Portland Trail Blazers with the 22nd pick select Victor Claver." One summer before, at 20 years old, he touched down on American soil to show his credentials in private workouts with Portland, Sacramento, and the Lakers. Three seasons have passed since that Draft choice and in Portland they can't wait any longer. The new general manager of the franchise, Neil Olshey, has made it clear that they are interested in him. The only thing missing now is a contract offer (the one that he was given automatically in 2009 as a first-round pick expired last summer) so that he can make a decision. He's already overcome the first barrier. If he receives a good offer, the captain of Valencia Basket will head for America.
-In the last few days you've become the most wanted man in Valencia, sports-wise.
The NBA is the greatest league in the world and whenever something happens there, there's a lot of repercussions. That's what happening in my case with the statements from Portland's new general manager. When these words hit Spain, the impact is huge.
-Has the moment come to make the jump to the NBA with Portland?
They selected me in the 2009 Draft and hold my rights, but in the end the one who decides, fortunately, is me. I have the opportunity to decide my future and when Portland makes their move I'll have the opportunity to choose what's best for my career.
-Is it hard to live such a duality, which only happens in basketball, where you have a contract with one team and can opt into another parallel one in another league?
- I'm fine now, we're still training even after the season's ended. I have a contract until 2014 with Valencia Basket and if nothing changes I'll stay with the team. Also, ethically I think it's the right way to think.
-But it's not clear that you will fulfill your contract if Portland makes you an offer you can't refuse.
-Even if I go to the end of the earth, I'll always be in touch with what Valencia Basket does.
-There's been a lot of speculation in the last few weeks about your future. You're the best person to clarify what part of the process we're in right now.
- We're waiting to see what they say. I have two agents who work together, one American and one Spanish. The first is the one who talks with Portland and until he calls me to say what's there, we won't be able to decide anything. I hope it's soon, because it's a little uncomfortable for me to be in this situation. I'm calm about it because I'm sure that if it happens, it'll be good.
-If you take that step, how do you think Valencia Basket fans will react?
You can't please everyone in sports, but I know that a lot of people love me and support me. And whether I'm here next season or I leave, they'll keep doing so.
-The NBA bars official contract negotiations until July 1st. The Olympics start in London on the 29th of July. Do you hope to have your decision made, one way or the other, by that date?
-Yeah, I'd feel better if everything were sorted out before the Olympics. Because that would also benefit Valencia Basket, which I understand needs to know my decision as soon as possible.
-And if, after the Draft at the end of this month, Portland continues to want you, but negotiations don't begin until August or September?
-It doesn't worry me if they go slow. I know that there's interest and Portland is the one that needs to make the first step. What's clear to me is that when the Olympic selection begins, the only thing I'll be thinking about is helping the group and in getting a spot to compete in the Games.
-Obviously when a person declares himself eligible for a Draft, he doesn't do it because he's looking to wait around, but because he thinks it's an opportunity for his future.
I've always dreamed of playing in the NBA. Since I started, it's something that I've wanted to do at some point in my career. Portland was the team that showed the most interest in 2009 and the summer before, when I went to work out with the Trail Blazers, Sacramento, and the Lakers. It's something that's out there and that I'll do when the time is right.
-Yeah, but 2008 was even better. You look at the list now and you see NBA stars like Rose, Westbrook, or Kevin Love. That's why we decided to withdraw from that summer's selection and switch to 2009, where they were more opportunities in the first round.
- Does it please you that both you and the team have been very adamant during both of your two contract negotiations in inserting a European clause that promises compensation if you leave for the NBA?
-I've always been clear that my place was in Valencia and that's been my priority since I made my debut with my very first team. There were times when I could have chosen other places to grow up, but I always wanted to stay. The team knows it and because of that we've always been in agreement and left the door open for the NBA, with a clause acceptable to both sides. I only see myself playing in Valencia or Portland, I haven't really considered any other options.
-I'm going with Oklahoma. I like the way they play more, they have Serge Ibaka on their team, I think Durant is the best player right now, and in 2008 I was training with Westbrook and I know him.