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Brian Scalabrine: «I want to go back to Europe»

(Versión en español)

Brian Scalabrine (born March 18, 1978) has been one of the most loved players on the NBA in the last decade. Now, after an eleven years career, he’s done with the NBA. With a Championship Ring on his finger (Boston Celtics, 2008), he is now joining the Comcast SportsNet New England as a commentator. However, he’s not closing the door on Europe, and says that he want to go back in January. Scalabrine attended us from Los Angeles and talked about his entire career, the fans’ love and his future.

Photo by The Boston Herald

When did you realize that you wanted to become a basketball player?

When I was a kid obviously -every kid dreams about playing sports when they get older but for me, the whole plan of playing basketball was to secure my education. Maybe I could go to Europe and play, maybe the NBA and see what I got. And one day become a basketball coach, that was like my goal growing up you know. I never ever really thought that I will be in the NBA so many years and have a career like the one I had. But that came you know, that was something that just happened because of my hard work and my dedication.

In any of your years at USC, did you ever doubt about your chances to get to the NBA?

Yeah, I can’t say that I was concern about make it to the NBA -it wasn’t my major goal. I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I just worked as hard as I could and I wanted to play basketball as long as I could no matter what. I think my goal was more being an European player than play in the NBA. I happened to play there for eleven years and when I got there I had a previous career. And now my focus is just on playing as long as I can.

How do you remember your rookie year in the NBA?

Well I think it was the NBA season in which I have more opportunities. I was almost selected on the first round and I just wanted to play another year there. I didn’t play perspective from where I am now that team was probably much greater than the team in 2003. For me all just was about opportunities -if I got a chance to play. But you know, I have always been on good teams, great teams so there are good players ahead of you. Obviously I was not better than Kevin Garnett so it’s hard for you to play time if you are behind of guys like that.

What are your best memories of your years at the NBA?

Well, probably winning the Championship was the best achievement and the sweetest memory. But what I remember most was the relationships I had. My last year there in New Jersey me and Jason Kidd became real friends. I built a good relationship with him and it was great learn from him. He had so much experience and so much knowledge. I had the perspective of how much power had a superstar on the game. And then when I got to Boston I was kind of lost. I had some struggles like everybody else on this league you know. But we built a great relationship on that bench -Kevin Garnett built that good relationship. We had a great chemistry and then we won a Championship. And in Chicago the same thing. We were the best team on Regular Season but then we had a rough postseason when Derrick went down. Like all those teams they build your character. That was probably for me, just learning all the aspects on the NBA and being successful. The great coaches that I had -from Byron Scott to Thibs and the great relationships I had with them. I think they all give to me one different thing and I could grow as a player and a person. So that’s what I remember most of my eleven years at the NBA.

The Derrick Rose injury had to be rough for you guys, then.

It was difficult because we had already played a lot of games without Derrick. Our team really got a lot better because we didn’t rely on Derrick that much. But in the Playoffs you really have to have your superstars on the top of their games. I thought our team could do a great job without him, that we could get close to the goal. He came back for the Playoffs but we didn’t know if he could be able to play 48 minutes you know. I think we had a great team last year and I think we could be able to win the Championship. But then Derrick went down -he’s so dynamic, so explosive and his lost really affected us and we got out on the First Round. The injuries are just another part of the game and you have to fight against them. I think now Derrick is going back as a better player and the best we can expect.

You’ve played with several NBA stars. If you had to chose a starting lineup composed by former teammates of yours, what would be?

Uhm… I would put Jason Kidd at the… Well… (sighs) I would put Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo together. Like you know, Rajon at the one, Jason at the two or vice versa, I personally think they can both help on the direction and the scoring. At the three would be Paul Pierce. At the four would be Kenyon Martin -oh wait I forgot about Derrick… It’s the toughest question I’ve ever be asked! (laughs). Oh well, I would go… -you know, you have to take all of them at their prime, obviously. So we have Jason Kidd, then Paul Pierce, Kenyon Martin at the four… and Kevin Garnett at the five. Uhm… Maybe, maybe… It’s a tough question. I’ve played with a lot of great players! How could you let Derrick Rose out of there? How could you let Rajon Rondo out? And I really have a lot of respect for Joakim Noah, he really can fight down there with Kevin Garnett -he is a really hard player to guard. I have played with a lot of great players and every each one of my former teammates were good players. It’s hard to compose a starting lineup (laughs).

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

So let’s talk about your experience at Treviso.

I enjoyed the basketball side of it. Just like learning about my teammates. These guys like they all had played great, important games at the Euroleague, Championship games -knowing those guys were great. I also loved my coach. He was really different of Thiboudeau -Thibs spend hours and hours watching scouting reports but our coach at Treviso, he put together really fast good practice plans, he really knew how to talk with their players. He let me played a lot of games, like almost all the minutes. That was fun -being a leader again, that was great. But the hard part was -I’m not like closing the door on Europe, I want to go back if I have an opportunity in January. I will probably try to go back -but it won’t be with my family. The hardest thing that time was going home and see how my family were. My wife, she really had it really tough, my kids didn’t adapt to speaking the language. And for me it was like I can’t do anything. Just sit there and say »hey just suck it up». I was doing what I love but I was asking my wife to travel around the world and being supportive when the reality is that she didn’t have to do  that. So I think that the hardest thing was that, I love my family. And then we had the idea that NBA were coming back, so I was like one foot in and one foot out. I didn’t have that mentality of really work hard and pull it off in Europe no matter what. So I think that if I come back I would be really committed to what I’m doing -playing hard, playing for a Championship and so. If I could go back in January I will let my family in the States -I will be on my own just playing some basketball.

So how do you see the European basketball evolution? Because there are more European players right now playing on the NBA than when you first arrive to the league.

Yeah, I know that in Europe there are a lot of talented players -everywhere. And what Europe does -in what I think they do a better job than in America is developing that talent. So I think we have a lot of talented guys for overseas here in America. You look at guys like Dirk [Nowitzki], Ginobili, Pau Gasol with such a great and high skills level. When I was in Treviso I saw how they work with young players and I saw the way they practiced. We are talking about eighteen years old kids playing against guys thirty years old. That really do help developing youngsters talent. So I made the kids work really hard. The NBA game is a whole of different than the European game which is something that they have to have in account. But, you know, the talent in Europe is something real. You have a lot of great players out there. A lot of people don’t think about this, but hard work gets you to a lot of places. You just have to hold on out there. I won’t say everybody can make it but guys with coaches pushing them to run and make it to the NBA -they need to have that dedication in order to really do it. That’s what they do through the years, just looking for opportunities. There a lot of good players in Europe that are getting better and better and maybe they will fit well in the NBA. We’ll see if this continues to evolve like expected -it seems like the arriving of European players has slow down a little bit when you think about it. The amount of players getting drafted is not like was five, six years ago.

How does yoga help you?

When you train, you train hard and in basketball you are going to have what we call overuse injuries. Your thighs are tight, your shoulders are tight. And I think that keeping your body on rest during like an hour, before stretching and all that really do helps you to be better with yourself. And when you get older your body gets tighter and it gets harder to start a warm up so I think yoga can help a little bit on that. I have always trained really hard and I also used yoga to balance my body. But I wouldn’t say yoga is better or just the only thing you have to do -stretching is important as well obviously. Yoga can help you to make it through a rough season.

You are kind of a star for the NBA fans, and in the Internet too. How do you feel about the love that fans give to you?

Yeah it is kind of weird, you know? They love me in Treviso, they love me in New Jersey, they love me in Boston, they love me in Chicago too. I just -I don’t know whether they liked me because I’m kind of an underdog or because I did it good when I came out of the bench. I don’t really understand why they love me. I do know that there are a lot of hands up out there that I truly appreciate. A guy like me -you know, I have a pretty great life now, but when I was a kid I gave up my life to basketball. When I was in college I was not hanging out at parties or anything -I just focused on basketball and when I made it to the NBA I was still focus on basketball. But you know, it was a great life for me and I really enjoy it and I truly like it. Feel the heat of the game, knowing different cultures, talking to people and media, learning from players back in the 70s and from now. But I had to work really hard to achieve everything I ever had. So I don’t know if all those people understand how hard I had to work in order to make it to the NBA and the amount of dedication I put on it .If they do and they like me for that well I appreciate that love, but if they don’t and for they I’m a kind of a joke or something -I don’t want that love, you know.

Now, you will be doing some Television work there in Boston.

I’m not sure is there going to be any difference for me. There is a lot of work there -you have to stage, you have to talk to people. You have to dedicate yourself to what you are doing. I will have to improve my communication skills, and maybe I will be better than somebody else. I sure have to put in a lot of work and I still have to understand what we are trying to do in our broadcasting -what are we trying to build. Maybe we will try to build a bridge between the team and the fans watching us at home. So I will have to work a lot to be better at it. But I’m not going to take it any different that I took my basketball -I always wanted to be the best basketball player I could ever be and I will want to be the best announcer I could be, the best color analyst. I will not be facing this any differently than anything else I’ve ever done. I will put on it a lot of hard work and dedication.

The last question for you. Where do you picture yourself in, let’s say, ten years from now?

That’s a good question, but I will answer that question for you -I’m not a long-term planner, I’m more a short-term planner. I have that kind of mindset -what can I do now, what can I do to improve. But ten years from now I picture myself being a color commentator for the Boston Celtics, following the team around. Still working on my job, getting better and better. If I could do that for the next ten years or the next thirty years I would be really happy. That’s my new goal now, be attached to basketball and learning from new players and stuff like that. That’s what I think now but hey, maybe I’ll play again in Europe and who know (laughs). To be honest with you I really miss playing in Europe. It was so awarding to get to play so many minutes. I miss playing forty minutes there, going to practice every day… I really miss that.

Well, thank you very much for your time. Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best of lucks.

Thank you. If you ever come by over here just pass by to say hello.

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