Ask Dwight - Stotts Coach of the Month
When you observe Victor Claver’s game, you’ll notice that he looks the part of an outright basketball stud. At 6-9 he’s quick, athletic, can put the ball on the floor and his shooting form is textbook.
The problem is he hasn’t been able to put it all together on the court.
In 16 games this season, he has only appeared in three for a total of four minutes after competing in 49 games last season (his rookie year) that consisted of 16 starts. He has yet to make a field goal this season but that's impossible to do being that he hasn't taken a shot yet.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ bench is much-improved with the addition of Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson and the emergence of Joel Freeland, thus eliminating minutes for Claver at either small forward or power forward positions.
There currently aren’t enough minutes to spread around. Claver understands the situations. He’s happy and humbled just to be here.
“I work hard. I’m lucky. I can’t complain being here because this is the best position a player can be in,” Claver told CSNNW.com. “I’m patient. I work hard and I’m waiting for the moment.”
However, just like any competitive athlete, he wants to play and be an integral part of the organization. He has had talks with Rudy Fernandez, a teammate of his on the Spain National team, about the transition from the Euro League to the NBA.
After a few years in the league as a marginal role player, Fernandez felt he would be better suited if he returned to Spain in a more prominent role. Some criticized Fernandez for not sticking it out and opting to take the easy, comfortable route.
Claver doesn’t view Fernandez’s move as a “bail out.”
“ No. Of course I don’t blame Rudy,” Claver said. “Every player is different. There are certain players that feel better being in Euro. I think every player has to make that decision. If you can decide that, I think that’s the best. And Rudy is more comfortable over there. The way he plays, being one of the most important players on the team, I think that’s a better situation for him.”
This season and next season are fully guaranteed for Claver. Portland will have to extend Claver a $1.7 million qualifying offer if they wish to retain his services for the 2015-16 season.
If Claver’s minutes continue to be limited in the NBA a few years from now, he says the Rudy decision is going to be something he’ll have to deal with, too.
“I think every player wants to play,” he said. “That’s what we do. Of course I want to play and feel important to a team. I’m not asking to play 30 or 40 minutes, but I want to feel like I’m part of a team and that I can help the team win. For the moment, this season, I’m not doing it. But last season, like half of the season, I felt like I was doing it and I want to recover that competition everyday. Of course, if I’m still not playing [couple years from now], I will have to think of other options because I’m not going to be on the bench. I’m not a coach. I want to play. That’s what everybody wants to do.”
As a reserve seldom used, your task is to always be ready when called upon. Sounds easy, but the simple truth is it’s not. You have to constantly stay engaged even though the likelihood of you seeing the floor is very minimal.
And when you do get in the game, one mistake could find you right back on the bench without an opportunity to redeem yourself. That has been the most difficult transition for Claver: Life as a reserve/inactive player.
“You have to be ready for anything,” he said. “You play or you don’t play. The toughest thing for me here is sometimes it’s going to depend on how you work, how you practice everyday. But not only that, it’s also your teammates. If one has an injury, you have to be ready to play or maybe the coach doesn’t want you to play some games. Whatever happens, you have to be ready and that’s the toughest thing for me.”
In the meantime, Claver is going to continue fighting, working his butt off in order to get his coach’s attention. He's quite frankly in a violent numbers game when it comes to playing time, but head coach Terry Stotts said Claver is doing everything asked of him without hesitation.
That’s all you can ask of a player, that he puts in the work and continues to compete. No matter how things play out with Claver and his NBA career, he says he has no regrets about coming over and the decision of possibly going back to Spain will be something he’ll focus on when that situation arises.
He’s living in the moment.
“I decided to come here. After that, every player can decide where they want to play,” Claver said. “Right now, this is where I have to be and this is where I want to be. I don’t think in the future and I don’t think in the past. I have to enjoy this. Maybe it looks easy to be here but if you go to Spain and see how many came here to play, it’s only 12. It’s hard to make that step over here. That’s why I want to enjoy this. I don’t know how long I’m going to be here. I don’t know how long I’m going to play. I know that I’m here and want to enjoy this.”