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Toronto Raptors Greivis Vasquez, I Can Start

When the Raptors acquired Greivis Vasquez from the Sacramento Kings, they had a starting point guard.  Kyle Lowry is in the midst of a career year, however, Vasquez has been a productive starter going back to the end of the 2011-2012 season in New Orleans and he knows he’s still got it.

“I like winning,” Vasquez said.  “I was the starting point guard for teams that were rebuilding.  I was playing with young guys, now I came to this team and there is a lot of experience here, but its young experience.  DeRozan has been here for 5 years, Kyle (Lowry) has been here for 8, there are a lot of guys who have been in the league for a while, so it’s different and I play a different role.  It is hard to adjust.  You have to go back and forth.  I still believe I can do the job as a starting point guard, but as of right now, my team needs me to come off the bench and just be solid and that is what I am going to do.”

The knock on Vasquez in Toronto has been his inconsistency.  He has gone from nailing 3 three-pointers in a couple of minutes to seemingly turning the ball over on every possession, but to be fair, Vasquez was thrown into a tough situation and his play has directly contributed to more than a few Raptors victories.

“I have to get more consistency and I’ll get there,” Vasquez said.  “I did it last year – whether it was a losing team or not – you can’t take away what I have done.  I was a Western Conference Player of the Week – that was huge.  That is what keeps me motivated and confident that I can do great things.  It just takes time.  It is just the fit.  If you are in the right fit that happens to a lot of players – Jeremy Lin when he was with the Knicks – and I feel that this is the right fit for me.  It is going to take a little time as I just came here – It wasn’t like I went through training camp and got used to the players.”

It doesn’t get mentioned often enough, but Vasquez was the Western Conference player of the week on December 30, 2012 also led the NBA in assists last season with 704 – that’s more than the 4 All-Star point guards that immediately trailed him.  Vasquez’s confidence in his ability comes from having been the leader in the NBA in the most obvious point guard skill, but he acknowledges that he still has to get better at his craft.

“I went through 2 different teams in 5 months and I was a starting point guard 2.5-3 years in a row,” Vasquez said.  “I have to come off the bench (now) and Kyle is playing out of his mind so I’m with that.  I’m happy for him.  I think in the long run it is going to help me to be the point guard that I want to be – playing with a guy like Kyle, especially right now (when) he is at the peak of his career, I think I can learn a lot and that is how I view my situation.  I feel like I do want to be better, get better, I can’t stay the same and anything can happen.  We just have to remain humble and keep working.”

The hard work is starting to show in the Raptors last couple of games.  In the 2 recent losses, Vasquez came off the bench and had a huge impact.  He was +15 in 21 minutes versus the Lakers and +23 in 23.8 minutes versus the Bobcats as he averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds and 8.5 assists.

It is only a small sample size, but the 27-year-old who spent 4 years at Maryland and is now in his fourth NBA season knows it takes a lot of mental toughness and hard work to succeed in the NBA.  He is a tough enough player to give Coach Casey what this team needs off the bench and probably more if he is called upon.

“You have to be a tough-minded player,” Vasquez said.  “You have to have a mental toughness that is going to keep you (going) especially when you are not a superstar.  There are only a few guys who like Kobe or LeBron, the rest of the guys, we have to play hard, we have to find a way.  My work ethic and mental toughness is really (the only way).  I still feel I haven’t played the way I can play that’s for sure and everybody – the coach – knows I can do so much better, but they don’t need much better right now, they just need solid.”

Winning, apparently trumps all personal goals.  Vasquez has been a productive starting point with some league leading credentials, but for the opportunity to be on a playoff team, he’ll do whatever it takes and use the opportunity to improve his game.

“I feel that here it will be a good fit,” Vasquez said.  “I think eventually, I will be the player I want to be here, but as of right now, it is not really about me, it’s about winning.  So if I have to play 11 minutes, 13 minutes and just be solid, that’s what I got to do.  I love going to sleep thinking that we are fourth in the East with a chance to get back in the playoffs.”


Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.


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