Anfernee Hardaway: "I was on the bad list for everyone in Phoenix"
At the end of last season, did you envision yourself still being a Phoenix Sun when this upcoming season began?
Anfernee Hardaway: Actually I did. I knew it was going to be hard. If I didn’t come back healthy I knew it was going to be really hard. A lot of people, they just like winners and at that point in time I was injured, I wasn’t playing well, so I was on the bad list for everyone here in Phoenix. With the grace of God, to be able to come back healthy, it’s a little easier to come back.
Tell me about your summer, your rehabbing and workouts. You were not here in Phoenix much were you?
AH: No, I actually went to Colorado for my surgery, then I went to Houston, then I went to Miami and worked out, then I went right back to Houston and LA. I was out in LA during the summer leagues when the Suns were out there. I’ve been working the whole summer just trying to get myself ready for the season and I feel like I’m ready now and I’m ready to go play good basketball.
Was that a conscious decision not to come to Phoenix just to get away from it a little bit?
AH: I’ve never stayed in the city where I played, even when I was in Orlando, not even one day in the offseason. It’s a ritual I have, being here for nine months, to go home and see my family, get the rehab done. I felt like I could get better basketball competition in Houston. I’ve been going there for ten years and it was like a second home to me, so that’s why I chose Houston.
Last season was the first that you had come off the bench instead of starting, and you were not all that happy about it at the time. How has your attitude changed about being a reserve instead of a starter?
AH: I think being healthy is the biggest thing about being positive. When you’re injured, you’re miserable. It’s like when you’re sick, you’re miserable. You don’t want to go to work, you don’t want to do anything, you’re feeling sorry for yourself, that’s just how it is. Now being healthy, like I said, God has blessed me to be out there. I’m having fun and I have a different attitude.
Do you even care anymore about starting or coming off the bench?
AH: I don’t care anymore because I know when I go out on the floor I’m going to be able to do well because I’m healthy enough to go out there and defend and play offense now. I wasn’t able to do that last year.
You’ve played a lot against Joe Johnson in practice during camp and the team is counting on his contributions in the upcoming season. How do you look at his progress and what he can do this season?
AH: Joe’s done great. He’s made (great strides) since last year. I think this year he’s gotten more aggressive, he knows when to pick his spots and he’s playing really well. They’ve been working with him all summer and it shows.
Let’s talk about your relationship with Stephon Marbury. There was some friction between you two last year. Did you two consciously get together and talk at any point?
AH: Yes we did. We talked about it and he apologized to me and I told him that everything would be all right. He felt like he needed to apologize to me. I always looked to him as a little brother and I wasn’t going to give up on our relationship. I’m glad he came to me the other day and apologized. Now we’re going to move on and we’re going to have fun.
So this was recently?
AH: Yes. We didn’t really talk over the summer at all. I knew as soon as we came back, we were going to need to talk, sit down and go over it. So now, we’re back to where we were when he first came (to the Suns last year).
As the season progresses, how will your attitude change if the team is losing and you are still coming off the bench?
AH: My mental attitude is to just come and work hard every damn practice to make the guys better, make myself better, and make the team better. When the time comes when I have to go in a game or start or whatever, to just be ready, always be ready. There could be an injury here and there, I could just outplay someone and be out there, so you just never know. I’m going to always stay ready for the team’s sake.
As you enter your tenth season in the league, did you think you would play this long and how much longer do you envision yourself playing?
AH: I figured I would last this long, I thought I’d be healthy though. I never thought I would have as many surgeries as I’ve had. That’s just part of it. Maybe that’s just God’s way of calming me down and bringing me back down to Earth. I felt like I could play a long time in this league and I’m really happy to still be here.
You are not an old guy, but you are certainly a league veteran. How long do you see yourself playing, and what do you see yourself doing after your playing days are over?
AH: Hopefully I’ll be able to play out the rest of my contract and play for the next four years. After my contract is up, I’ll decide whether I want to play a couple more years. If not, I’m going to take a year off and just figure out what I want to do then.
Your personal information in the Suns Media Guide is filled with contributions and participation in various charitable organizations. How gratifying is that for you? Was community and charity work something that you went into your career seeking to do?
AH: No doubt about it. My thing was, I was blessed with a gift to play basketball, and I was fortunate enough to make a lot of money doing it. I just wanted to help others. I haven’t always had money. I’ve been in some terrible situations in my lifetime in my neighborhood, so I felt like once I got old enough and earned the money that I could help others I would do so, and I’ve been doing so ever since.
Have you had a chance to talk with rookie Amare Stoudemire and share your experiences with him with respect to going from having no money to having a lot of it?
AH: He’s asked me a couple of questions about financial advisers, how to handle his money and I’ve tried to give him as much advice as I could from my point of view on how I handle things and hopefully I’ve steered him in the right direction. He’s willing to learn, he’s willing to ask questions. He’s going to make a lot of money and make a lot of All-Star teams in this league. As long as he keeps asking questions, he’s going to be OK.
Steven Koek is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com
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