Born and raised in Sao Paulo, but absolutely Europe-bound since he set foot in Spain back in 2004, Brazilian point guard Marcelinho Huertas has provided backcourt power to no less than six European teams, among them Euroleague powerhouses Baskonia (twice) and FC Barcelona. His latest endeavor with Iberostar Tenerife, the 2017 Basketball Champions League and Intercontinental Cup winners, is yet to be achieved. For the team coached by Txus Vidorreta, a repeat of those accomplishments, plus a decent performance at the Spanish King’s Cup (Copa Del Rey) and a play-off spot in the regular season of the Liga Endesa is all they can ask for.
Huertas has been putting up great numbers this year, starting with an incredible 8.6 on assists average after ten BCL games, not to mention his 10.9 points per game on 90% free-throw shooting. His perimeter shooting woes notwithstanding, Marcelinho became one of the most established guards in international basketball’s recent years because of his unique court vision and his ability to make his teammates a lot better. These virtues have been displayed big time in the present campaign, now that Huertas is getting a taste of the BCL for the first time in his career.
The 36-year-old floor general has always been candid about the way he thought his skills were not fully appreciated in Los Angeles. Being a part of Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour on his first year in the NBA was not too bad an experience, as he recalls on TalkBasket.net, but his second season (2016-17) turned out with him playing an average of ten minutes in just 23 games with the Lakers.
In this interview, carried out after Tenerife’s blowout win at Peristeri in Athens (54-80), Marcelinho Huertas talked about the Spanish team’s goals in the season, the notion that he can be mentioned in the same breath as Nick Calathes as a top-notch passer and the choices he made in his career, which he wishes to prolong as much as possible. The final chapter of the discussion included his stint in LA and some remarks he had made about certain NBA players’ attitude.
Q: I guess that we witnessed a game between two teams with different objectives. What’s your take on Tenerife’s season so far?
A: We’ve been doing a wonderful job in both competitions, in the Basketball Champions League and the Spanish League. We knew how important it was for us to beat Peristeri in order to reach the first place in our group. Nymburk still is at our heels and next week we’re playing against them at home. Probably, this is the most important game so far in the BCL for us. In the ACB, we also have a very tough game in Zaragoza that can give us the opportunity to be a top-four seed for the Kings’ Cup and thus avoid Real Madrid and Barcelona in the first round. We’re in a very important part of the season. In February, we’re playing the Intercontinental Cup and also the King’s Cup. We have to keep the same mentality throughout the whole season. We can never stop because we want to compete against any team. We have a very competitive team and that’s the only mindset that we should have: do our best and compete at the highest level.
Q: Tenerife will host the Intercontinental Cup in a few days. What does this competition mean to the club?
A: It’s an important title for the club. They won it in the past (2017). For us players, being able to host and have our fanbase pushing us, is going to be something special. So, I hope that we can take advantage of this and do a great job.
Q: How about yourself? It seems that you’re having a great season so far. How do you feel?
A: I think it’s part of what our system offers. I try to play my game the same way I’ve always done, having my teammates’ and my coach’s confidence as well. I also feel good about myself, as I’ve been taking care of my body all my life. I just try to do what I’ve always done: keep playing the same way I’ve learned in my career, having great coaches and players next to me.
Q: Do you know that your assist numbers this year are comparable only to those of Nick Calathes?
A: Haha! Well, he’s one incredible player and of course one of the best passers this game has seen here in Europe. For me, it’s an honour to be playing almost at the same level, as far as numbers are concerned. Of course, we’re playing different competitions right now, but we both had been in the Euroleague for about ten seasons. Me and Nick have played against each other many times. It’s a pleasure to be compared with such a great player.
Q: You’ve spent the last ten years of your career playing in Spain and the NBA. Did you receive any offers from other countries?
A: I did, but I’ve always had doors open in Spain and great job opportunities over there. It’s a league that I know very well. People know me as well: clubs, coaches and the league itself. So, for me it’s the best national league. Besides, I had the opportunity to play not only in the ACB, but also in the Euroleague. I played for Joventud Badalona, then for Baskonia and Barcelona where I stayed for four years. It’s hard to deny or at least not consider these opportunites. Of course, I’ve always had the desire to play out of Spain as well and especially with Euroleague teams, the big ones, like Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, Fener and CSKA. I’ve had talks with a lot of these teams throughout the years, but in the end I always ended up choosing what I thought it was best for me at the moment and I can’t regret it.
Q: How close or how far are you from retiring from basketball?
A: As long as I’m playing like this and I’m healthy, I want to keep playing and showing what I can do. This is the most important thing for me. I don’t make plans right now because I don’t think I’m close to my retirement. So, that’s something I don’t even talk about.
Q: Have you ever thought of becoming a coach as soon as your career ends?
A: Yes, but I’ll make my decision when the time comes. I think time will tell.
Q: If so, whose of your ex-coach’s philosophy would you adopt?
A: Luckily I’ve had a lot of good coaches and I learned different things because each of them had his own perpsective. Defensively from one, tactically from another. It’s really hard for me to choose. I had an incredible experience with Txus Vidorreta in both years; also, with Xavi Pascual, Dusko Ivanovic, Pedro Martinez and Aito Reneses in my first three years in Spain. I was blessed to have so many great coaches with an incredible experience and history. For me, it’s something that I will always look back to. All that I learned from them is still in my head. Maybe one day I can put a little bit of each one when I coach.
Q: How would you describe your NBA years?
A: I always try to look at the bright side. I think it was a great experience for me being in a franchise like the Lakers and being around Kobe’s last season. I was living my dream of playing in the NBA and having some opportunities, especially in a franchise with so much history. Of course, the team was in a reconstruction year with a lot of young guys who needed to play, regardless of what I did on the court and in practice. My whole experience was not going to give me any more playing time. It was what it was and I couldn’t fight through it. I tried to do my best and honestly in the minutes I played in my two-year career there, I did pretty well. So, I can’t complain. I had some opportunities, but it was a bad situation.
Q: Do you believe that you could have gotten more information about the NBA before going there?
A: I knew this could happen, but I thought I could prove myself over there and also be a good mentor for D’Angelo Russell that year, help a little bit and give a different perspective, by running the team in a different way than he did. Sometimes, it doesn’t depend on you and you got to accept it.
Q: I read a statement of yours in a Brazilian website, about NBA players being like babies. Did you actually say that? Did you mean they’re spoiled?
A: Well, some are and everyone knows this. In contrast to players in Europe, they have so much power and I think that’s why they act in this way. Here in Europe it’s a completely different mindset and players have less power.