Being an NBA rookie is hard enough but being an rookie with the San Antonio Spurs is another thing.
On a team with veterans such as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and a hard-nosed coach like Gregg Popovich, a rookie has to impress if he wants to crack the rotation and see steady minutes. Something rookie guard Nando De Colo is experiencing right now.
Nando played in 72 regular season games but saw his time on the court dwindle as the season progressed. He went from playing in 16 games in December to nine game in April to three games in the postseason where he has only totaled nine minutes. And now that he is not even suiting up for games in the playoffs nor has played in the Warriors and Grizzlies series, Nando is finding it very frustrating and it isn't sitting well with him.
In an interview with French site La Voix Du Nord, Nando vented about his lack of playing time with the Spurs.
"It really is not easy especially since the months before the playoffs, I played 10-15 minutes behind Tony. Then I found myself more on the bench than on the court. I played the first round against the Lakers, but usually at the end of the game when the game was already won. Already, it was not easy. And the series against Golden State, I'm in a suit, that's upsetting. I came here to play. I prepared all year to be ready for the playoffs. Finally, I do not play. The worst is that it is one of the assistants that tells me that I'm in a suit as if it was normal, but it will be before anything happened. The morning of the game, I was leaving after the shoot around and he said "Nando, okay? Tonight you're in a suit." You say shit. You do not know what happened. You're in a new series. You wonder why you, and not another. It is not obvious at all. At first you think it is a game or two. Assistants tell you that things can change and, in fact, nothing changes. But that's coaching decisions. As it gets, there is not much to say. There is little practices, you cannot regain your place. I try to keep my morale and I continue to work on my own. I go to the weight room, I do my individual sessions in the gym, cardio. I'm just waiting to be told, you're back in the list. But in my opinion, it does not depend on that of an injury. This will surely last until the end. "
One can see where De Colo is coming from. The NBA playoffs is basketball's highest stage, it is a chance to play against the best-of-the-best in the NBA, and a Nando is a competitor, however, in the playoffs, player rotations tighten up and unfortunately for De Colo, he is the odd man out right now. Cory Joseph is playing better, Gary Neal is making shots and let's face it, Nando isn't a great defender which is needed in the postseason.
Just taking a look at Nando's games played, one can see the decline in time on the court during the regular season: November 12 games, December 16 games, January 12 games, February 11 games, March 12 games and in April nine games. He averaged 12.8 minutes. Not to mention the multiple times he was sent to the Toros.
In the playoffs, he has played only three games in the Lakers series totaling nine minutes and did not play in the Golden State series nor has he played in the Memphis series.
These are just growing pains for any NBA rookie and Nando is no exception.
From Tony Parker (who saw Speedy Claxton play minutes in the postseason during the 2003 title run) to Tiago Splitter who took three seasons to earn heavy minutes on the court, Nando needs to remain patient and just continue to improve his game and earn the right to play.
De Colo did say in the interview that he knows the Spurs are winning and he doesn't have room to overtly complain about the lack of time on the court, however, he shouldn't let his feeling affect the locker room or cause any rift with him and the coaching staff.
In any event, Nando was clear, he does not have any regrets coming to the NBA despite being buried on the bench.
"No. You do not know as you have not tried. Next year I'm under contract with San Antonio, and there is no reflection or having to say "I'm going back to Europe." I will continue to work. We'll see with the Spurs if something must be done after the playoffs or not. It's frustrating not to play but there is nothing more to think."