One-on-One with Eric Piatkowski

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
By Steven J. Koek,
Posted: July 25, 2006

After leading the league in three-point shooting the last two seasons, the Suns went out and got yet another proven shooter in 12-year veteran Eric Piatkowski. A .399 career three-point shooter, the 6-7 guard/forward is looking forward to fitting into the Suns’ run-and-gun style of play.

Piatkowski spoke with from his Nebraska home about joining his fourth NBA team, his longevity in the league and his degree in finance. What was your initial reaction when you found out the Suns were interested in signing you?

Suns guard-forward Eric Piatkowski: “It was a positive thing for me. I think that of all the teams in the league it’s probably the best fit, particularly at this stage in my career.

“It helps a lot when a team you’d really like to go to calls you at 12:01 the first night of free agency. It’s nice for them to go ahead and show that interest and say ‘Hey you’re the guy we want right now.’

“I think right now I’m in a bit of a different situation than a lot of players because I have an eight-year-old and a five-year-old who will both be going to school, so the sooner I could find out where I was going the better so we could get them all ready to go and settled in a new house before school started.

“I was having a discussion with my wife saying there were only three or four teams I was really willing to play for at this stage in my career. When I thought about the other teams, I got a little sick in my stomach thinking about it. Phoenix was right there at the top of my list because I felt it was such a good fit for me and for them to come calling so early in the free agency period, it just made everything in my life seem a little bit better.” What is it about this team that was so appealing for you?

Piatkowski: “Just playing on a veteran team with the style of coaching that Coach (Mike) D’Antoni has, I think I fit the system. I like the offense. All you have to do is be in good shape and be able to run the floor. Teams know I’m a spot-up shooter. They can guard you easy when you’re just being stuck out in a corner on the weak side of the offense. I’ve seen (the Suns) play teams in the past where teams don’t know what to expect. They just get the rebound and with Steve (Nash), he’ll create. He brings the offense down allowing other players to get a wide open jump shot or a dunk.

“The defense against Phoenix is always disoriented because they just don’t know what to expect. Having said that, I know teams have a main concern of shutting down Steve or Amaré (Stoudemire), so it leaves everybody else with wide open shots all over the place. Every player who has come in here has enjoyed a career year because it’s fun to play that way and players enjoy it.” As a shooter, do you feel any pressure coming to a team that has led the league in three-point shooting the last two seasons?

Piatkowski: “No, not at all. I’ve been a shooter my whole career, I love it, it’s something I enjoy. I like the fact when you normally play on some teams you’re lucky to get one wide open three-pointer a game to earn a reputation as a good shooter. In Phoenix, it seems you’re getting wide open jumpers all the time. Defenses get broken down with the way Steve pushes the ball, the way he penetrates and gets to the heart of the defense.” You come from a basketball family with your father, Walt Piatkowski having played in the ABA. How did that help prepare you for life in the NBA?

Piatkowski: “(My father) played in the ABA for the Denver Rockets. Basketball wasn’t shoved down my throat by any means. When he was done playing professionally I was at a very young age. He continued playing and I would like to tag along, whether it was YMCA or things like that. I was always there shooting baskets before going home and shooting more in the driveway. I always had the basketball in my hands.” Do you think your gym rat mentality has helped extend your career?

Piatkowski: “I think to have longevity in the league you have to be lucky in terms of being injury free. I do a good job of taking care of my body. I think the older I get, the more I become of a “work-out-aholic,” working out during the summer sometimes twice a day.

“Maybe some of that has to do with paranoia knowing the guys are getting younger and younger in the league. I love my job; I make a great living doing it and I want to do it as long as I can, so that just goes with the territory. Your body starts to wear down, especially after all those years in the league, so if you do all the right things I think it makes a big difference in terms of being injury free and being able to enjoy that long career.

“I think it makes it easier because you never have to get back in shape. If you stay in great shape year around, you might have a couple of days of soreness, but you feel great compared to a guy who doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot all summer and has his body asking, ‘What the heck are you doing to me?’ I find it easy as long as I’ve been doing some cardio, lifting weights, doing Pilates and all that type of stuff to keep you in top condition. I find when I get in the gym after that my body reacts pretty good.” What are your plans for the rest of the summer?

Piatkowski: “I think everything’s pretty lined up, it should be pretty easy. We like to spend as much time at home in Nebraska as possible. My family and my wife’s family are from this area so we spend as much time as we can here and we’ll come into town a couple days before school starts to give them an idea of where we’re going to live, let them see the school so it’s not like they won’t know what to expect. We definitely want them to be there the first day, that’s important.” Having gotten your degree in finance, have you had the opportunity to talk with (Suns Managing Partner) Robert Sarver about the banking world?

Piatkowski: “I’m a sponge when it comes to people who can teach me and help me out as far as my business dealings, so if he’s open to that I’d like to sit down with him and absorb as much as I can from someone whose been as successful as he has been.

“It’s tough when you’re trying to be involved and play professional sports. I keep a close tab on all my investments, but as far as being involved in saying ‘I own this business, I own that business’, it’s tough to do that because you can’t keep a close watch when you’re in a different city every night playing basketball.

“As far as when I’m done playing basketball, I’d like to be much more involved in different business ventures and take more an active role in it but it’s tough to do right now. I need to remain conservative, but try to educate myself as much as I possibly can and learn as many different fields of business as I can.”