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Hamed rides the pine but stays upbeat

Iran center Hamed Ehadadi isn’t playing much in his second season with the Memphis Grizzlies yet he remains positive about his NBA career.

The Most Valuable Player of last year’s FIBA Asia Championship in China after leading the Iranians to a second straight title, Hamed will compete at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Istanbul.

For now, the 24-year-old is patiently waiting for his chance with the Grizzlies after appearing in just 12 games and playing a total of 48 minutes.

Hamed was not in the Memphis squad on Wednesday night when they lost 113-111.

In an interview published on NBA.com, Hamed was asked about his lack of game time.

“It happens to me all the time, they don’t play me, but I’m ready to play,” the 7ft 2in center said.

“It’s hard because you don’t know if you’ll play for 10 games in a row. (Then) They put you in the game and your conditioning is not good, and you can’t play. But sometimes that happens.”

Hamed’s mindset is to be ready when Memphis coach Lionel Hollins does call his name.

“If they should give me a chance, very good,” he said.

“I try my best. I try my best to help the team in practice or in games. I try.”

Memphis are one of the surprise teams in the NBA with 22 wins and 19 defeats.

They are in a pack of teams chasing Oklahoma City and Utah (both 24-18) for the last two Western Conference play-off spots.

Hamed isn’t playing, but his team is winning and that, he wants his fans to know, is the most important thing right now.

“I’m very happy we win,” Hamed said.

“My teammates play awesome. Awesome. I’m very happy with it. I’m not worried that I don’t play. I want to play. But now we win, we win these games. It’s normal I don’t play.”

Just how long he stays happy remains to be seen.

When asked about his plans after his contract expires next year, he said: “If my contract is finished and I find a contract, I stay. It’s my dream, in the NBA.

“If not, I go. My agent, he talks to all teams. I don’t know.

“I have one more year on the contract. That’s a long time. The NBA is a long season. We have 40 games left, maybe we will go to the play-offs. I hope, I wish for the play-offs. And we have one more year. I have a chance to play maybe next season.”

One reason why he hasn’t played much has been down to the rapid development of starter Marc Gasol, who like Hamed is in his second season in the NBA and with Grizz.

The two actually practice against each other and Hamed has been impressed by the Spain international who will also be at the FIBA World Championship.

“Before the game, in the warm-up, we play one-on-one with Marc,” Hamed said. “He is smart. He’s really, really smart. He can shoot, his hook shot is very good, his discipline is very good. His foot (speed), the leg is so fast. It’s hard to stop him. He’s played better than last year, I think.

“We shot together, and last year it was not good enough. His play is up now this season. Last year, he couldn’t block shots. This season, he blocks two or three a game. One night he has six blocked shots. Awesome.”

At last month’s draw for the FIBA World Championship in Turkey, Iran discovered they would play against the United States, Slovenia, Brazil, Croatia and Tunisia in Group B.

Hamed said it was important to play against the best teams in the world and is looking forward to the game against the Americans.

“We want to play well at the World Championship,” Hamed said.

“We don’t (think we’ll) win. We’ll try to win. I think we’ll have a couple of wins, one or two. I promise that …”

Because he comes from Asia and is a tall center, some believe Hamed can raise the profile of basketball in Iran just as 7ft 6in Yao Ming has done in China.

“Maybe in a couple, three years, I’ll be the same as Yao,” Hamed said, “if I play in the NBA. If I don’t play, nobody sees.”

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