Despite joining the NBA as a 32-year-old rookie, Brazilian point guard Marcelo Huertas is eager to make his debut after signing with the Lakers on Wednesday.
“Playing for the Lakers and wearing this jersey ... I really get speechless at the opportunity they gave me,” said Huertas at the team’s practice facility on Friday.
Huertas has spent his career playing internationally, most recently with FC Barcelona. Finally a free agent, the 6-foot-3 guard passed up more lucrative opportunities.
“I was under contract for the last six years and never had the chance to leave Europe without paying a big buyout, so this was the year I finished contract and I had a real chance to jump to the NBA,” Huertas said.
“I couldn’t take an early offer in Europe just to make sure I had a job,” he continued. “If it was for money, I would have stayed in Europe. I came here to take this chance, and maybe I have a bright future in the NBA. Hopefully I can win my space in here and show what I’m able to do, and so I can stick around for many years.”
On the court, Huertas believes he can help the Lakers with his experience and “ability to control a team without having to score.”
Huertas also looks forward to playing with All-Star Kobe Bryant, whom he competed against in a 2012 exhibition between Brazil and Team USA in Washington, D.C.
In 30 minutes, Huertas scored 11 points with 13 assists, as his team jumped out to a first-quarter 10-point lead. Bryant finished with eight points as Team USA pulled away in an 80-69 victory.
“Playing against Kobe was just a challenge. He’s so competitive,” Huertas said. “He’s one of those guys who always wants the ball and wants to prove he’s better than everyone else.”
Now as his teammate, will Huertas give up the ball on Bryant’s request, even if it’s not the play call?
“He’s a player that has won so many games. Even if it’s not the play and he’s demanding the ball ... I think everyone, not only me, would give him the ball and just say OK, just make it happen,” Huertas said. “Ninety percent of the time, he’ll make it happen — so for us, it’s like a privilege to have a player like this.”
Huertas will earn a non-guaranteed rookie minimum contract of $525,093. He’ll need to earn a spot on the team’s opening-night 15-man roster.
The Lakers have 17 players under contract, 12 fully guaranteed. The team still may add veteran forward Metta World Peace and undrafted center Robert Upshaw. The Lakers can bring up to 20 players to training camp, which starts later this month.
Huertas, also known as “Marcelinho,” said he speaks five languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan and English.