NEW YORK CITY — A couple of guests chilled outside of the visitor’s locker room inside Madison Square Garden on Wednesday in anticipation of meeting a success story from their homeland.
Once Utah Jazz guard Raul Neto showered, then participated in postgame media duties following a 137-116 victory against the New York Knicks, the Brazilian floor general also fulfilled another request.
Neto gifted personalized No. 00 Jazz jerseys to Brazilian pop star Pabllo Vittar and comedian, singer and YouTuber Whindersson Nunes and engaged in conversation before darting off to Atlanta for the second night of a back-to-back. Both were in town to help with promotion for NBA Brasil.
“For people who like basketball, he’s an idol,” Nunes told the Deseret News through a translator. “It’s my first time coming to an arena, but I now want to start following basketball closely, but for the basketball fans he’s huge there."
“His family is really proud of him because he’s playing around the world and the kids have a chance to watch a Brazilian player and get inspired by him so it’s awesome.”
Even in that brief interaction, Neto left an impact on the fellow entertainers from Brazil, who were meeting him for the first time. Numerous injuries have plagued Neto throughout this season, such as right hamstring, right thigh soreness, left groin strain and left hamstring tightness, which have caused him to miss 36 games.
However, he put up seven points with six assists in 16:23 off the bench to help the Jazz win their fifth consecutive game versus New York and hopes to continue to help the squad during these final 11 regular season games.
“It’s cool because basketball is not a huge sport in Brazil, but just being able to come from that country and be one of the few Brazilian basketball players in the NBA this season, it shows the support they’ve got for everybody that are great at whatever they do,” Neto told the Deseret News.
“They’ve been through things, too,” he continued. “And I’ve been through a lot of things too and I’m in the NBA, the best basketball league, and I think we have a lot of things in common and I’m happy to meet them. I know who they are, of course, but I had never met them before.”1 comment on this story
Neto, 26, is currently averaging 5.1 points and 2.4 assists in 12.3 minutes per game of his fourth season, but Jazz coach Quin Snyder sees him as a key piece off the bench as the season is near its end, especially with the absence of Dante Exum, who remains out indefinitely with a partially torn patellar tendon. He was one of three Brazilian players on opening-night rosters for the 2018-19 season and Snyder respects him for continuing to grow with a country watching his every move.
“The thing that I’ve asked more and more of him is to be communicative on the floor,” Snyder said. “He’s so respected by his teammates and when you see him defending out there, it kind of gives you a lift and I think when he’s got the ball to be able to really run a team, he does that, but to add even more communication and leadership.”