The man affectionately known as “Marcelinho” — or “little Marcelo” — by those closest to him, Los Angeles Lakers’ reserve point guard Marcelo Huertas already appears to be staking a claim as one of this team’s early “fan favorites” and he’s just, finally getting his NBA career started at the age of 32. The 6’3″, Brazilian-born floor general was a solid Euroleague player through 11 seasons with various teams and was very good for his native country’s national team during their 2012 Olympic tournament run.
Outside of YouTube highlight packages and perhaps his Olympic play, many fans wondered just what to expect from the veteran guard when the Lakers decided to sign him over the summer; and the limited, but impressive time he was able to play during the preseason shifted the discussion from whether he could make the roster to having a desire to see just what sort of role Huertas might be able to carve out for himself with this team?
Castle Country Radio’s Jordan Buscarini, friend of our Lakers Nation Podcast, recently caught up with a man that has known and coached Huertas from the age of just 9-years-old. Adjalma Becheli, Utah State University-Eastern’s Head Coach, offered some very high praise and encouraging insight into Huertas’ background.
“He’s a true point guard,” Becheli told Buscarini. “He wants to get the team involved as much as he can. I’m not going that far, but he can be a little bit like John Stockton as a pass-first [mentality]. If he scores two points, but gives like 8-10 assists, that’s what he lives for.”
You can tell he was being safe about not placing the types of expectations that would come with being mentioned in the same vein as the Hall-of-Famer Stockton on Huertas, rather it appeared he was merely suggesting a similar affinity for generating and creating offense for his teammates. Either way, Huertas is proving the assessment to be accurate, as other reserves like Ryan Kelly and Nick Young in particular have already appeared to reap the benefits.
“I bet Kobe is going to be really happy with him,” Becheli continued. “Because he first wants to pass and second wants to score, and Kobe is going to have a lot of open shots and the other guys, too.”
It’s a pretty safe assumption that if you can pass the ball and make it easier for Bryant to score, you’re probably going to be ‘golden’ in his book. Time will tell how much the two of them play together as Coach Scott continues to mix and match his early-season rotations, but Becheli is right about his potential impact. It will be interesting to track the efficiency ratings of players that share minutes on the court with him over the course of the year.
What we do know is that Huertas appears to be another positive veteran addition this front office made in order to provide balance and experience to the roster. According to Becheli, whom he told he would “one day” make it to the NBA back at the age of 10, there were several Euroleague teams willing to offer Huertas more money than the reported $525K he’s currently making with the Lakers.
He went on to mention how the two talk on a daily basis and described the opportunity to play for this organization and alongside a veteran that has reached the heights of Bryant as a “dream come true” situation. Clearly, the chance to compete at the highest level and as a contributing member of this rebuild was more important than the opportunity for a larger contract at this point in his career.
The 32-year-old NBA rookie is under no disillusion about the ultimate lead role on a team that just used the second pick in the draft on D’Angelo Russell, but like several other veteran additions, Huertas seems ready and willing to simply make an impact when the opportunity presents itself. For the Lakers, that’s a phenomenal luxury to finally have. Even during a rebuild, it’s absolutely vital to have players willing and able to fulfill designated roles.
From developing his game with the famed Esporte Clube Pinheiros as a child in Brazil to his high school years spent playing in Texas (just outside of Dallas), and obviously the success he’s enjoyed throughout his professional career overseas and in Brazil, Huertas has found a way to be successful. Whether Huertas ends up playing a major role at some point or ends up merely contributing here and there, he will have fulfilled a life-long dream by simply reaching this level; but something tells me he’ll find a way to continue making the type of chemistry-building impact he’s seemed to have had wherever he’s played throughout the years.