Rookie of the Year Press Conference

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital

Posted: April 24, 2003

A couple hundred onlookers – fans, reporters and Phoenix Suns employees – packed the Hard Rock Café across the street from America West Arena on Thursday afternoon as the NBA presented Suns forward Amaré Stoudemire with the 2002-03 'got milk?' Rookie of the Year Award. The following is a transcript of that press conference.

SUNS BROADCASTER AL McCOY: Good afternoon everybody, happy to have you here. Of course, we’re here for a very wonderful task today to present the 'got milk?' Rookie of the Year Award to the NBA’s top first-year player, our own Amaré Stoudemire.

He’s joining some elite company with the Suns. He’s now the third player the Suns have had as Rookie of the Year, going back to 1976 when the “Oklahoma Kid,” Alvan Adams, was the Rookie of the Year, and the Suns went on to the NBA Finals. Then a couple of years later (1977-78), the "Man with the velvet touch," Walter Davis, was the Rookie of the Year.

Of course, a lot of NBA greats have also been Rookie of the Year. Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, just to mention a few. Now, 'got milk?' is the sponsor of the Rookie of the Year Award. Unfortunately, their CEO Kurt Graetzer's plane had some bad weather and he is unable to make it. But he did want to express the milk industry’s sincere enjoyment in partnering with the league, the NBA, and certainly to congratulate Amaré for his accomplishments both on and off the court. And, of course, they wanted to congratulate you for your very intelligent nutritional choice.

Right now, to make it official, to present Amaré with this award, please welcome the Chairman and Managing Partner of our Suns, Jerry Colangelo.

COLANGELO: This is an exciting day for our organization starting right at the top, to have this great award going to this young man, who has done just a tremendous job this year. I think he would be the first one to say it was the structure around him. The coaching staff has done a tremendous job and gave him a platform to accomplish what he did, along with his God-given talent. Then I would have to tip my hat to a couple of guys sitting to the right here, Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion, two great players in their own right, two All-Stars who paved the way for this young guy to fit right in. It’s with that kind of effort, a team effort, that we are where we are today with a lot of basketball to play. I want to congratulate Shawn and Stephon for what they contributed to Amaré’s year.

McCOY: Quite obviously, this has already been a fantastic year for you, but as Jerry said, there’s a lot of basketball yet to be played. But I’m sure about 20 years from now when you write your book, there will be a page in there about today, right?

STOUDEMIRE: Oh, yeah, no question. It’s been a great accomplishment for me. I give all the respect to my teammates who without them it wouldn’t be possible for me to get this award. I give my respect to my teammates and the coaching staff.

McCOY: Being named Rookie of the Year, I mentioned earlier this is the third time the suns have had an NBA Rookie of the Year, going back to Alvan Adams in 1976, two years later Walter Davis. Some of the other NBA players that I mentioned: Shaq and Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson. That’s pretty good company.

STOUDEMIRE: Oh yeah, those are great players.

McCOY: So do you feel those are big shoes to fill there; there’s still a little bit of work ahead for you?

STOUDEMIRE: Yeah, Shaquille O’Neal wears a size 22, so those are pretty big shoes to fill (laughs).

McCOY: This season, was there any point in the year that you felt that “This year is going to be something special for me?" Undoubtedly, with injuries sometimes young players get an opportunity to play sooner on a regular basis than they might otherwise. That happened for you. But was there any time during the year where you thought to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m in the NBA and I’m here to contribute?”

STOUDEMIRE: Probably when we played against Minnesota. I went up there and scored 38 points. I think I had a good feeling for the game and I was feeling very comfortable out there after that.

McCOY: You have mentioned the coaching staff. Frank Johnson, Mike D’Antoni, Marc Iavaroni, Tim Grgurich, Phil Weber. Really, you’ve probably never had so much coaching in such a short period of time in your life. Was this difficult for you to have all these people all of a sudden involved in trying to make sure your game was where it should be?

STOUDEMIRE: Not necessarily. I think it made it easier and better for me with the great coaching staff that we have. It made the process a lot easier.

COLANGELO: It was pretty evident early on that Amaré was like a sponge. Whatever was being taught he was able to pick up quickly. I think his work ethic sets him apart, too. It’s not so much just God-given athletic ability, but he wants to be the best. His work ethic is evidence of that and he took whatever the coaches told him (as a) positive. I would like to get a little bit of an assist here because, I want you to know what I told Frank before the season began. I said, “Frank, it doesn’t matter whether we win or lose, this kid’s going to play at least 24 minutes a game.” I never shared that with you before (laughs).

So it was really pleasurable to see his development from the beginning of the season, actually from when he worked out for us last spring, and where he is today in terms of contribution. It’s just been an amazing process.

McCOY: And it’s just the start right?

STOUDEMIRE: Oh yeah. It’s just the beginning.

McCOY: I mentioned earlier in 1976 when Alvan Adams won the award, the first time the Suns had a Rookie of the Year, the Suns went on to the NBA Finals. Do you think this might be an omen?

STOUDEMIRE: Might be, only time will tell (laughs).

McCOY: Well, that’s the direction I know everybody hopes that we’re heading in.

QUESTION: With all the hype that came with Yao Ming, do you feel ultimately that may have worked to your benefit since you came in without as much expectation or hype?

STOUDEMIRE: I think so. I think coming into the season, my main goal was doing whatever it takes to help the Suns to make the playoffs. I think that gave me a little edge that we made the playoffs.

QUESTION: Amaré, did you exceed your own expectations this year or did you set your goals this high?

STOUDEMIRE: I always set high goals. If I set high goals and I fall just a little short, I’m still okay, so that’s my motto.

QUESTION: How does it feel to be the first Rookie of the Year to come directly out of high school?

STOUDEMIRE: It means a lot. Not only to be the first player out of high school, it means a lot just to get the award. It’s a great accomplishment and I feel great.

QUESTION: I was talking to Stephon and Shawn during practice and they said you were still going to have to fulfill your rookie duties of loading the luggage out of the plane. Is that all right?

STOUDEMIRE: Yeah, I’ve still got to bring the doughnuts and unload the luggage. It’s all good (laughs).

MARBURY: What donuts? We haven't gotten any donuts (laughs)!

QUESTION: What attributes do you have that have made you successful against some of the great big older tough guys inside?

STOUDEMIRE: I think practicing hard, being ready for the big game. I think we go out there and practice hard every day and feel comfortable come game time.

QUESTION: Jerry, when you drafted Amaré, you said there was a chance that he could be the best player you ever drafted. Do you think now that it’s definitive, that he is the best player you ever drafted?

COLANGELO: No, what I said was, I thought looking at him physically and what he showed us in workouts and once we got to training camp, I said he could be the best player we ever drafted, only time will tell. You need to look back over a period of time. One award doesn’t make a career. One season doesn’t make a career. But if he fulfills his potential, and I’m referring now looking ahead 10 years from now, I think there’s a great, great opportunity to fulfill that, and that being maybe the best player we’ve ever drafted, with all due respect to players that we’ve drafted in the past.

(We've had) two other Rookies of the Year, and Alvan Adams who led us to the NBA Finals. That’s a great accomplishment and Alvan played a lot of years, and put up a lot of points, and got a lot of rebounds and a lot of assists. The same with Walter Davis. In his own right, one of the purest shooters of all time. Shawn Marion wasn’t a bad pick either (Marion laughs). I remember Dan Bickley, If he were here I would have a little fun with him, because the day we drafted Shawn he was all over us about not drafting Corey Maggette, who’s a good player who came out of Duke. And he said to me, “How could you take Shawn Marion and pass up Corey Maggette?” I said, “very simple, because Shawn Marion’s going to be a better player.” And he turned out to be that way. So I would rather look at it this way. I think Amaré’s off to a great start. It’s a great award. But there’s a lot more in Amaré Stoudemire, so let’s have this conversation 10 years from now and I’ll tell you.

QUESTION: Jerry, you’ve evaluated talent for 35 years. Go back to that first meeting, that first workout, and reflect on what you saw and how bad you wanted it to happen for the Phoenix Suns in terms of his talent and ability, what you saw that very first workout.

COLANGELO: First of all, I put a lot into reading someone by looking in their eyes and he had a great look in his eyes. Physically, he went out there and showed he was kind of a man among young guys. He was, physically, way ahead of his age chronologically. After watching him that first day, I turned to some of our people and said, “There’s only one guy I’ve ever seen come through here that’s moved me as much as he did," and that was Kobe Bryant a few years earlier when we worked him out. He had that same kind of look and talent, the combination. Of course, we weren’t able to draft him, he was gone before we drafted. And I think after the second day, Amaré stayed here two days in a row, it was pretty evident to us that he was the guy we wanted and I felt he felt comfortable in being here. I made a promise to him. I said, “This will be a great place for you because we’re going to structure this so that you will be in a position to be successful.” And I think it turned out just like that.

QUESTION: How has Amaré improved in one year compared to other players you've seen through the years?

COLANGELO: I am a firm believer that too often players never get the opportunity to really show what they can do. The only way they can do that is to get sustained minutes. If somebody plays 10 minutes one game and 12 another, and two another, and doesn’t play for three, it’s pretty hard to get a read. Sometimes it takes three years. But if you think a guy has the talent and the maturity, and it’s only a matter of minutes, you better give him the minutes every game. That’s how you will develop as a player and that’s what we saw in him right away. There was a commitment made that he was going to get the minutes, as long as he didn’t get in foul trouble. That’s one thing he’s going to work on, along with his jumper. Three-point jumper, he’s okay (laughs). He had all of what we saw and we believed in him right away. If we let him play, he was just going to come and he did.

QUESTION: What does it mean to the organization to have a Rookie of the Year in him?

COLANGELO: First of all, it’s a tremendous honor, especially for the fact that he wasn’t the first pick in the draft. It’s a lot easier being Rookie of the Year when you’re number one or number two, a little more difficult as you move down the line. It’s a great honor, but I look at this collectively. What it means to the organization, this is another star in our season. Where we were a year ago at this time, and what’s developed, I think Stephon Marbury’s year in the NBA, as I’m starting to see written and talked about now, was a tremendous accomplishment, in terms of what he’s established in terms of his not only his ability, but his leadership, and leading us with this playoff team. Shawn Marion’s year, elevating himself to All-Star status was a big accomplishment for this organization, so that’s yet a second star. Amaré’s star is, of course, being named Rookie of the Year. So we have an awful lot to be thankful for and a coaching staff that, I believe, is one of the top coaching staffs in the league. All of that. That’s not to dismiss some of the other contributions that have been made. Joe Johnson just showed up a little bit ago and I think Joe’s come a long way this year, and he’s just a young guy himself. So we’re a young team and we’re now an athletic team, and we have a lot of pieces in place. This has been a big year and this is just another start, his award today.

QUESTION: During the course of the season you downplayed how important this award was to you. I wondered if that’s how you really felt now that it’s happened.

STOUDEMIRE: It feels great now that it happened. I was so focused on doing whatever it takes to help us make the playoffs, I wasn’t really thinking about the Rookie of the Year. But now that it’s happened, it’s a bonus.

QUESTION: Can you bring a championship here?

STOUDEMIRE: We’ve got a great chance. The sky’s the limit for us. We’ve got great players. We’re going to try.

QUESTION: Early in the season you said that the competition was about what you expected. Did that carry over the rest of the season and into the playoffs?

STOUDEMIRE: I think it carried over. The thing is, what I’ve learned is defense. A lot of players are a lot quicker than I thought, a lot stronger than I thought. So defense has been a tough adjustment for me when I got in the NBA.

QUESTION: With your family up there with you, have you had a chance to step back and look at the strange journey in the last five, six years and where it’s led you, and how you feel about what’s happened in your life?

STOUDEMIRE: Yeah, I thought about it. From the adjustments I made growing up and now here in the NBA, having a pretty good season and getting the Rookie of the Year Award, it feels great. I stayed focused and I’ve been blessed from God.

QUESTION: What are some of your other favorite memories throughout the year?

STOUDEMIRE: Recently that shot against the Spurs (in Game 1 of the Suns-Spurs First Round series). That stands out a lot and Steph hitting that game-winning three pointer. Probably the night I had 21 rebounds (vs Memphis), that stands out a lot, too.

QUESTION: What has your relationship with the fans and media been like?

STOUDEMIRE: The fans are great. It gives me a lot of momentum going out there to play the game if I know the fans are on our side, it feels great. The media, they voted for me for Rookie of the Year, so I have a lot of love for them (laughs).

QUESTION: Was there any point of the season where you said, “I’ve really made it in the NBA and I have a shot at the Rookie of the Year”?

STOUDEMIRE: I knew it was going to be tough to win Rookie of the Year with Yao Ming playing great, Caron Butler playing great. So I figured I was on the back burner a little bit. Like I said, when I played against Minnesota, I think that was an eye-opener for me and it gave me confidence going into the next game.

QUESTION: How much better can you get?

STOUDEMIRE: A lot, hopefully.

QUESTION: Looking ahead, Games 3 and 4 this week, with all the fans here and those watching, what would you like to tell the fans yourself, your teammates, looking ahead to these games and how important they are going to be the next couple of games.

STOUDEMIRE: The games are very important. We’re going to give you guys 100 percent effort out there and try to get a win for you guys. All we need is support and we’re going to go out there and get a win.

McCOY: One final question before we break. Amaré, everyone has been pretty outspoken about how pleased they are that you’re here, how all the great attributes have been fulfilled at this point. What’s your feeling right now, and what was your feeling when you came out here, worked out and left, and then finally when draft day came and you were selected by the Phoenix Suns?

STOUDEMIRE: I felt when I came out here and worked out I had a pretty good workout against some high-caliber players out there. I felt that I could be a pretty good player in this league. It felt great. I was here enjoying myself; beautiful weather, and I felt there was a place for me here. When I got drafted, it was an unbelievable feeling. I was the ninth player in the draft and I’m glad Jerry took a chance to draft me.

McCOY: So are we. Congratulations, the NBA Rookie of the Year.