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Miami (USA) (EFE).- After arriving in New Orleans in September with a gold medal around his neck and a Eurobasket MVP, the Spanish Willy was promised an important role in the Pelicans’ rotation, but four months then he has barely played 22 of his team’s 47 games, averaging 11.8 minutes and this is already the season in which they have counted on him the least since he landed in the state of Louisiana.

He is in a kind of ‘golden cage’ that prevents the center from Madrid from being regular. There is only one solution, that in the next fifteen days, before the market closes on February 9, another team bets on him.

«Every time I give him minutes he takes advantage of them. He is doing everything we ask of him and I can speak on behalf of the entire coaching staff when I say that we love having him here,” his coach, Willie Green, responded to a question from EFE.

a tough situation

It is difficult to locate where the problem is because with this same technician, exactly one year ago, there was no debate. Because the role of Willy Herangómez during the 2021/2022 season was important. But the postseason defended him on the bench, playing just a couple of minutes in a single game of the series against the Phoenix Suns.

«He is going through a very tough situation, but it does not change him. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t get angry,” Trey Murphy III told EFE. And maybe that’s one of the problems.

A guy who doesn’t protest and always creates a good atmosphere in the locker room with a smile is probably easier to sit down than others who look at you intimidatedly or make a fuss.

Despite everything, the Spanish center’s numbers are good with almost seven points per game, as well as 4.6 rebounds and 0.9 assists. His effectiveness is above 52% in field goals, being a very reliable player in the paint.

One of the key men in the locker room

If Willy has anything left over in New Orleans, it’s love. Everyone within the team surrenders to his naturalness, good vibes and his camaraderie.

«He is a great guy, one of the closest. He always smiling, transmitting energy to us, he is a great person. He never changes in the locker room, it’s what makes him a great teammate,” Murphy said.

CJ McCollum agrees: “When Willy plays, he plays well. He is very talented, he takes advantage of opportunities. He contributes points, he rebounds, he puts up good blocks. He is always close to the hoop and helps a lot. He is a great companion ».

One of his rivals in the fight by minutes, Larry Nance Jr, melts in praise of his partner trying to explain the difficulty of the situation.

«There are simply moments in which you are not going to play, I have lived it. But if you let that hurt your work ethic, if you bring that up every day, others see your frustration. The fact that he remains positive, available, that he is with us, always optimistic, means a lot for the locker room but also for his career,” he said.

Given the lack of opportunities, the most sensible decision seems to be a transfer and Willy’s name is day in and day out on the rumor pages.

Conditions are met to leave

Willy currently competes for minutes with players before whom he starts with the losing battle. One of the clearest examples is that of a Jaxson Hayes, six years younger, who will probably see his rookie contract extended in the coming months.

In this situation, the one who has the most numbers to come out is Hernangómez, who also still maintains a very good poster for what he has achieved in the past Eurobasket and which also represents a very affordable investment with the player’s 2.4 million salary.

Willy does not have a guaranteed contract for the 2023/2024 season, so the franchise that takes over his services could release him at no cost in the postseason and open a position on the roster.

While the Pelicans would expedite some salary space to try to face some operation before facing the postseason.

«In this league there are many eyes on you, whether they are from your team or from others. We are not the only team that saw him win the gold medal. We are not the only team that knows his abilities,” Larry Nance Jr. told EFE.

More minutes and high aspirations

Willy is one of the usual names in the market rumors, but recently there are two teams that sound strong, the last two finalists of the Eastern Conference.

The Boston Celtics are looking for a center to help rest both Al Horford and Robert Williams, a role that would fit their player profile perfectly. But for which the Austrian Jakob Poeltl also aspires.

Miami Heat, meanwhile, with Dewayne Dedmon out of Spoelstra’s plans, is giving young Orlando Robinson a lot of confidence as a backup to Bam Adebayo, but it is a role in which Willy would add more experience and forcefulness.

It seems there is no going back. Only Pelicans management can close that door and block his exit.

Those who are close to Willy are getting used to the idea and are happy to be released, such as Larry Nance Jr: «I don’t want Willy to leave. I love you. He gives his best every day, on the track, off it… But it’s not my race. If it happens, I’ll be happy for this new opportunity for him. I am the biggest fan of him ».

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