You know the weather and the environment are completely screwed up when you leave Baltimore to head down to Puerto Rico…and then find out it’s like 10-15 degrees hotter up in Maryland. It doesn’t make much sense.
But the love Carlos Arroyo and J.J. Barea were feeling this weekend during the Converse Open Gym Puerto Rico in San Juan was warming the place right up. The two spoke to over 1,000 young kids about their stories, then took pictures, signed autographs, designed sneakers and did activities with the kids for a few hours. Arroyo is apparently a barber, and actually gave a few kids some legit fades (there’s a picture of the man at work on the second page). Overall, it was a great day of basketball for everyone involved, and the kids spent hours playing ball while also getting the chance to meet their idols.
At the end of it all, I caught up with Arroyo to talk about what it’s like representing a nation in hoops, the NBA lockout and his basketball future.
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Dime: Talk to me about these Open Gyms. What kind of impact do you think they have on the kids around Puerto Rico?
Carlos Arroyo: I mean the impact is phenomenal. You can see it in their faces. When they come to a program like this, an event like this for free and have all the activities throughout the day, it’s phenomenal. I think it’s very positive. The fact that they obviously attend to it, just being at an event where you just play basketball and have all these things, you have to give them credit because they have so many other things they could do. But it’s positive. I think Converse is opening the door to many other events here in Puerto Rico and obviously experimenting with this one. With such a success this first time, we want to bring it to other cities, not just San Juan. So we are excited about it. Me and J.J. are excited about it with this being the first one and hopefully many more to come.
Dime: Yeah, I was talking to J.J. about that. First you came and now he’s coming. What do you guys want to do to make an impact as far as basketball and Converse in Puerto Rico?
CA: Well, you know it starts with us giving our time to being with the kids in the community and being part of events like this. I think we are very fortunate people to be doing what we do, and to do what we do and love what we do. Every time we do events like this in Puerto Rico, you can see the faces on people and the kids. They respect and really appreciate what we do and it motivates us to do even more things down here in Puerto Rico.
I personally own a foundation here in Puerto Rico. It’s based on raising money for any charity, not just one so I’m proud of that and I continue to do events for the kids in my foundation. Things like this really motivate me to do even bigger things, so hopefully in the near future I can do more things that will help the community and the kids.
Dime: With J.J. winning a title, are you at all a little frustrated…you were a part of the Pistons team that lost Game 7…
CA: …Yeah, Game 7 in San Antonio man (chuckles).
Dime: Do you still think about that, especially seeing him win a championship?
CA: You know as a basketball player, as a professional basketball player in the NBA, you wanna win a championship. That’s the biggest goal. So to have achieved that, it sets a standard. Everyone’s proud of him. He got what he deserved, and the team, so they played phenomenal. They beat a great team, and now they’re the defending champions. So now next year, it’s a bigger goal.
Dime: Having a whole nation behind you…do you think that puts more pressure on you guys when you go out there to play?
CA: Nah, it’s a great responsibility, but it’s something that we enjoy doing. We feel a great amount of pride when we do things like that. We know that people here are very passionate about the game and respect what we do. Good or bad, they’re always gonna be behind us, so that’s what’s neat about being unique as far as being from a country where there’s only two of us playing.
Dime: With the lockout, do you have any plans as far as playing outside of the NBA with the lockout going on?
CA: Yeah, I think a lot of players’ perspective has changed as far as how they view what’s going on and plan B. In a situation like this, you obviously have to make the right decision for yourself and your family. But it is what it is. We are in a lockout and we have to be patient with the process and obviously understand every day what’s going on. It could prolong to be something that we had no idea was going to go further, but we have to be prepared. I think Europe is obviously an option, but there are so many players that want to go to Europe now so we’ll see how it goes. The market is going to open.
Dime: You just signed with Boston for the end of the season. Were you expecting to have a bigger role with them or go deeper in the playoffs?
CA: Well it was a tough situation. I was coming into a team where they were already established. It was kinda hard for me to fill in my role because I wasn’t with them from the beginning, so I was just trying to do what Doc wanted me to do and obviously staying ready. They already had Rondo and Delonte so for me it was just a matter of waiting for my opportunity and doing the best that I could with it.
Dime: The last five years or so, you’ve moved around a lot. Is that sort of just bad luck? With this next team are you trying to find somewhere you can stick?
CA: I mean, you know it’s been a long journey for me. I’ve had an opportunity to play with great franchises and be a part of teams. I’ve learned a lot from great players, from great teammates so I see it differently. If I was stuck on one team, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to play with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Shaq, D-Wade, ‘Bron, Chauncey, Rasheed, Ben Wallace, all those guys…Karl Malone, Stockton, Mark Jackson, all those players you know? So I can’t complain. I’ve been truly blessed. The fact that I’ve been moving around to different teams, it’s been better for me because I’ve had the opportunity and the blessing to play with those great players.
Dime: Definitely. With the lockout, since you don’t know exactly when you’re going to be playing ball again, does that change your schedule? Some guys have a specific summer routine that they go through every year.
CA: Not really because my schedule is so different than the NBA players because I always play with my national team so I have a different commitment than them. I finish the NBA and I take maybe two weeks and then have to get back with it because we start training camp here in Puerto Rico because of our commitments internationally. I’ve always been an all-around player as far as that.
What do you think? Where should Arroyo play next year?
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