reunited you with Lance Stephenson (temporarily. They traded him to Memphis three weeks later for Jeff Green). What has that been like for you?

[We both laughed.]

It’s always nice if you get on a new team and see some familiar faces. I know a lot of other guys, too. I know Mba moute, I played against him in college and have known him for a while. Knowing Lance and playing with him for two years, and just knowing what kind of guy he is … he gets a bad rep for being a knucklehead sometimes, but he’s a good guy. For me that helps knowing I got someone that I know on the team, I know how he plays and I know how he plays. That just makes it a little bit more comfortable and easy to adjust.

I saw on Lance’s SnapChat that you guys had dinner last night at Ruth’s Chris. The meal cost, to quote Lance, “10 racks?”

No, it wasn’t that much. Yeah right. You know Lance, man. That’s not Lance. If it was 10 grand, he would have ran out of the building so fast.

He lost in credit card roulette, right?

Yeah. It’s a little game we play sometimes and his was the last card so he had to just pay the bill. He was a good sport about it. And that’s one thing I’ve seen. Just from being here to now, he’s matured enough to where instead of crying about it and saying, ‘No, no, no,’ and fight it, he was [reasonable about it].

In previous years he’d still be sulking.

He’d be sitting down like, ‘Man, I’m not practicing today. This sucks, man. You took all my money last night.’ He paid it and was a really good sport about it. I can just see how he has matured from since he was here.

[See Also: Life is good for Pendy]

How was your two years in San Antonio and winning the championship?

Oh, man. It was awesome.

And wanting to win a championship (in 2014) was a key reason you told me that you ended up there.

That summer was kind of crazy. I definitely wanted to come back here but it didn’t work out. That’s how it is sometimes. I had a great opportunity to go there, and play for a great coach on a great team, and it just so happened that the year before I got there, after we lost here to the Heat in the conference finals, they ended up losing to the Heat in the [NBA] Finals, so we both had a bad taste in our mouths from the year before. When we all came back, we had a collective goal. Even me being the new guy, I still had the same feeling that they had. It was awesome to be a part of it and look back at how the season went. It was awesome. It’s something really special to me.

[From July, 2013: Pendergraph wanted to return but the offer wasn’t right]

Any advice for George Hill with his infant son?

Ah, man. Change as many diapers as you can. Get those bottle feedings in whenever you can. It goes by fast. I know that he’s already [one month] old, which is awesome. Enjoy these little times now, but they get really fun when they get around three months old.

(Ayres’ daughter, Namoi, is two and half and his son is 10 months old.)

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