A condensed version of Dan Patrick's interview with Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway appears in the Dec. 11 edition of ESPN the Magazine.
|Guard Tim Hardaway is putting up some good numbers for the Miami Heat this season.|
Dan Patrick: When Alonzo Mourning came to practice the first time, did you guys know how to react? When you looked at him, could you see a difference in him?
Tim Hardaway: No, uh-uh. He looks the same. You can't see a difference.
DP: Did he tell you not to feel sorry for him?
TH: Of course, of course.
DP: But you can't help but feel sorry.
TH: You can't help it, you can't help it.
DP: When you first got the news, did somebody call you?
TH: Yeah, I talked to him myself. And I probably knew that he wasn't going to play the season.
DP: Well, you've been teammates -- you've been through the wars, so I'm sure it was pretty emotional for you when...
TH: It still is, it still is. You know, we -- me and my wife -- we think about it, and we talk about it. And ... she'll be asking me, when I see him, you know, what I'm going to say to him. ... I just hope I don't break down. And I said, "Look, just be strong -- don't, you know, try not to show your emotions to him." Because if you break down, he'll break down and he'll leave.
DP: Describe him in one word.
TH: He's mentally tough. Just tough. He's a great guy. You just need to be around him. A lot of people have never been around him constantly, to understand him. But he's the nicest guy in the world.
DP: It all fell in place for you and the Heat. You got a one-year contract, you got Eddie Jones, you got Brian Grant. It all fell into place, and then this happens with Alonzo. Is the team good enough that you can still take the East? Because, first things first, you have to win the East.
TH: We're good enough to take the East. But we all have to be on the same page, and we all have to understand what we're doing out there. And, you know, we don't have a shot blocker. Last year, we had a shot blocker who changed 14, 15 shots a game. Or blocked sometimes nine, 10 shots a game. Now, we've got to play better defense. We've got to get out to these guys and not let them penetrate. I know they're going to want to penetrate, because we don't have a shot blocker down there. But we've got to play solid defense as a team. We've got to help, then help the helper. And it's going to be tough. But I think we can do it, and we've got a good team now. Don't count us out because 'Zo is not there. We're going to still have a good team, but we've just got to put it together.
DP: Is there a guy you didn't like as an opponent but you like as a teammate?
TH: At one time, I didn't like Dan Majerle when I was at Golden State and he played with Phoenix. I didn't like him as an opponent because he always killed us. You know, he was always open, stuck a dagger in us. Played good defense. Grabbed that rebound. You know, just made the open shot. But as a teammate, I like him, because I understand him. He plays hard, he plays to win. He helps the team out as much as he can. He's a great teammate.
DP: But he's a pretty boy, isn't he? Doesn't he care more about how he looks now?
DP: Yeah, I think he does.
TH: You think so?
DP: Yeah, I think so. I think he's worried about his tan. I think he's worried about how his muscles look. ... I mean, let's be honest. He's only hitting about two or three shots a game now. Right? You know, just a couple threes. That's all he has to do. And then pump his fist, and then hug.
TH: Right. That keeps him excited, that keeps him motivated.
DP: What's a Pat Riley preseason practice like? For those of us who will never be allowed in, describe it.
TH: At 10:30, we go in. He talks to us for about 20 minutes, 10:30 till about 10:50. After that, we stretch it out. And then after we stretch it out, we go and we practice. We do the three-man weave -- up and back, up and back -- for about 15 minutes. But it's constant. And then we'll probably go to four teams -- it's black, red, green and yellow. And we're just going back and forth and playing defense against one another ... it's three-man, whole-court. And then after that, we're probably going to defensive stuff. Playing defense, half-court, big man down there, guards down here, playing defense. Then we go back to three-man weave. It's nothing but conditioning and playing defense at the same time. And that goes for about an hour. And then we scrimmage for about an hour. Then, for about 30 minutes, he'll probably go just offense. You know, this is what we want to do on offense, against this defense. Let's practice it this way, let's practice it that way. Overall, you're probably in there for about two-and-a-half hours. And it's long, and it's tough ... and the guys understand it. You know, two-and-a-half hours is about the same time as a game. So if you're going two-and-a-half hours in practice, you're going two-and-a-half hours in a game. And so you can sustain your stamina.
DP: Have you ever seen coach Riley with bed head?
TH: No. It's always back, and nice, and no hair's out of place.
DP: Never? You've never seen him with a bad hair day?
TH: Never. Not once.
DP: That's pretty amazing.
DP: Have you ever seen him primp before a game? You ever see him look in the mirror, just to check?
TH: No, because he's got his own office. So, no, we've never seen him, you know, get ready, or look in the mirror, or anything like that.
DP: Do you like "Heat" as a nickname?
TH: I like it. You know, I think everybody has caught on to it. Everybody back in '91, '92, would say, "You're playing the Heat -- oh, that's an easy win." But now, they say, "Yeah, we're playing the Heat -- oh, that's Pat Riley's team. That's not an easy win. It's going to be a tough game." You know, you got to come in and be ready to play.
DP: Are you losing your title of best crossover dribble?
TH: No, I am not. Everybody knows I still have the best crossover dribble in the game, and everybody still wants to see it. And I'm going to break it out this year again, and show everybody that I still have it.
DP: Although there are a couple of guys sneaking up on you.
TH: Oh, yeah. You know, you've got Jason Williams out there in Sacramento. You've got Kobe Bryant. But everybody else carries the ball.
DP: Allen Iverson carries?
DP: Stephon Marbury carries?
DP: Do you ever yell at the referee, "They're carrying the ball"?
TH: No, because that's not -- I don't do that ... you've just got to play it.
DP: What do you think of the new wave of kids? Do they get it yet?
TH: I think they get it, but, you know, they want to do it their way. ... They're like, hey, I know what you want me to do. I know that you want me to come out here and play this way, that way. But I'm going to play it my way. I'm going to do the things that I want to do out there, my way, and you have to adjust to me. And that's what the new guys are saying to the coaches in the league.
DP: If Iverson was your teammate, what would you have said after he put out the CD?
TH: I would have probably talked to him and tried to make him understand, you know, that everybody has two CDs -- one is real X-rated, and one is for kids to hear, because I'm quite sure kids want to hear his CD. ... Some of these other rap artists, when they have it on the radio, they sometimes bleep it out, and sometimes they have another version of it, so you won't have to bleep it out. It's a whole different version of it. So with his CD, I think there needs to be an X-rated version and there needs to be a regular version.
DP: What if your kids wanted to listen to it?
TH: I wouldn't let them listen to it, because there's not a regular version of it
DP: What's your favorite Olympic moment?
TH: My favorite Olympic moment is when we were walking into the stadium at the opening ceremonies. It was awesome. It was just absolutely awesome. It's hard to describe, because there's so many people -- 90,000, 100,000 people looking at you, and they all want to see the USA basketball team, and they're all taking pictures of you. And it was just beautiful, man. It was just beautiful.
DP: Use the word "never" in a sentence.
TH: That's hard, because we try to say, "Never say never." Like you might say, "I would never get an operation." And we'll say, "Never say never." Because if you say that word, it always happens to you.
DP: OK. Use the word "always" in a sentence.
TH: Always. You will always ... where you come up with this, Dan?
DP: Tim, I know it's early in the morning. But that's just it, that's the way I work. A surprise attack, you know.
TH: I hear you, I hear you.
DP: You think I'm hitting the jumper, and I'm actually going to go baseline. So...
TH: OK. I always like to take the last shot of a game.
DP: Alright, that's great.
DP: Teammate who makes you laugh.
TH: Now, it's Anthony Mason. He just makes me laugh, man. He just talks, and makes jokes and all types of stuff.
DP: Could you wear any of Anthony's jewelry?
TH: No. It's too wild. That's that New York stuff. ... He has a big chain on, with a cross on it. He has a watch and a ring and a bracelet. That's all, but he's not too gaudy now.
DP: He's toning it down on South Beach.
TH: Yeah, he's toning it down. But when he's in New York, he is not toned down.
DP: Who's the smartest guy in the NBA?
TH: There's a lot of smart guys in the NBA. I think there's a lot of guys out there that are smart, and they're going to do right with their money. They're not going to spend it all, and when it's over with, they're going to have tons and tons of money. And they're going to live comfortably, the way they want to live. For example, Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd. These are guys I was with on the Olympic team. Alonzo Mourning.
DP: What about the smartest guy on the floor?
TH: Wow. That's kind of hard, because there's a lot of guys out there that are smart.
DP: But there's somebody that you play against where you just say, he seems to know what I'm going to do. Or I can't figure out what he's going to do. Is there somebody that you still have a hard time figuring out? That he seems to be a little better chess player than you sometimes?
TH: That's Jason Kidd. ... You really don't know what he's going to do, because he's always like a jitterbug out there, just moving around, just moving around, moving around, moving around. You don't know if he's going to drive. You don't know if he's going to pull off a jump shot. You know he's going to drive and pass all the time. But you just don't know when he's going to shoot.
DP: Well, he can't shoot.
TH: He can.
DP: No, he can't.
TH: Yes, he can. He just doesn't want to. I was with him for 45 days.
DP: Well, maybe he got a little better in those 45 days. I've seen the jumper -- it's not that good.
TH: It's not that good, but he doesn't work at it.
DP: No. But he's probably the best passer in the game.
DP: But he can't shoot.
TH: He can shoot.
DP: What was your best Halloween costume?
TH: I don't wear costumes. Man, P.J. Brown, he likes to go as Jason. ... He scared me one day. I was walking down the street with my kids. And he popped out of nowhere with this Jason costume on. He had his hat on, and all that type of stuff. The hatchet -- he had the little, long hatchet. A real hatchet, man. P.J. takes Halloween seriously.
DP: Did he scare the kids?
TH: Yeah, with the big hatchet. We thought he was going to kill us.
DP: Did you yell at him, because he scared the kids?
TH: Yeah, we were about to fight. Come on, man -- are you crazy? He is crazy, because he wore that.
DP: What's the best prank that's ever been pulled on you?
TH: When I was with the Golden State Warriors, they said, alright, lead us out, Tim. And ... I ran out there. And they said, here comes Tim Hardaway, and I was out there by myself -- in front of about 12,000 fans. I was like, OK -- I was embarrassed. Because you know when you run out, you're not looking behind you. ... And I just ran right on out, by myself. ... That was my rookie year. I was just trying to fit in.
DP: Do you believe in ghosts?
TH: Kind of ... yeah.
DP: Have you had any run-ins with the afterlife?
TH: Not really. Well, I could say yeah, because I think I saw somebody that was, you know, dead or something like that. And I thought I saw him, or something like that, yeah.
DP: What did it do to you? Did you go home and tell your wife?
TH: No, I just kept it in. But I was scared. I believe in that stuff, man. There's just too much stuff going on.
DP: Alright. If you're abducted by aliens...
TH: No, I don't go that far.
DP: OK, but let's just say you are ... and they can give you one answer to one of life's great questions. What are you going to ask them?
TH: The moon, the stars, space -- how is it up there? How long does it take you to get from here to there? Where do you all live? I'd have to ask them at least five questions.
DP: No, you only get one. And they can answer anything for you. ... I figured you'd ask if you were going to win an NBA championship.
TH: Man, but I don't want to know -- I don't want to hear "no" ... I want to know about them.
DP: To hell with the aliens, Tim. They can answer any question. ... You could ask, "When am I going to die?"
TH: I don't want to know that.
DP: You could ask, "Is there life after death?"
TH: Yeah, I'd ask them that.
DP: Is there God? Is there a God?
TH: No, I would want to ask if there's life after death.
DP: Alright. I still would have asked, "Am I going to win an NBA championship?"
TH: No, man. And then they would be like, "no." I'm scared of that word "no." I would ask, "Is there life after death?" I could deal with that answer.
DP: If you could be a musician, who are you going to be?
TH: Stevie Wonder. Like how he plays the piano and different instruments. I like him.
DP: "Songs in the Key of Life." Can you sing or play an instrument?
TH: Nothing ... I can sing just a tad.
DP: What can you sing?
TH: All types of stuff. I just need to listen to the music. Earth ,Wind and Fire.
DP: See, you're old school ... so I won't be hearing any rap songs from you.
TH: No. I'm not a rapper.
DP: Who controls the music in the locker room?
TH: We all do, we all do. It just depends on who wants to listen to what. I can listen to rap with the guys or we could throw on some regular R&B. ... It doesn't matter.
DP: What's the show that you'll watch with your kids that might surprise me?
TH: I watch "Rugrats" with them. That's crazy. There's some old stuff on Cartoon Network that we watched, and I'm like, "I'm really watching this garbage?" These three guys, their first name is the same and they just run around, doing silly stuff. I'm like, "You all watch this stuff?" And they'd be like, "Yeah, watch this, watch this -- he's about to do this, he's about to do that." I'm like, "This is crazy."
DP: What's your take on the WNBA?
TH: I like it. It's going to grow. It's growing on folks. They play hard.
DP: I was listening to Cynthia Cooper. Cynthia Cooper talks trash. She said there are guys in the NBA who couldn't carry her shoes. ... Now, I like Cynthia Cooper, and she can play, but...
TH: That's a big statement.
DP: Do you believe that there are guys in the NBA who can't carry Cynthia Cooper's shoes?
TH: That's what she said?
TH: I don't know about that, see. You know, that's one of those people that'll be talking.
DP: I think she should be backing it up, if she's talking like that. ... She should name names.
DP: I think she should come out and say, Steve Kerr.
TH: That might be, yeah, that might be right.
DP: Give me three guys who can't dunk in the NBA -- and don't give me white guys ... because I don't think Kerr can dunk. ... And word has it, you can't dunk.
TH: Oh, I can't dunk no more. ... Gary Payton can't dunk.
DP: Wait a minute. Gary Payton can't dunk?
TH: No, not no more.
DP: What happened?
TH: He lost it.
DP: When was the last time you dunked in a game?
TH: Oh, shoot -- I got, my picture is back at Golden State.
DP: Oh, that was like 15 years ago.
TH: You said, when I got a dunk. Don't matter what year.
DP: OK, OK. So you can't dunk now, Gary Payton can't dunk.
TH: No. And we've got Rod Strickland.
DP: Rod Strickland can't dunk?
DP: Timmy, do you realize when I was 40 I could dunk?
TH: That's when you were 40. You were jumping on a trampoline. Man, we're not trying to do that stuff.
DP: No. My wife took the video camera out, because my kids were yelling. And I said, watch dad. He's going to do something, you might be impressed.
TH: You can always, you know, tweak with a video camera, man.
DP: No, no.
DP: No. I had witnesses.
TH: How high was the rim? About seven feet?
DP: It was 10 feet.
DP: It was 10 feet. I've got witnesses, Tim.
TH: OK, OK. I want to see the witnesses, I want to see the video tape and everything.
DP: I mean, it was a rub dunk. You know, one of those little rub dunks, you just...
TH: You touch the rim, and the ball goes in.
DP: Well, that's still pretty good at 40.
TH: Yeah, that is, that is.
DP: You're not going to be doing that at 40.
DP: So, Payton, you and Strickland. What is it about point guards? I mean, Allen Iverson must laugh at you guys.
TH: Hey, he's still young. ... When Iverson's 30, he'll be barely touching the backboard.
DP: You don't have a tattoo, do you?
TH: I do, on my leg. Timbug, like the ladybug from that movie "A Bug's Life."
DP: Can you tell me what happened to Cherokee Parks?
TH: I think one of those years he played bad he went on a tattoo rampage. I don't even want to know what's on his back.
DP: It looks like somebody just spilled paint all over him.
TH: Right -- he just went buck wild. Tell him, don't even come down to Miami. ... He's going to be worse than Dennis Rodman.
DP: Have you seen Reggie Miller's back?
TH: No, I haven't. But that's crazy, too.
DP: Man. These are people who either have too much money or too much time on their hands.
TH: I think it's too much time on their hands. Who don't know what to do with their money.
DP: Do you think you could play another sport?
TH: Yeah ... like baseball or volleyball.
DP: Volleyball? You can't jump, Tim.
TH: No, I don't need to jump. I set people up.
DP: Oh, so that's the sport that you pass in? ... Because when I watch Heat games, I don't see that very often.
TH: No, I'm not doing too much passing with the Heat ... strictly shooting bombs.
DP: See, I figure I could use you as a quarterback.
TH: Yeah, I can play quarterback in football ... I could get you the ball. Don't ask me to run, though. I'm not running.
DP: What happened to Run TMC? Now it's Walk TMC.
TH: The beginning of the end was when Mitch Richmond got traded for Billy Owens.
DP: Do you realize how many times Billy Owens has been traded? And they're still waiting for him to be the next Magic Johnson.
TH: It's sad, too, because Billy can play. He can play.
DP: But he couldn't do anything really well.
TH: Right. That's true.
DP: He couldn't shoot.
TH: That's true, that's true. But, you know, he never worked on his game.