Raul Lopez: "I don't care about starting or coming off the bench"
Raul Lopez: It's pretty good. Things went as expected. I had some physical problems during the week, but that was because I have not played for a long time and had nothing to do with the problems in the knee. I'm pleased about the way things went with the knee this week.
How do you cope with people always asking you questions about the knee?
RL: It's not an enjoyable situation. People apparently forget everything else. Whatever happens or whatever I do, it's always the knee, the knee... It's normal that people ask me about that, though. You can sometimes get bothered about it, but it's normal that people ask about it.
When was the last time you were not asked about the knee in an interview?
RL: I can't remember, but it probably was a long time ago. It's something constant. They are always asking you questions about the knee. But you have to learn to live with all that involves this situation I've been through.
What surprised you the most about the NBA in your first year in the league?
RL: Not much, really. I came from the Spanish league, which is probably the second best league in the world. The organization is very good there too, so that didn't come as much of a surprise. That said, the NBA does an impressive marketing job, they know how to sell the product and everything is bigger here. But I can't say I was very surprised by anything.
And what about the franchise and the city?
RL: I've been OK here. If you put aside the situation I've been through and how tough all the injury thing was, it was a good year for me living here. It has helped me to get used to everything. And a lot of people have been great with me here.
They say it's a boring city.
RL: It's like everything. It is pretty much a legend -- that this city is boring and stuff. But it's not that bad. Obviously, this is not like Los Angeles or New York, but I've felt good here all through the year. It's been a good place for me.
What was a day in your life like in Salt Lake City?
RL: I had rehab sessions in the morning and some practice. I was free to do what I wanted in the afternoon. Then maybe you have to go the the games depending on whether the team played that night or not.
RL: I don't know if you can call it a relationship. They were my teammates, but I was not really a part of the team. I was pretty much a nobody here, you know.
And with the rest of the team?
RL: Pretty much the same. Malone and Stockton, being the leaders here, expressed interest in how everything was going with the injury, how I was and that kind of things. But it was not a close relationship.
Is there anybody you can call friend there?
RL: Well... I've met a lot of people here. Everybody -- from the physiotherapist to the coaches -- has been nice to me. They've helped me a lot. But friends... Maybe that's not the word I would use to describe it. Anyway, I've felt good with all that people around me.
You and Tony Parker were at a similar level in Europe. In fact, you were selected ahead of him in the draft. Don't you get frustrated by the fact that he is having great success in the league while you have not been able to play a game yet?
RL: When we were in Europe, they said we were similar players. Now here, I'd say we are totally different. But I know the comparisons will be there and I have to accept that. We've been in very different situations over the last couple of years. He's been playing at the highest level and I have had to go through all this, so you can't make comparisons right now. Anyway, my goal is not to be better than this player or that other player. I just want to have fun doing what I like to do and being the same player I was before.
Do you think you will have the same quickness as Parker once recovered?
RL: I don't know if I'm going to be as quick as he is, but I know I will be as quick as I was. Sooner or later. It will take some time, but it'll be back. My quickness is probably what brought me here, so it has to.
How long do you think it will take you to have all that quickness back?
RL: If I keep working this summer, I think I will be at that level at the beginning of the season. It may be difficult at the beginning, but I hope to be at that level soon.
Will you play like you did before in the first games or will you take no risks with the knee and slow the tempo a little bit?
RL: Once you are on the basketball court, you just think about the game -- not about slowing the tempo or any other thing. Anyway, you can't just do everything at full speed. Because of the circumstances of the game, you have to slow down a little bit.
Do you see yourself starting or coming off the bench?
RL: I won't think about that until the first game comes -- when the coach tells me. Anyway, I don't care about starting or coming off the bench. I just want to play. And I'm going to work hard so that I can prove the coach that I belong, that I can play here and I can help the team.
How far can the team go this year?
RL: Until the roster is complete, you can't say much. It's clear we need to add some players. Then we'll see. But knowing the philosophy of the Utah Jazz, this is going to be a hard working team. We are going to fight and with some luck we might be able to do some interesting things this year. We'll see.
Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com