Christian Laettner Press Conference

NBAE

Why did you pick the Miami HEAT?
I started looking at the HEAT around last year, when I moved to Florida. I moved up to Jacksonville Florida, to a place called Ponte Vedra Beach. That is where my family stayed last year when I was with the Washington Wizards. I said to myself that I wanted to play a few more years, be around my family and be on a good team. I called my agent and told him to get me somewhere in Florida. There are only two teams there; my agent told me that the Orlando Magic might be tough, so I told him to get me to Miami. He started calling people knowing that I was interested and then once he found out Stan Van Gundy and Pat Riley were too, it was a no-brainer. I wanted to get out of Washington, be close to home and Miami meets all of those criteria. This was even before Shaquille O’Neal got on the team. Once he got on the team, it was even more of a no-brainer. People should want to play with him because he gives you a chance to be a very good team and that excited me. My family will be able to see me, I will be able to see them some and I think I am going to be on a very, very good team and that is what I am looking forward too.

Did the Dallas Mavericks or Golden State Warriors have you in their plans at all?
When I got to the Dallas Mavericks, I called my agent and told him that I did not want to be there, so try to get me to Florida and he said okay. I didn’t pay attention to it because you can’t worry about where you are getting moved around to in the summer time because so many things happen. It is usually out of your control, but I told him that I didn’t want to be there. I was already in Dallas before and they didn’t use or like me then, why would they like me now? He told me that he would try to get me to Florida. Then I got traded from Dallas to Golden State and I really didn’t want to be out there because it is on the west coast and my family is on the east coast. I called them immediately and told them that I didn’t want to be out there. Luckily, Rod Higgins in Golden State was able to help me out. They said that they would give me a chance and let me get out of there, so that was great news. My agent and I just keep plugging along and he made some calls in Miami to the HEAT and we were just able to get it done. It’s a dream come true.

You have always had pretty consistent numbers. I know that the Wizards had their youth movement, but do you feel like you have been lost in the shuffle over the last couple of years around the league?
That happens when you get traded a lot. When you don’t spend a lot of years in one place, you tend to get lost in the shuffle a little bit. Also playing with Michael Jordan, you will be lost in the shuffle. You either have to be really good individually or be on a good team to keep that spotlight on you all the time. Even though my numbers have been okay, they are not 18 and eight like they used to be. Sometimes teams tend to forget about you a little bit. Last year I didn’t play very much and they wanted to give Kwame Brown a chance, he is a player that needs some time. Then every year something has happened where I get injured, two years ago I broke my leg, so I was out for a little while. It is part of the game, part of getting older and part of not averaging 18 and eight anymore. It is all of those things combined, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a new year and if I am on a good team and we are all doing well, then everyone will remember you again.

At 35, do you have starter’s minutes in you or might it be better for you to conserve and play the best possible 24 minutes a game?
I think I definitely have starter minutes in my legs and back. I have been hanging in there because my knees and back are hanging in there. As long as I can do that, I will play for as long as I can. I feel good when I am out on the court, I still love the game and there is nothing else that I would rather do. I always tell people that I want to play as many minutes as I can.

Did either Pat Riley or Stan Van Gundy give you indication that you will be considered for the starting role at power forward?
They did not give me any indication. You do not want anything given to you, so they don’t need to say that to me. I just want them to sign me on the team and to be at training camp. How you play will speak for itself. If they want you out on the court, they will put you out there. I know they like me and consider me a pretty good player. That is all I need to hear. I just need to go out there and play as hard as I can and do what they want and try to fit in with this team. It is a well-rounded team, you have a very strong force in the center and you have a very strong point guard, so they are headed in the right direction.

How much easier does Shaquille O’Neal make it on the power forward? He makes it easier for anyone that he plays with, that is why I was surprised when there were problems with him and the Los Angeles Lakers. It is mind boggling to me that things like that happen. He makes everyone’s job in life easier; I have realized that before I even played a second with him. It is going to be interesting playing with him and I think we are going to have a really good chance to contend for things in the Eastern Conference and the entire league. The way he makes it easier is obvious, you put him in front of the bucket and one or two people have to be in front of him and behind him. That will just make the 16-foot jumper wide open. It will make Eddie Jones’ jumper wide open and Rasual Butler’s jumper wide open and we also have Wesley Person. He takes up so much space that he creates a ton of space for everyone else on the offensive end.