Tarence Kinsey was a member of the 66-win Cleveland Cavaliers team that finished with the NBA’s best record in 2008-09. The undrafted forward from Tampa, Florida had previously spent parts of two seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies before arriving in Cleveland that year.
Under the direction of Coach Mike Brown, Kinsey made 50 regular-season appearances before playing in nine postseason games with the Cavs. He moved well without the basketball and could create his own shot but earned the minutes he did that year by executing the game plan defensively.
Five seasons removed from his time in Cleveland, Kinsey is averaging 20.2 points during Euroleague Top 16 competition as a member of Partizan NIS Belgrade in Serbia. He’s also collecting 6.2 rebounds per night to go along with 1.8 steals while continuing to make an impact on defense.
His Partizan team, who has battled through a series of injuries this year, has been recently aided by the signing of another former Cavalier, too—Sasha Pavlovic. Over the weekend, I caught with Kinsey to talk about his former Cavs teammate joining him in Serbia, along with his experiences overseas and memories from his time in Cleveland.
Brendan Bowers: How have things been going for you and your Partizan team in general over the last few weeks?
Tarence Kinsey: We’ve been hit with an injury bug this year but we’re starting to get over that. Everyone is starting to get back healthy and we're getting back into a rhythm. Individually, it’s been a good experience. The younger guys are looking at me to do a lot more, especially with the injuries we’ve had. We know we need to score, rebound and create steals, we need everything. So I’m just trying to fit in where I can and be a leader.
BB: On February 10, Partizan signed your former Cavaliers' teammate Sasha Pavlovic. Do you ever think about how small of a world the basketball community really is? You’re now playing with a guy in Belgrade who was your teammate all the way across the world in Cleveland.
TK: It’s like a small frat, man. You cross paths with everyone and anyone at any given moment. But it’s a good privilege to be teamed up with him again. He’s a great teammate, great player and most of all he’s a great friend. He works hard and I know he’s going to help us a lot. It’s going to be good to have him on the team, especially right now.
BB: Did you talk with Sasha during the recruiting process? And what have you guys talked about since he arrived last week?
TK: During the process, no, I did not talk with him about signing. I didn’t get involved in that, you never know how those things are going to go. They were trying to get other players as well, and they didn’t sign any of the other players that had been mentioned. So when they mentioned Sasha’s name, initially, I was like okay we’ll see when he gets here. But now that he’s here, our conversations have been about the set plays, the fans and how incredible they are, and just like the day-to-day stuff. Where to eat, different restaurants to go to, things like that.
BB: I see the Partizan fans have been tweeting at you a lot. They seem to be real supportive of you as a player as well as the team overall. Can you describe the connection you have with those fans and what it’s like to play for them?
TK: I’m going to be as honest as I can—these fans are special. I’m not just saying this because I play for the team, I don’t care about any of that. When it comes to cheering, supporting, loving their team, being loyal, these fans are unique and incredible. Even if you lose a game they still show support. They do these chants—I don’t even know what they’re saying—but they do their chants during the game and after the game win or lose. They stand there and cheer for us. Even on the road, the fans that are there are standing and cheering. I’ve seen other teams in Europe who have a lot of fans that show support—and they’re yelling, screaming, standing up and throwing things—but it’s just a little bit different here. I can’t completely describe how different it is, you would just have to be there to see it, play against it or play with it. It’s just unbelievable. And then when the game ends, they’re tweeting pictures on Twitter and letting you know how much they care all the time.
BB: You were in the League, appeared in NBA playoff games, played alongside LeBron James, all that. But now you have this connection with a group of people all the way over in Serbia who you would’ve never met without basketball. Does that amaze you sometimes, in terms of how far the game has taken you in that sense?
TK: That’s crazy you say that because I was just talking to my mother about that a couple days ago. All of us, I can remember, we received gifts when we were children. Some of us would get basketballs, skateboards, bicycles, paint brushes, notepads, all these type of gifts when we were little. And I remember the gift that I enjoyed the most—more than the Nintendo and all that stuff—was a $15 basketball. I played with this ball all day and all night. And I’m still using this basketball. I’m still carrying this same basketball and it’s taken me around the world. The same $15 basketball that took me to high school, kept me out of trouble, helped me to get into the NBA. And now, like you said, it’s taken me overseas to places I would’ve never even dreamed of as a kid.no comments