Vasquez Staying Busy During NBA Lockout
Greivis Vasquez is one of the few NBA players who has been playing meaningful basketball games in recent months. While other players have been participating in pick-up games, Vazquez has been representing Venezuela in the FIBA Americas. He led the national team to a fifth-place finish, averaging 19.3 points and 5.8 assists.
“We played well and ended up fifth, but being fifth is just like being third or fourth because we qualified for the next tournament,” Vasquez told HOOPSWORLD. “That gives us another chance to go to the Olympics. I’m excited because we haven’t done that in many years. I’ve had a great summer with my national team. My teammates did a great job and Coach Eric Musselman did a great job leading us to that point.”
Now, Vasquez is back in the United States to promote his new Under Armour shoe, the ‘The GV,’ which will be released in the coming weeks. As part of the company’s new ‘Are You From Here?’ campaign, Vasquez and other NBA players including Brandon Jennings, Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams will face off against top high school basketball programs in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.
During the FIBA Americas, Under Armour provided Vasquez and all of his teammates with gear and shoes. The Venezuelan national team has plenty of talent and Vasquez believes they’re only going to get better going forward. After powerhouses such as Argentina and Brazil have dominated international play in recent years, the Venezuelan team is on the rise.
“We’re getting back that reputation that we used to have in the 90s,” Vasquez said. “That’s important to me and I take a lot of pride in that. That’s why I have the country’s flag on my new shoes; the Venezuelan flag is on the tongue. I do it for my country. My coaches make fun of me because I’m inspired by my country and it motivates me a lot.”
Vasquez believes there are at least two Venezuelan-born players that will soon join him in the NBA.
“There are two players: Michael Carrera and from Montrose Christian School and Anthony Perez from Montverde Academy. They are great players, very athletic and have the right attitude. Hopefully they’ll be with Under Armour too,” Vasquez said with a laugh.
Tensions have increased between the United States and Venezuela in recent years, which has left Vasquez caught in the middle.
“I think everyone understands my situation,” Vasquez said. “I’m in the middle point and I just want them to have good communication. I want to unite both countries if I can, at some point. I want to be like, ‘We can do a lot of great things together.” Sports wise, we have a lot of MLB players and NBA players here who are able to do clinics and other things here and back home.”
“By the way, the U.S.A. embassy did such a great job in Venezuela with me and other NBA players,” he added. “We went there to do clinics, speak to a lot of kids and help out.”
Vasquez’s new shoe doesn’t hide the fact that he’s proud of his background. The shoes have a Venezuelan theme and he’s excited for them to launch.
“I call them ‘The GV’ and they are my first shoes,” Vasquez said. “They have my country’s flag, my number, Memphis colors and ‘Venezuela’s Finest’ on the tongue. It’s pretty cool. I’ll be filming my commercial in two weeks and I’ll be promoting them after that.”
There’s no question that Vasquez has been staying productive during the lockout. He’s been making the most of this time and making sure that he’s ready for the season, whenever it begins.
“I always say that every day is another day to get better,” Vasquez said. “I’ve been training in Maryland for awhile, and I was playing with my national team for almost four months. Now, I need a little bit of rest so that I can come back for my second season ready to go with a lot of energy. I’m going back to Venezuela on Friday to do a couple of workouts and hang out with my family a little bit. Then, I’ll come right back here to keep working out.”
During last year’s playoff run, Vasquez emerged as a key contributor for the Grizzlies. He played well on both ends of the court and proved himself as a significant player going forward. Now, he hopes to build off that and continue improving as his role and minutes increase.
“I always say this: The NBA is about confidence,” Vasquez said. “When you play, you have to make it happen. When I actually got to play solid minutes, I figured out guys like Tony Parker. I’m not the quickest guy, but I knew I could figure out how to defend him, and I did at the end [of the series]. I was very happy that Coach Hollins gave me credit. I know that’s something I always have to work on because I want to stay in the league for a long time. I know I’ll get better as I keep playing.”
Vasquez has remained in contact with several of his teammates during the lockout, and plans to meet up with them for workouts if the lockout doesn’t end in the near future.
“I’ve talked to my guy Rudy Gay and I’ve talked to Marc Gasol via Twitter a couple of times,” Vasquez said. “We were going to meet up this week, but unfortunately we couldn’t do it. If the lockout continues, we’re going to try to meet up and get a couple of workouts together.”
After last season’s outstanding postseason run, the Grizzlies have high hopes entering this year. While it’s no secret that they hope to solidify themselves as one of the top teams in the Western Conference, Vasquez insists that the group is staying humble.
“I don’t want to say much. We’re going to keep being humble, but we do have high expectations,” Vasquez said. “We want to win games and we want to a championship. Coach Hollins has done a good job making sure we go day-by-day, game-by-game, practice-by-practice to understand where we’re at.”
When the time comes for the NBA season to start, few players will be as prepared to play as Vasquez. After a summer of meaningful games and daily workouts, he’ll be ready to play and further represent his country.