Utah Jazz: Point guard Raul Neto planning on playing in Spain instead of NBA next season
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — It looks like it will be another year before Brazilian playmaker Raul Neto is officially a Utah Jazz point guard.
Neto, who began training with his national team Thursday, said he anticipates returning to his Spanish team, Lagun Aro GBC, for another year instead of beginning his NBA career in Utah this fall.
"Playing in the NBA is a dream I want to make happen. I think I've taken the first step, but I cannot be in a hurry," Neto said, according to a Basketeria.com.br report. "I have to wait for the right moment."
The Jazz acquired the 21-year-old Neto on a draft-night trade with Atlanta after the Hawks selected him 47th overall. The 6-foot-2 point guard had an impressive debut with Utah at the summer league even after not being able to practice with his new team for almost a week because of a delay in receiving his clearance from basketball's international governing body.
Neto has one year remaining on his Spanish contract, but his preference is to begin his NBA career as soon as possible.
"If I have to choose, I want to play NBA, but it's not my choice," Neto said in Orlando last week. "I don't want to be here (with Jazz) and don't play. I want to play."
The Jazz have two point guards for the 2013-2014 season in Trey Burke, also acquired in a draft-day deal, and soon-to-be-signed veteran playmaker John Lucas III.
It wouldn't be an ideal situation for Utah to have multiple rookie point guards on the squad, and Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey has maintained that another year of seasoning in Europe might be a good thing for Neto.
Lindsey responded with a "no comment" when asked about Neto's future. In a press conference the day after the trade happened, the Jazz GM called the situation "open-ended" for various reasons. But he also voiced his excitement for bringing a "pure point guard" into the organization.
"Everybody needs to know with Raul, whether he is here this year or next, he’s part of the Jazz family," Lindsey said. "We’re totally committed to his career.’’
Until an official announcement is made, it remains a long-shot possibility that Utah still could help broker a buyout with the young player's Spanish squad and bring him to fall camp.
That does not seem likely, though, especially in light of Neto's comments. In the interview, he also mentioned how the Jazz have acquired Burke and Lucas this offseason.
"They are not interested in me this year," he told Basketeria.com.br. "So, it is almost certain that I'm not going there now."
Neto is among 18 players training with the Brazil senior team that will compete in the America Cup competition in hopes of qualifying for next summer's World Cup.
"I'm thinking of taking minutes and continue evolving my basketball and, later on, try to stay in the NBA, without haste and without skipping stages in the career completed," he said.
Last season, Neto averaged 8.5 points, 2.9 assists and 2.4 rebounds for in the ACB League. He was the MVP of Adidas Eurocamp 2013 and a member of the Brazilian National Team in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
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