EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jorge Gutierrez still isn’t convinced he made the team.
“Well, I haven’t signed yet,” he informed The Brooklyn Game with a laugh.
It’s hard to blame his skepticism. Gutierrez’s contract is fully non-guaranteed, and he hasn’t ever had an NBA contract at the beginning of a season. After going undrafted out of University of California-Berkeley in 2012, Gutierrez bounced around between NBA Summer League rosters, the D-League, and one stint playing professionally in Mexico.
The 25-year-old Gutierrez was sparsely used in Brooklyn last season. He played in 16.3 minutes per game over 15 games, averaging 4.1 points and 2.2 assists per game. With the Nets lacking bigs and Gutierrez going against a point guard with a guaranteed contract in Marquis Teague during preseason, it seemed likely he’d be cut from the team’s final 15-man roster for the second straight year.
But the Nets decided to hold onto Gutierrez, the fourth Mexican-born player in NBA history, shipping Teague to Philadelphia with a future second-round pick to open up the spot and create a trade exception.
His skepticism did not waver his confidence. “I’ve always felt confident,” Gutierrez said about making the team. “It doesn’t matter if there was another guy here, I always felt confident in what I’m doing, because I come in to work and work every day.”
The Nets have long known about Gutierrez. In October of 2013, Gutierrez made the Nets training camp roster, joining the team for a week at Duke University before getting the axe three days before the start of the 2013-2014 season.
But the Nets kept tabs on him, signing him from the D-League’s Canton Charge to a ten-day contract in late March and eventually through the season. To sign him through the rest of the season, the Nets used a wonky rule that technically earned Gutierrez a contract through this season, but without a dime in guaranteed money. (He did earn $25,000 by making the training camp roster).
“I’ve always come and worked,” he added. “Since last year, I’ve always come here and do my best every day. There’s nothing guaranteed. I come in with the mentality that this is my last day, and I’ve got to do my best.”
Gutierrez was a far more productive player than Teague last season, which factored into the final decision. His ratio of assists to turnovers was 2.07 to 1, far better than Teague’s, and he shot more effectively in his limited time. Team officials have said that he’ll make the team, penciling him is as a backup to Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack. Should one of those two go down with injury? He’s next in line.
“He’s a tough coach, but that’s a good thing,” Gutierrez said about Hollins. “That’s a good way to do things. He expects a lot from us. That’s the least that a coach is going to do for you. He’s going to try to make you better.”