The Sacramento Kings unveiled one of their prized trade acquisitions Monday night when 26-year-old Greivis Vasquez took the court for the first time this preseason. There was nothing spectacular about the results, but it’s been a while since the Venezuelan point guard has played against NBA competition.
“This is his first time playing a live game in over four or five months,” coach Michael Malone said following Monday’s 99-88 victory over the Clippers. “So there’s going to be some rust there, but just getting him on the court, seeing him in a uniform running this team was great obviously.”
Vasquez underwent surgery on his right ankle to remove bone spurs back on May 24. The initial prognosis called for 12-16 weeks of recovery before he would return to NBA form. Friday will mark week 21 since he underwent the procedure.
“He’s nowhere near 100 percent, but that will come with time and the more he plays,” Malone said.
While the progress has been slow, Vasquez was excited to finally get into a game with his new teammates. He finished the contest with two points, two rebounds and one assist in 11 minutes of action. He left the game at the end of the first quarter with the Kings leading 25-19.
“It was great to get out there, man,” Vasquez said from his locker room stall. “It was a hard five months for me and [my] first real game and after practicing so hard [and] having a tough summer, it was just great to be out there.”
There is a so much excitement surrounding the Kings in Sacramento, and Vasquez wants to be part of the action. He is new to Sacramento, coming over to the club in a sign-and-trade deal for Tyreke Evans. He is looking forward to winning over the fanbase, one assist at a time.
“I want to play,” Vasquez said. “As a young guy and still trying to learn the game, you have that feeling that you want to showcase your game and show the fans what you can do.”
“No, I wanted Chris Paul,” Vasquez said when asked if he was glad to see the Clippers start with their second unit. “You always want to face the best. I always love playing against Chris Paul. I was looking forward to this moment. To his credit, he is probably the best point guard right now in the league. It’s always good when you face that type of competition, because you get better.”
With an 82-game regular season ahead, the Kings plan on taking their time bringing Vasquez back to starter-type minutes.
“He understands big picture,” Malone said. “As much of a competitor that he is, he understands that. The next four games he will get increased minutes, and hopefully by that last preseason game he’ll be up to almost game-type minutes for him. We don’t want to rush anything back and risk him injuring or re-injuring that ankle.”
To his credit, Vasquez also seems to understand that nothing is set in stone for him this season. He is in a battle with Isaiah Thomas for the starting job and if we have learned anything about Thomas in his first two NBA seasons, it is that you should never count out the 5-foot-9 former Husky.
Thomas has watched enough of Vasquez over the last few weeks of training camp to get a gauge on what the former New Orleans guard brings to the table.
“The guy is just under control,” Isaiah Thomas said of his competition. “(He) knows how to run a team and just plays the right way.”
With the injury slowing Vasquez throughout the summer and into training camp, he understands that nothing is going to be handed to him. He is coming into a new situation and he is taking a very unselfish approach into the season.
“It’s not really about me; it’s about winning,” Vasquez said. “If anything, if I want to help the team. I have to be healthy. I’m getting there.”
It’s going to take a while for Vasquez to get back to full strength. In the meantime, Thomas has shown that he is ready to lead the Kings. It should make for an interesting battle that is bound to last deep into the season. With both players entering the final year of their rookie deals, this has epic battle written all over it.