Trail Blazers small forward Victor Claver has played a grand total of four minutes in 37 games this season. Considering the progress he appeared to be making in last year’s EuroBasket Tournament as well as Las Vegas Summer League, it’s a shame to see him waste away. The 25 year old may be at the end of the talent line in Portland, but he’s a quality player in need of quality minutes (here or elsewhere).
In an interview with José Manuel Martín of La Razón, Victor Claver opened up about his frustrations, his goals, and his experiences with the Trail Blazers this season—all of which I have pain-stakingly translated into English for your enjoyment. Claver’s disappointment is human, but his team mentality is a shade above admirable. The conversation reads as follows:
Martín: How do you deal with going nearly two months without playing?
Claver: It is not a pleasant situation, obviously, but I try to focus on work every day and be ready to play when I play, and do well.
Martín: Did you imagine something like this in your second year in the NBA?
Claver: For me, it was a surprise not to have minutes. They say that the second year is harder than the first and we have a deeper roster. Veteran players have come and the coach is counting on them more at the moment. It is difficult to make changes when the team is doing well. Currently, we are winning and playing well, so things will stay the same.
Martín: What does the coaching staff say?
Claver: They try to give me confidence. I have a good relationship with the trainers and I can go to them without any problems if I need something. It makes training every day easier. The only thing I can think of is that the season is very long. We have played about 40 games out of 82. There are still many to go and should not let it get me down, because at any moment they can change things.
Martín: How would you argue your place on the team?
Claver: There are other players who were better than me at the beginning and that is a very respectable opinion. No getting around it. There are more players in the same situation as me that just play and are also very good and would be involved on any other team.
Martín: Is it harder to see the team still so high in the rankings?
Claver: I feel a mixture of joy and rage. Joy because the team is good and rage because I’d like to participate and experience it on the court. But we have a good dynamic and my goal now is not that we begin to lose, but that I can find a hole.
Martín: How much do you do, day-to-day?
Claver: I am with the team 24 hours. In this sense there has not been a change. The only thing is that now we have 14 players for games and can only have 13 on the active list and I am inactive at this time. When I get to the games, I wear a jacket instead of a tracksuit.
Martín: Are you sad?
Claver: Like any player who does not participate, I feel like I need to play. I’m busy, I give my all in practice, but I’m waiting for my moment to take minutes and recover the sensation of playing an important game.
Martín: Have you ever stopped to think that on the Lakers, for example, you would headline?
Claver: It is a bit of a lottery. There are teams that are dealing with injuries and young players who are getting opportunities. We are all good and come second. My goal is to be prepared and not think about what happened these past few weeks, but what may come.
Martín: Have you spoken with any Spaniards that used to play for Portland?
Claver: I have not spoken with Rudy [Fernandez] or Sergio [Rodriguez] much. I’ve spoken more with With Marc [Gasol], Ricky [Rubio], [Jose] Calderon, and Pau [Gasol] and they all tell me to be patient, this is very long. So I have no choice.
Martín: Do you feel limited?
Claver: I do not think that way. I think in the now and take advantage of what I have, since, although I do not play, I am on one of the best teams in the NBA and the way we work here will benefit me for the future. I do not look at what will happen later.
Martín: Does your NBA dream still stand?
Claver: This is a unique opportunity and I will not let a lack of minutes ruin it for me. All this will help me, whatever happens. It’s what I do and am privileged to be able to choose where I want to be. My plan is to build on this and see what happens.
Martín: Do you see this team in the NBA Finals?
Claver: At first they said that we were just lucky and that it would not last, but we have already shown that it is not luck. We want to go far in the playoffs. I do not say to win, because it is difficult, but far in the playoffs.
Martín: Have you ever imagined playing for the title?
Claver: At the moment, that is a long way off.