HoopsHype.com Camp Diary

The road ends here
by Felipe Lopez / October 17, 2005

Felipe Lopez, the High School Player of the Year in 1994, has played four years in the NBA for the Vancouver Grizzlies, Washington Wizards and Minnesota Timberwolves. Now recovered from a serious knee injury, the Dominican guard attempts a comeback. This month, he will write for HoopsHype.com about his experiences at the Orlando Magic training camp.

My brief stay with the Orlando Magic came to an end Friday. All I can say is that I feel very disappointed. I think I was never given a fair shot. The coaching staff barely gave me the opportunity to show what I could do. How can you evaluate how much a player can help your team if you don't give him a chance?

To be honest, it seems like the decision to release me was taken way in advance. When they informed me about it, they told me a big man was what they were looking for. Had I known that before, I would have not come to training camp with the Magic. And anyway, if that was case, maybe they could have waited a little bit more to cut me. They could have given me the chance to play five or six games so that other NBA teams could see me. I think they should have shown more respect to Felipe Lopez the person. I feel like I have been used... But what can you do?

It's just sad. I knew I had some support inside the organization. Not just for my basketball skills, but also because of my Latin roots. I thought that would be a plus for me here, but maybe I was wrong.

All I can do for now is keep working out to stay in shape. My agent is already making calls gauging possible interest from other teams around the league. Seattle and Clippers seemed to like me in the past. We'll see. You just have to be ready in case an opportunity arises.

If the NBA doesn't work out for me, I would look at other options elsewhere. More than anything, I'm a basketball player and I want to play. Anywhere.

The diary is over for now, people. Hopefully I'll be back soon. Goodbye!

Grabbing the opportunity
by Felipe Lopez / October 13, 2005

We played the first two games of the preseason Tuesday and Wednesday, although I just got time on the court in the last one. I was a little bit disappointed that I didn't get off the bench in the game against the Atlanta Hawks, but I knew I had to be professional about it. It's not like I have not been in similar situations in the NBA before. There were times when I didn't play for five games in a row and then they got me playing important minutes. Obviously, nobody likes a situation like that, but in this league you don't have to think about yesterday. You always have to stay positive and think about tomorrow. Thinking too much about not playing can get you very frustrated and when you get a chance, that frustration surfaces and you can't play well.

That was not the case for me Wednesday, when I played six minutes against the Houston Rockets. I did well, in my opinion. I played a little bit at the point, but mostly as an off guard. I think I brought a lot to the table for my team. My stat line was good – 2 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal... and even a turnover. Not bad for six minutes, huh? Not even Superman can do that! Just joking, but I believe I can have performances like that on a regular basis – just going out, playing hard and doing good things for my club.

In Wednesday's game, I shot the ball four times. Some would say it's too much, but you have to grab the opportunity. When you get a chance, you have to be aggressive and show as much as you can in the time you get. That's what I did and I remain confident. I think I can surprise a lot of people here.

Up next for us is a game in Tampa against the Hornets. I'm looking forward to that game and a long stay here. There are good guys on this team. I already knew Grant Hill and Steve Francis and we get along well. I get along well with everybody, in fact. I'm a friendly person and I've always had a great rapport with my teammates no matter where I played.

I'll be back Monday. Bye!

Atlanta bound
by Felipe Lopez / October 9, 2005

I'm back in Orlando. We returned here after several days of training camp in Jacksonville, where things went pretty well for me. I'm happy about my performance there and happy that two-a-days are over, too. Thank God! They can be real exhausting. Although we worked very hard, nobody got injured – which is pretty unusual in these camps.

The last day in Jacksonville, we had an intrasquad game. I played moderately well, in my opinion. I had two points, three assists and three rebounds in 15 minutes. Although my usual position is shooting guard, they had me playing the point yesterday. When I was in Minnesota, I played point guard, off guard and small forward. One of the assistant coaches there is on the Magic's coaching staff now, so he probably remembered that I could handle the point guard duties well. I know the plays, I understand the position and, being 6-foot-5, I can cause problems to other point guards with my size.

I feel like the team appreciates my versatility, that I'm able to do different things. Proving that I can play the point, I think that's a plus – although I must say we are pretty strong at that position already. But you never know. In the NBA there's always changes.

We are going to Atlanta on Monday to play our first preseason game against the Hawks. I don't know how much playing time I'll get Tuesday, but I'm eager for a chance. I think I belong in this league and I'm just waiting for an opportunity to show what I can do in a real game. If I get a chance, I'm pretty confident I'll take advantage of it. But with 17 or 18 players still on the team, there might not be playing time for everybody.

We have not been told when the first cuts will come, but I'm not nervous. All you can do is play your best and let the coaches and executives make the decision. Based on how things have gone so far, I'm optimistic.

Next Thursday I'll tell you how the game against the Hawks went for me. Bye!

Happy and tired
by Felipe Lopez / October 6, 2005

Things have gone extremely well for me in the first few days of training camp. I'm really very happy, but I'm also pretty tired. Two-a-days are always hard for players and I'm no exception. All those drills running up and down the court can wear on you. You have to drink a lot of water and put ice everywhere.

When I'm not practicing, I'm just lying on the bed of my room in the hotel. That's all I do. With two practices per day, there's not much time for recovery so the last thing you need is to make extra efforts. You have to take care of your body to be in the best possible shape for practice the following day. In my situation, you have no other option. What happens if you can practice tomorrow? You will be hurting your chances. I don't want that to happen.

Here at Jacksonville, we are working very, very hard because we know that usually pays off once the season is underway. We need to have a good season since last year was not very good for the team, and I think management has great expectations. We are trying to be not just a playoff team, but one that can make some noise in the postseason.

One of the things that have impressed me the most is the way the best players on the team set the tone for the rest of us. Grant Hill and Steve Francis... You can tell why they've become stars in the NBA. They are an example for the other players.

I have a good relationship with the other guys competing for a roster spot here. Obviously, you don't become good friends so easily in this situation, but we have to respect each other and not be selfish. If one of those teammates is open, I'm always going to pass him the ball without thinking it twice. I think that's the way things should work. My thing is, you do your best and let management take the decision. You have to be professional about it.

Time to rest now. I'll be back here Sunday...

The challenge begins
by Felipe Lopez / October 4, 2005

The first day of training camp was pretty good for me. We had two practices and things went well, in my opinion. I have a pretty optimistic outlook about my chances with the Magic. This is a team I could help. They need people at my position. Besides, this being a Florida team and an area with a lot a Latinos, I think that's a plus – being a Latino myself.

I had options to go to training camp with other teams, but I knew Orlando was the place to go. The fact that Brian Hill is the head coach here did nothing but reinforce my opinion. Brian Hill was my first coach in the NBA back when I was playing for the Vancouver Grizzlies. He knows the type of player I am. He knows what I can bring to the table and I feel he appreciates my abilities. The only thing they wanted to know is if I was healthy... And now I think I finally am.

Physically, I am getting better and better and am back at the level that I was before the knee injury I had when I was playing with the Minnesota Timberwolves three years ago. It was a long process and took me through a journey, but I am here to prove that I belong at this level again. That injury came at a bad time because I was playing the best basketball in my NBA career, but I'm not looking back now. And although I've been away from the NBA courts for a while, I'm pretty confident I can make it back because I'm used to the type of game that's played in this league. It's a natural thing for me.

Probably NBA teams noticed that this summer. It was a long summer for me, so they had a lot of chances to see me play.

It all started in Dallas. I played the summer leagues with the Mavericks and I led the team in scoring. I played both in Las Vegas and Utah and then I joined the Dominican National Team. We went to play friendly games in Venezuela and soon after that we went back to the Dominican Republic for the Tournament of Americas. Only the top four teams qualified directly for the World Championship and we finished sixth. That was hard. It was a little bit disappointing because we had enough talent and the coaching staff did a good job. Maybe the team as a whole was a little bit inexperienced and immature. It was obviously not a question of talent, because the team had talent. Hopefully we'll get one of the four wild cards FIBA awards.

Yes, it was a long summer, but I felt I had no choice but to play all these games so I could get more exposure and regain my confidence. I needed to do this so NBA teams realized I was back and healthy enough to play well. I just need an opportunity. When given the chance to contribute, I've usually done pretty well. Only an injury has kept me away from the league, not other things.

Talk to you Thursday...

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