On the eve of the NBA Draft, I wanted to take a look back at one of the more hilarious post-draft press conferences in recent Suns history. I am speaking of the one-and-only Jake Tsakalidis, who responded to ESPN’s draft day questions with two words: “Free” and “Strong.” The “free” related to his ability to extricate himself from his then-current contract overseas. The “strong” related to his ability to be a successful big man in the NBA. I guess one out of two isn’t bad.
Through the magic of that thing they call the “world wide web,” I actually found a transcript of Jake’s first press conference with the Suns. Below are the best excerpts with my comments in italics. Enjoy.
BRYAN COLANGELO (Former Suns’ GM): Well, I’d like to thank everyone for coming today. Obviously, we are here to introduce the newest and the largest member of the Phoenix Suns Jake Tsakalidis. We’re happy to have Jake as a member of this team.
Remember the Colangelo family? They used to run the team. You know, back when it was financially and competitively successful.
BILL POLLACK (Jake’s Agent): Fortunately for the Phoenix Suns, Jake has decided that the NBA is where he can best develop as a basketball player. I don’t know if you’re aware that Jake only played his first professional game less than three years ago. So basketball is new to Jake.
Hmmm. This wasn’t a warning sign?
To begin with, Jake was probably 6-5 tall and a very, very good swimmer. That’s how he developed his athletic talent.
I can’t tell you how many great swimmers end up being All-Star big men in the NBA. Shaq, Moses, Kareem, Russell. You didn’t mess with those guys in the pool. Period.
When he was 15, he grew six inches. But Jake developed his athletic skills as a 6-5 person, so he has that rare combination of size, strength and athleticism that you don’t find in centers.
Look, he “fell” in some radioactive waste and grew six inches in one year. You can’t coach that. Not to mention, this guy can post up a chair better than any Euro player I have ever seen.
So our job is to analyze exactly what legal tasks are at hand and to come up with solutions [to get Jake out of his contract]. I feel confident because, as Bryan said, I’ve known Jerry Colangelo for over 20 years, and I find that Jerry and Bryan are extremely good at finding solutions to complex problems.
JC is old school and he’s Italian. Isn’t there something about someone making someone else an offer they can’t refuse? No surprise here that Jake got “FREE.”
STEVE COSTALAS (Jake’s Translator): Thank you very much for having us here. First of all, working with Jake for over a year and a half, this is a dream come true to get this kid into the NBA, and at the same time to get him into a class organization. I know the NBA from being here and living in the States and I was the GM of a club (overseas) that was opposite of (Suns coach) Scott Skiles and I know what a tough cookie he is, and what a great influence he will be for Jake, and how good the whole organization in general will be for Jake.
Two things. First, “Tough cookie”? As in the first line of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”? Maybe a little bit of a language barrier here with Mr. Costalas. Second, if there is one thing I always say about Coach Scott Skiles it is this: no matter what happens, you know the players will always love the guy.
COSTALAS (TRANSLATING FOR TSAKALIDIS): He wishes that he could say something about the city itself, but he has never been to this city. The fact of the matter is, this was his first visit ever to the United States and he wanted to say that he loves what he sees from the United States.
Translation: There are some hot ladies in Scottsdale.
QUESTION: I’d like to know if Jake had informed his Greek club before this new contract showed up that he had an interest of playing in the NBA?
COSTALAS (TRANSLATING FOR TSAKALIDIS): They always believed and they still quote that he’s not ready for the NBA. But he came here and he worked out with some teams, and all of them said that he’s ready to come in and start with hard work, to start playing in the NBA and become a very good player. So he tends to believe the people over here that they know a little bit more of what they are talking about that he can play in the NBA.
Au contraire mon frere, sounds like the Greeks knew what they were talking about. I guess the whole “inventing modern Western civilization” thing gives them a rare perspective on NBA prospects. Duly noted.
COLANGELO: On that note, I just want to pass it to Dick Van Arsdale, who will tell you a little bit about what we think Jake is as a player and how we see him fitting in if he were to join us even this upcoming season.
DICK VAN ARSDALE (Suns’ legend/Poor evaluator of talent): In watching his tapes, what we see is a young man who is very mobile for a big guy, has excellent hands. When you watch his tape, you’ll see that he can go to the floor, pick up a ball and rise up and dunk it with no effort at all. And you’ll also see that he’s capable of going out on the perimeter and defending someone, which is impressive. So we think his basketball skills are very good and the upside is tremendous because he hasn’t played basketball very long and he’s willing to learn. We’re real excited to have him.
Did we mention he can post a chair like no one we have ever seen?