After the acquisitions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson, plus the re-signing of Tobias Harris, the Sixers needed a backup ball handler to replace the outgoing T.J. McConnell.
Raul Neto is that guy, the 6’1″, 27-year-old, four-year NBA veteran who began his career in his native Brazil before playing four seasons in Spain. Neto was waived by the Jazz this summer after the franchise traded for Mike Conley, sending Grayson Allen, Jae Crowder, and Kyle Korver to Memphis.
Neto has had an interesting NBA career arc, playing 81 games with 53 starts his first season before taking a back seat to guys like Ricky Rubio, George Hill, Shelvin Mack, and Dante Exum. Injuries then derailed this past season, as he played a career low number of games.
But he’ll have an opportunity this season to play 10, 15, maybe 20 minutes per game backing up Ben Simmons. The Sixers are not exactly flush with depth at the point guard position, and if Neto can stay healthy and stay on the court, he’ll play a key role on a squad with championship aspirations.
Raul was good enough to spend a few minutes with CB after today’s press conference, elaborating on the injury issue and talking about the decision to come to Philly:
Crossing Broad: You only played 37 games last year and dealt with a variety of injuries. It was reported later that there was a pinched nerve in your back that was the source of those problems. How are you feeling now?
Raul Neto: Yeah, so I strained my hamstring in the beginning of the season, before training camp, and I fought through that injury pretty much the whole season. I got healthy a few months later and thought it was good, but later in the season we found out that I had the pinched nerve in my back and we did a couple of things and it got better. That’s one of the things I’m working on this summer, just working on my body and trying to get 100% to play 82 games, plus the playoffs. That’s what I’m focused on.
Crossing Broad: Does that require any kind of continuing rehab, or do you feel okay right now?
Neto: No it’s good. I’ve never had any back issues before, it’s just something the doctor says it might be or it might not, that it might be something else. I’m just trying everything. I took a month off to get my body (right), to get all the information and hard work I did last year, to get that off my body and (reset) and now I’m just building up again, starting in the weight room and starting on the basketball court, to be ready in about a month, to play some pickup, play with contact, that’s what I’m doing.
Crossing Broad: So what do you make of this team? Brett’s offense is a bit different; obviously there’s very little pick and roll and isolation, it’s a motion offense with hand-offs and movement and passing. Did you watch a lot of Sixers games or are you familiar with what you’re getting into?
Neto: Yeah, well because I was in the west for four years, we didn’t play too much against them and we didn’t watch too much film on them, but of course I watched the Sixers in the playoffs and I watched the way they play. I like it, you know? It’s my style of game, where it’s not one-on-one. Of course I love playing pick and roll as a point guard but (when you) just move the ball and we play free and having smart players around it just makes it easy to connect with them and play that way. I had Joe Ingles as a teammate and Dante Exum, and coach Brown was with the Australia national team for a few years, so I only heard good things about coach Brown and I’m excited. I talked to him a little bit on the phone and he told me what he wants from me and I’m happy with that role. I’m happy to start.
— Sixers Nation (@PHLSixersNation) July 12, 2019
Crossing Broad: What do you know about Philadelphia? Anything?
Neto: Not really. When we’d come here, we’d just play the game, you know come the night before, play the game, and leave. I got here two days ago and yesterday (Thursday) it was just raining like crazy so I didn’t get to see too much of the city. But I’ve heard good things. I’ve heard it’s different than Salt Lake City, it’s a little bigger, a little more intense, a little more traffic. But I’m happy; I’m happy with the change, I’m happy to play in a new city, with a new organization, see new faces and work with different people. I think after four years you get a little bit into a comfort zone and I’m happy to get out of that. Having different people work with me I think is going to be great.
Crossing Broad: After the Mike Conley trade happened, were you thinking of places where you might want to go? And what was the contact with Philadelphia like? Did this jump out to you as a possible destination, a franchise you might want to play for?
Neto: So, (the Sixers) had shown interest in me the longest. I was talking to a couple of other teams and of course because of my injuries last year there were a lot of other teams that stepped back on the (idea) of getting me for the season. But the Sixers were the team that showed the most interest. They talked to me for 2-3 weeks, to my agent, and I wasn’t even thinking about the (Conley) trade. I think in the NBA a lot of things happen and you’ve got to fight through and find your spot in the team, regardless of who’s in front of you. I’ve been through a lot of things in four years. I’ve been the fourth point guard, I’ve been the backup, I’ve been the starter, I know how the league goes. It wasn’t something that changed my mind, I just had a great feeling about Philadelphia when I talked to coach Brown. It wasn’t a hard choice. There wasn’t too much to think about. Of course you see the money with other teams and other opportunities, but this was the perfect team for me, perfect fit, and it’s a team that can fight for a championship. That’s something everyone wants.
By the way, his first name is pronounced “How-ool.” In Portuguese, the R is an “H” sound.
So it’s not “Roww-ool,” like Raul Ibanez, it’s “How-ool.”
Thank you, and enjoy your weekend.