Anderson Varejao: "Dunking on O'Neal was the best thing of the tournament"
How do you feel about Brazil's performance in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament?
Anderson Varejao: How can you feel after a defeat? You can only feel sad. It's very sad. I really wanted to play in the Olympics next year, but it won't possible. Brazil is a very young team, you know. We fought hard and we proved that we have talent, but we lack experience. And it showed. The average age of the players in our team was 22-23. But being such a young team, I think we will qualify for the Olympics next time.
And how do you feel about your individual performance?
AV: I think it was pretty good. I player really well against the United States and I saw a lot of playing time after that. I think I played well.
You know the NBA scouts were quite impressed with you, right?
AV: Were they? I didn't know. I have not been in touch with anybody to talk about this. We'll talk about this in the future, though.
You usually play better with the National Team than with your club (FC Barcelona). Why? Is it just a matter of getting more playing time?
AV: Getting more minutes helps, but it is not only about that. With Barcelona, I only played one competition and it was hard to get into the rhythm. But this year I am going to play all competitions, so hopefully things will change.
AV: It was the second time I played against Jermaine O'Neal. I had already played against him in the Goodwill Games.
Did they impress you?
AV: No. They look great, but I can't say I was impressed.
You dunked on Jermaine O'Neal. Was that the best thing of the tournament for you?
AV: (Laughs) Yeah, I think dunking on him was the best thing of the tournament for me. The best play. It gave me a moral boost. Doing something like that when the game had just started gave me a lot of energy.
Which player impressed you more in the U.S. team?
AV: Tim Duncan. He plays very simple and very effective. You know what he is going to do, but you don't know what to do to stop him.
Do you think the U.S. team will be unbeatable in Athens with all those players?
AV: No. I think there are several teams with a good shot at defeating them. If those teams work hard on preparing the games against the U.S. team, they are going to find it hard to win.
You played once against the NBA stars in the Tournament of Americas, but you are going to meet them every night when you are in the NBA in a near future. Do you see yourself holding your own against them?
AV: (Laughs) You say I'm going to the NBA, but nothing is clear yet. If I go, of course I'll have to hold my own against them. No problem with that.
How did you see your friend Nene? Has he progressed much in a year?
AV: He has really developed his game this year in Denver. He played a lot with the Nuggets. In Puerto Rico, he got into early foul trouble several times and couldn't play all that well in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. But he is very good. He is much stronger now.
Other than you, which Brazilian players do you think have NBA potential?
AV: Tiago Splitter. He is very good, very courageous. I think he will be selected in a very high position in the draft. Besides, he is young. He was born in 1985. If he goes to the NBA next year, he will be the No. 3 pick, according to the Internet sites. It's possible he goes next year.
You played against some of the best American players that will declare for the draft next year (Okafor, Paulding...) in the Pan Am Games. Did you see anybody there who made you think "This guy is better than me?"
AV: Well... They are good, but they are still young. It's hard to say. I saw a lot of good players. As far as saying "this guy is better than me," I don't know. It's not up to me to say that, anyway. The NBA scouts and the NBA teams have to say that, not me.
You'll probably be selected in the first round of the draft next June. Where do you see yourself in one year?
AV: In Barcelona. I can't see myself there [in the NBA] yet. My mind is on Barcelona now. I still have three years left on my contract with Barcelona, so we'll see.
Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com
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