Gianmarco Pozzecco: "This is my last train to the NBA"
What were your feelings after the Olympic final against Argentina? Were you disappointed about losing the last game or happy to get a silver medal?
Gianmarco Pozzecco: I was not happy after the game, after we have lost the game. You know, that was a game I think we could have won. I was disappointed then. Now it's different. You are in your house and you see your medal and it's a good feeling. For us to win a medal there, it was a great accomplishment. There were great teams there. There was Lithuania, the U.S. team... And we still got a medal. I'm happy about that.
Did you expect to have such a good performance before the tournament started?
GP: I knew we had a good team. You can never know in which position you can finish, but I knew we were a good team. We are a team that beat Lithuania – which I think is the best team in the world – that beat the Dream Team in a tournament before the Olympic Games and we won Argentina too in the first round. I knew we were a very, very, very good team. So it was not that surprising.
What is your contract situation right now? Are you under contract with Bologna?
GP: I'm with Bologna right now. I spoke with the president of the club before the Olympic Games... He's the president of the club, but he's not just the president. He's like family. He's a friend. We have a great relationship. I have not signed, but I spoke all I had to speak about with him and that's like my signature on a contract for me. Anyway, if a team from the NBA comes with an offer, if I have the chance to play there, I don't think there would be any problem. I don't think I would have any problem to leave the team.
That would be your goal this season – to play in the NBA, right?
GP: Not this season, that's the goal of my life! That's my dream. That has always been a dream for me, to play in the NBA. I know that's the talk of the moment, that I can play there. That would be a great experience for me. That's what I hope happens.
Would you go even if it's for the minimum salary?
GP: No problem. That would not be a problem. I'm a rich man! (laughs) I don't care about the money. I've been playing here a lot of years and I've made enough money. I'm not interested in money at all. All I want is to play there even it is for the minimum. That's all I want. I think it's my time.
And would you accept a non-guaranteed contract, where you can be waived after a few weeks?
GP: Hmmm... That's a problem. I'm not sure I can do that at this time in my career. But it may not be that big of a problem after all. I'm coming back to Fortitudo anyway. Maybe it would be after two, four or six months or after the NBA season is over, but I'm going back to Fortitudo anyway. I would always have a guaranteed contract here, so that's an advantage.
Have you or your agent been in touch with any NBA team after the Olympic Games?
GP: We have spoken with a lot of teams, but they are offering me to go to the veteran camp. But that's difficult for me. I'm in the preseason with Fortitudo. What am I supposed to do? Leave the team and go there and maybe return the following week just because they want to see me play? I don't think I can do that.
Can you name some of the teams that have expressed interest?
GP: Why? That's not important. If there was a team offering a contract, I would tell you. But if they are only offering me to play in training camp, that's not important. I don't care about that.
Do you have a preference for any NBA team in particular?
GP: I'm not sure I should answer that question, but... I like New York. I would like to play in New York. Great city, great team. Who would not want to play there? I think it's a dream for any player.
GP: Oh, that would be great. Especially for me, because I'm a pick-and-roll player. That's what I do best. And playing pick-and-rolls with Shaq... I would like to see how that works. Shaq is very difficult... I mean, it would be very easy to play pick-and-roll with him. It could be great.
You had a previous experience in the NBA with the Raptors in the summer leagues three years ago. How was that?
GP: It was great, although I still was not ready for that. I was more athletic back then, but I wasn't really ready. I was a crazy player. I didn't understand some situations of the game. Now I do. I'm slower now, but I'm a better player. I understand the game better. I know how to make things work.
Why do you think you have not drawn much attention from the NBA until now?
GP: Because I'm undersized.
Do you think that's the only reason? Maybe the fact that you didn't get a lot of exposure because you were not playing for any big club in Europe may have hurt you too.
GP: Yes, that's another thing. I didn't play much in front of the NBA people maybe when I was in Varese. Probably that's one of the reasons. But the other thing is that they want big point guards. And I'm undersized, you know. They want big and strong bodies. That's probably the reason why not many European point guards have good careers in the NBA. Right now, there is just [Raul] Lopez, I think.
You are very popular in Italy, but not so much outside your country. Do you feel like you have been an underrated player in Europe and by the NBA scouts?
GP: Yes, probably. You know, my best season came when I was in Varese, when I almost led the league in scoring and assists. But we were not playing European competitions then. So probably I didn't get enough exposure.
What do you think you could bring to an NBA team?
GP: Never being down (laughs). I've played against players that have been there and I've done well. I know I could play there. I've played against a lot of those guys and I know I can do it. I can bring a lot of things.
Do you see yourself as just a reserve player in the NBA or do you think can you play a bigger role than that?
GP: Nah, I know for sure I would start from the bench. I would probably be the player number 8, 9, 10 or 12 (laughs). I don't mind. That's no problem. I know that would be like starting from zero, as if I was one of the young guys on the team again. I would have to show everything that I can do again. But that's no problem. I wouldn't mind being in that situation, really.
In the Italian media you are often painted as a controversial player and even...
GP: Crazy (laughs).
Yeah, a little bit wild and crazy.
GP: That was true. Some years ago, three or four years ago, I was a mad player. More than a little... Not just a little bit mad. Very crazy. I was not an easy player for a coach to deal with. I recognize that was true. But it's no longer true. Now it's different. I've calmed down now.
So your problems with the Italian National Team came from that?
GP: Yes, in part. But there was more. Four or five years ago, there was a different perception of what a point guard should do. If you were a point guard, you were supposed to score 10 points or eight or six points. If you scored more than that, you were not a real point guard. Now it's different for point guards. You can also score now if you are a point guard and it's not a problem.
Do you consider yourself a coachable player now?
GP: Yes, I'm a coachable player now.
If you finally don't go to the NBA this year, will you give up on the dream of playing in the league?
GP: Yes. You know, this is my last train. If I don't go now, I'll never go. This is my time. This is it. If I don't make it now, I will have to put an end to my dream of playing there, I guess.
Finally, just for those who haven't seen you play... Which NBA player would you compare yourself to?
Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com
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