Willy Hernangómez: "When we smell gold we don't want anything else"

The Spaniard, who has not played so much since his debut year in the United States, says he is "happy to feel like an important part" of his new team.


In May Willy Hernangómez will turn 27 years old. The stage when he was a newcomer to the best league in the world is a long way off, and it shows when you talk to him. Aware of the difficulties of succeeding in the NBA, he enjoys the happy moment that he is living, but without throwing the bells to the flight. A detail of experience. Playing his first playoffs and Olympic gold are his two illusions for this season.

- In the Pelicans he is living one of the best moments since he arrived in the NBA.

- The moment is good and the experience in the Pelicans too. I'm playing, feeling like an important part of the rotation. In the end it is a question of work, of waiting for your opportunity and meanwhile keep working every day. Now I am at that moment of playing several minutes, but if the situation of playing less returns, we must continue with the same mentality. This league is like that and you have to earn being on the court every day.

- The season did not start easy for you ...

- In the end I came to a team with one of the best centers in the league (Steven Adams) and a promising young man who they want to bet on for the future and who they chose in the first round of the draft (Jason Hayes). To some extent it is normal that at the beginning I had fewer opportunities, but I am happy that little by little I have been gaining weight and it has been because of the daily work.

- Would you say you have taken a step forward in defense?

- I've been in the league for four years now and you understand better how to play here, what it takes to contribute to your team back and forth. In the summer I watched many videos of myself, even from my time in New York, to continue taking steps forward. The coach was telling me the role he expected of me, contributing more in aspects such as rebounds or blocks, and that is what I am doing. I also think that the team's way of defending favors me.

- What would you highlight about your new team?

- What has caught my attention the most is the good vibes in the group. From the first day I arrived I noticed it. Even the coaches say it is one of the most atmospheric locker rooms they have ever been in. The mix between young players like Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball, and veterans like Steven Adams and JJ Redick is turning out well for now.

- However, it is difficult for them to start in terms of results. What is going wrong?

- I think we lack consistency to win more games and improve defense. In attack we are one of the best teams in the league, our room for improvement is mostly behind. The group is aware of the things that are not going well, we are working on them and we want to make a better second part of the season to get into the playoffs.

- Have you got used to playing without an audience?

- It is still rare to be at home and not have your fans cheering you on or play outside and not feel that pressure from the stands. Yes, we are more used to hearing everything that is said on the court and on the benches, but people are missed. I hope they can return soon to fill the pavilions.

- How about the return of Pau Gasol?

- It is news that excites me a lot. For him, because he feels like a player again. In the end, Pau has been a reference and an idol for me, but also a magnificent companion, and I always wish him the best. We are all happy that he is playing again, to regain his level and that he can be in the National Team again.

- The return of Pau may be one more rival for you in the Olympic Games.

- I would not call it a rival. In the end the matches are never the same and there will be some in which Pau looks more, but another will be Marc's turn, another from Pierre, another me ... In these tournaments the more people contribute the better because, although they are short, the level is very high.

- Although they arrive as world champions, the level in Tokyo is expected to be higher.

- The confidence boost that having won the last World Cup gives us will be there. In addition, we already demonstrated that you did not have to have the best team to win the tournament. We know that teams like the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy or Lithuania can go to the Games with more powerful squads than they had at the World Cup, but we don't think about that. In tournaments where you play everything in one game, anything is possible. If we do what we know we will be in the fight for the medals.

- Is the goal a medal or gold?

- Winning Olympic gold is the greatest thing there can be and it would be something historic. And we, when we smell gold, we no longer want anything else.

Photos from as.com

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