Willy Hernangomez (Madrid, 1994) went from being the MVP of the Eurobasket 2022 con spain to see how his role in the NBA with the New Orleans Pelicans it was tiny. The center wanted to leave and they did not let him, although now he has a new date to be aware of: June 27 is when he ends his team’s option to determine if he continues to have the player or not. The ex of Sevilla and the Real Madridambassador of drinks Reigndoes not give up doing great things in the NBA and, above all, keep smiling and optimistic.
Ask. How have you lived this season?
Answer. It has been a long and complicated course in which we have not been able to achieve our objective, which was to get into the playoffs. On an individual level it has also been long and frustrating, but good. They are things of the past and you must look to the present and the near future. In less than a month I will know where I will be next season. Very eager for challenges.
Q. From being the MVP of the Eurobasket to a very different scenario in New Orleans.
R. The roles are totally different. It was a moment of a bit of frustration, of not understanding… not because of that summer, but because I showed every day and in the games that I deserved a position. An opportunity. In the end they decided on the rotation from the beginning of the season and it was not changed. What he decided was to use it as motivation: if I do everything possible and the situation doesn’t change, I have to do something else. It was my mentality, always be prepared for when the opportunity comes. It is a season to look at the present.
My mentality was to always be prepared for when the opportunity arrives.
Q. What has helped you maintain a positive attitude?
R. I have always been an optimistic person and I have looked on the bright side of things. Obviously there have been difficult moments in which I have relied a lot on my partner, my family and my brother (Juancho Hernangómez, also in the NBA). In the end, I think I woke up every morning feeling privileged to be playing basketball in the best league in the world. It was a motivation to keep improving and forget that frustration. Being positive helps a lot. I don’t know how other players handle it, but I always try to look ahead.
Q. To what extent has Juancho’s support been important?
R. My brother is my best friend. I talk to him every day and when we are in Spain we always see each other. It is enormous support because we are both in the same situation and we reached the NBA at the same time. We have both had very good and very bad moments and we have always helped each other. When they cut him from Toronto it was also a stick for me. My brother is fundamental in my career and in my life, outside of basketball as well.
Q. June 27 is marked in red. It is the date New Orleans decides whether or not you continue. Some clue?
R. I explain it here as in the meeting I had with them at the end of the season. I want to play. My only reason for being in the United States is because I want to play basketball, I want to feel important, I want to show that I can be one of the best centers in the league and I want to fight or help my team get a ring.
Q. Do you like New Orleans?
R. I love it. I feel at home. It is the team in which I have been the longest in my career, neither Seville nor Madrid. I want to play, but if they see that I’m not part of the rotation, like this year, then I’d rather look for another franchise and be able to continue growing. They understand my position, but in the end it is their decision. A month from now I will know where I am.
I want to play, but if it is not possible, I prefer to look for another franchise and keep growing
Q. The business works like that, but do you think that the players should have more weight in the decision?
R. It has nothing to do with Europe. We are players who can change us like stickers except for four or five unique exceptions. I have the experience of my brother, who two years ago changed teams five times. It is something very difficult and very hard and I have been very fortunate to spend two years in New York, three in Charlotte and three in New Orleans. I don’t think it will happen like Pau, with 20 years in the same team. It is very difficult for that to happen.
Q. Let’s park the NBA. The World Cup is coming this summer.
R. It is my biggest motivation, being able to return with the national team and being able to play and enjoy with my friends and teammates. Defending the colors is something that motivates me more every year. It is a very exciting challenge. I don’t think we have to think that we just came from being European champions, but that we should go with the same mentality with which we went to the European Championship: we are a group of players and friends who are going to enjoy and compete with whoever.
Q. Is the mentality then not gold yes or yes?
R. No, no, no, not at all. We will fight every game. We will leave our skin, then the tournament will tell us where we are. You have to enjoy and compete and we are under the command of Sergio Scariolo who is our leader and our teacher. He knows us all very well.
Q. Can this World Cup be a personal claim?
R. The role is different in the NBA and in the national team, but I’m not looking for any individual claim. I am looking for my collective claim, to win a championship or a medal. That is more important than taking an MVP. People remember that the team has won a European or a World Cup and it would be something precious for me to fight to win another World Cup (after the one they achieved in China in 2019). Above all I want to play and give it my all.
Q. Has the selection shown that the generational change is over?
R. We show that the desire to compete is still there. Obviously we don’t have the same talent at the moment that we had in other teams, but the enthusiasm that people should have for what’s to come in terms of homegrown players, Aday Mara, Izan Almansa, Juanito Núñez… A lot of young players who have a lot of desire to succeed and to be with the team. This summer there will be a good group. I don’t feel old, but I’m one of the oldest on the team and it’s another role.
Q. How are you watching the Endesa League playoffs?
R. Yesterday I was going to go to the Badalona Olympic Stadium to see Joventut because Joel Parra, a good friend, invited me to the game and I couldn’t go, but they won so we must congratulate them. I am enjoying basketball, I really like Spanish and European.
Q. Did Real Madrid’s victory in the Euroleague surprise you?
R. Not me. Real Madrid has the grit and courage they have to fight for whatever it is. I think that nobody was betting on Madrid, much less winning against Barcelona and much less winning in the final. But it is a game and the one who believes it the most and the one who wants it the most is the one who will win it.
P. Is being an ambassador for Reign important to you?
R. When they told me about it, I didn’t even think about it. It is a brand with which I feel very reflected: sport, recovery… We represent the same values. Being your ambassador internationally is amazing.
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