BOSTON -- Former Tar Heel All-American Joseph Forte agreed to this short interview prior to the opening of play in the Shaw’s NBA Summer League in Boston. Forte spent virtually all of his rookie season with the Boston Celtics on the “injured” list, and there is widespread skepticism among the local media about whether Forte can become the contributor the club expected when they made him a first round draft pick a year ago.
Thad Williamson: Could you just talk about how tough it was to sit on the bench and your experience with that this year?
Joseph Forte: It was tough, but I learned a lot, so it was a good thing.
TW: What was the most positive thing to come out of it for you?
Forte: I think I learned a new position, the point guard position, so that was the best thing to come out of it. Just learning how to handle the ball, watching Kenny Anderson -- hopefully I can transfer some of that to the summer league.
TW: Do you feel a lot of pressure to perform this week?
Forte: Yeah, I’ve got to perform. But there’s no pressure, this is what I do, I know how to do this.
TW: Is your relationship with the coaching staff good? Are you happy in Boston in general?
Forte: I’m still here! So it’s got to be good. I’m still here, you know what I’m saying, so I must like it.
TW: Were you surprised at how much Carolina fell apart after you and Brendan left?
Forte: I was surprised, but Carolina will be back. It’s just one of those things, it’s a cycle, and last year was our year, but we’ll be back.
TW: Do you believe Matt Doherty is the one who can turn it around and get the program back?
Forte: Whoever Dean Smith has down there is going to get the job done. Right now it’s Matt Doherty so I believe he can get it done.
TW: How much are you touch in with Doherty, Guthridge, Dean Smith - all of them, all the same?
Forte: All of them. Doherty called me yesterday to wish me luck. I talk to Coach Guthridge regularly, so it’s a happy situation.
TW: How’s it been for you living in Boston apart from the basketball?
Forte: It’s been fun. The fans here have a lot of love, a lot of pride for the home team, so I’ve enjoyed myself.
TW: Have you found someone to play chess against?
Forte: (laughs) No, I haven’t found that yet, but I’ll try to...
TW: How about your brother down at Brown, have you gotten to see him play some?
Forte: I saw him play when he came up to play Northeastern. I mean, he’s punishing people, so that’s good.
TW: Do you feel like he could have played at UNC?
Forte: My brother? No, I think he’s too smart. I think he had to go Ivy League because of academics, he’s so smart.
TW: What’s your favorite thing about Boston?
Forte: My favorite thing is probably just the love for the team, the history, the tradition and how everybody’s aware of it.
TW: You’ve gotten to play for maybe the best high school program, the best college program, and now the Celtics...
Forte: I’ve had a basketball career that most people can only I dream of, so now I just have to make it happen [here].
TW: What are your goals for this year, realistically?
Forte: Get some playing time, and get the most out of it.
TW: Would you want to go somewhere else if it’s a situation where you can get only get 10 minutes a game here and 20 minutes somewhere else?
Forte: I really haven’t thought about that - I haven’t been traded, I’ve only played for Boston, so I’ve just been thinking about Boston.
Forte went on to make clear that he’s not feeling sorry for himself - or short of his trademark confidence after his “redshirt” rookie year in green. “I’m making a living for myself doing something I like, something I love, so I can’t complain. I just have to get it [going] and that’s about to happen.”
Forte started making that happen with a 14-point performance in the Celtics’ summer league win over New Jersey, including five critical points in the final three minutes to break a 69-69 tie. Despite struggling with his shot (including at least two near-air balls) much of the game, the second year pro showed his promise in crunch time by nailing an open 20-footer followed by an acrobatic one-handed falling away shot from about 12 feet.
Forte shot 5-11 from the field and 4-5 from the line to open his week on a winning note.
Thad Williamson's book More than a Game: Why North Carolina Basketball Means So Much To So Many" is available at www.dollarsandsense.org/carolinabook.html and amazon.com.