The new year is full of illusions for the Spanish in the NBA with the return of Ricky Rubio at the helm
A new year is coming, an injection of illusion is coming for Spanish basketball in the NBA with the return of Ricky Rubio in the lead after a somewhat lackluster 2022 but which has ended well at the player level with the growth of Santi Aldama y Usman Garuba and, even if it was due to circumstances, the historic debut of a Spaniard as head coach with Jordi Fernandez at the Sacramento Kings. This is how 2023 is presented for the main players in the country in the best league in the world:
Return to travel to the Finals?
The year of the return of a Ricky to whom Cleveland Cavaliers they cannot wait with more desire. The return of the point guard from El Masnou is announced for the beginning of this month of January, little more than a year after the break in the anterior cruciate ligament left knee on that December 28, 2021 against the New Orleans Pelicans when he was enjoying the best moment of his life. Not even Ricky Rubio wanted to rush his return as he was also treated for the same knee in which he suffered the same injury 10 years ago with Minnesota, nor did the Cavs who have pampered him want to rush him.
They consider him indispensable in their ambitious aspirations, both because of his ascendancy in the locker room like on the track, where they admit that they don’t have a player with Ricky’s profile right now. The team of J.B. Bickerstaff He moves among the first four in the East but he has missed at various times a base of the pause and the reading of Catalan, in turn essential to facilitate the task to Darius Garland y Donovan Mitchell As far as the Cavs’ two leading scorers not having to work as hard to create their shots. Who knows if after the only blank year of his career, 2023 may not be the best.
Not surprisingly, he has worked at a technical and tactical level with Raul Lopez to come back even better and in his interview with ‘El Reverso’ the 32-year-old point guard did not hide his illusion: to live the experience of a Finals.
Patience can have a limit
Neither he nor anyone else could have expected that, after demonstrating both in the Pelicans and especially with the Eurobasket MVP, The eldest of the Hernangómez will find himself at the bottom of the bench in many games, having to wait for someone’s injury to play. The center of 28 years He has only participated in 18 of the 36 games played by the Louisiana team with a mere 11 minutes on average, although in the last few he has gained prominence. So true is it that competition in paint is very tough in New Orleans with Jonas Valančiūnas y Larry Nance Jr. ahead in the rotation like it’s hard to do more with less, with 6.4 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist in those 11 minutes for Willy. Irrefutable proof that he can do the same or better than his counterparts in these Pelicans who are not satisfied with just being in the play-offs.
With the open market, the most immediate future only holds uncertainty. Rumors of a possible transfer They remain silent although he, in an interview with EFE, hinted that he was beginning to get tired of his situation. His brother is clear. “If here (at the Pelicans) they can’t or don’t know how to take advantage of it, there are many teams that can take advantage of their talent. You have to be patient but patience has a limit, what he wants is to play ”, he said Juancho recently to MD. Willy, with a fully guaranteed contract until 2024, already said at the beginning of the season that there were other NBA franchises interested in him. With the high performance that he has maintained afterwards, if he goes out, suitors will not lack.
Impact in attack, defense and dressing room
Although in a different function then, his Eurobasket and his MVP in the final they have suited him wonderfully, his situation has nothing to do with that of last year, in which he came to be in three different franchises (Celtics, Spurs and Jazz). The importance of his role in the Raptors has become unquestionable and no one remembers his little participation at the beginning of the season, interrupting a sequence of attacks in the last game against the Phoenix Suns. six consecutive titles, with 18 minutes on average played.
The coach of the Canadian team, Nick Nurse, values his defensive impact with the versatility it offers him near the rim and his ability to open the path to the rim for his teammates with his blocks, cuts and outside threat. In addition, he has fit very well in the locker room, quickly winning the affections of his peers in his first year in Toronto.
The traditional statistics -4 points and 3.7 rebounds- do not show the influence of the 27-year-old forward on the team, in which, even with low scores, he has accumulated the highest plus-minus in more than one game. Their guaranteed contract Until June it established that as of December 15 he could be transferred but, although in the NBA market nothing can be taken for granted, that seems very complicated. Nurse, also surprised by his rebounding ability, warned that there is no other player in the squad with his profile and his contract expires in June as has been said and he signed for the minimum with 2.3 million dollars-, It is not a problem to add other possible pieces to a team that aspires to be in the play-offs.
One more valuable weapon for the play-offs
He began surprisingly as a starter in his second year in the NBA in these present and future Memphis Grizzlies, he has remained important on the roster even with the return of Years Jackson Jr. coming off the bench and it is expected that the canary will continue to be an essential part of the team he leads I Morant. Giving up the national team, he has crushed this summer both in the gym and on the court and both the explosive point guard and the Grizzlies coach, Taylor Jenkins, highly value the adaptability of the power forward to different roles: shooter, penetrator, rebounder , stopper…
Your averages speak of your improvement and how complete you are at the same time, 9.6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 47% shooting from the field and 38% from the perimeter in 23 minutes after numbers of 4 goals, 2.7 catches, 0.7 basket passes, 0.3 ‘hats’, 40% shooting and a a scant 12.5% from the perimeter last year in 11 minutes. A Santi like this will be one of the strongest arguments for Memphis to overcome the Conference Semifinals from last year. Aldama aims higher and higher.
From inconsequential to essential. Usman Garuba, the other Spanish ‘rookie’ from last season, has nothing to do with the one from a year ago, seated from the bench in the rotation of about Houston Rockets who consider it essential in their future project. His coach Stephen Silas, He confessed that he ‘discovered’ him in the Eurobasket after not being able to see enough of him the previous season due to injuries.
And delighted to have ‘met’ him, because he knows what he can ask from within 20 years whatever is on the court according to the game plan with his rebounding ability, his power near the basket, his intelligence to pass or play blocks or his defensive versatility among other virtues, working to improve other aspects of the game such as the triple.
His averages this season with 3.3 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 15 minutes , they do not sufficiently reflect his jump compared to those of the past -2 goals, 3.5 catches and 0.7 basket passes in 10-, but his impact is much greater, with that energy that he also transmits to the team. With Houston’s meager play-off options, both he and the rest of the youngsters must continue to grow for the future. He has as reference to Draymond Green and Silas admits that he sees similarities between the two.
His weight in the team as a veteran is very clear both in the dressing room and on the field but he has been losing presence in what he is the last year of your current contract. He began the season with games of 15 or more minutes and performances of 8 or more points but missed nearly a month of competition for an illness not Covid-19 and, after playing again on December 17, the 33-year-old center has not jumped back on the floor due to a technical decision.
It should not be overlooked that the inside game of the Milwaukee Bucks with the Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook López or Bobby Portis is one of the most powerful in the NBA, which increases the price of minutes. Even so, ‘Anteto’ considers him one of his trusted men because of the importance of his role. Jose Manuel Calderonnow a special advisor to the Cavaliers, predicts a more important role for him in the play-offs.
Michael Caicedo, Juan Nunez…
The next Spaniards in the NBA?
With all the abundant talent coming from behind, there are several Spanish names emerging to be chosen in this year’s Draft. Players targeted by ESPN and ‘The Athletic’ like Juan Núñez (at the German Ratiopharm Ulm), Michael Caicedo (Barça) or Father Miller (at the NCAA Florida State Seminoles). Núñez, trained at Real Madrid, is the best positioned by ESPN, at number 56, while Caicedo, raised in Can Barça, is ranked 71 in the American medium. Miller, also formed in the white youth academy, is 43rd in the ranking of ‘The Athletic’ and 71st in that of ESPN.
Impact from benches and offices
Jordi Fernández and Sergi Oliva
What Jordi Fernández has achieved in 2022 must be valued after becoming the first Spanish coach to lead an NBA game as head coach. The one from Badalona made December 14 a historic day after he took charge of the Sacramento Kings during the course of the match in Toronto after the expulsion of their first coach, Mike Brown.
Days later, on the 28th, Fernández directed a full game against the Nuggets with Brown absent due to Covid-19. There are many expectations that these Kings will return 16 years later to play-offs in which the Portland Trail Blazersin whose offices sits Sergi Oliva as assistant General Manager, being the Spaniard with the most responsibility in the offices of the NBA.
Loading next content…