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Past Jazz point guard Raul Lopez back with team as assistant coach

The former 24th pick of the 2001 NBA Draft is now back with the Utah Jazz.

Jazz v Nuggets Photo by: Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Last year it was reported that Ricky Rubio had been working with past Utah Jazz point guard Raul Lopez when his game had felt like it was bottoming out beginning of January. Lopez, who had previously spent two years with the Utah Jazz, was credited with helping snap Ricky out of his funk. Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News wrote this last year about the two’s relationship.

Ricky Rubio has a secret.

“Don’t tell anybody,” Rubio said, smiling.

The reason for his latest surge? Former Jazz point guard Raul Lopez.

“Yeah, he came last week,” Rubio said. “I’ve been working out with him the last summer. He gives me a lot of confidence.”

Lopez, now retired, is largely identified with Jazz fans for being drafted ahead of San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker with the 24th pick in 2001.

However, Rubio’s fellow Spaniard serves as a big influence for his career.

“We worked out last summer and then he came in the beginning of the season and he came last week,” Rubio said.

It seems that the secret is now an official relationship. The Utah Jazz must have liked that improvement so much they brought in Lopez full-time as an assistant coach. Lopez could be seen at the Jazz’s first practice today.

The hiring of Raul Lopez wasn’t merely because Rubio had high respect for the older Spanish point guard, it was to fill a need. Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune—still feels weird to write that—wrote that the Jazz brought Raul Lopez on to replace Igor Kokoskov.

When Igor Kokoskov was hired by the Phoenix Suns as their new coach, the Jazz lost one of their most valuable player development assistants. Kokoskov worked extensively with Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio on his game last season, and the efforts showed in Rubio’s second-half performances. Everything culminated with Rubio’s Game 3 triple-double against the Thunder, the first by a Jazzman in nearly a decade.

“We wanted Raul to be part of the group, not just for Ricky, but to work with our guys in the context of the coaching staff,” Snyder said. “Raul expressed an interest in doing that, and I jumped on it.”

The Utah Jazz have enjoyed having coaches and players of various backgrounds and nationalities; adding Lopez to the staff continues their tradition of having an international flavor to their team. Lopez is a welcome addition to this Jazz squad and their coaching staff.