Greivis Vasquez remains confident despite struggling in NBA Summer League

"I'm still trying to figure out the game," Greivis Vasquez said. "It's a pro level game. I'm still learning a couple of things." (Laura Rauch/associated Press)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

LAS VEGAS -- Greivis Vasquez isn't sure when, but he's certain that there will be a time when he's dribbling the ball up the floor and knows exactly what to do. There will be a game in which he moves with that cocky strut, shimmies after a great play or has a chest-thumping, hop-on-the-scorer's-table celebration after an emotional victory. That moment, though, didn't arrive last week during the Las Vegas summer league.

Instead, Vasquez heard his decision-making questioned by Memphis Grizzlies assistant Damon Stoudamire, had some difficulty bringing the ball past half-court in eight seconds or less, and showed that he will need some time before he grasps the nuances of the NBA. Vasquez is okay with that.

"I'm still trying to figure out the game. It's a pro level game. I'm still learning a couple of things. I'm very patient about this," Vasquez said last week. "I know people want to see me scoring and going crazy and doing all the things I did at Maryland. My time is going to come, so I'm good."

Vasquez averaged just seven points and four assists in five games for Memphis, with the Grizzlies going 1-2 in the games that he started. He hit three three-pointers and scored 13 points in a loss to Minnesota, dished out seven assists in a win over Dallas, but never had, as he hoped, a standout performance to get fans buzzing.

He remains confident despite his struggles, realizing that he wasn't an instant sensation in college, where he worked himself up the ranks until he left College Park as an accomplished star, collecting ACC player of the year honors and the Bob Cousy award for the nation's top point guard, and graduating with a degree in American studies.

"I always say, 'It's not how you start, it's how you finish,' " said Vasquez, a product of Montrose Christian. "It's definitely hard. I'm not going to lie. Not every rookie is LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. I'm going to figure it out. This is what it takes to be professional, this is what it takes to be in the NBA, so I'm willing to do what it takes. When I was at Maryland, I was never the standout guy my freshman and sophomore year, it took me a couple of years, so it might take me a little time."

The Grizzlies picked him 28th overall in the NBA draft, as Vasquez hugged family and friends who boisterously waved Venezuelan flags in the stands at Madison Square Garden. Vasquez showed his commitment to learning the next level by playing and practicing with the team although he has yet to sign his rookie contract. Rookie contracts are slotted -- Vasquez is positioned to sign a guaranteed two-year deal worth $1.9 million with team options for the next two seasons -- but the final figure can be negotiated between 80 percent and 120 percent of that $1.9 million. The Grizzlies are also negotiating with 12th overall pick Xavier Henry, who declined to participate in summer league at the request of his agent.

Memphis took out a $2 million insurance policy for Vasquez to play without a contract. "I wanted him to play," Vasquez's agent, Herb Rudoy, said in a telephone interview, adding that the language of the contract still needs to be worked out. "I think [an agreement] is going to happen pretty shortly."

Vasquez said his contract situation was the least of his concerns last week. "It's nothing bad, but it's going to get done soon. Right now, I'm trying to be very professional."

His bravado, scoring instincts and playmaking ability made him an attractive option for Memphis, which expects the 6-foot-6 Vasquez to develop into a backup point guard to provide some much-needed size for one of the league's shortest starting back courts with Mike Conley (6-1) and O.J. Mayo (6-4).

"He's a point guard," Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins said. "I like his vision. I like his confidence and he has a pretty good understanding of the game."

Mayo, a fourth-year veteran at shooting guard, started the first two summer league games in an attempt to learn the point guard position. Mayo shared the back court with Vasquez at times and quickly took a liking to him. "He's a poised player, a player who loves to compete," Mayo said of Vasquez. "It's going to be different because the speed of the game is a little different from college, but he's definitely a gamer and he'll do a good job of adjusting. He has a big chip on his shoulder, that competitive edge. As long as you have that, you'll be great in this league."

Vasquez hit a difficult baseline jumper in a win over Milwaukee, but instead of taunting, he simply dropped back in the defensive stance. Vasquez tried to contain some of the flash and flair that came to define his game, in order to be more steady. He couldn't resist making a dangerous pass through a crowd to Hasheem Thabeet that eventually squirted out of bounds.

"This is a different level than college. I'm trying to prove myself again," Vasquez said. "I'm very excited about this situation. I'm going to work my way up. I'm going to have a chance to play this season and I think I'm doing fine. But I could definitely do better. I'm not satisfied. I'm not going to rush anything."

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