Posted: Aug. 5, 1999
Hardaway receives his new uni from Suns CEO Jerry Colangelo. (Barry Gossage/NBA Photos)
Dozens of sports writers, broadcasters, photographers and cameramen flooded the Suns' practice court almost an hour early, all there to capture one of the most significant moments in Suns history. And all of the media, along with all of the Suns' front office staff in attendance, were anxiously discussing the possibilities when Suns President Jerry Colangelo, GM Bryan Colangelo, Head Coach Danny Ainge, Hardaway himself, and his agents Kevin and Carl Poston, made their way onto a specially set-up stage.
The following is a transcript of all that followed:
Suns President Jerry Colangelo: I wanted to thank you for coming out this evening. I guess this has not been a well-kept secret to say the least. But, believe it or not, this deal was not official until about 3:00 or 3:30 this afternoon. It really does take that kind of time to get things worked out. And I was saying yesterday, the ball was in Orlando's court where they had to pull the trigger. Late last night, the speculation was they had conceded, more or less, that Penny was headed to Phoenix. And so today was just a matter of working things out. Bryan did a terrific job of dealing with (Orlando GM) John Gabriel and the league in making this thing happen. So it's a very exciting time for us to say that Penny Hardaway is now a Phoenix Sun. This is his time. This is his moment. So I'm going to turn it over to Penny and let him make his comments.
Anfernee Hardaway: Thank you Mr. Colangelo. Thanks a lot. Well, I just want to thank the city of Phoenix, thank the Colangelo family and the organization for bringing me in. I also wanted to thank Orlando. I mean, they didn't have to do this if they didn't want to and they did. We had a long talk about this and they saw some of the same things that I saw, that it was best for me to leave and just move on and start a new career. And I wanted to do that here in Phoenix, so I really appreciate them for that. And I want to thank Phoenix for wanting to have me. There's not a better feeling than being wanted. They really wanted me. They did the great things to get me here. You see the magazine right there that they sent me (points to a blown-up cover of Fastbreak magazine with Penny and Jason on the front, with the headline "Backcourt 2000"). I mean, everything was super, so I feel right at home here and I'm looking to have a great career here.
Jerry Colangelo: I want to introduce Carl and Kevin Poston, who are representing Penny, who are to his right. I want to say it was a pleasure to deal with them on this particular issue. It was first class, very professional, and I want to turn it over to Kevin. Would you like to make a few comments?
Kevin Poston: Well, we're just glad to be here. We had a good opportunity to look at Phoenix, and as Penny stated, we're glad to be here and we're looking forward to wonderful years here in Phoenix. And thank you for welcoming us.
Jerry Colangelo: Danny?
Head Coach Danny Ainge: First of all, I just wanted to say we gave up a lot to get Penny. It was a good trade for us and I think it was a good trade for Orlando. Danny Manning is going to make Doc Rivers look like a good coach like he's done with me for three years. Pat Garrity is a good, upcoming player, and I appreciate having the opportunity to coach those guys. They are two class people.
Second of all, this is kind of reminds me of the Jason (Kidd) trade, in that a year before we acquired Jason Kidd, it was virtually impossible to get him. We couldn't have given up our entire franchise to get a player like that. And I think it's the same thing with Penny. We've seen how great a player Jason has been and how blessed we are to be able to coach him and watch him play day in and day out. And I feel the same exact way with this acquisition, that we never could have made this deal for Penny a year ago, and we're very fortunate to have him. The combination of those two guys together is very exciting -- the potential that those two guys can have together.
Jason was acting as assistant general manager once again, calling, pleading and trying to get us to get Penny. He's up there (points to balcony next to practice court), he doesn't want to say anything because he wants Penny to have the attention today.
But it's just very exciting from my perspective. All of a sudden, I really believe that this puts us as one of the elite teams in the NBA. Our expectations are much higher than they were a week ago, in my view, and I welcome that. I look forward to coaching this team which has a great upside.
General Manager Bryan Colangelo: I would just like to compliment everyone who was involved in this process. A lot of people think that there is only individuals involved, but this was obviously a team effort. It starts not only with our entire staff, but it also ends with Penny and his representatives. Kevin and Carl were fantastic to work with throughout this entire process. And in particular, it was nice dealing with the Orlando Magic. They handled everything in a very first-class and professional manner, and I want to compliment the way they dealt with the exit of Penny today, and the ultimate consummation of this trade.
At this point, we will break it open for any questions:
Question: Penny, John Gabriel said in his press conference this afternoon that it wasn't a matter of you wanting to leave Orlando, but was a matter of you really wanting to play in Phoenix. Can you elaborate on that?
Hardaway: I think John made a true statement there. I have nothing against Orlando. I just came to Phoenix and fell in love with Phoenix. This is where I wanted to be. The Orlando Magic organization was great for me. They took a chance on drafting me out of college and I had six great years there. I just thought it was time for me to move on and this was a great situation for me. When I visited here, I had a great meeting. And after meeting Mr. Colangelo and Bryan, it wasn't hard at all to try and choose Phoenix. I mean, it was a wonderful situation, the family attitude that I really wanted.
Question: Did the opportunity to play with Jason Kidd play into your decision at all?
Hardaway: Oh definitely. Jason, by far, to me, is the best point guard in the NBA. He's a great guy. He's very unselfish. I've known him and I've had a relationship with him before even thinking about coming to Phoenix. I've always thought in the back of my mind that I wanted to play with a point guard of that magnitude. Not trying to disrespect anyone that ever played for the Orlando Magic, but to play with a guy like that is Heaven and I can't wait until the season starts.
Question: Was Jason recruiting you during this offseason?
Hardaway: Yeah, Jason did a great job. Like they said, he was the assistant GM. He called me all the time. He called me from the (Tournament of the Americas) in Puerto Rico. He was asking me "How are you doing? How are things going?" He never pressured me to make a decision with Phoenix. He just said that they would love to have me and he would love to play with me. So he did a great job.
Jerry Colangelo: I would just like to add something to that. Jason is like a dream. When we were together over the weekend, we all had some things to say. But every once in a while, I would just turn it over to Jason and he would carry the load. I mean, he was a terrific salesman. But he believed it. The things he said, he believed in. He's been very concerned about what we were going to do and how we were going to improve. I think when Jason first came here, we made a commitment to him that we were going to do everything we could to win a championship and get better. And I think he feels that we're making those steps in the right direction. Jason?
Jason Kidd: I have a big phobia about press conferences. The last time I came to one, the guy I came to see (Antonio McDyess), he's no longer here (laughs). But I'm really excited. I know the number one question is how do I feel. I'm really delighted. I think the expectations of the Suns have gone up dramatically over what we thought, and that was winning a championship. So now, it's not just one championship, but maybe four or five. You know, that's how we're going to be measured for our success, by the hardware we carry on our hands. So to you guys and the fans, I'm really excited about having Penny in the upcoming season and the seasons to come, to grow as the best backcourt, as you can see (points to magazine cover), in 2000, but also as the best backcourt in NBA history. That's what we're going to try and do, and have fun doing it.
Question: The last couple of years, you've had injuries. Can you talk about getting back to that point before the injuries?
Hardaway: Well getting injured, first of all, I had never had an injury before I came to the NBA. Getting injured really brings you back to reality. You take a lot of things for granted. Just playing basketball games, I took that for granted. And now, coming back for a second time around, coming to Phoenix, I'm really going to take advantage of all the opportunities that I didn't take care of my first six years in the league. After all of the injuries, I feel blessed to be back healthy right now, and am looking forward to starting a new career here.
I did some things in Orlando that were out of character for myself, and I knew that. I just wanted to move on from there and get better as a person and as a player, and I think I can do that here.
Question: Penny, you've been playing a lot of point guard in Orlando, and now you'll be playing mostly two guard, with Jason at the point. Can you talk about that change?
Hardaway: Well, I think the fans can look forward to either one of us having the basketball. Jason's going to take a lot of pressure off me. I'm going to take a lot of pressure off him. It just feels great to have someone who can handle the ball as good as he can and get you into a play without having any problems. He's a solid point guard. He's a playmaker. He's really a head strong, smart basketball player. So to be able to play the two guard with a guy like that, I mean, it's going to be something super.
Question: Can you run the court with Jason?
Hardaway: Can I run the court (smiles)? All I have to do is run. He's going to find me. I already know that. I'll have to be in shape when I come, right coach?
Ainge: That's right (laughs).
Question: Obviously, you and Jason are going to make one of the best backcourts in the league. Can you talk about what that will mean to the team?
Hardaway: Well, I think like you said, the bar is set right now very high for what we want to achieve as a backcourt. I think going into every game, we have an advantage being above 6-5 and having a height advantage over a lot of guards in the league. We're going to really take advantage of some opportunities this season and the fans are going to really love that. I don't think they've ever had two guards that can play more than one position here and can do it well. So hopefully I can complement Jason well and he can complement me well, and we'll just go along with the flow like that.
Question: You mentioned that you did some things out of character. Do you think this will be a fresh start for you here?
Hardaway: I think so. I talked with the Orlando Magic about that. We settled and cleared the air over that, and everything is fine now. But that was definitely out of character for myself. I'm not that type of person who goes off in the media or says negative things. I'm really a positive person. It got taken out of context, and I was the main part in doing that. But I've forgotten about all that, and leaving Orlando and coming here, hopefully this is going to be a fresh start for myself and I can get better in every area.
Question: Although you were healthy last year, your numbers were down from previous years. Do you think you can get back to where you were three or four seasons ago?
Hardaway: I think last year, I was really protective because I had been out for a season and a half, and I really didn't want to get injured again. So I played more protective of my knee and I wasn't the same player that I was in '95. But working out this summer and feeling really well, I think that I am back to where I was and it couldn't come at a better time, playing with a guy like Jason.
Question: Are you looking forward to playing against your former teammate, Shaquille O'Neal, several times a year now, instead of just twice a season?
Hardaway: Well, it's going to be a challenge. The Lakers have a really talented team. It's going to be more than Shaq we have to play against. We were teammates at one point and we cleared the air this summer. We are good friends now. We're a lot closer than we were, so it's going to be a joy to play against him several times.
Question: Was it always the Suns, Penny? Or were you really considering L.A. also?
Hardaway: I can say that. I think the Lakers were there for a moment, but the Suns were always the team that came after me and I just couldn't ignore it. I mean, they were there. They were always at the top of my list. I had already heard about the first-class organization from friends like Elliot Perry, who I played high school basketball with. He loved the organization and does now to this day. He told me that it was a great organization and that I should visit. And to have the opportunity to play with a guy like Jason, like I said, you can't miss out on an opportunity like that. So, I think Phoenix was always here from the beginning, and then coming to visit, you know, I was just sold from the beginning when I got here.
Question: You had a lot of success when you arrived in the NBA. But would success now mean more to you than it did then?
Hardaway: I think so, because I was so young. I was just out there playing ball. When we went to the Finals in '95, we didn't really know why we were there. We were just playing basketball. Now, I understand what it takes to get back there. It's just a matter of going back there. And if I had the opportunity again, I would do many things differently. Being so young, we were very talented and we played off skill, but we didn't play off common sense, you could say. The Houston Rockets had a veteran team and that overcame our talent in the end. And the next time we go, I'll know what to do. I'm sure I will.
Question: Penny, you've been blamed in the past for Brian Hill's departure and Chuck Daly's departure. How do you answer those questions and what's your relationship with Danny. Does he have anything to fear (laughs)?
Hardaway: I don't think I've chased any coach off. I think coach Ainge and I are going to be super. I think we're going to be fine. You won't hear a peep out of me. Honestly, you won't. All I want to do is come here and play basketball, and win games for the Phoenix Suns and have fun, learn the community and have fun with that. But as far as the coaches, I don't think I had a bad relationship with either one of those coaches. Coach Hill and I were very close, and coach Daly and I was just a misunderstanding from the beginning, because I didn't play the year that I was injured. But when I came back, he and I sat down and had a great talk, and we left on great terms. I mean, I don't think he hated me, and I certainly didn't hate him. It was just kind of blown out of context a little bit. I don't think I ran either one of those guys off, if you ask them.
Question: How do you assure the fans in Phoenix that those were just bumps in the road?
Hardaway: Well, the only thing I can say is that nobody's perfect. I can take everything that I did in the past and leave it there. I am coming to a new city and hopefully they will embrace me, because I will embrace them. They'll have to judge me for themselves. What happened in the past, I can't do anything about.
Bryan Colangelo: Kevin and Carl, would you like to add anything before we break down?
Carl Poston: Well, I'm just glad it's done. This month has been pretty trying with a lot of things going on. I'm just glad we ended up here and I'm looking forward to Penny and Jason doing some great things on the court.
Kevin Poston: I echo what everyone has said. It's been a long, trying time. There's been a lot of talk and a lot of discussion with several people, other teams. I think Penny and Phoenix both need to be congratulated for getting together and I think it's going to be a great marriage.
Bryan Colangelo: Any last questions?
Question: Penny, can you evaluate the rest of the Suns and give us your quick impressions of this team?
Hardaway: Well, when I look at this team, there's a lot of talent. You've got Cliff Robinson, Tom Gugliotta, Luc Longley, and a lot of guys on this team can play more than one position, Rex Chapman, those guys, we can really mix up lineups on any given night and give a lot of teams trouble. We can go big, we can go small. We can have speed, we can have size. There are so many ways that you can go. The rest of this roster suits my game. They are a very unselfish team and that comes from the coaching staff. I'm sure they preach that. And everybody seems to get along really well. I'm very excited, because I think on any given night, we can give different teams a lot of problems.