Exclusive interview with Patricio Garino, forward of Zalgiris Kaunas in the EuroLeague. Garino talks about the Argentina, his teammates from Manu Ginobili to Facundo Campazzo and also talks about the difference from the NBA to the EuroLeague.
Basketball, football and swimming. Until the age of 16 you practiced these 3 sports. Why then the choice of basketball?
“Because I wasn’t good at football! (laughs ed). Like all Argentines, I love football but it wasn’t good enough and I was also too high.”
How important was for your career, the NCAA?
“Very important. It was 4 wonderful years for me that have brought me closer to my dream of playing in the NBA. The NCAA was one step closer to the American world of the NBA and at the same time having a degree from a very prestigious University in the United States was something very valuable to me, knowing that I have a plan B in my life if basketball hadn’t been good… it was 4 wonderful years. “
Today, Would you make the same choices?
“Sure. The NCAA is a unique experience… being able to study and play basketball at the same time is great. Life there, is like an American movie… I’ve also improved a lot as a player… physically and mentally. You don’t make money to play, which I could have done more if I had come directly to Europe… but I don’t regret it. The money I have today are enough… 3 or 4 years doesn’t make a difference.”
NBA. San Antonio Spurs, the training camp camp with your argentinian teammates Manu Ginobili and Nico Laprovittola. What experience was it? What and who impressed you the most about that team?
“A unique experience, a dream I never imagined living in my life… playing with Manu (Ginobili) in the NBA… with all these stars… Tony Parker, Coach Popovich… Tim Duncan who retired from basketball the year before but it was still there… and also with my friend Nico Laprovittola. My plan was to play in Europe… but then came Popovich’s offer from Spurs. He saw me playing in a friendly between Argentina and the United States in Las Vegas. There he saw me and Laprovittola and I obviously without a doubt said yes … because he was unique chance. Manu for us is not just a basketball player, he is one of the most important sportsmen of all time… living with him was incredible. What impressed me the most about the Spurs was Kawhi Leonard. A machine, a robot! How he works, how he plays … defending on him is almost impossible… and his personality is also very particular.”
The G-League with the Austin Spurs, where you had a great season, which earned you the call to the NBA again with the Orlando Magic.
“That’s right, it was the way I was hoping to have. I knew at the beginning of the training camp with the San Antonio Spurs that the chances of being confirmed were very low… and that I absolutely had to try to go to the G-League. This experience was very positive for me. I learned a lot more with individual training, the American system … which is not like the NBA but is also very competitive. I wasn’t expecting the move to Orlando Magic… it was a surprise. My agent told me in the last game of the G-League that the Magic wanted me to be part of the team to finish the season with them. It was a reward for the great G-League season. “
Then, Pablo Prigioni called you at Baskonia. You did very well there, up to the terrible injury that blocked you for more than a year.
“Baskonia was an experience full of emotions. My first professional experience after the G-League… It was a big change after 2 years of High School, 4 years of College and the year in the G-League… almost 7 years in the US… and then back to the FIBA system, certainly a big change. It took me some time to adapt, but then I felt more comfortable and the truth is that I felt very good, right up until the last injury. After the World Cup in China and the start of the season I felt very good… with a lot of confidence in the EuroLeague and in the CBA. Now I have been stopped for a year without playing … waiting patiently but with a great desire to back.”
NBA, EuroLeague. The eternal debate. What do you prefer and what do these two competitions have in common and different for you?
“I like both. As a player I tell you the EuroLeague… because it’s a more dynamic, physical and “serious” League. Every game is a final… the atmosphere on the pitch is incredible like in Turkey, Spain, Greece, Lithuania… there are no Arenas like these in the NBA. Obviously the economic level of the NBA is much more important. The show, the “luxury” of private planes, of 5-star hotels… life is much better for the player, they take care of you much more… But I love both contexts. I would like to return to the NBA to continue living this experience… but Europe is at a very high level. In Europe you live with a lot more adrenaline. Personally I like to discover different cultures. “
Now, How are you?
“Very well, thank you! I had to undergo another surgery a month and a half on the meniscus and cartilage. I am already in the last stage of the rehabilitation process… almost ready to start again and to return to the court.. a little anxious but very happy.”
Argentina. What does wearing this shirt represent to Patricio Garino?
“Argentina is everything. As a child I dreamed more of playing for the National Team than the NBA or Europe. I have always been in the Youth National Team since I was 14… Argentina is the feeling of representing your families, your friend in every tournament… and doing it with the first team is an incredible honor. We have created a group of brothers and friends… playing basketball and always having a lot of fun. The truth is that I like being on the National Team more than one season in Europe, because we are all guys who have played together or against since we were children… we have created an impressive feeling. What we did in China was something unthinkable… we have a lot of fun as I have already told you and we want to continue showing what we can do as a group.”
Your teammate of Argentina Gabriel Deck has told that he doesn’t like to watch NBA… What do you think about it?
“I honestly don’t even like watching NBA games… they’re too long. Watching the games on the sofa at home and playing are two completely different things..”
The moment or the match that you remember with the most emotion / happiness?
“Many games… in China for example, there were many emotions. The semi-final with France and the quarter-finals against Serbia. Or even against Brazil in Rio 2016… two extra overtime… crazy game! The match against the United States where Manu Ginobili and Chapu Nocioni retired… very emotional. The final against Spain in China and the Copa America final against the United States… very important matches even if we lost. “
Now I’ll give you some names and tell me what comes to your mind as soon as you listen to them or how you would describe them. Let’s start with Manu Ginobili.
“An icon, not only of Argentina but for the entire basketball world. An hall of famer… as a player and as a person. He has a wonderful family that has a very important place in my heart.”
“A legend, a robot. A human being from another planet… who enjoys basketball every day and who still manages to be the top scorer of Serie A in Italy today … amazing.”
“A friend, a mentor, a great leader. I knew him from I was young in the national team and he always welcomed me with open arms to teach me a lot, not only to me but also to many other players. Unique in the way he takes care of his body, education, food, gym work… His family has a very important heart. “
“A brother. For many people he is the next Argentine basketball legend. Everyone is talking about him today, but to me he is a brother. 14 years playing in the same city, in different teams, grew up with him in the national team and with all the experiences we had as a family.”
Now Facundo Campazzo is heading to the NBA with Denver Nuggets. Do you agree with his choice?
“Absolutely! It is his career and his dream. I think it could have gone earlier, but for several reasons it wasn’t possible. Today in Europe he is one of the top 5 players. He can do very well in the NBA too. As a person he deserves it, as a player it will help him a lot to continue to improve and show what he is… and do the same in the national team!”
Kaunas. Everyone describes that city, that team, as a fantastic environment that thrives on basketball.
“Exactly! It is so correct what you said.. as in Italy or Argentina it is football, here it is basketball. Every person on the street wears a Zalgiris Kaunas T-shirt, hat or something similar. Everyone knows you and lives for basketball here. The atmosphere is incredible, even if this year we can’t experience it 100%. Every time I’ve played here it’s always been very difficult. “
Martin Schiller. What coach is he? Do you see him as the right person for the post-Jasikevicius?
“Two different styles. The team is doing well in the EuroLeague, Martin is more American in style. He is trying to keep the NBA mentality, in individual and collective work. Defense continues to be the fundamental thing of the team.”
Predictions. Who will win EuroLeague, ACB and NBA?
“In EuroLeague I can say only Zalgiris. We are not among the favorites but we can play an outsider role. In ACB, Barcelona have an incredible roster and I don’t know what will be Real Madrid post-Facundo. In the NBA I can say again the Los Angeles Lakers.”
Last question. 2025. Where will Patricio Garino be?
“I have no idea, hahaha. The goal is to continue playing in the EuroLeague and why not in a top-level team.”