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This article was first published 8 years ago  » Sports » 'NBA is a business; you got to be very adaptable'

'NBA is a business; you got to be very adaptable'

By Bikash Mohapatra
May 03, 2016 12:54 IST
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'I try to be a little bit of a garbage man, if my team needs a little bit of help in both offence and defence, making block shots and rebounds, to make it easier for the team.'

When Robin Lopez was selected by the Phoenix Suns in the 2008 NBA draft, not many expected him to get much playing time. After all, the Suns back then featured all-time great centre Shaquille O'Neal.

An injury to Shaq handed Robin his first career start and he grabbed it.

The New York Knicks, his current team, may have failed to make the NBA playoffs, but the 28 year old was one of their bright lights this season.

Robin speaks to Bikash Mohapatra/ about the excitement of playing in the NBA, what it means to have a twin playing for a rival team and the future.

IMAGE: Robin Lopez of the New York Knicks during the Reliance Foundation Junior NBA programme in Noida. Photograph: NBA

Take us through your time in Stanford...

Stanford was amazing. They do a great job of figuring out what makes you special, and putting you up at a place where you can succeed.

The people I met at Stanford, attending with me, they were such incredible human beings. They were so driven and caring people, and this is in addition to what you expect from a Stanford student.

My mother (Deborah Ledford) went to Stanford. She was a Rhodes Scholar and a swimmer. She bounced athletics for academics.

Stanford has always been the best place in the world if you are athletically inclined and intelligent and academics driven.

You mentioned your mother is a scholar. How good were you in academics?

Extremely so! It's a tough balance sometimes, tough. My mother is an intelligent woman, but still very curious and an avid reader. So is my grandmother and my brother.

I grew up in a very wonderful, and blessed, environment in that regard.

You also have Cuban lineage...

My father (Heriberto) is from Cuba.

I haven't visited Cuba yet. I know about the opening of the borders. As soon as everything is fixed up I would love to go and check it out.

IMAGE: Robin at the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Tell us about the period leading up to the draft...

That's very exciting times. I have never been more anxious and uncertain about the outcome.

I knew that's where I wanted to be. Wherever I ended up, I was always going to be happy being there.

You started as a replacement for Shaq...

You cannot replace Shaq with one player. I think in Phoenix (Suns) we were very fortunate to have a great team. Everybody played their roles to the tee and we became greater as a whole than the sum of our parts.

Was Shaq an idol in your growing up years?

When I very young it was Magic Johnson. I was from California, so a big time LA Lakers fan. As I got older I started looking up to different players.

IMAGE: Brook Lopez, Robin's twin, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets, heads for the net as Robin defends at the Madison Square Garden. Photograph: Elsa/Getty Images

You and your brother (Brook) are separated by a minute. What kind of relationship do you share with your twin?

It's very similar to any other sibling relationship. We played basketball in the drive, and that got extremely violent.

At the same time, when I am watching him, I find myself rooting for him.

Like when I am sitting on the New York Knicks bench I want my team to win. But when I see Brook playing for the Brooklyn Nets, it's kind of instinctive of me to root for him.

It's a little conflicting.

You have changed quite a few teams.

NBA is a business.

Things can change just like that. In both Phoenix (Suns) and Portland (Trail Blazers) we had great teams, and then things happened... people went elsewhere.

You got to be very adaptable with the NBA.

The Knicks have done well in recent years...

I think we didn't achieve our goals that we set for ourselves and that I think is very disappointing.

On the flip side I think we did a great job establishing a fantastic core group of players who are intelligent, skilled and hardworking.

We need to keep working. There's no reason we can't make the playoffs next year. We should have done it this year.

IMAGE: Robin in action. Photograph: Elsa/Getty Images

How much is (Knicks President) Phil Jackson involved with the team?

Occasionally, yeah.

He is kind of behind the scenes, watching everything.

I think he is a person who speaks only when he has to. He is extremely knowledgeable about the game.

As a player what are you main objectives?

I just try to go out there and do whatever I can to help my teammates. That's the first and foremost thing on my mind.

I try to be a little bit of a garbage man, if my team needs a little bit of help in both offence and defence, making block shots and rebounds, to make it easier for the team.

I am always aspiring to get better. Obviously, every player's goal is the Championships. Everyone wants to win it.

Basketball as a sport is growing...

It's a great time to be playing basketball. It has spread all across the globe, and is still growing.

It's such an adaptable game, so simple that you can play one-on-one, by yourself, five-a-side or even more players if you want to.

It's a very versatile, very playable.

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Bikash Mohapatra /

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