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Playoffs Mailbox: Anfernee Hardaway

You watch the games, you see the scores, but how do you really know what's going on in the NBA Playoffs 2003? has infiltrated the action with the ultimate insiders -- the players themselves. We're giving you an exclusive look at the postseason with a roster of player mailboxes.

Anfernee Hardaway helped the Suns return to the playoffs after a one-year abscence. Send Anfernee an e-mail question and we'll get his answers to the best ones and post them during first round.

Penny answered your second round of questions on Monday, April 28:

Q: What game in your career did you feel most worried going in and what did you do to prepare yourself for that game?
--Stephen (Wellington, Fla.)

Penny: Game 7 against Indiana in that ’94 Eastern Conference Finals. I just tried to keep my same routine going. Eat the same food that I had been eating, get the same amount of rest and just play the same game. I was so nervous because that was an opportunity for us to get to the NBA Finals.

Q: How often do you get back to Houston and what do you like about Houston?
--Devon (Houston)

Penny: Every summer for at least a month, month and a half. I love the competition there with Cutino Mobley, Steve Francis, Nick Van Exel, Sam Cassell; those guys down there really help me keep my game going playing against them every day.

Q: How does it feel for you not to be the go-guy on this team?
--Chemira (Norfolk, Va.)

Penny: It’s OK. I set my ego to the side. All I want to do is win and the only it hurts is if we’re losing and I feel like I could do more and then I’m not able to. For the most part, I’m happy because we’re winning and I understand my role.

Q: Where did you get the nickname Penny and how do you feel about the nickname now?
--Effie (Los Angeles)

Penny: My grandmother gave me the nickname. It was “Pretty” though. She called me Pretty, as in pretty baby. My friends with her southern drawl thought she was saying “Penny”. I accepted Penny over Pretty. Right now the nickname has been big for me because I had the Little Penny doll and that’s why I wear the No. 1, for one cent.

Q: Is there a chance that after you retire, we are going to see you as a coach or an NBA executive?
--Nacho (La Paz, Bolivia)

Penny: I never say never. Right now I say no, but never say never.

Q: Who do you think is the best player you every played against?
--Michael (Beaverton, Ore.)

Penny: Michael Jordan.

Q: How did you stay motivated to work hard when you were recovering from your injury?
--Edward (Irvine, Calif.)

Penny: You stay motivated because you want to get back onto the floor and prove people wrong because when you get injured a lot of people write you off. My motivation comes from just wanting to be back out there on the floor and playing basketball again. I put myself in a situation by being injured and I just work hard enough just to try to get myself back out on the floor and the motivation comes from just wanting to be back out there.

Q: Are the playoffs your favorite time of the year? If so, why?

Penny: Absolutely because that’s when you’re playing for the ultimate goal. Everybody’s playing for the ring. That’s the best chance for you to get a ring, in the playoffs.


Penny answered your first round of questions on Wednesday, April 23:

Q: How did you feel when Amaré hit that three to send (Game 1) into overtime, and then Marbury hit his three to win the game? Were those the most clutch shots you’ve ever seen?
-- JJ (Chandler, Ariz.)

Hardaway: No doubt about it. When Amaré hit his shot, I went crazy because that gave us an opportunity to still be in the game. And when Steph hit his shot to win it, that just took the cake. That was just one of those situations where you just couldn’t believe it. Those shots were the two best shots that I’ve seen, as far as clutch shots, in the NBA.

Q: I’ve noticed that you keep your cool even in the playoffs, and I wondered how hard it is to be calm and still play well, and if that’s something you’ve gotten used to over time?
-- Mike (Chapel Hill, N.C.)

Hardaway: I think that just comes along with experience, being in the league for a while. You have to stay calm because the rest of the team is watching you. They look at me. I’m one of the captains of the team and if I’m out there being rattled, yelling at the officials, then they’ll follow suit. That just comes along with being in the playoffs a lot of years and making it to the Finals and knowing what it takes to keep composure in the playoffs.

Q: How does it feel to be healthy and show the critics that you still have it?
-- Ken (Pleasant Grove, Ala.)

Hardaway: It feels good because I’m a believer in not counting anybody out until they say they’re out. A lot of people jumped on the negative bandwagon when I went down and got injured and they never gave me an opportunity to even just say that I was injured. I stayed confident in myself and just prayed that I would get back healthy. Now that I’m back healthy, I’m showing everybody it was the injuries that was the reason I was playing that way and now that I’m healthy I can prove that I can still play and I’m thankful that I can do that.

Q: I remember back when you used to play with Orlando and you guys made it to the Finals. You commented that one of the reasons that the Magic couldn’t quite finish the job was because you guys were so young. Now that you’re a veteran with more experience, what are you going to do to help the younger guys have the mentality that they need in order to win?
-- Kelly (Indianapolis, Ind.)

Hardaway: I think that the mentality that you have to give those guys is a “now” mentality and not later. I don’t want them to think that we’ll be able to get back here because it’s not a promise to get back. You have to take advantage of the situation that you are in at that point. When we were in Orlando, we played hard but it was almost like we’ll be back next year. Then Shaq ended up leaving and the whole thing just went down the drain so it’s a “now” theory with me and not wait until next year.

Q: Do you still hang out with Little Penny?
-- Chris (Houston)

Hardaway: Little Penny is on vacation but I hope that all the fans write in to Nike to try to bring him back. He’s been on vacation a long time.

Q: Why do you guys play so well against the Spurs?
-- Gandalf (Fair Lawn, N.J.)

Hardaway: Match-up problems. They just can’t match-up with us. They have to play a forward on a guard and we just force those guys to shoot outside jump shots the entire game and if they’re not making them, which they haven’t been in this series, that helps us. When we get on the offensive end we just pose a problem because they can’t really stop Stephon and then the rest of the guys on the team stay aggressive.

Q: What do you do personally during your time off during the playoffs?
-- K.W. (Seoul, South Korea)

Hardaway: Basically, I try to relax, go to movies. I try to do fun things. I try to get a lot of comedy in, do a lot of laughing. I just try to stay loose until the next game starts.

Q: What was your most memorable moment when you and Shaq reached the Finals with Orlando?
-- Victor (Phoenix)

Hardaway: When we played Indiana in Game 7 to make it to the Finals, that was the best moment of my career because we were going to the NBA Finals, the ultimate dream of any player.

Q: With the Suns’ improvement over the past year, do you see yourself staying in Phoenix after your current contract is up?
-- Cory (Masury, Ohio)

Hardaway: Yeah. If the Suns want me, I want to be here. This is where I want to retire. I made statements about Memphis before because that’s my hometown, and they got taken out of context. I would love to be here in Phoenix. They’re building something great here. The organization wants to win and they want to win bad and I want the same, so I would love to stay here.

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