There was huge hype around Bhullar going into the game last night but going by team owner Vivek Ranadive, the 22-year-old center will get an opportunity to play during his 10-day contract period with the season-end approaching.

Bhullar, whose family migrated to Canada from Punjab, has already made waves in his blossoming career, overcoming weight and height issues. Though he lost about 16kg to get in shape for NBA, the 7-foot-5-inch player still weighs little over 160kg.

The Toronto-born said he was nervous before entering the arena on the ‘big day’: “I didn’t get to play but in the morning I was really nervous. It took me a while to settle down. In the warm-up, I couldn’t stop thinking about that ‘it is my first NBA game, all the hard work of years has finally paid off’. The last few days have been crazy,” said Bhullar from Sacramento, California.

He had been playing in the NBA development league for the Reno Bighorns, who are an affiliate of Sacramento Kings. Not long ago he was at the college level representing New Mexico State. What did he do in the transition period?

“NBA is a hard league to get into. The aim is to get better day by day. Reaching the level where I am at was hard.

For me, it was mostly about getting my body weight down, more like an NBA player, like an athlete. I feel I run quicker now, running up and down faster, the jump is higher too,” he said.

Bhullar is one of the tallest players in NBA and he feels height can work both ways for a player.

“Being a big guy could be a good and bad thing. I need to work extra on my fitness, get to the speed of other guys but my height makes up for that. So it could work both ways. Off the court, people think it is tough for me to walk around but I have learnt to live with it.”

Bhullar is Canadian by birth but he feels more Indian at heart.

“I am definitely an Indian at heart. My whole family is more Indian than Canadian. My parents migrated from Punjab long ago and I grew up talking Punjabi in the house. I feel my Indian roots are pretty strong. Having said that, I am just happy to represent my country [of birth] but I hope I reaching NBA opens door for a lot of Indian boys and girls,” he said.

Team owner Ranadive was also part of the interaction. He was expectedly asked whether it was merely a marketing gimmick to have Bhullar on board.

“Let me tell you first, it is a proud day for all the Indians. Sim has earned the right to be part of the NBA. He is a very skilled player, plus the way he shoots, moves and defends, so the skill part is an important addition to his game. He is doing all he needs to do to be an established NBA player and I see a bright future for him,” said Ranadive.

The Mumbai-born businessman also expressed a strong desire to promote basketball in his native country and is hoping to have Indians playing in the United States.

“We are hoping to have some Indian players to come here for the development league try outs, that is the very least I I am looking at,” he added.

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