Only one year into his NBA career, 7-foot-3 center Walter Tavares got waived by the Atlanta Hawks last fall, thus ending a relationship that once looked promising. Tavares, who recently averaged 17.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks at the D-League Showcase, is hoping extended playing time on the Raptors’ D-League affiliate soon translates into another opportunity in the NBA.
How was when Atlanta waived you?
Walter Tavares: It was hard. I was not expecting that. I felt I had given everything. They told me to work hard, to stay in shape and that the opportunity would come. And overnight they changed their minds. You know how the NBA is. Players are like trading cards. They no longer want you so they will trade you for another. It is not like in Spain, for example, where you are comfortable and you can stay on a team for six or seven years. Here it’s different.
I feel a little disappointed because I thought I could play in Atlanta and for many years. At least three years. It hurts a lot because it was the team that chose me in the NBA draft and took a chance on me. And overnight they stopped having faith in me and finished my contract.
What did coach Mike Budenholzer tell you?
WT: He told me that I needed to play, but there was no room in Atlanta.
I know you’re a big fan of Dwight Howard, right?
WT: The twists and turns of life. I had a picture of Dwight [Howard] in my Gran Canaria room when I was in the residence of the training team. When I met him in Atlanta, I was like a little kid. He paid a lot of attention to me and after practice, we played one-on-one and he explained things about defense, etcetera. He played very hard with me so I would be prepared. He was an example. He was still my mentor.
You are among the tallest players in NBA history. What do you think about small ball?
WT: It’s difficult. The small ball hurts [tall players]. Now all teams want to play open and behind the three-point line. It’s fucked up for us. But yes, there are teams that play with their bigs, like Toronto, Memphis, Sacramento…
How do you come to the decision of signing with the Raptors 905 in the D-League?
WT: I chose the D-League because I think the NBA did not give me the opportunity I thought it would give me. And so I decided not to return to Europe. I want to stay here. I want to do my best and see if a team calls me, it gives me the opportunity and confidence to settle in the NBA. I would not be comfortable going back to Europe because I have not done anything here.
To tell the truth, to return to Spain, to Gran Canaria, would always be good because they showed so much love that I would like to leave everything now and return. But I have to think first in the NBA. I would not feel well coming back. For me, returning to Europe would be like giving up. I’m going to let this year pass and then I’ll figure out what to do. I spoke with my agent and this is the best option. Stay here, play well and wait for a team to call me. I’m going to give it all this year and I’ll decide if I stay here for another year or take a step back and go back to Europe.
Did you receive interest from NBA teams? Maybe in Toronto or maybe a return to Atlanta…
WT: Nothing yet.
What are your future plans?
WT: What I want is one more chance. Go to any team. Adjust, do everything they tell me. I just want an opportunity to show you that I can play in the NBA.