Fazekas fights to show he belongs in NBA
Appeal Sports Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Auditioning is something Nick Fazekas has never had to do as a basketball player until now.
Fazekas, the three-time WAC Player of the Year and two-time All-American from Nevada, is in the audition of his life as he fights to show that he belongs in the NBA.
Signed by the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 27 after being released by Dallas, Fazekas (3.7 points, 3.8 rebounds) has been able to give Los Angeles some much-needed minutes up front in place of Elton Brand, who just returned to action after missing 74 games, and Chris Kaman, who has been suffering from a sprained ankle.
“The situation I’m in I feel like I’m auditioning every game,” said Fazekas, who scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed four rebounds in a 110-98 loss to the Sacramento Kings Thursday night at Arco Arena. “I just go out there and play every night. I’m trying to score some points, get some rebounds and play some defense. If you’re doing well, they will leave you out there to play.”
If the last three games are any indication, Fazekas will continue to get some good minutes. In 63 minutes, Fazekas has scored 32 points on 13-for-19 shooting, made 6-for-7 from the line and pulled down 21 rebounds.
“I know what I can do out there and I know what I can’t do,” Fazekas said. “I didn’t rebound well tonight, but I was able to get some shots. I’ve always shot a high percentage. That’s what it’s about. That, and taking advantage of the situations you are put in.”
And, Fazekas has taken advantage of the Clippers’ injury problems and used that to his advantage.
“He’s done a nice job for us,” said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy. “Every game it seems like he gets better and better for us. He rebounds and does all the right things on the court. He makes things happen.
“He’s been giving us some minutes. Initially when we picked him up, we didn’t know if there would be many minutes to be had. He understands what we need. He had no practice time to learn anything. He had to learn everything on the run. It made it tougher. It was pieces here and pieces there.”
Fazekas admitted that his first 10-day period with Los Angeles was tough.
“I was glad to be here, but I didn’t get many opportunities,” he said. “I had to create a lot of what I got with offensive rebounds.”
The second 10-day contract went much smoother, and the Clippers opted to sign him for the rest of the season rather than release him and that’s proven to be a wise decision.
In Thursday’s game, he was able to score simply by being in the right place at the right time, and he got his hands on a lot of balls. That’s Fazekas’ IQ for the game. Mentally, he’s always been ahead of the curve. Players may out-physical him, but rarely will they out-smart him.
Fazekas has six more games left to impress the Clippers’ brass, and at the very least earn an invite to play on the Clippers’ summer league team in Las Vegas.
“We (my agent and I) will be looking for the best possible situation,” Fazekas said. “If it’s here (Los Angeles) then it’s the best possible situation.”
“I’d definitely like to bring him in,” Dunleavy said.
Dunleavy said there are a couple of things that Fazekas needs to work on.
“The first thing is that he needs to do is get stronger,” Dunleavy said. “At times, physically he gets beat up. There are times he gets pushed off the block too easily
“The other thing that would help if he could develop his outside shooting. If he can go out and hit 3-pointers, all of a sudden he spreads defenses out. We’ve got Elton (Brand) who gets double-teamed. If we had a guy that could go out and hit a 3…”
Fazekas was a strong outside shooter, and was consistently over 35 percent from beyond the
arc at Nevada. Fazekas didn’t attempt a lot of 3-pointers in the D-League, so maybe that extra foot or so in the NBA is just outside his comfort level.
Being the pure shooter that he is, no doubt Fazekas will make whatever adjustments are needed.
One thing is certain, Fazekas has learned the hard way that the NBA is more than just a game, it’s a business.
He was the Mavericks’ first draft pick (34th overall), yet he had to be released as part of the Jason Kidd deal.
“I picked that up quickly,” Fazekas said. “It didn’t take me very long. It was all brand-new to me.”
Fazekas spent the bulk of this year with the Tulsa 66ers, playing 28 games. He averaged 19.1 points and 9.9 rebounds which earned him a spot in the all-star game, though he didn’t play because he was called up by the Mavericks.
“I don’t know if it (D-League) helped other than I got in a groove,” Fazekas said. “It kind of helped in terms of exposure, but there wasn’t much development going on.”
Fazekas was helped by the fact that former Nevada teammate Ramon Sessions was the team’s starting point guard.
“We knew each other so well,” Fazekas said. ‘He knew that I would catch anything he threw in to me. We really helped each other.”
Fazekas’ world caved in when he was released without really getting a fair shake by Dallas. He essentially became a free agent, free to make his own deal.
“I’d played two games (after I got recalled),” he said. “We had only seven or eight guys, and I thought I’d be playing the next couple of games until the Nets’ players (from the trade) got here. I would have stayed (with Dallas) but Devean George blocked the trade.”
With George vetoing the trade, the Mavericks had to restructure the trade and essentially ran out of roster spots which meant there was no room for Fazekas.
In the long run, that may be the best thing that ever happened to him. He seems to have found a home with Los Angeles and avoided having to go overseas to continue his career.
“That’s one thing I didn’t want to do,” Fazekas said. “I’d worked too hard at getting in the NBA.”
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 8811-1281
A NIGHT WITH NICK
First quarter highlights
• Enters the game with 4:23 left and scores his first basket of the game 13 seconds later
• Keeps a rebound alive in a crowd which leads to a basket by Cory Maggette
• With the score tied at 20, steals a ball and feeds Eldon Brand for a 14-foot jump shot
Second quarter highlights
• Scores on a layup with 9:24 remaining
• At the 8:34 mark is fouled on a drive to the basket and sinks both free throws
• With 7:40 left, scores on a lay-up with 7:40 left for his 8th point of the half.
Third quarter highlights
• Enters the game late in the quarter, and promptly forces a turnover by Francisco Garcia on a rebound
• Posts up Spencer Hawes with 48.9 left and scores in the key
Fourth quarter highlights
• Hits a 7-foot jump hook to cut the lead to 95-80 with 7:52 left
• Grabs a rebound with 4:57 left and scores on a short jump shot with 4:46 left
• With 4:22 left, takes a pass from Brevin Knight and scores on a fast-break lay-up
The final line: 18 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal