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NBA Draft Interviews 2

 


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/ June 25, 2004

The 2004 NBA Draft is in the books. Here's some of what a few first round draft picks had to say after being drafted:

2004 NBA DRAFT INTERVIEWS

The 2004 NBA Draft is in the books. Here's some of what a few first round draft picks had to say after being drafted:

SHAUN LIVINGSTON, (Peoria Central HS Peoria, Ill.) Los Angeles Clippers, No. 4

Q: How do you feel about going to the Clippers, an organization that has a lot of top 10 picks and has struggled to make the playoffs?

Livingston: I pretty much look at myself as a team guy, and Iím going to be trying to take a winning attitude into the Clippers. Hopefully thatíll be contagious. Iím going to try to take some of my abilities in there and also a work ethic, so I can improve not only myself but the team.

Q: Youíre still a free agent in the shoe market and now youíre in Los Angeles. That canít be bad?

Livingston: No, itís not bad at all. Itís not New York, you know what I mean? But, itís going to be great and hopefully I can take advantage of that to the most of my abilities.

Q: Were you hoping about going to Chicago at No. 3?

Livingston: I wasnít really thinking about it. Obviously, it wasnít really directed toward me, you know what I mean, through the media, as far as the Bulls picking me. So you donít really think about it as much as you would if you saw your name down there for a mock draft or something. I didnít really think about it. Iíd be going there with the same attitude to the Bulls as I am with the Clippers.

SERGEI MONIA, (CSKA Moscow Russia) Portland Trail Blazers, No. 23
(Answers provided by a translator)

Q: Can you describe what the wait was like in the Green Room?

Monia: Until the 15th I wasnít worried, but then I started getting nervous.

Q: Talk about your relationship with Andrei Kirilenko.

Monia: We are very good friends. We know each other well. We played for the national team together.

Q: Talk about the influx of Russian players.

Monia: In the years to come, I expect there to be more and more because basketball is so popular over here.

JAMEER NELSON, (St. Joseph's) Denver Nuggets, No. 20 - rights traded to Orlando

Q: Whatís going through your mind after Sebastian Telfair got drafted and you were still sitting in the Green Room?

Nelson: Nothing. There are no negative thoughts in my mind at all. Weíre all fortunate in this situation. I wish people could get it out of their head that because Iím not drafted at a certain spot that I was supposed to be disappointed. If I was disappointed, I wouldnít be here talking to you because if I was disappointed I wouldnít want to talk. Iím just as happy to go at 20 as I would if I went at 13.

Q: What will the transition be like from college to the pros?

Nelson: Thereís going to be some challenges that I have to face, but Iím ready for the challenges. Iím mature enough to handle certain situations that are going to occur in this first year of my career. Being down there in Orlando on the East Coast is definitely going to help because I donít have to adjust to the time change.

Q: Are you excited to play with Dwight Howard in Orlando?

Nelson: Definitely. Heís a great guy. Heís humble. Heís probably Ė I want to say resembles me, but heís like 6-11. Heís definitely a great kid. He believes in God, just like myself. We definitely have a lot in common.

EMEKA OKAFOR, (Connecticut) Charlotte Bobcats, No. 2

Q: How do you think your college experience prepared you for the draft?

Okafor: Just experience. Just going through what youíre going through. Confidence is what experience gives you.

Q: Does being the No. 2 pick alleviate any pressure, as opposed to going No. 1?

Okafor: Thereís always pressure. No matter what pick, no matter when youíre picked up, thereís always pressure to perform. If anything, itís going to be even more pressure. Youíre the first pick of a franchise. So, there we go, right?

Q: With your 3.0 grade point average and finance major, are you going to be handling the majority of the investing in your portfolio or delegate that to agents?

Okafor: Iím going to hire the pros. Iím going to be too busy trying to figure out how to put a basketball in a hoop to worry about what stock is high which stock is not.

Q: How does it make you feel that Bernie Bickerstaff made the move to be in the position to select you at No. 2?

Okafor: It makes me feel real special and all warm inside. It just shows he believes in my ability and what I do. It makes me feel good. I know that the staff and everybody is fully behind me and has my best intentions at heart.

PAVEL PODKOLZINE, (Varese, Italy) Utah Jazz, No. 21- rights traded to Dallas

Q: What area of your game do you think you most need to improve?

Podkolzine: First, is to improve my body because the contact in the NBA is much stronger than in Europe. I need to work very hard with my muscles. And then play, because I need to play.

Q: Do you look forward to playing against Yao Ming?

Podkolzine: Now, Yao Ming is a superstar in the NBA, but I will work very, very, very hard. I will play against him.

Q: Talk about the decision to pull out of the draft last year and staying in this year?

Podkolzine: Last year, I decided to leave for different reasons. Why is because I was very young for the big competition and had no experience. I opted to come back to Varese and play more and improve more.

JOSH SMITH, (Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va.) Atlanta Hawks, No. 17

Q: How do you feel about playing with Josh Childress?

Smith: I feel real good about it. Childress is an awesome player. He can knock down the three. He can do a whole bunch of stuff, and heís very versatile. I think weíll make a real good one-two punch.

Q: How does it feel getting picked by your hometown team?

Smith: It feels real good being able to play for you home crowd.

Q: What do you think your biggest transition will be?

Smith: I guess the more physical level. You go in there with grown men, you have to understand that your body is not as strong as them. So you have to train yourself and work hard so you can bang with those professionals.

KIRK SNYDER, (Nevada) Utah Jazz, No. 16

Q: What was it like watching Portland take Sebastian Telfair at No. 13? Did you think theyíd take you with that pick?

Snyder: Yeah, my heart sunk a little bit. But thatís the political side of things and thatís the business side of things. You had to be aware of that going in. I was aware of that and it happened. Now Iím dealing with it. Itís going to be fun just to pick up the ball and play basketball. Thatís what I look forward to.

Q: Do you think youíre a good fit with Utah?

Snyder: Oh, yeah. A wonderful fit.

Q: What position do you think youíll play?

Snyder: Two. Mainly because Iím going to play defense and Coach Sloan is a basketball-oriented guy. Heís basketball; he doesnít beat around the bush. He looks like one of the types of coaches thatíll tell you whatís on his mind and coach you.

Q: Being a California kid, whatís it going to be like moving to Utah? Have you visited?

Snyder: Iíve been to Utah, itís not too far from Reno (Nevada) where I went to school. Iím pretty acquainted with living in Salt Lake City, Reno, places like that. Itís been fun in Reno and hopefully itíll be great in Salt Lake.

BENO UDRIH, (Breil Milano, Italy) San Antonio Spurs, No. 28

Q: Whatís it like entering the league with your countryman Sasha Vujacic?

Udrih: I think itís great. We worked all of our lives to get this opportunity.

Q: What part of your game do you need to work on most?

Udrih: I think I need to work on my strength. Because point guards like Steve Francis and Chauncey Billups are strong. To guard them I need to get a little stronger.

Q: Did you expect to go in the first round?

Udrih: When I first came to the States, my agent told me Iíd be a late second rounder or not drafted. He told me I had a lot of work to do. I went to the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp. I did my best in every game, and then I did some workouts. But the teams didnít guarantee me anything.

ANDERSON VAREJAO, (F.C. Barcelona, Spain) Orlando Magic, No. 30

Q: You put your name in for the draft the past two years and pulled out. What made you stay in the draft this year?

Varejao: The last two years, I withdrew my name from the draft expecting to go back to get more experience and playing time.

Q: Did you know this was the team that was going to draft you?

Varejao: It was a surprise because I didnít work out for Orlando and they didnít scout me as much as I know. It was a big surprise.

SASHA VUJACIC, (Snaidero Udine, Italy) Los Angeles Lakers, No. 27

Q: Itís a long way from Italy to Los Angeles. What are your thoughts now?

Vujacic: I donít know. Itís something incredible going on. I always wanted to finish with a very good club. The Lakers are just like a dream for me and Iím just looking to improve, to work hard and to do something.

Q: Looking at Rasho Nesterovic, who played very consistent since his first days with Minnesota, and Bostjan Nachbar, who sits on the bench, how do you see how things might go with you?

Vujacic: Last year, I pulled out of the draft because I didnít want to be a cheerleader. This year, I think that the year in Italy helped me a lot because I played like 15 minutes per game. I had a good season and I learned some things. For this year Iím mentally ready for the NBA. Iím looking forward to it and I think I will work hard for the NBA and see what will happen.

Q: What part of your game do you think you need to work on the most?

Vujacic: I just want to work on everything. I just want to become a top player. I want to give my maximum. I want to show myself that I can improve a lot and Iím just looking forward to it.

RAFAEL ARAUJO, (Brigham Young) Toronto Raptors, No. 8

Q: Are you excited to play with Vince Carter?

Araujo: Iím really excited. Heís a great player. I think heís really going to teach me a lot. I think heíll support (me). Iím really happy right now.

Q: What will be the biggest transition for you?

Araujo: I need to learn the system. I know they drafted me because they believe in my potential. I think Iíll go there and try to do my best. Of course, Iíll have to learn a lot of things. It will be a new experience, but Iím going to do what Iíve done all my life: work hard and improve my game.

ANDRIS BIEDRINS, (BK Skonto Riga Latvia) Golden Warriors, No. 11

Q: I believe youíre the first Latvian player in the NBA and youíre 18 years old. Are you ahead of where you thought youíd be at this point in your life?

Biedrins: My plan started beginning a few years ago, like two and a half, I started to feel like I could get into the NBA. I think what was better for me at that time that I have a coach, I have parents. The coach was, everyday, seeming like he was my second dad. He didnít let me go. There was a hard time for me and thatís why Iím here now.

Q: Because of hard work?

Biedrins: Yes, because of very hard work.

Q: What do you think the transition from Latvia to Golden State will be like?

Biedrins: I know the first season will be hard, and everyone has a first season thatís hard. I will do my best to get in better shape. About Golden State, I was there. I like the city theyíre from. Some agents from my agency live there and thereíre a lot of people who can take care of me. I think itíll be a great place because I need some people to help me start to live there.

Q: You were very emotional when your name was called. What were you thinking about?

Biedrins: It was like, I donít know. Iím not so emotional every day. I donít know what happened with me. I was feeling like I like Golden State and they might pick me and thatís why I started thinking, ďCome on Golden State, Golden State.Ē

JOSH CHILDRESS, (Stanford) Atlanta Hawks, No. 6

Q: Can you talk about whether you think college to the NBA is more of three-year than four-year process?

Childress: I think the freshman and sophomore years are more of the learning years; thatís when you get your feet wet. The junior year is where you really break out. I think over the past few years guys have really broken out in their junior year and found it was in their best interest to make the jump.

Q: So, itís individual situation and not part of the system?

Childress: Whatís funny is that a lot of times if a guy is a senior, league officials and GMs look at him like heís an old man. Iím just happy to be here. Itís been a dream of mine forever, and Iím so excited.

Q: What kind of adjustments will you have to make?

Childress: Iíll definitely have to get used to playing a longer season, thatís a given. Additionally, Iíll have to get used to playing in a league full of men. Night in and night out, there is somebody on the court that can really take it to you.

LUOL DENG, (Duke) Phoenix Suns, No. 7 - rights traded to Chicago

Q: Was it nerve wracking sitting there waiting for your name to be called?

Deng: Oh man, you have no idea. Itís a great feeling hearing your name. Itís really nerve wracking. After what happens, with the trades and everything going on, you just didnít know where youíre going to end up.

Q: Did you work out for the Suns and what do you know about the team?

Deng: I did not work out for the Suns, but I know a lot about the team. Theyíre a great team. Theyíre fast running, an athletic team. It would just be great.

Q: Can you talk about your suit?

Deng: My parents went and talked to the guys, my agent and the person who designed it. It was the best looking suit. I had a different option. This is the one I picked. Why, I donít know. I just liked it.

(After his rights were traded to Chicago:)

Q: There was talk about this trade. What kind of emotions do you have now?

Deng: Iím very excited, because I really had a feeling Iíd end up in Chicago. When the Wizards gave up their draft pick, I kind of knew that if I didnít go at the three, I wasnít sure where Iíd end up. When I saw Chicago get the seventh, I had a feeling I wouldnít go below seventh. For me to go to Chicago, Iím very excited.

Q: How about teaming up with Ben Gordon?

Deng: Itís exciting. My brother went to UConn, so I was close with the guys there. I kind of know Ben Gordon through a lot of people. Our relationship is good. And, in terms of basketball, heís a great player and I am excited to get the opportunity to play on the same team.

BEN GORDON, (Connecticut) Chicago Bulls, No. 3

Q: What does it feel like to go two-three with Emeka?

Gordon: This is the greatest feeling in the world, right now. Just the way itís happening, itís like a fairy tale Ö two guys coming in the same year, won a championship together, and then go two-three in the draft. Itís the greatest feeling in the world.

Q: Are you surprised you went so high?

Gordon: No, Iím not surprised. I know what I can do as a player. I think other people may have been surprised, but I always thought I should have gone one.

Q: What about going to Chicago?

Gordon: Chicago is a great city. Itís comparable to New York and L.A. I think Iím going to a really good market and the Bulls have a great organization and tradition. Iím just going to go there and try to help my team as much as possible.

DEVIN HARRIS, (Wisonsin) Washington Wizards, No. 5 - rights traded to Dallas

Q: What were your emotions when you heard your name called?

Harris: Itís the greatest feeling in the world. It was like a dream come true. When I heard my name I couldnít believe it -- a-once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Q: What will be your biggest transition?

Harris: The pace of the game. Especially Dallas, they like a fast-paced game. Itís different than what Iím used to, but I also think itís the best part of my game. But at each level it gets faster, so you have to catch up as best as you can.

Q: Talk about the trade and having to wait it out.

Harris: I pretty much knew beforehand, but I guess there was some behind-the-scene stuff that I didnít really know about. I knew I was going to go to Dallas, but I guess it just took some time for the trade to go through.

DWIGHT HOWARD, (Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, Atlanta) Orlando Magic, No. 1

Q: Were you surprised?

Howard: I was surprised. The whole day, I couldnít sleep, I couldnít do anything. I was thinking about this moment right here. And itís here. Iím very happy with the way things have fallen for me, and Iím ready to go to work.

Q: You had no indication you were going to be the first pick?

Howard: I had no indication. Actually, my agent knew. And I was talking to him all day today and yesterday and he just made it seem like something big was going to happen. I was hoping for a magical moment.

Q: Do you feel pressure being No. 1?

Howard: No I donít. I donít feel any pressure. There are a lot of things that I have to do because I was taken No. 1, but I think I can overcome.

ANDRE IGUODALA, (Arizona) Philadelphia 76ers, No. 9

Q: Tell us about going to Philadelphia and playing with Allen Iverson.

Iguodala: I think itís going to be a great experience for me going out there and play with a true warrior like Allen Iverson. Thatís going to rub off on me. He comes to play 82 games a season. I know a lot of people say rookies tend to hit a wall, but I think with his help Iíll be able to ease through that with no problem.

Q: Did you come into Philadelphia for a workout?

Iguodala: Actually it was the last workout, was on Monday. My agent and myself thought Philly would be a good situation for me. So I went in there and had a short workout, but it went well.

Q: What do you think the biggest transition coming from Arizona where you played the two, three and even a little bit four, coming to the NBA where youíll probably play two?

Iguodala: Iíve always played the guard position most of my life, so I think the hardest transition will be playing 82 games.

VIKTOR KHRYAPA, (CSKA Moscow) New Jersey, No. 22 - rights traded to Portland

Q: What will be the biggest transition for you?

Khryapa: Here they are more athletic. All players who think they can play better want to play here.

Q: What All-Stars do you look forward to going up against?

Khryapa: I look at the best players, like K.G. and Kobe Bryant.

Q: Did Andrei Kirilenkoís success give you confidence?

Khryapa: Yes. It helped me because we are close friends. And Of course, I asked him a lot of questions about the NBA and life here. The answers he gave me, I liked them.

See first page of NBA Draft Interviews.







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