What do you think of your recent incidents with Dwyane Wade and with Tayshaun Prince that resulted in a suspension? Do you think you have created a bad image for yourself in the NBA?
First, the one with Wade was completely my fault. It was a bad reaction on my part. If I had received any penalties because of it, it would be a fair sanction, but it was not given. However, the sanction set after the game against the Pistons is totally unfair. I see it as a totally real play taken out of context in the game — absolutely nothing happened. It was an accidental blow. Without purposely trying to, I hit him. I apologized on the court. I also asked Carlos Delfino to give my apologies to him, so I don’t understand why there is a sanction for something totally normal in a game. These types of things happen 30 or 40 times in a game. If the sanction was given to me because of Miami, then I think I think it’s completely unfair because it should’ve been given to me that very moment not now.
Do you feel that your defensive attitude makes you more respected among your teammates and coach?
I don’t know if more respected. I don’t think that my rivals respect me for playing like this because I am not doing anything out of the ordinary. I am playing exactly the same as I did in Europe or in Argentina, excluding the problems that I had when I was young. Now I am doing a good job with my defense, and if at any moment I have some type of attitude, it is not my intention. I know that I am playing defense against players who are taller, faster and have more skills than I do. So I am just trying to do what I need to do to defend and help my team. And if they respect me more because of this, then better for me.
Andres Nocioni (Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)
How does it make you feel to have achieved the playoffs’ classification in your first year in the NBA?
I feel very proud to have joined the team at such an important time. The Chicago Bulls have a great history and now we’ve entered the playoffs after 7 years of not making it. I feel part of this team. I feel very well and very comfortable with my playing style. And I hope to continue in this team and be better in the playoffs.
What are your teammates’ and fans’ reactions now that the Bulls have classified after so many years of not participating in the post-season?
Our fans are very enthusiastic about following the team now and are filling up the stadium once again. And the fans support is indispensable in this sport. That’s when you really notice what you are doing and the impact you have — when you walk along the street in a city as large as Chicago and fans appreciate and recognize you for what we are doing this year. I feel very proud to be part of this. I find my teammates are happy as well. They are all playing at a great level and we expect to achieve something important in the playoffs.
How far do you think the team will make it in the post-season ?
I thin we have to be realistic and understand what we can give in a tournament like this. I think we are prepared and in great condition to advance to the first round, after that, we’ll see what happens. The playoffs are a competition with a lot of intensity where at times it makes no logic and its results are contrary to what everyone expected. Obviously, there are teams that play at a great level. I believe that we can pass the first round and in the second we will see what happens. This team is young, but it has lots of personality and ambition to be better every day.
What are your expectations for the Basketball without Borders considering that you are going to be interacting with many Latin American young players whose dream is to play in the NBA one day?
This is very important to any player and you really enjoy participating in this type of activity. I put myself in these children’s shoes, and remember that when I was a boy I loved to see players that were doing a great job in the leagues, for example in the Argentinean National League. I feel very proud to be participating in this. And we should obviously thank the NBA because for the opportunity they are giving these children. Not many organizations are on the same level as the NBA with the capacity to organize an event like this. So I hope that all goes well and that we can all enjoy it by inspiring these boys who like basketball to continue to be dedicated to the sport and to pass along things that can also help them in their daily lives.
Do you think that thanks to your experience in Europe you can contribute to the young players in your team?
This will be my tenth season in the NBA and so I think I can definitely contribute and support some of the young players on the team. This team is young but has a lot of charisma and attitude, which makes me really enjoy playing with these guys. They play like veterans with great experience. I want to contribute like I have been doing so far, and with that I expect to help the team in the best possible way.
You might play Indiana, Boston or Washington in the first round. Which team do you prefer facing?
I think they are the three teams that adapt well to Chicago. We have already defeated them and have played well against them. We shouldn’t be thinking about the rival teams, it’s better to think about ourselves and what we can do. I believe that this is more important. When one begins to elect rivals, it’s a bad symptom. You should think about the team instead and concentrate on winning. They are three hard teams, but we can do great against any of them.
Do you believe that the BWB camp has to do with the growth of basketball in Argentina, and how much do you think this camp can contribute to national basketball?
I believe that it has to do with the moment that Argentinean basketball is going through and also the fact that there are more Argentinean players now in the NBA. On top of that, we have a star like Manu who is an All-Star and a very important player in the League. So that influences the NBA deciding to go to Argentina. This can help the sport of basketball quite a bit by promoting many kids and fans who enjoy watching basketball to go to these events. Hopefully this camp will benefit everyone, since we also have many things to learn. I believe that a player has something to learn every day until the day he retires.
Are you going to participate in the pre-world championship with the Argentinean National Team?
I don’t think so because I wanted to take some well-deserved vacations. I’ve been playing with the selection for many years now without taking a break. It’s been six years without resting during the summers to play with the national team. I think I’m going to take a vacation even though it’s not a sure thing yet, but probable.
What did you dream about the most when you were a boy, to be a star in the Argentinean National Team or the NBA?
I don’t remember what I dreamed about. Although I think I probably dreamed more about playing with the Argentinean National Team. And while I didn’t dream about the NBA much, I did like to watch the games, which I continue to enjoy, but I never really dreamed about winning anything in the NBA. I always thought I was going to be a player in Europe, but I was given this opportunity and I took it. I dreamed a lot more with the national team. Now when I think about it, it’s really incredible to think that I won the gold medal with this team. Ten years ago it would’ve been unthinkable. The Olympic Games was a great dream come true for everyone.