Earl Monroe talks Hawks, Heat, diabetes

He's a basketball Hall of Famer, was named of the 50 greatest NBA players in 1996 and had one of the most free-wheeling and improvisational styles of play the game has ever seen, not to mention an all-time nickname. On Wednesday, former Baltimore Bullet and New York Knick Earl "the Pearl" Monroe was in town to encourage people with Type-2 diabetes to make healthy choices when eating out. He took time to talk with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Questions and answers were edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: If you were going to start a team with one player, who would it be?

A: I'm a LeBron [James] fan, so I'd look at LeBron. Let me just say a team that I would put together, and that would be LeBron, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and, of course, the big fella, Dwight Howard.

Q: You played two seasons in New York with former Hawk Mike Glenn. What do you remember about him?

A: We called him "the Stinger" because he could shoot the ball. Mike has been instrumental in the lives of a lot of people with hearing and speech problems and things of that nature. He's always been such a concerned person and such a good person. He almost borders on a pastor or a preacher or something like that, that you don't want to curse around him or don't want to do any of those things.

Q: What do you think about the Hawks?

A: They just seem to be stuck on neutral. They'll win a lot of games, but they'll never win the big games. The nucleus that they have, I think there needs to be some added parts. They still basically have the same team that they've had the last couple years. The only thing that's changed is the coach. I don't really see them winning anything at this juncture.

Q: In 1971, you were traded to a Knicks team with stars like Walt Frazier, Jerry Lucas, Willis Reed and Bill Bradley, and you won a championship in 1973. How did you meld your talents, and what could the Miami Heat learn from it?

A: Putting together a team of superstars, and stars in general, you have to have that time to have chemistry and knowing each other, seeing each other on a daily basis. It's one thing playing with guys for a few games during the Olympics or what not. It's another thing when you're coming out and now you're trying to win an NBA championship. It's a big difference.

I think they'll be the representative of the East, either them or Chicago. I'm looking at Chicago. They're really playing good ball at this point.

Q: Will the Heat win a title?

A: I think if the nucleus stays the same as it is, and they add a couple players, I think obviously, yeah. I mean, they might be able to win one this year. But right now, it's still L.A. because L.A.'s got some big bodies inside, an interior presence. Also, they've got Kobe Bryant.

Q: Tell me a story about what travel was like in the NBA when you played.

A: When I first got into the league playing for the Baltimore Bullets, we would travel either on North Central Airlines or Allegheny Airlines. One time we flew from Baltimore to New York -- no, it was Cincinnati -- and the window blew out of the plane. They had to take this big board and put it up. Because of the suction, the board just stayed in place.

Those airlines were the pits at the time, and those were the airlines we had to travel.

Q: What advice about eating out do you give to people with Type-2 diabetes?

A: The first thing is, when the server comes, ask them how the meal is prepared. Is it fried? Is it baked? Is it boiled? And then try to do the same thing like here. They brought out a bread basket. Tell them, "Don't bring the bread basket out here." Look for substitutions for your rice, for your bread and for your other carbohydrates. Ask them for things like steamed veggies or a salad instead.

For more information about healthy eating for people with Type-2 diabetes, visit merckdiabetes.com.