The following is a transcript of the interview between sports radio talk-show host Jim Rome and the New Jersey Nets' Rony Seikaly which aired on KFAN 1320 AM Friday afternoon.
ROME: Our next guest, Rony Seikaly, is not a member of the Utah Jazz but rather a member of the New Jersey Nets. He's joining us on the program right now. Rony, it's good to have you on the program again.
SEIKALY: Thanks a lot, I hope there's no earthquake this time.
ROME: Yeah, I hope there's no earthquake this time either, Rony. Where are you this time?
SEIKALY: I'm in Miami, getting ready to go to New Jersey.
ROME: Then you're probably safe from the earthquakes. Rony, what happened? Everyone in Salt Lake thought they had a deal for you. In your own words, because there is so much confusion right now, exactly why are you not with the Jazz?
SEIKALY: Finally I can say the truth. I've been hearing all these speculations and I can finally tell the truth. Basically what happened when the trade got done, two snags happened. The day after I got traded I got diagnosed with a stress fracture that was going to keep me out six to eight weeks. Number two, when I came to Orlando I gave up the last two years of my guaranteed money. And all I wanted was Utah to keep the same deal, and not to pay me beyond this year. I figured they'd take a look at me this year and if they liked me they'll re-sign me, and if they don't like me I can go to wherever I want. These were probably the two biggest snags that made the whole deal fall through.
ROME: OK, so start with snag No. 2. Utah is suggesting that they didn't really care if you wanted the two years guaranteed, they'd have given them to you, and even if you didn't want it and wanted to become a free agent they'd have done that as well. Is that not true?
SEIKALY: All I can tell you is I spoke to Karl Malone at least 20 times. I bothered him at home, during his pregame nap. I felt so bad because I called him so many times trying to resolve this issue, and I think the bottom line is at first the contractual issue was a big deal, but I think when they looked at the MRI and the doctor told them I was going to be out six to eight weeks, I think that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I mean they said, `He's not going to be here six to eight weeks and we want sign him for the next two years and want to give him guaranteed money for the next two years. So maybe we should just go back to our old team.'
ROME: So Rony, you're saying in terms of the contract they were not willing to let you be a free agent?
SEIKALY: Well, I wasn't asking to be a free agent . . .
ROME: Yeah, but not a guaranteed two years.
SEIKALY: I said to them either give me the extension on the deal and if I feel like I'm coming in and I'm going to be there a while, or just see if you like me this year. And if you like me, just sign me at the end of the year. Because everybody was telling me `They're just going to rent you, and at the end of the season they'll have their guy at center and they're just going to trade you away anyway. That's why they wanted your guaranteed money those last two years.' This is a business, and I realize that, but the bottom line is I wanted to go to Utah. I tried every way to get to Utah, but for them they couldn't see where we were coming from.
ROME: So we're clear on this issue and then we can move along: Absolutely, they would not guarantee you the two years that you wanted?
SEIKALY: On the contrary, I didn't want them to guarantee me the two years . . .
ROME: Right, all right, and they would not see clear to do that for you, either?
SEIKALY: Well, no, at first they would not. And then we talked about an extension of the deal, and that's when it started getting complicated. And then they found out about the thing with the stress fracture.
ROME: You wanted either none or two years, right?
ROME: And they wouldn't do that for you?
SEIKALY: At first no, and then we started talking about it, and then they got the results back on the stress fracture and I think they said no.
ROME: So are you out six to eight weeks now?
SEIKALY: Well, that was the early general diagnosis, six to eight weeks, but I think I'm probably going to be out three to four.
ROME: Now, did you say to Karl Malone at any point, `Hey Karl, listen, I'm willing to come here but I'm afraid you're going to rent me for two months and then sign Ike Austin?'
SEIKALY: Yes, I did.
ROME: And what was his response to that?
SEIKALY: He said, `That's not true.' He said, `That's not true.' But I said to Karl, `I don't mind if that's the case, then that's fine. I can come in there for three or four months and I'll help you guys win the championship if we can win the championship, or as close to winning the championship as we can. And then at the end of the summer if you guys want to sign Ike Austin, then I can go to whatever team I want to.' And that's where I thought the deal was going to happen, because if they want Ike, then he can go there and I can go wherever I want. But I think they wanted to guarantee the two years so they could make another trade for a draft pick or whatever it is in the future.
ROME: Hey Rony, should you have been negotiating with Scott Layden instead of Karl Malone?
SEIKALY: Well, the thing is I don't know Scott. And I think due to the frustration on my part of not knowing whether I'm finally going to get a chance to play for a contender. I just thought Karl had called me to welcome me on the team, and I'd spoke to John Stockton and Karl Malone, and those were the two guys that called me from the Utah Jazz, and those were the guys I thought I could call back and talk to.
ROME: Rony, you had a chance to win a ring, don't you think. How could you walk away from that? You've been in that league a long, long time.
SEIKALY: Believe me, that's why I called Karl up to 15 minutes before the trade deadline yesterday. I kept on calling him on his cellular, but he was shooting a commercial. I was bothering him the whole day. I said `Karl, get this thing done, get this thing done.' And he kept on telling me, `It's going to get done, somehow it's going to get done.' And so there's no doubt in my mind I definitely wanted to go to Utah. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be able to play on a team like Utah, plus with Karl and John, two legends. All the positives and all the pluses are there, but it just wasn't in my hands. I got a stress fracture that's going to leave me out six to eight weeks, and they need me today. They don't need me in the future.
ROME: Hey Rony, why do you suppose New Jersey was willing to take you as is? There are no deadlines to report or anything like that, and Utah would not. Why is the injury all right with them but not Utah?
SEIKALY: I guess because when Utah traded for me nobody knew I had the stress fracture. And then when the word came out and we told people I had a stress fracture, maybe Utah got turned off at that point that we're taking an injured player on and we don't know what he's going to do. Whereas New Jersey knows I have a stress fracture and I'm going to be out for three weeks, and New Jersey's a team that's going to be in the hunt if they keep their nucleus together for many, many years. It's a very young team and they have great players, and I think it's an up-and-coming team that's going to be there for a long time. So this is a team that needs me now and tomorrow and the day after. Whereas Utah is today.
ROME: So what you're saying, Rony, is you thought Utah wanted to rent you to win a ring right now, and they found out you were hurt and therefore since they couldn't get you, they had no interest?
SEIKALY: I mean, yeah. No, actually it's not that harsh. I wouldn't say they were just going to rent me. I know they had interest in me because Karl told me, and I trust Karl because he told me. I'm just going with what Karl told me, and I trust Karl because he spoke to me personally. And he told me they wanted me and wanted to keep me there. But, unfortunately, they couldn't do it.
ROME: I think I'm more confused now than I was before. So who killed the deal Rony, you or them?
SEIKALY: I definitely did not kill the deal. I had my bags packed and I was ready to go. And I don't think they killed the deal, either. It's just that we found out I had a stress fracture, and when you're putting all your marbles into winning a championship now, and you take on a player that is going to be key to winning it, and he's going to be out six to eight weeks, how do they know how I'm going to be after the six to eight weeks? Maybe I need another four to six weeks. Maybe my foot doesn't heal properly. So I think they have some concerns. Obviously if I didn't have a stress fracture, I would probably be in Utah right now, and we wouldn't be talking about all this. Because they would've taken the two years of guaranteed money off anyway, or they would've given me the extension, I'm sure about that. That could've easily been done.
ROME: I was going to say the other speculation is you don't want to be in the NBA, but you'd rather be abroad. Now if you're saying to me that you would've been willing to give Utah more than two years, that would suggest to me that you want to be in the NBA. Which one is it?
SEIKALY: There's no doubt I want to be in the NBA. Every single year I go through these rumors about going back to Greece, and I've been going through these rumors since college. The bottom line is I'm in the NBA, and it's a dream for anybody. And I'm going to be in the NBA until the day I can't, and then when I'm 40, you can always go back to Greece and play when you're 40 . . .
ROME: Rony, you could play in Greece at 60.
SEIKALY: That's what I'm saying. All these speculations that I want to go back to Greece are not true. Obviously it's always been there because that's my part of the world, and they've always tried to lure me to go there, and it's always been an interest of mine. But as long as I can be effective in the NBA, why would I want to leave Hollywood? why would I want to leave the best league in the world, to go to the minor leagues?
ROME: Rony, I'll say this, they couldn't find you they say from Utah, that you wouldn't return telephone calls, but you came into the jungle and that's a good thing. I really appreciate it.
SEIKALY: That's not true that they couldn't find me. Because I spoke to Karl and I spoke to a lot of the people in Jazz management.
The key points
- Rony Seikaly insists he wanted to play for Utah, meaning he'd have a legitimate shot at winning a championship.
- Seikaly says he likely would be suiting up for the Jazz tonight when they face the Spurs if it weren't for his stress fracture.
- He also says he didn't kill the trade, but that Utah didn't kill the deal either.