NBA AM: Vasquez Maximizing His Opportunity
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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Greivis Vasquez has steadily worked his way up the New Orleans Hornets’ depth chart since being acquired by the team just under a year ago in exchange for Quincy Pondexter. He came off the bench behind Jarrett Jack for most of last season, but now with Jack in Golden State Vasquez is now the full-time starter and he has thrived in the role. Vasquez is averaging career highs across the board with 13 points, four rebounds and nearly nine assists a contest.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to develop my game, to develop my leadership skills, and I think this is a chance that I got to take advantage of because Coach Monty Williams really likes my game,” Vasquez said to HOOPSWORLD. “He likes what I do, and that’s important in the NBA when you get a coach that is really interested in helping you, he wants to help you, he wants to make you better, if you take advantage of that, you can really establish yourself in the NBA.”
Prior to the NBA at Maryland Vasquez was one of the premier point guards in the nation with unmatched size and versatility. However, there were doubts that he could play the position in the NBA, let alone be a starter. Thanks to Coach Williams, though, he’s looking a lot like he did as a Terrapin.
“That’s the way I look at it now,” Vasquez said. “I’m becoming more Greivis every day, who I am. You don’t come into this league and dominate it right away. So now, I’m making progress, I think I’m getting better every day. I still got so much I want to get better. I think this is going to be a year for me to learn so much to the point that eventually that I am going to be the player that I really want to be, especially the point guard that I want to be so I just have to keep growing every day.”
At 25 years of age, Vasquez fits in perfectly with this young Hornets team. They’re clearly building towards the future, which Vasquez feels is very bright.
“Everybody right now isn’t giving us very much attention because we have a young core, and it’s hard to win games when you have inexperience,” Vasquez said. “But, if you look at teams like Memphis a couple years ago, OKC a couple years ago, they went through this whole process, so we’re going through a tough process. We hate losing. We don’t want to lose. But in the mean time, we have to understand, for us to be good, we got to invest, and sacrifice a lot of things, and we’re sacrificing a lot of things right now.
“And we’re still not a fully healthy team: imagine Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis playing at the same time as myself, Ryan Anderson, Robin Lopez, Jason Smith, Austin Rivers. We have a great group of guys. We’re just trying to figure out how to put it together, and understand we have to bring it every night, and as a young team, it’s hard to get to that point. I’m excited. I come to work extremely excited everyday because I am happy to be in this city, I am happy to be playing for this organization, and I think eventually everything is going to click, and I am not just saying this, I am saying this because we have put the work in.”
Effort and dedication have become two things the Hornets are hanging their hat on. Although their record may be lackluster at 5-12, which puts them in last place in the Western Conference, they continue to fight hard every night they play and work hard outside of that. That’s the kind of culture that will lead them to better days.
“That’s part of being a pro,” Vasquez said. “That’s the one thing that I learned from being with coach Monty. No matter what, you got to do your job. This is different than college. You have to come every day, and that’s why you get paid. You got to bring it. To me, the guy has been an underdog his whole career, I can’t come over here thinking, “I’m the starting point guard, I’m good, I’m going to be fine.” No. I come here like with that mentality where if I don’t show up… in my mind, I’m still a backup. So that makes you grind anymore. Makes you even more driven to come out here and be like, “you haven’t done anything yet, you have to keep working,” and that’s how I feel that I have to be better at some things, but that I can really take my game to the next level. It’s going to take some time, it’s not going to be over night, but I think I can get this job done.”
Gordon Making Progress: New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon, who has yet to play this season due to sore right knee, is working his way towards being able to play soon. Hornets spokesman Harold Kaufman recently provided an update on Gordon, saying that his quad muscles have strengthened to 65 percent.
“When he had soreness in his knee that limited him from working on that leg, it obviously weakened the quad muscle,” Kaufman said to John Reid of The Times Picayune. “He was sent to Los Angeles to undergo intensive rehab on a daily basis. He shows up at 8:30 in the morning and works until three in the afternoon.”
There is still no timetable for Gordon’s return, but he is expected to return to New Orleans and the team before the start of the New Year.
Rubio Getting Close: According to Darren Wolfson Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio is “angling” to play tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wolfson predicts that Rubio will likely have to wait until next week, though, so his conditioning can improve. Rubio has been out since last March with a torn ACL, but started practicing with the team recently. As a rookie Rubio showed great promise, scoring 10 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out eight assists. His pending return could be the boost the injury-laden Timberwolves need in order to comfortably establish themselves in the Western Conference’s top eight. They are currently in 11th place at 8-9, but are just a half game out of seventh.
Up Close With Robert Sacre: Los Angeles Lakers center Robert Sacre has seen a lot already at this early point in his career. The rookie is playing for his second head coach and has bounced between traveling with the Lakers and playing in the NBA D-League. HOOPSWORLD recently caught up with him to talk about all that and more in this video interview.
NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats on tap today starting with mine at 11 am est. You can get your questions in on the NBA, NCAA and NBDL into me here. Steve Kyler will be hosting his chat at 3 pm est. Steve covers the NBA from Orlando and has been in New Orleans this week. His chats fill up quickly, so make sure to get your questions in soon here.