Mandatory first question… How is your ankle?
Greivis Vasquez: I saw the doctor again (Monday) and it was very productive. They took X-rays. I haven’t done physical therapy yet and it’s positively 50 percent better than before. The doctor reset my bones during surgery, and my ankle today has better biomechanics. It is essential for my type of play. The last two years, I played 23 or 24 games with a badly atrophied ankle.
They cut a bit of the tibia to create space in that area. It is called distraction surgery. I was given PRP injections to help regenerate cartilage and heal the bone faster. My ankle now has the biomechanics of a normal ankle. This gives me hope I can get back better.
How was the surgery you had in December 2015 different from the one you had in November 2016?
GV: In 2015, they removed bone fragments and cleaned out the ankle. But the truth is that I should have had the 2016 surgery to begin with. Sports medicine is one thing, general medicine is another. This is my opinion. And the general medicine doctor I went to was very experienced in this technique. He was able to give me a broader and more logical explanation. Had I done this in 2015, I would be playing by now.
By the end of February, they will remove the fixator and I’ll begin the normal rehab period. It will take four months. That means by May or June I will be running and playing basketball. In June or July, I hope to try out with several teams. If my ankle is at 70 or 80 percent by then, it will be enough to display my type of play. I know that I can help any team in the regular season and playoffs. I have done that before.
You are in Florida, right?
GV: Yes, I’m in West Palm Beach. I’ve been recovering at the Paley Institute. Here I do rehab and get injections.
How was your departure from the Brooklyn Nets?
GV: It was very difficult. The opportunity was there, but I needed this surgery. The best part is that I had the surgery at the right time. I didn’t wait that long. Once I felt the pain, I searched for and found the solution. I had surgery in November. Had I done this at the end of last season, I think I would have lost credibility.
The Nets supported me big time. They were very professional, very ethical and responsible regarding my situation. Actually, I’d like to go back to Brooklyn and play for them. We’ll see how things work out. I have a lot of respect for them.
Have you noticed the change in the direction of the Nets? It seemed chaotic before Sean Marks came in.
GV: Yes, I have. Sean Marks is young, but he knows what he is doing. He is very smart. I have confidence in his work, regardless of whether I return to the team or not. The same goes for coach Kenny Atkinson. He is an amazing person. He has a great staff.
They are doing things really well. Although the results do not yet show, sometimes you have to take two steps back to move forward. His strategy is really smart. They offered contracts to important players, but unfortunately their teams matched the offers. On top of that, Jeremy Lin got injured. They are laying the foundation for future success. Sean Marks will not stand pat. He will try again this summer, and the Nets will be a winning franchise again.
Are you still in contact with Brooklyn?
GV: Yes, I talk a lot with all of them. Especially with assistant Adam Harrington. I’m also in touch with coach Kenny Atkinson via texting. He left the door open for me. He offered me to come back in April or May to work with them. I told him that I accepted his offer, and I will work with them with no strings attached. Brooklyn’s program is very solid and productive. Coach Kenny’s methodology is very good. Brooklyn is a very attractive team in a very attractive city. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Besides Brooklyn, have you heard from any team?
GV: Yes, there are teams that have shown interest. But now those teams have other immediate needs to get to the playoffs.
Given your style, on what team do you see yourself playing?
GV: It is difficult to say. In my experience, whenever I wanted to play for a team, I ended up playing for another one I hadn’t envisioned.
Now all I want is to be healthy. I still have a lot of basketball to play. At least five more years. There won’t be any more surgeries. I’ll be the Greivis from two years ago, and play every game. It’s like riding a bike. You don’t forget basketball. I know what I can do on a basketball court, and I trust my work ethic.
What memories do you have from your time with the Toronto Raptors?
GV: I’ve got beautiful memories. Leaving Toronto was one of the changes that hurt me the most. I’m still very fond of that city. I’m a loyal fan of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The camaraderie of that team is spectacular. Nobody believed in us, yet we got to the playoffs. Toronto was a stepping stone for what I am today. I know I’m not a star, but I know I can play some significant minutes on any team and win games.
Have you thought about playing outside of the United States?
GV: I’m not ruling it out. But I’m sure that I will play in the NBA again. I respect other leagues and follow basketball worldwide, but it’s not something that’s in my mind right now. My goal is to play in the best league in the world. My goal is to return to the NBA.
I know you’re devoting a lot of time to your foundation in Venezuela.
GV: Yes, both with the Team Vasquez and the Greivis Vasquez Foundation, we are committed to my country. I want to change basketball in Venezuela. At the general level, and the federal level. We want to support the low-level categories. My foundation is providing scholarships to players, giving seminars to coaches, training referees, creating camps, etcetera. We own land and want to build NBA’s practice facilities in order for Venezuelans to have a development center.
Have you spoken with the NBA about this?
GV: Yes. We are talking. We take it step by step. It’s been one year, and this requires a period of at least three or four years. The NBA will be with young Venezuelans. I also dream of playing a regular-season game as has been done in Mexico and Brazil, for example. My country needs these things away from politics. We want Venezuelans to connect with the world through the sport. Basketball is very important in Venezuela.
Now I have to give back to the country what it has given me. My foundation grants scholarships. This year we are awarding scholarships to seven kids. We pay for everything and are in contact with schools, etcetera. I also have a foundation in the United States and work with many Latinos. The two foundations are connected.
We are looking for partnerships with private companies, with other players and the NBA. For example, I would like to work in Spain with the Gasol brothers. I played with Marc Gasol for the Memphis Grizzlies, I know Pau Gasol and Ricky Rubio. Hopefully, we can do something over there. We need to unite. The NBA should be a global league at the playing level and the social level.
I saw in one of your Facebook Live posts that you have especially been looking for 12-to-17 year olds.
GV: Yes, those are the ages at which we can bring young Venezuelans to study in the United States. We also want to work with Venezuelan universities. So the boys who do not get a scholarship for the United States are able to get it in Venezuela. Not everything is basketball. They also have to study. Our motto is ‘He who doesn’t study doesn’t get to play.’ We want to encourage young Venezuelans to get out of their comfort zone and acquire a sense of responsibility.
We also want to work with high school coaches who want to learn more about basketball. We want to bring good coaches from Europe and the United States so that they interact with our boys and stay on top of their game.
Have any of the players who received scholarships gotten any interest from universities?
GV: Yes, several of them. Luis Hurtado, for example. Next season he will go to the UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) as a freshman. He has a great opportunity. He is very solid. He is a tall point guard with a great vision of the game.
I see that you feel comfortable helping and teaching. Do you see yourself as a coach in the future?
GV: It is an option. Dreaming is nice and it’s free. I dream of being the coach of the University of Maryland or coaching in the NBA within 15 years. I’d also like to coach the National Team of Venezuela. But I also dream of becoming an entrepreneur, having a large company and helping others by creating jobs.
Are you still connected to Under Armour?
GV: Yes. I signed a five-year contract and I have two or three more left. They’re helping me a lot. To me they are the best, and I am proud I belong to this family. Kevin Plank and his team do an excellent job. I believe in Under Armour, and I know I’ll be with them for life.