Trail Blazers vs Suns Friday, 10/12/12 AT 07:00PM

New Country, New Language, New City, Same Game For Victor Claver

  1. Written by: erikgundersen


    Three years after being drafted by the Trail Blazers in the first round, Victor Claver is finally in Portland.  Claver had played his entire professional career for his hometown club, Valencia, and has played many years for the Spanish national team, so it’s understandable why the change in country, culture, language and city has taken time to get used to. A long way from the only place he has ever called home, Claver’s focusing on the only the thing that’s stayed the same.

    “Yes, it’s difficult at first. It’s always difficult, changes of city, of country, of language,” said Claver. “I have been preparing myself for a while and with the team facilities things are a lot more comfortable. Also, with my teammates, if I need something they help me, so that is helpful.”

    Claver has taken time to get extra experience overseas and refine his game as well as he could before coming to the NBA after being drafted in 2009. He was a phenom with Valencia, the rising star of the 2010 Eurocup and the ACB dunk contest champion in 2008. The time he spent in Valencia after being drafted by Portland was a good time for him to mature and grow in a familiar environment rather than jumping headfirst into the sometimes-dangerous waters of the NBA.

    After playing sparse minutes with the Spanish National team this summer, Claver comes to the NBA ready to embrace a new experience. He did learn about what to expect in his new city from speaking to fellow countrymen and former Trail Blazers’ Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez.

    “Rudy and Sergio were talking to me about, well, everything,” Claver says. “More than anything they talked about the (Rose Garden), which they liked a lot and the atmosphere with the fans.”

    Claver certainly did his homework when it came to his new home ranging from the Rose Garden, to neighborhoods and restaurants.

    Claver says that the adjustment to the schedule of an NBA training camp was not too tough, as he is used to training in the morning and in the evening, a common approach employed by European teams. However, Claver has noticed a big difference in the way this training camp has gone.

    “Since there are so many games during the season, we try and get everything in and everything is very intense these first few days,” Claver says. “Certainly, the style of play here is faster and there are things that, yes, will have to change mentally.”

    Although he has yet to experience the rigors of an NBA season, which includes travelling far more often and for longer distances than is typical for European teams, Claver has been working hard to learn the systems, both offensively and defensively, used by head coach Terry Stotts. Claver has not found the task difficult, as he has learned many systems over his career, but he knows that Coach Stotts’ offense is one that requires the necessary focus on the court.

    “You definitely have to be focused (on offense) because it depends on your teammates decision whether you do one thing or the other. You have to concentrate,” Claver said.

    But, he does find freedom in the system and in that freedom he believes the Trail Blazers will benefit. “I like that it has a lot of variants but also that it lets the players make decisions and it seems to me that it will be very good in helping the team play better.”

    In the first week of training camp, Coach Stotts focused a lot on defense. Their strategy, especially when it comes to facing the pick-and-roll, is quite different from previous years. Everything is new to Claver, but he says that there are certain things that some may take for granted that are factors in picking things up.

    “There are situations that change with the size of the court (the NBA dimensions are slightly bigger than those of FIBA) but we’ve been working for several days. All teams have their rules and standards and you’ve got to adapt.”

    Adjusting to his new surroundings and a new way to play, Victor Claver is still getting his feet under him. He showed flashes of what he can bring to the Trail Blazers off the bench in Portland’s first preseason game. He was active on defense, moved his feet well and showed that he can finish at the rim in transition with a nice three-point play in the fourth quarter.

    Between practicing twice a day and heading out on the road for Portland’s first three preseason games, Claver has had much time to recreate the comforts of home, such as preparing paella, a famous dish of his home city of Valencia.

    “Maybe when my mother comes, that will be better.”

    Until that welcome visit from his family, Claver will continue to be adjusting to his new life and setting on his own both on the court and off. Despite the differences in the ball, the size of the court, the language and the methods, it’s still the same game.  He has focused on the game but he has only had a glimpse of the many differences he will encounter in his new life in the NBA.

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