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One on One with Arvydas Sabonis
RIP CITY Magazine | February 2003
Brian Wheeler, the Blazer's radio announcer goes mano-y-mano with Arvydas Sabonis.
Rip City Magazine: You decided to take some time off from Basketball following the 2000-2001 season, why?
Arvydas Sabonis: I just think I was tired. I started playing when I was 16, and have put my body through a lot. That was my first season of rest since I started playing. I finished the contract and thought it would be a good time to get some rest. I just needed a little longer vacation after the season.
Rip City Magazine: You took the time off yet you didn't announce your retirement. Did you think you would want to play again some day?
Arvydas Sabonis: Maybe, yes. I thought that I would have wanted to end my career in Lithuania with my team there, and that's why I didn't say anything when I left here. After six of seven months of doing nothing everything changed.
Rip City Magazine: You've said that watching Renaldo and the Brazilian soccer team win the World Cup ultimately got you to change you mind. Is that true?
Arvydas Sabonis: I think it pushed me to come back. I was in Spain at the time and the local team there was always pushing me to start playing again a little bit with them. I started thinking about it. It was good to have two or three months out of everything, but then I started to miss it. I had been doing this my whole life and really missed it. When I saw Brazil win the World Cup, I guess it inspired me because the next day I went and started to play again. I decided then I needed to come back and play.
Rip City Magazine: A lot of NBA teams contacted you during your year off, hoping you might ant a change of scenery if you did come back. You told everyone of them that Portland was the only place you wanted to play. Why did you stay loyal to the Blazers?
Arvydas Sabonis: well, I am from a small city and I love Portland. Lithuanians are very loyal and I have not changed teams too many times in my career. I always have finished contracts and haven't listened to any other teams until they are through. Teams were always asking me to change. Portland has helped me from the beginning you know. When I had injuries in my career I could always come here and the Blazers would help me, even when I wasn't playing here yet. I figured last summer if Portland wants me, and I could help them, then I would prefer coming here.
Rip City Magazine: You have been a starter your entire NBA career up to this season. Do you like your new role as a back-up center?
Arvydas Sabonis: It's not important to me to be a starter. Of course, at this age, maybe starting would be better for me, simply because I could go from warm ups right to the court. Waiting 10-15 minutes to take the floor after you've already warmed up can be rough for me. But, I'm happy to help the team in any way that they need me. I think I'm a little bit slower this year, and maybe not in my top shape yet, but it's not bad.
Rip City Magazine: You aren't playing as many minutes as you did in the past, yet it looks like you're having as much fun as you ever have. Is that accurate?
Arvydas Sabonis: That's why I came back. I think I've found what makes me happy again. The last year I played here I don't think was fun for anybody. It was a bad year. Now, of course, I'm having fun. It's fun to be with my teammates and everything is good.
Rip City Magazine: Your family is not living with you full time in Portland as they have in past seasons. Why did they stay in Europe this time?
Arvydas Sabonis: To move five people is not easy. If it were just my wife and me it would be different. Four kids is much different. I have my kids in school in Spain and to move them for maybe one year would have been very disruptive. It's a new experience for me that is for sure. I've got this alone time now. Its strange.
Rip City Magazine: How often are you able to see them?
Arvydas Sabonis: I saw them all at Christmas time. My wife comes more. Sometimes she comes and the kids stay in Spain. When the kids get vacation from school they come with her. Hopefully they'll all come during their Easter break in April.
Rip City Magazine: Do you have other friends in Portland and people you can be with then you family is not around?
Arvydas Sabonis: Well, we travel so much I don't really have time to spend with anyone else.
Rip City Magazine: You speak five languages- Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, Spanish, and English. Which do you speak best?
Arvydas Sabonis: Lithuanian, of course, along with Russian and Spainish. English is the worst for me.
Rip City Magazine: You seem more comfortable speaking English as the years have gone on.
Arvydas Sabonis: I have gotten more comfortable with it. I don't have to stop and think about every word that I say. In my first years I didn't know much so I figured I would shut up.
Rip City Magazine: You were considered the best player in Europe in the 80's and were voted as the international player who has had the greatest impact during the NBA's modern era. How much greater do you think you could have been if you hadn't had to battle through so many injuries during the years?
Arvydas Sabonis: I don't know. I don't like to think about this. What has happened has happened. I can't change that. What everyone sees I se too. I'm glad that after my injuries I have still been able to play. I don't like to talk about this.
Rip City Magazine: Do you ever regret not coming to Portland and the NBA until later in your career?
Arvydas Sabonis: Again, this is kind of same thing for me. I can't go back and chance anything so I don't spend time thinking about what might have happened. Of course, maybe if I would have come earlier I would have had a greater impact on the league. There were situations with my life, political situations with my life, and I had to make decisions. I've played in Europe, and I've been here for seven years. I've been everywhere.
Rip City Magazine: You've always had a great relationship with the Blazer fans and I know you've appreciated their support as well.
Arvydas Sabonis: I remember when I came here in 1988 and I compared Portland to Lithuania. Its green , there are a lot of trees, and I felt right at home. It does rain more here than at home. There are very good people here. Its nice. People have always offered to help me here, and I love the fans.
Rip City Magazine: How good can this Blazer's team be? Can you be one of the best teams in the Western Conference come playoff time?
Arvydas Sabonis: This time is like the sea, you know. One day its up and one day its down. Things change very quickly. But I think we are very good and can be very good. Weve got so much talent and were starting to see what it takes to win.
Rip City Magazine: How has it been to play with someone like Scottie Pippen?
Arvydas Sabonis: Scottie is one of the best players in the world. He has so much experience and has helped our team so much.
Rip City Magazine: Who is the toughest player you've ever had to defend? Would it be Shaq, or someone else?
Arvydas Sabonis: I think its Shaq. He is very strong physically. He is difficult to guard one-on-one and maybe even impossible. I need to be younger to guard him one-on-one. There are many players who are tough to guard David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, and Hakeem Olajuwon come to mind.
Rip City Magazine: Are you surprised when you look around the NBA now and see that there are fewer good big men than you started?
Arvydas Sabonis:Yao Ming is here now, so there are still some. It has seemed that centers actually have gotten smaller in recent years. Then Yao Ming comes in and is so big. He is a very good player.
Rip City Magazine: Have you thought about whether you'll play beyond this season?
Arvydas Sabonis: When the season is over I'll make that decision. I can't decide something like that now. I feel good, and am pretty injury free right now. I take it day by day. It all depends on my health.
Rip City Magazine: Is basketball still fun for you?
Arvydas Sabonis: All my life I've been doing this. I do it for the love. I love basketball. Maybe when I finish I'll find something else that I love. But I think Ill always be around basketball.
Rip City Magazine: You've talked a lot about your team in Lithuania. Do you think you'll finish your NBA career and play one final year with your team?
Arvydas Sabonis: I would like to do that. I can't predict the future, but I would like to do that.
Rip City Magazine: Would winning an NBA championship in Portland be the ultimate way to top off your career?
Arvydas Sabonis: I think it's a big dream for every player to win a championship. Im not different. At this age, it would be extra special for me.
Rip City Magazine February 2003
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