Give-and-Go: Greivis Vasquez (4/22/13)

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer Give-and-Go: Greivis Vasquez

By: Jim Eichenhofer,, @Jim_Eichenhofer

We caught up with New Orleans Pelicans point guard Greivis Vasquez at Friday’s local Triple-A baseball game, to ask Vasquez a large series of fan questions from Twitter. Vasquez threw out the first pitch at Zephyr Field in Metairie, prior to a Pacific Coast League matchup between New Orleans and Memphis. The 6-foot-6 Vasquez, who grew up in baseball-crazed Venezuela, delivered a perfect strike during his toss, then spent the first three innings of the game as a guest on the Zephyrs’ radio broadcast. The three-year NBA player watched with his family as New Orleans shut out Memphis by a 4-0 tally.

How did you feel your ceremonial first pitch went out there?
Vasquez: [smiles] You know, I wasn’t really warmed up, so it was hard for me in the cold weather, but I threw probably about 85 (mph) for a strike. Nah, it was about 20 mph. But it was a strike! [laughs]

What kind of baseball experience and skills do you have? greivis_pels_400x396.jpg
Vasquez: I used to play baseball when I was little. Back in Venezuela, I was a shortstop. I was a great fielder, had a great arm – I played centerfield at times – but I couldn’t hit the ball. I was the last guy in the lineup, the No. 9 hitter. [laughs]

Are you a big baseball fan? It’s definitely the most popular sport in your home country.
Vasquez: I love watching games. Now that I have a son, I’m going to take him to a couple games. I’m going to go to Miami, take him to a couple Marlins games and see the new stadium. I saw some of the (articles) about the construction and how they were building that stadium (for its opening in 2012). Every time I’ve gone to the Saints’ facility, I’ve wanted to check this team out, the Z’s. I love watching baseball.

Time for Twitter questions from fans. From @ConnorMullany: Who are some free agents or upcoming rookies in the draft you’d like to play with?
Vasquez: I haven’t had time to look at the rookies yet. As far as free agents, I don’t think the market is (promising). There isn’t much available out there. But I think management has a big summer to get the job done and get the right players for us to make a big jump, have a better season, at least get to .500 and try to get to where we can fight for a playoff spot.

From @NoahRoss94: How does it feel to be included with former Hornets guard @CP3 on the list of top assistors?
Vasquez: Well, I’ve got to give credit to my teammates. If it weren’t for my teammates hitting shots – Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, A.D. catching all of those lobs, Al-Farouq – that’s why I led the league in total assists, in 78 games. That’s a huge accomplishment, but the time you feel comfortable in this league is the time you’re out of this league. I know I did a good job in that aspect, but I know I can get better in other aspects of my game. I just want to keep getting better and keep working, and to lead this team to the playoffs.

From @NOH_bball: What’s your view on the Pelican era?
Vasquez: I’m so excited. I can’t wait to get going. I think this fresh start is really going to help us, to be a new team, have a new face, new logo, new practice facility – it’s also going to be a new (renovated) arena, too. There are no excuses now. It’s like, let’s go out there and do it. We’ve got the motivation and what we need to be successful. Hopefully it will work out for us, because we’re doing everything right in order to be the team we really want to be. I know it takes time, but next year we really have to make a big, big jump.

OK Greivis, some of those were “softball” questions. The next few are ones ESPN might describe as the “hot seat” portion of this interview. From @T_Henderson03: What player has been your toughest matchup in the NBA so far?
Vasquez: I think Russell Westbrook is one of the toughest. Also, Chris Paul. Westbrook and Paul are very hard to guard, because one guy does everything based on athleticism, which is Westbrook, and the other is just the best point guard in the league and very smart. It was a good experience going against those guys. This summer, I’m going to try to work out with Westbrook, since we have the same agent and he’s going to be in L.A. Derrick Rose is also with Wasserman (Media Group, a major agency for NBA players). I think they’re going to be in L.A. together, so I’m going to jump in and work out with those guys. I really want to get better, because I want to be one of those elite point guards. I want to be a complete point guard. That’s one thing Monty Williams is going to emphasize with me: If you really want to lead this team and hold the keys to this car, you’ve got to be a complete player and work in the areas where you have to get better. It’s more mental than physical, knowing players’ tendencies and being smart. This year was the first time I played starting minutes, after playing through a huge summer that I had with my national team. I thought I was wearing down at the end, but it was a good experience and a big plus for me.

From @JTrey3: You didn’t play at the same level during the second half of the season, was it because of the minutes you were getting or injuries?
Vasquez: Injuries are part of the game. In a way, it maybe did affect me, where my body was wearing down and I was getting tired faster. Then I sprained my left ankle two and a half weeks before the end of the season. Then two games before the season ended, I sprained my other ankle. So I was feeling just a little bit tired. But I get paid to do my job. That’s one thing I learned being in this league and from Monty. You can’t use excuses, because the moment you do that, somebody will take your spot.

From @edc346: Will you stay here long-term with the Pelicans?
Vasquez: That’s my goal. I don’t want to leave here on these terms, of having two years in a row where we’re struggling and rebuilding. I want a chance to really help my team and lead them to a playoff run. I think it’s going to be very soon. What we’ve got to do this summer as individuals is all get better. I know Monty is going to be ready. We’ve got to be ready for Monty and get this team where we want it to be.

From @oceanback: Are you doing any speed training drills?
Vasquez: Yes. I’m really going to work on my body and get a little bit more explosive. I’m going to work on my speed and get a little bit quicker too. I think most of it is technique right now. You don’t get (significantly) faster at this point, but you can get more explosive and stronger. I’ve been working on my lower body. As long as you show progress in something in your game each summer, you’re going to be fine in this league.

Lastly, from @goldenshrub: How do you decide which facial hair to go with? It seems like it changes every day!
Vasquez: [smiles] That’s just my thing. Sometimes I wake up and I don’t want to get a haircut and just want to let my beard grow. Sometimes I wake up and just want to get a fresh cut or get a Mohawk or do something with my (facial hair). That’s just part of my culture, where I came from. It’s all based on how I’m feeling that day.


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