A rel­a­tively spe­cial re­union in Den­ver

Nuggets-Knicks game fea­tures matchup of Her­nan­gomez broth­ers

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christo­pher Dempsey

At 3 o’clock Sun­day morn­ing, 12 or 13 mem­bers of Juan­cho and Willy Her­nan­gomez’s fam­ily will wake up at their par­ents’ house in Madrid, just hours af­ter a planned din­ner, and gather around the tele­vi­sion in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the main event. Juan­cho vs. Willy I. “It’s a dream come true just play­ing in the NBA,” Juan­cho Her­nan­gomez said. “It’s more worth it when you’re play­ing against your brother.”

The two will face each other for the first time as pro­fes­sion­als in the NBA at the Pepsi Center on Satur­day night, when Juan­cho’s Nuggets host Willy’s New York Knicks. It’s a matchup years in the mak­ing, fea­tur­ing two play­ers who grew up lov­ing bas­ket­ball in a na­tion — Spain — that places soc­cer above all other sports.

They be­gan on the pre­dictable path, both try­ing their hands — more ap­pro­pri­ately, feet — at soc­cer. The first time they tried bas­ket­ball, though, was love at first drib­ble.

“We tried bas­ket­ball and we love bas­ket­ball,” Juan­cho said. “All my 10 or 15 years I love bas­ket­ball. I love all the leagues — the NBA, the D-League, I love Euro League, I love the sec­ond di­vi­sion of the ACB, I love play­ing bas­ket­ball. When my sis­ter play I love go­ing to see her. It doesn’t mat­ter the level of bas­ket­ball, be­cause it’s bas­ket­ball. When you see the kids play­ing bas­ket­ball, you see how big the sport is, you see how beau­ti­ful the sport is.”

And the broth­ers, one year apart in age, play it well. Both have shown flashes of po­ten­tial -– the 6-foot-9 Juan­cho at small for­ward and 6-11 Willy at center. As kids in Madrid, com­pe­ti­tion was al­ways in­tense when they played against each other.

“We played a lot of one-on-one games,” Willy said. “When we played one-on-one, I was able to play in the low post. It’s the best thing I can do. My brother can shoot. We both tried to keep work­ing on our bad things. Some­times he beat me. Some­times I beat him.”

Through it all, a stronger bond was formed. Their re­la­tion­ship grew even stronger when they played in Spain’s ACB League, one of the best bas­ket­ball leagues in the world. Now, they talk to each other ev­ery day.

“We have a re­ally good re­la­tion­ship,” Juan­cho said. “We are more than broth­ers. We can talk about ev­ery sit­u­a­tion, ev­ery prob­lem. So, I think that’s our key; our re­la­tion­ship is re­ally good.

“If he has prob­lems, he knows we can talk to each other. And if I have an is­sue, I can talk to him. The good thing is, we are rook­ies in the same sea­son. So all of the prob­lems that he has, we have the same. So we go­ing to help each other to learn about the NBA, learn about ev­ery­thing.”

Said Willy: “It’s crazy. We’re both rook­ies in the NBA in the same year. For us, it’s a dream come true.”

Nat­u­rally, com­par­isons have been made to Spain’s most fa­mous bas­ket­ball-play­ing broth­ers — Pau and Marc Ga­sol. Willy and Juan­cho Her­nan­gomez shake off the com­par­isons, but they are big fans of the Ga­sol broth­ers.

“We don’t com­pare our­selves be­cause it’s im­pos­si­ble,” Juan­cho said. “But a lot of times the news, the news­pa­per or the ra­dio tries to com­pare us.

“They are so tal­ented. Pau won two cham­pi­onships. Marc won the de­fen­sive player of the year. For us, we are the Her­nan­gomez broth­ers. We try to work hard, be hum­ble.”

The Her­nan­gomez broth­ers, Den­ver’s Juan­cho and New York’s Willy, are rook­ies from Madrid. “It’s a dream come true just play­ing in the NBA,” Juan­cho says. “It’s more worth it when you’re play­ing against your brother.” As­so­ci­ated Press and Getty Im­ages file

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.