On August 29th, one day prior to the commencement of the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Victor Claver spoke with Raul Rioja of 20 Minutos Deportes about Spain’s preparation for the tournament, his future with the Portland Trail Blazers, and his thoughts on Team USA. I have painstakingly, albeit with occasional clumsiness, translated it to English for your reading enjoyment. Have at it.
Victor Claver has had a difficult season in the NBA, marginalized and with scarcely any minutes on his team, the Portland Trail Blazers. The World Cup in Spain is a great opportunity for the Valencian to feel like a player again and the forward is full of confidence.
Claver will have a different role than he had in the last EuroBasket, he will play the 3 and his role will be lower priority, but he is convinced that he can bring great things to the team. And, also, although America is the favorite to win the World Cup, he is convinced that Spain will be world champions.
Rioja: The tournament debut is very close. Are you ready for it to begin?
Claver: Without a doubt. We have been focused for several weeks, playing games, and we desire to compete.
Rioja: Is the team prepared after concentrating for so many days?
Claver: We are where what we’ll be. There are many things to prepare playing games, there are details to be corrected and we know what is best for the team. We are ready.
Rioja: What kind of shape is the team in?
Claver: We’re fine. We have had some physical problems and injuries, but the team is picking up the pace and we are finding the way we want to play and how to hurt other teams.
Rioja: In some games, Spain has struggled with the outside shot. Is it perhaps the Achilles heel of this team?
Claver: No, it’s not something that should worry us. One day we may have a bad day shooting, but we have enough resources, great shooters and low percentages should not be usual.
Rioja: Your role on the team has changed. In the last EuroBasket tournament, you played many minutes at the 4, now you have to play small forward. How does this change your game?
Claver: I’m trying to adapt and trying to find where I can help or hurt. I can help a lot in rebounding playing 3 and also playing without the ball.
Rioja: Are you comfortable in this situation, with fewer minutes?
Claver: Yes. Clearly not the minutes of last year, we all want to play more, but I’m happy. The other day I played a lot and look forward to helping.
Rioja: You are coming off a difficult year where you played very little in Portland. Have you discussed the lack of games during the season in friendly play?
Claver: No, because we usually play in the finals. In earlier games I noted feeling frustrated in that situation, but I’ve trained a lot, a lot of 5×5 in training, so it is not about the season. We have also had much time to rest.
Rioja: Thinking about the future, is there a possible way out of Portland for next year?
Claver: I am calm. For the moment I have a contract with the Blazers and I will continue there. It’s something I am not preoccupied with, there is nothing new. The team has not made major changes, there have been no trades, so I’m not worried.
Rioja: The debut will be against Iran, an unknown team for the vast majority of fans.
Claver: They are an approachable rival group, but it is the first game and we have to start well. They will look forward to us, the host team (Spain), so from day one we have to start very intense.
Rioja: Do you think looking ahead to a hypothetical final, or the fight for medals, it is popular for teams to have a ‘game-to-game’philosophy?
Claver: We are thinking about having a good start with no complications within our group to reach the best possible matches. We all have that mentality because we want to go far, want to win, and for that we have to start thinking about each step—not a final against the United States.
Rioja: What do you think about Team USA?
Claver: They have lied low, but are also a great team. They have many All-Star players who already have experience in international play and I think they are still the favorites.
Rioja: This year, the American team has many interior players (five), something that has not been common for Team USA. Do you think they are thinking about a clash with Spain, which has a great power inside game?
Claver: I don’t think the team is only thinking about us. They will consider what is best to meet all their matches. Although in other years they have brought fewer bigs, the players they have playing out there have been to championships and have had no trouble defending big people. Other teams who have to adapt to them.
Rioja: A forecast for the championship?
Claver: I see Spain as world champions.
Rioja: A very resounding response. Everyone on the team thinks like you?
Claver: Yes, we believe. That’s why we are here.