BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — As soon as the 2017-18 season ended, the frequent flier miles began to rack up for Utah Jazz guard Raul Neto.
Two weeks were spent in his home country of Brazil, then he was in Europe for another three weeks before returning to the United States of America before his fourth NBA season.
Although the traveling never affected his offseason training regimen, his body paid the price for the constant movement.
Even before Utah’s 2018-19 training camp started in September, he suffered a right hamstring injury.
From then on, it seemed to be a snowball effect as the injuries continued to mount after sitting those first 16 games with right thigh soreness, a left groin strain, left hamstring tightness and left ankle soreness.
I know that I’m an NBA player, I know that I can play from the time I played last year so now I’ve got to get my body right. – Utah Jazz guard Raul Neto
He would appear in just 37 games in the Jazz’s 50-win season to average 5.3 points and 2.5 assists on 46 percent shooting.
“I wouldn’t say (my body) failed me but of course it wasn’t able to handle all of the ups and downs of the season because I came from not playing at all, to playing like 20-30 minutes when Ricky (Rubio) got hurt and that’s when I had one injury,” Neto told the Deseret News during a recent training session in Los Angeles. “Then, at the beginning of the season, maybe it was because what I said, just traveling too much in the offseason and not being in one spot.
“I was working out everywhere I was, but it’s just different. It was tough,” he admitted. “The injuries came in the worst moments, like my ankle right before the playoffs when I was playing well and Coach (Quin Snyder) had confidence in me, so it was just the timing that kind of pissed me off a little bit, but you learn from that. I know that I’m an NBA player, I know that I can play from the time I played last year so now I’ve got to get my body right.”
Neto’s been so busy with his recovery and training regimen in Los Angeles that by Friday morning he wasn’t aware of the Jazz’s three second-round draft picks — Jarrell Brantley (No. 50), Justin Wright-Foreman (No. 53) and Miye Oni (No. 58) — made on Thursday night. Of course, he’s aware of the recent Mike Conley Jr. to Utah trade, but hasn’t been focused on how that move will affect him in the process. The NBA free agency period has moved up to June 30 this summer as Neto approaches the second year of his two-year contract extension.
“He’s a great player and I’m sure he’ll adapt wherever he goes, but right now I try not to be involved emotionally with all this because it’s business,” Neto said of Conley. “We all know that anything can happen and I’m in that situation, too, so I try just to focus on my body, focus on my offseason and getting better and be ready for whatever comes next, whatever will be, and I think I’ll be ready so that’s what I’m focused on.
“I’m not even thinking about all those trades, and still there’s some things that will happen for sure before the free agency, so I just try to focus on what I can control, but he’s a great player and wherever he goes he’s going to be a great player,” he continued.
Neto’s approach to this summer has been much different than those of the past. Instead of shooting countless shots and doing on-court work right away, he’s visiting French osteopath and physical therapist Fabrice Gautier for sessions at the LA Main Physical Therapy facility in California to heal his body completely. Then, he’ll transition to on-court drills and weight training. His goal is to possibly hit the court next week for shooting and film study, before ramping things up in three weeks. As he figures out a set routine, Jazz center Rudy Gobert is also in Los Angeles keeping him company as he’s thinking about spending the entire offseason to train in that environment.
“LA is not my vibe. I’m from Brazil, from like a small city, so it’s not really my vibe but I’m just here because of the people,” Neto said. “There’s a lot of good people to work with, both off the court and on the court, so that’s one of the reasons I come here a lot.”
Gobert and Neto have shared a tight bond for many years and spend lots of time together as some of the Jazz’s closest teammates. Utah’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year is one of the main ones encouraging Neto to keep a positive mindset while trying to stay on the court and off the injured reserve list this year.
“The one thing I try to push him is to do what’s good for him because he’s a nice guy and sometimes he doesn’t want to step on anybody’s toes,” Gobert said of Neto. “He doesn’t want to put himself first, but I tell him, ‘You’re a professional NBA player so you’ve got to do what’s good for you,’ and every year he’s got to get better at doing that.”
Gautier is trying to get Neto’s foundation as solid as possible with all the physical pain that his body had to endure this year at 6-foot-1, 179 pounds. That’s why building his strength and body mechanics is so pivotal during the summer months to prevent those situations from happening as much as possible.
Staying put in one setting also won’t hurt him accomplish his goal of playing more games.
“There’s a whole process to this,” Gautier said. “We work with a lot of really good professionals.
“He’s always been a very focused kid; he just needs to rely on his body and feel that his body’s going to be there to help him and not let it go.”