NBA All-Star Player Interviews: Friday
2005 NBA All-Star Weekend is in Denver, Colorado. Friday, February 18 features the Celebrity Game and Rookie Challenge. Below are some question and answer sessions interviews with all-star players and other guys involved with the weekend.
PAUL PIERCE, Boston Celtics
Q: What do you think about the Celtics in comparison to last season?
Pierce: It's a whole other year, I mean, this year, we have some good young players, some good rookies -- a couple of them playing in the game today -- so I think we're headed in the right direction.
Q: What about this year's chances in the playoffs?
Pierce: Well, it depends on what we do at the deadline, what moves we make. I mean, we're definitely a playoff team, but I don't know that we're ready to contend for a title. You never know what's gonna happen with trades, but we're not contenders yet, but we're playoff contenders.
Q: One of your former teammates Joe Johnson is here this weekend, how have you seen his game grow in the last couple years?
Pierce: I think Joe is gonna be a helluva player. He played well with me as a rookie, and he's turned into one of the better players in the NBA, just growing each and every year. He's gonna be an All-Star one day.
Q: What are your thoughts on Steve Nash as an MVP candidate?
Pierce: He's taking a team that didn't make the playoffs a year ago, and definitely has made a huge impact on them. Obviously when he's on the court with them they're pretty much unbeatable, when he's not on the court they're not the same, so he's definitely one of the top candidates.
SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, Miami Heat
Q: Is this still fun for you?
O'Neal: Yeah, itís fun. Iím over here with Vince Carter, Dwyane Wade, Antawn Jamison, guys like that. It should be fun.
Q: How different are the Lakers without you playing for them?
OíNeal: Thereís an old saying that says the record speaks for itself. You tell me how different they are. I donít really have to say how different. People, they see.
Q: Can you describe what this weekend is like?
OíNeal: Thereíre a lot of people here. A lot of parties. And not a lot of rest.
Q: What are your thoughts on Emeka Okaforís play?
OíNeal: Heís a pretty good player, but for him to get his proper respect, he has to go through a lot of people. He has to go through Amare (Stoudemire) (Tim) Duncan, (Kevin) Garnett, (Antawn) Jamison, Ben Wallace. Heís still pretty good for a rookie, but for him to get that proper respect, he has to go through all of them.
Q: You get to go against Yao now. What do you look forward to in that matchup?
OíNeal: Itís going to be fun. Weíre going to go out there and have a good time; try to show the people a good show. Iím going to do what I do best, especially when I get the ball in my favorite area.
Q: Yao said he doesnít know whether to pop you or let you go. Then he smiled.
OíNeal: Pop me? I wonít be getting popped (laughter).
Q: Who are some of the younger guys you enjoy watching?
OíNeal: I would like to have the ball in the middle and have LeBron (James) on my right and Vince (Carter) on my left, and I would have to give each of them a crazy pass because I know they would finish them. That will probably happen in the game.
KOBE BRYANT, L.A. Lakers
Q: Are you still adamant about playing maybe 10 or 15 minutes due to your recent ankle injury?
Bryant: I just saw Pop (Gregg Popovich) and he asked me how I was feeling. I told him I felt okay. He knows my ankle is a little tender, but once you get out there and start competing, the adrenaline starts to flow and you donít think about injuries as much.
Q: Would you test it in a game like this?
Bryant: It feels fine. I came back against Cleveland, and I was kind of testing it out in this game. Then we played Utah, and it felt pretty good.
Q: What do you most look forward to in an All-Star Game?
Bryant: The camaraderie and of course the competition. Youíre playing against the best basketball players in the world, and thatís always fun. And itís just fun being around the guys. Some of these guys, we go way back, all the way back to our high school days, particularly myself and Tracy (McGrady). Weíve never had an opportunity to play alongside each other, so Iím really looking forward to that.
Q: What advice do you give to young players and first-time All-Stars?
Bryant: Enjoy it. Have a good time. Itís just such a great moment.
Q: What has this season been like for you so far?
Bryant: Itís been fun. Weíve had our ups and downs, but the fun comes in a challenge, something we accept, from myself, down to Lamar (Odom) and Caron (Butler), and everybody. Weíve accepted this challenge, and thatís what the NBA is about.
Q: Are you happy with where the Lakers are right now?
Bryant: Considering the circumstances and everything weíve been through the first half of the season, with Rudy Tomjanovich retiring and injuries, I think weíre doing fine.
Q: Who do you like to watch in this game?
Bryant: My favorite player to watch is probably Manu Ginobili, just because heís so unpredictable and herky-jerky.
SHAWN MARION, Phoenix Suns
Q: Do you have any particular All-Star memories as a kid growing up?
Marion: Always the dunk content, when Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins were going head-to-head. Those were some of the ultimate All-Star moments. One of the best moments I remember was when Glen Rice, he caught fire in the third quarter (1997), and scored something like 25 points and won the MVP.
Q: Can you describe Steve Nash in three words?
Marion: Three words, thatís tough. Unselfish, fast, team-player.
Q: What about three words for Shaquille OíNeal?
Marion: Same thing as Steve. Actually, change fast to big.
Q: Did you think youíd be here again in a Phoenix Suns uniform, with all the trade rumors in the offseason?
Marion: Iím learning itís a business, and when you sign a big contract, your name is one of the first to be mentioned in trades. At the same time, you have to take it for what is. I figured, if Iím here, Iím here, if not, Iíll deal with it.
Q: Who do you like in the three-point contest? Quentin Richardson or Joe Johnson?
Marion: Iím hoping both make the finals. Q can really get it going, but he also can get it going in the wrong direction, too. Joeís been pretty consistent all season. So, it should be pretty interesting.
DIRK NOWITZKI, Dallas Mavericks
Q: How does it feel to play with Steve Nash again, even if it is just for one day?
Nowitzki: It kind of makes this All-Star Game special again. I havenít really been able to catch up with him all season long, so itís going to be a fun weekend and itís going to be special that some of my best friends are around.
Q: How has your team adjusted without Steve Nash this season?
Nowitzki: (Steve) Nash really made the game so much easier for all of us. Getting in the lane, kicking the ball out and giving us open looks. You saw that at the beginning of the season we really struggled without him. We didnít have a guy who got out there into the lane and made the game easier for us. Itís been a struggle, but we have come a long way the past two months. Obviously I wish Steve was still there, but heís not, so we will have to adjust and I think we have been doing well.
Q: Is there any All-Star Game, either that youíve played in or watched, that sticks out in your mind as something that youíll remember forever?
Nowitzki: Iíve watched pretty much every one since I was 13. I got up at night and watched every single one. There isnít any one that sticks out in my mind. All of them have been great, and just to be a part of them has been an outstanding part of my career.
Q: What is the key difference between your team this year and last year?
Nowitzki: Last year, we were all over the place. We had a few guys at the same position. Antawn Jamison, Antoine Walker and myself were all power forwards and in each otherís way a lot. This year the mixture is a lot better. We finally have a center who is out there making stuff happen for us. Everybody knows their role, and it makes it a lot easier for both the coaches and players.
Q: Whoís your favorite basketball player of all times?
Nowitzki: Itís hard to say Ė there are so many great players out there. I started to play basketball in the 90ís and that was the Bulls era. [I liked] everything about Scottie (Pippen), the way he moved on the court, he was a great all-around basketball player. He was a great shooter, a great defender, he could take the post up, and he could rebound. There really wasnít anything he couldnít do, and thatís what I really admired the most.
AMARE STOUDEMIRE, Phoneix Suns
Q: With so many dunks that have already been done, are you going to do something unique or are you going to do something that is a version of what you have seen?
Stoudemire: A little bit of both. Iím going to try to mix it up a little bit. But itís going to be exciting.
Q: How physically challenging is it? Are you tired at the end?
Stoudemire: A little bit, but I have young legs and itís something I always wanted to do. Itís my second time entering the dunk contest. Itís a lot of fun.
Q: What did you learn from the first time?
Stoudemire: The first time I was extremely nervous, me and Richard Jefferson. But I think now Iím more relaxed, more calm, and I think this time around Iíll do better.
Q: Youíre a cover guy these days on a couple of magazines. Whatís that all about?
Stoudemire: Itís been a great season so far all around. Weíre continuing to grow and have fun doing it.
Q: How much thought did you put into the dunks and did any of your friends give you input? What was the thought process in nailing down the ones you really want to do?
Stoudemire: Well, I put a lot of thought in to it. But itís going to be something that comes naturally. I canít really think too much about it because thatís when you have a tendency to mess up a little bit. But Iím just going to do what I can do.
Q: What does it mean for you to be here now as an All-Star?
Stoudemire: It means a lot. It feels good to finally be here, my third year in the league, itís a real accomplishment and Iím going to try to make it back.
Q: Go back to the first time you dunked. How old where you? Where were you? What do you remember about it?
Stoudemire: The first time I dunked, I was in the sixth grade. I was at the park all by myself. I dunked and ran back and told my friends and my family and nobody would believe me and it took me about another month-and-a-half before I dunked again.
Q: Going into the All-Star Game, how intense do you get? Do you go in there for fun? For the fans? Do you go in there to win?
Stoudemire: We go in to try to win. Thatís the name of the game. But itís also fun and itís also for the fans. Itís going to be exciting. Iím going to enjoy it.
KEVIN GARNETT, Minnesota Timberwolves
Q: Who do you think could be the leagueís MVP this season?
Garnett: I think Steve Nash has done a lot for the Suns, and has definitely impacted the team a lot. LeBron (James) is having a heck of a year. Amare (Stoudemire) and his team are having a very successful year. And you can never forget about Shaq and Tim Duncan. These people are clear standouts this year.
Q: Do you think the All-Star players this season are younger than usual?
Garnett: I think both teams have a lot of young players, and many of them are the faces of the future. Iím 28 and this is my tenth year in the league. Iím the old guy now, and itís a good stat to have.
Q: What have you noticed difference-wise between Flip (Saunders) and Kevin (McHale) this week?
Garnett: Kevin is more straight-to-the-point and simplified. He knows how to attack the defense and make sure that guys like LeBron (James) and Vince (Carter) stay in their place. Flip is a little more strategic. He wants to consolidate the basketball court and avoid mismatches. You really canít even compare the two styles. Flip didnít play in the league and Kevin played in the league, so it is a little different.
Q: Are you going to miss having Shaquille OíNeal on your All-Star team?
Garnett: Diesel is the life of the party if you will. He comes in, jokes, and relaxes everybody. Itís good to see him and his team doing well, but it would be even better to have him on our team.
Q: Is there a point in the All-Star Game itself where it goes from fun to competitive?
Garnett: The second half. The second half is a lot more serious than the first half. During the first half, youíre watching players throw it off the boards and dunking it. Youíre watching 360s and big highlights. The second half becomes a lot more serious than the first.