Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Croats in NBA: Zubac Records Best Defensive Game Yet, Bogdanovic Scores 29 Points

October 29, 2019 - Clippers center Ivica Zubac played the defensive game of his career, while Bojan Bogdanovic's stellar start continues for the Utah Jazz. 

After an unexpected defeat to the Phoenix Suns, the Los Angeles Clippers responded much better at home, where they easily topped the Charlotte Hornets 111:96.

Croatian center Ivica Zubac finished the game with 7 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes in the ranks of the Clippers, but had the best defensive night of his career as he recorded five blocks during that period. He has never recorded more in a single NBA game, reported Index.hr.

The Clippers were led by a fantastic Kawhi Leonard with 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The Hornets were able to stay in the game until the end of the third quarter when the Clippers led by double-digits, though they were unable to return by the end of the match.

The Hornets thus recorded their third defeat in four games, while the Clippers reached their third win in four games.

Utah narrowly celebrated away at Phoenix on Monday night (96:95). Bojan Bogdanovic’s hot start continued in yet another excellent game in the Utah jersey. In 37 minutes on the court, he scored 29 points (4/5 two-pointers, 4/8 three-pointers, 9/9 free throws) with five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block. Dario Saric played 21 minutes for Phoenix and scored 4 points (0/1 two-pointers, 1/1 three-pointers, 1/2 free throws) with one rebound and three assists.

San Antonio was better than Portland 113:110. Luka Samanic did not enter the game for San Antonio, and Mario Hezonja played 19 minutes for Portland and scored 8 points (0/2 two-pointers, 2/5 three-pointers, 2/2 free throws) with six rebounds, one assist, and one block.

Recall,  this comes two days after the biggest upset of the season so far, when Phoenix upset Los Angeles Clippers 130:122. Dario Saric had the better evening then and finished the game with a double-double (15 points and ten rebounds) in 34 minutes on the court, while Zubac added 7 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes, but only hit a weak one of four shots in play. 

Bogdanovic also led the Jazz with 26 points just two days ago against Sacramento, recording four rebounds, one assist, and one steal. He hit five of nine two-pointers, two three-pointers, and one free throw. And all this despite an ankle sprain, which he suffered in his debut for the new club on Thursday night. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Croats in NBA: Bogdanovic Leads Jazz, Saric Records Double-Double in Win Against Zubac

October 27, 2019 - Bojan Bogdanovic led Utah Jazz to a win against the Sacramento Kings, while Dario Saric recorded a double-double in the Suns' win against Ivica Zubac's LA Clippers. 

Nine NBA games were played on Saturday night, of which the biggest surprise happened in Phoenix, where the Suns topped the favored Los Angeles Clippers 130:122.

Index.hr reports that it was a duel of two Croatian national team players as Dario Saric and Ivica Zubac hit the court. Saric had the better evening and finished the game with a double-double (15 points and 10 rebounds) in 34 minutes on the court, while Zubac added 7 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes, but only hit a weak one of four shots in play. 

The Suns' best was Devin Booker with 30 points, six rebounds and eight assists, while Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 27 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists. This is the first time in Leonard’s career that he reached ten assists in a single game.

The Suns are certainly the most pleasant surprise of the season so far. Recall, in their season opener, they topped the Sacramento Kings, a team that is aiming for the playoffs this season, and then fell by a point to the Denver Nuggets, last year's semifinalists in the Western Conference. The Clippers are by many a major favorite for the title this season.

The Suns have not been in the playoffs since 2010 and are one of the worst NBA franchises in recent years. The season-to-season win-loss ratio is 40-42, 33-33 (shortened season due to lockouts), 25-57, 48:34, 39-43, 23-59, 24-58, 21-61 and 19 -63.

In his second Utah Jazz game, Bojan Bogdanovic proved why he is a considerable boost. Index.hr reports that in the win against Sacramento (113:81), Bogdanovic led the Jazz with 26 points. He also recorded four rebounds, one assist, and one steal. He hit five of nine two-pointers, two three-pointers, and one free throw.

And all this despite an ankle sprain, which he suffered in his debut for the new club on Thursday night. Because of swelling, Bogdanovic missed the fight against the Lakers two days later. Coach Snyder made the decision to release him before the start of the game - and because of his injury, Babo played under restraint and did all this in just 24 minutes on the court.

Right from the start, he scored six points and then nailed a three-pointer for an 18-8 lead. Even then, Utah nearly settled the game, increasing their advantage by 35 at the end of the third quarter.

"He should keep taking some break games if he is going to come back like this," joked Mike Conley, Utah's other significant reinforcement this summer.

"He's a big part of our team, and when he goes, he goes. We play selflessly and constantly find him on the shot."

Jazz first star Donovan Mitchell scored 15 points and didn't mind being sidelined by the Croatian ace.

"It's great to see him so happy back on the court. He creates for himself and others, does a lot of things without the ball, pushes himself, draws a lot of attention and makes it easier for all of us," Mitchell said.

On the other side was the NBA’s second Bogdanovic, the Serbian Bogdan, who was one of the Kings' best players with 10 points.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Croats in NBA: Bojan Bogdanovic Brilliant in Jazz Season Opener

October 24, 2019 - Croatian basketball player Bojan Bogdanovic was the second-best scorer in the Utah Jazz victory on Wednesday. 

Gol.hr reports that Bojan Bogdanovic was brilliant in Utah Jazz’s seasoner opener, as the team went on to win 100-95 in their first game against Oklahoma City Thunder.

While it wasn't his day for three-pointers (1/5), Bogdanovic made great use of the plays set up for him and nailed five out of nine two-pointers, eventually finishing with 16 points in 24 minutes on the court. Bogdanovic was Utah’s was second-best scorer after Donovan Mitchell, who scored 32 points.

The Utah Jazz was concerned about Bogdanovic's ankle injury in the second quarter, which saw him limp off to the dressing room. Still, after consulting with the medical team, he returned to the court and played in the second half.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the best for the Thunder with 26 points, while Chris Paul added 22 with eight assists. The team's biggest star praised Bogdanovic in his pre-game interview. 

“One of the most underrated reinforcements is Bogdanovic. He’s great and knows how to play,” Paul said the day before the game.

In addition to Bogdanovic, Dario Saric also hit the court on Wednesday, scoring seven points with four rebounds in 21 minutes in the Phoenix Suns' victory over the Sacramento Kings 124-95.

Devin Booker led the Suns with 22 points and ten assists, Kelly Oubre added 21 with nine rebounds, while Deandre Ayton scored 18 with 11 rebounds. Buddy Hield scored 28 points for the Kings.

Mario Hezonja played in the defeat of the Portland Trail Blazers to the Denver Nuggets (108-100) and scored two points with four rebounds. Nikola Jokic led the winners with 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Damian Lillard scored 32 for Portland.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs also played on Wednesday. Cleveland topped the Orlando Magic 94-85, though Ante Zizic did not play. San Antonio beat the New York Knicks 120-11, while Luka Samanic stayed on the bench. 

In the most unlikely game played last night, the Minnesota Timberwolves celebrated at home after extra time against the Brooklyn Nets 127- 126.

Kyrie Irving scored 50 points in his Brooklyn debut. Karl-Anthony Towns led Minnesota with 36 points and 14 rebounds.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Record Number of Croats in NBA this Season: What Can We Expect?

October 19, 2019 - Croatia has never boasted more representatives in the world’s strongest basketball league than they have this season. However, the season ahead will also be decisive for the careers of our Croats in the NBA.

At first glance, one would think that Croatian basketball is a superpower, and that’s no surprise - in the upcoming season, they will have a record seven players in the NBA. This number is even higher than the world champions of Spain. But apart from Bojan Bogdanovic and Dario Saric, who else should be on our radar?

Gol.hr and Vid Horvat take a closer look at Croats in the NBA for the 2019/20 season.

Bojan Bogdanovic
(30 years old, 6 seasons, 19/20 contract worth $17 million)

Bojan Bogdanovic has been awarded the contract of a lifetime ($73 million over four years) and will have the opportunity to play an important role in a very serious Western Conference team, something he has never encountered thus far in his career. Bogdanovic should automatically enter the starting lineup as the small forward, where he can play alongside Jeff Green or Royce O'Neal, but he can also be used as a low four.

Why is this an excellent acquisition for Utah? Coach Quin Snyder has had issues with outside shooters in recent seasons and with virtually no one other than Ingles and Jae Crowder to shoot from outside the wing. Bojan was Indiana's biggest offensive threat last season after an injury to Victor Oladipo. He shot an incredible 42.5 percent for three-pointers and had a record average of 18 points per game.

Bogdanovic is an expressive shooter who can play without the ball in his hands, and Utah needs that. But his repertoire doesn't just stop at a three-point shot. Last year, he showed that he could be an effective mid-range shooter and is aggressive in counters. He even improved his pick and roll play, but still worked on it this summer. For the past three seasons, Bogdanovic has been part of a playoff team, but has never been surrounded by such good teammates.

Playing with Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell with the possibility of adding a third ball-handler in the starting five offers plenty of options. Bogdanovic will be able to contribute to the team in many ways, but the most significant contribution is expected in the shooting department. 

Dario Saric
(26 years old, 4 seasons, 19/20 contract worth $3.5 million)

It is perhaps a pivotal NBA season for Saric, who is in the final year of his rookie contract. After Philadelphia, he was no longer part of a system he could take advantage of. Unlike the Wolves, Saric should be in a better position with the Phoenix Suns, though it will all depend on him. Unless he makes good use of the minutes given, he will quickly find himself in the rotation behind either Frank Kaminsky or Cameron Johnson.

Like in previous NBA seasons, Saric can fill the four position, where he is currently ahead of Kaminsky and Johnson. However, Saric did not do well with the Wolves and their offensive system, which favored pick and roll and had more critical players than him involved in the attack. But he finished the season with a percentage of 45.4 of shots in play and a three-pointer percentage of 38.3.

These numbers are welcome in Phoenix, but he needs continuity and to avoid slow entry, which has been the case in recent years. Why is this important? The threat to Saric's position is not only the high post, but also Kelly Oubre Jr., who played the best games in the Suns' jersey in the four position. This is one of the variants we can also expect. In that case, Mikal Bridges would fill the other wing.

The Suns finally have a playmaker, and that's the best news ahead of the new season. Ricky Rubio should make it easy for everyone, including Dario. Saric's virtues are imagination and low-post play, and if there is more of a team game than individual play, it should suit him. Because of his future contract, this season must be above average for Saric.

Ivica Zubac
(22 years old, 4 seasons, 19/20 contract worth $6.5 million)

No other Croatian basketball player profited from a trade like Ivica Zubac. He left the turbulent Lakers without having to change cities and eventually ended up in an elite squad who is a serious contender for the title, where the thinnest rotation is in his position. Specifically, Zubac should be the Clippers' starting center who won't be needed much on offense, and at the same time, be able to progress by playing alongside some of the best players in the league like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Given that Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams function brilliantly in the other starting five, Doc Rivers will not break the bench. This means that if he decides to go with the small-ball five, JaMychal Green will start instead of Zubac, who has a better three-point shot and more mobility than the Croatian center.

The good news is that Zubac has an enormous desire to thrive and work. He wanted to work with the Gasol brothers this summer, as he would like to one day play like Marc for the Toronto Raptors, primarily paying attention to rebounds, communication on defense, and expanding the court. Unfortunately, their schedules did not align. However, Zubac is already working on his three-point shot and has specific characteristics that can be exploited.

Among the 50 centers that defended at least 50 possessions last season, Zubac allowed the second-fewest points per possession and the second-lowest shot percentage. He is also offensively good at finishing around the hoop and can shoot from a distance. Still, as the Clippers enter the season as one of the biggest favorites for the title, the primary goal will not be player development, but finding the ideal starting five and rotations.

Mario Hezonja
(24 years old, 5 seasons, 19/20 contract worth $1.74 million)

It will be a fresh start for Hezonja, who is still young enough to fulfill his potential. But in Portland, things work a bit differently than with his former teams. For one, Hezonja has not been part of a playoff squad so far and has not played with such dominant players that build the offensive attacks. Hezonja will be part of the second lineup in which he will have enough minutes to become a standard part of the rotation and will not have two or three more players competing for his place.

However, he will need to hit more than the desperate three-pointer percentage of 27.6 and the modest 41 percent for shots in play he recorded with the Knicks. Both are among his worst statistics since he arrived in the NBA. Plus, he could have more than 1.5 assists per game, as he has shown he knows how to set up plays. Hezonja will not be the playmaker as he was for New York, but as a secondary playmaker from the wing positions.

In his first four NBA seasons, Hezonja played for two weak teams. This will be his first time to be among a better quality group of players, which means that constant changes in the rotation and inconsistency in minutes will be a thing of the past. Portland has a clear game system, which will undergo some adjustments, but the hierarchy is basically known.

Dragan Bender
(21 years old, 4 seasons, 19/20 contract worth $1.68 million)

Recall, Dragan Bender was close to the Euroleague and signed for CSKA, but found a spot at the Bucks in the final moments. The first reactions were not pleasant, and if he gets minutes, he’ll only be waiting for an open three-pointer shot. However, Bender is much more than that, and his talent should not be limited to a spot-up shooter or position player.

However, contrary to expectations, he made good use of the minutes gained in the preseason. Milwaukee has not made radical changes and has retained much of last year’s lineup. But Bender is at the turning point of his career and must prove himself on a contract that is only partially guaranteed this season and not guaranteed next year.

The former fourth pick of the 2016 draft is currently consistent with the opportunities he has been receiving. He scored double-digits in his first four preseason games. He averaged 13 points with shots in play percentage of 60.7 and an astounding 53.8 three-pointer percentage in just over 18 minutes on the court. When we add six more rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game, we get his best career numbers. But these are just preseason games.

Bender has a few players ahead of him in the four and five positions and is unlikely to get more minutes than Ersan Ilyas, who is among Budenholzer's favorites. However, the Bucks' system suits Bender so far, and he can get his chance. 

Ante Zižic
(22 years old, 3 seasons, 19/20 contract worth $2.28 million)

During his final interview with general manager Koby Altman after the season, Ante Zizic was given a summer plan that presented a path that would eventually break Cleveland's deep rotation in high positions, more specifically at the center. Because despite their weak roster, the Cavs have by far the most players who can cover the starting lineup, like Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr. and John Henson.

Considering that Love will be the starting four, there are again four players who need to split 48 minutes in the center. It will be important for Zizic not to look deep into the rotation, but to focus on himself. He will have to be ready to step up to any situation. According to recent information, he has worked hard this summer to get physically fit.

Last season, Zizic was at one point one of Cleveland's most productive players, but that was primarily due to injuries and the space that opened up. As soon as the Cavs were complete, Zizic lost his role. It's not going to be easy this year either, because there aren't many advantages over Thompson and Nance Jr.

Luka Samanic
(19 years old, rookie season, 19/20 contract worth $2.69 million)

Samanic is a gifted player who has arrived in the best possible environment to thrive. The San Antonio Spurs are known for their program with young players and recognizing talented Europeans, while during the Summer League, Samanic showed he has the potential to work with and meet modern requirements. Admittedly, Samanic has made a significant transition in his career. He went from the ABA league to the strongest league in the world and is expected to be gradually introduced into the process.

The former Barcelona and Olimpija player will need time to develop, and will begin in the G-League with the Austin Spurs. However, it is not impossible to see him on the first-team bench for the first time. His style of play is similar to Lauri Markkanen's, a great example of how modern wing center should look. Both are light on their feet, have proper shooting mechanics, and can expand the court. 

Samanic has already shown the prospect of one day becoming an outstanding shooter, but there are more elements to work on. To fulfill his potential, he will need to be able to put up solid blocks, be dangerous with the ball, and hit open shots for three-pointers. In addition, he showed aggression in his dribbling and is quick in catch-and-shoot situations. For starters, it will be important to gain mass and transition as painlessly as possible.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Friday, 18 October 2019

Croats in NBA: Mario Hezonja Top Scorer for Portland Against Denver Nuggets

October 18, 2019 - Croatian basketball player Mario Hezonja was the Portland Trail Blazers' top scorer in a 104-110 defeat to the Denver Nuggets in the last preseason game before the regular NBA season begins.

Gol.hr writes that Hezonja scored 18 points in 28 minutes on the court with 6/11 shots in play and 3/4 for three-pointers. He also achieved five rebounds, six assists, and one block. The best for Denver was Will Barton and Paul Millsap, who each scored 13 points. This is Portland's third defeat in five preseason games.

''I'm by no means happy with the team's defensive reaction. Hezonja taught us a lesson,” Denver coach Mike Malone said after the game.

In the five preseason games, Hezonja averaged 10.8 points and 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists with a shooting percentage of 50%. However, most important is that he’s made his role clear on the team and guaranteed minutes in the rotation.

Ivica Zubac and Dragan Bender also hit the NBA court on Thursday night. In the LA Clippers defeat to the Dallas Mavericks (87-102), Zubac booked 16 minutes on the court, scored two points (shots in play 1/3 shot), and recorded three rebounds and one assist.

The Clippers' top scorer was Montrezl Harell with 14 points, while Dallas was led by Kristaps Porzingis and Justin Jackson with 18 points. Luka Doncic added 15. In the NBA preseason, the Clippers have two wins and three losses. 

Dragan Bender had a weak night in the Milwaukee Bucks' 118-96 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. In the three minutes he spent on the court, he only registered one block. Giannis Antetokounmpo, with 26 points, was the best for the Bucks, who had five wins in five preseason games.

Croatian basketball player Bojan Bogdanovic had a tough shooting night in the 118-126 home defeat of the Utah Jazz against the Portland Trail Blazers in their last preseason game on Wednesday.  Bogdanovic started the game in Utah's top five and was on the court for 25 minutes, where he missed all nine shots in play (0-4 for two-pointers, 0-5 for three-pointers), hitting just one free throw with one assist.

The regular NBA season begins on October 22, 2019. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Croats in NBA: Dario Saric Debuts for Suns, Mario Hezonja for Portland Trail Blazers

October 9, 2019 - Dario Saric and Mario Hezonja made their Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers debut in the NBA preseason on Tuesday evening. Bojan Bogdanovic made his Utah Jazz break on October 5.

Gol.hr reports that Dario Saric hit the court in a new NBA jersey on Tuesday - the jersey of the Phoenix Suns. In his debut, Saric received 17 and a half minutes on the court against his former team Minnesota Timberwolves. The game ended 111:106 for the Suns, and Saric contributed four points, seven rebounds, and one assist.

Ahead of the meeting, Phoenix coach Monty Williams said he would give his major players between 17 and 20 minutes on the court. As we know, Saric received 17 and a half, while DeAndre Ayton and Devin Booker each booked 21 minutes and Ricky Rubio 20.

The Croatia national team representative had a poor shooting night in which he hit just one of five attempts in the game. He scored one of two from the free-throw line, though he did catch seven rebounds, six of which were in the defense.

Mario Hezonja debuted for the Portland Trail Blazers in a 105:94 defeat to the Denver Nuggets and was the team's top scorer with 12 points in 20 minutes (3/5 for two-pointers, 0/2 for three-pointers), adding six rebounds and two assists. Hezonja also entered the game from the bench. 

Luka Samanic did not get a chance to play in the San Antonio Spurs defeat to Miami Heat 108:89.

Recall, a few days before on Saturday, Bojan Bogdanovic debuted for the Utah Jazz. Namely, the Jazz was convincing against the Australian Adelaide 36ers (133:81), and the Croatia captain scored 10 points with four rebounds and assists in 20 minutes on the court. 

The Utah Jazz was led by Tony Bradley with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Jeff Green added 16. Bogdanovic was one of seven players to hit double-digits on the winning team.

The regular NBA season will begin on October 22, 2019.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Friday, 16 August 2019

Bojan Bogdanović Training Harder than Ever on Holiday in Dubrovnik

August 16, 2019 - Bojan Bogdanović has been intensely preparing for yet another NBA challenge - a new season with new Utah Jazz. 

Croatia national basketball team player Bojan Bogdanović has spent much of his holiday in Dubrovnik, a city he fell in love with as a kid. But this summer, the popular ‘Babo’ worked harder than ever on his game to justify the big paycheck given to him by new NBA team Utah Jazz, reports T.portal on August 16, 2019.

At the beginning of July, the 30-year-old Mostar-born Bogdanović accepted an offer from the Utah Jazz, who, after great games in the Indiana Pacers jersey, offered him a four-year, $73 million contract.

Thus, Bogdanović, who arrived in the NBA in 2014 when he played for Brooklyn, earned a reputation as one of the league's best scorers after five seasons. After all, he averaged 18 points a game last season, 4.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists with three-pointers at a brilliant 42.5 percent. After the best season of his career, he also received the contract of his life.

To better fit into the system of coach Quin Snyder, assistant coach Zach Guthrie arrived in Dubrovnik for ten days, who, despite the high heat and thousands of tourists, worked daily at the Gospino Polje hall in the non-air-conditioned gym with the new Jazzer player. The move surprised Bogdanović a bit, but it also showed him just how much everyone at the club cared. Especially head coach Snyder, who sees Bogdanović as a player in the first five who will return the favor with points and good defense.

“I am convinced that Bojan will fit in perfectly with our game, and we could hardly find a better shooter on the market. We could really have a killer five when it comes to three-pointers," said a sympathetic Guthrie briefly, who showed details of the actions Bogdanović would be a part of. 

“We did really well all summer and I'm very pleased. Coach Danijel Lutz has been with me the whole time and is someone I’ve worked with for years. The arrival of Jazz's assistant from the US is a testament to the attention to detail in my new team,” Bogdanović told T.portal, who found his second home in Dubrovnik as he's already purchased several properties in the famous Croatian city.

“I loved Dubrovnik as a child when I would come with my parents and sisters to this beautiful city. Well, I said earlier that I was overjoyed that I could fulfill my childhood wish and that I bought a nice house on Stradun, in the very center of the old town,” said Bogdanović with a smile. The basketballer can often be seen walking Stradun in the company of friends or girlfriends.

Bogdanović determined that he would be actively resting until the Assumption of Mary, after which he would begin working a bit harder in Zagreb, in the Dražen Petrović hall. He plans to train in Zagreb until early September when he will head to his new destination - Salt Lake City, Utah.

Bojan will arrive in the US fully prepared and eager for new challenges. 

“Honestly, I wish I had spent the summer preparing for the World Cup with the Croatia national team, but it is what it is. As for Utah Jazz, I expect a good season and I think the club leaders have put together a very good team, although it will take time for us to play. We all envision a fight for the top of the Western Conference, and what is certain is that, in my opinion, this will be the most uncertain and tense NBA season after a long time. It's hard to predict who could reach the finals. Well, just look at the West - I think that out of 15 teams, maybe 2-3 are not counting on being at the top of the table and there will be a big fight for a spot in the playoffs,” added Bogdanović.

To be in top form for another NBA season, Bogdanović always calls coach Danijel Lutz, his trainer since he arrived from Real Madrid to Cibona.

“It is true that we have been cooperating for a very long time and what is most important for Bojan at this stage of his career is refining the segments in his game that he is always performing very well. Of course, we also worked on some of the details that he will need with the Utah Jazz, which was done in collaboration with the assistant coach Zach Guthrie, who he enjoyed working here in Dubrovnik,” Lutz said, adding:

“Bojan is a complete professional and the way he has worked hard all summer, during his vacation, confirms that. Of course, that is expected of someone who has the status Bojan currently has in the NBA.”

Translated from T.portal.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

19-year-old Luka Šamanić Talks New NBA Career in San Antonio

Croatia’s NBA players will be joined by yet another colleague next season. Namely, 19-year-old Luka Šamanić was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs to be the seventh Croat in the NBA this season. And better yet, the 210-centimeter power forward was the great wish of legendary coach Gregg Popovich.

Gol.hr reports on July 31, 2019, that the promising basketballer went to Barcelona three years ago and spent the last season at Olimpija in Slovenia. But after a brief experience in European basketball, Luka is on his way to the pot of gold - the NBA and the San Antonio Spurs.

"I had just that one season at Olimpija. I played a lot of minutes because we had three competitions after that season - there were both good and bad times. I spoke with my family and I think I'm ready, mentally ready to go there (NBA), to work and try to fight out there,” Luka Šamanić told Nova TV.

The young Croatia national team player was the great desire of legendary coach Gregg Popovich - and just how badly Popovich wanted him is proven by the fact that he was elected as the 19th pick. 

"Before the draft, I spoke to an agent who told me between 16 and 35. They told me you could be 16, and you could be 35, that the draft is always unpredictable, and you never know what's going to happen. I was ready for anything, and I secretly wanted San Antonio because they have some history with Europe and when I heard that I was 19, I was overjoyed,” explained the Croatian basketball player.

Tim Duncan is an assistant to Popovich this season, and Luka has already met the legend of the NBA league and American basketball.

"I was at the pre-draft workout, before the draft, and we went to dinner. I didn't even know that he was going to be there. I thought there would only be people from San Antonio. When I saw him and saw Gregg, that is something that does not happen every day. And we didn't talk at all about basketball, it was all about how I was doing in school, how many languages I speak, things to fit into their San Antonio family,” said Šamanić.

In the tests leading up to the draft, Luka was brilliant. As a European, he was a complete stranger to the media who are used to tracking future NBA stars through college.

"And then when you jump a meter high, all of a sudden everybody wonders what, how, who. It was all a joke before, but I knew it and just waited to go there and show them, and it paid off," said the promising player.

Šamanić has chosen the number 19, which is full of symbolism, and the expectations from his debut season are looking to be realistic.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Utah Jazz Officially Present Bojan Bogdanović As New Player

Bojan Bogdanović was presented as a new player of the Utah Jazz in Las Vegas on Monday. 

At the Encore Hotel in Las Vegas, the latest, most expensive and currently most luxurious hotel in the city, the Utah Jazz presented their two biggest transfers this year, reports Sportske Novosti on July 9, 2019.

Bojan Bogdanović received a jersey with the number 44, while Mike Conley took the jersey with the number 10. The two will embark on an adventure with Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, and Rudy Gobert; an adventure which hopefully leads Salt Lake City to the championship title. 

Justin Zanik, the General Manager of Utah Jazz, and Vice President of Basketball Operations of the team, Denis Lindsey, introduced the new players.

“We are happy that Bojan is with us, he has strength, he has worked hard on those tiny, invisible things, was very important to Indiana, and we also expect that here. It's great that we got him as a player and that we got to know him."

Mike Conley, a player who signed the biggest contract in the history of basketball three years ago, when Memphis signed him for $153 million, and a player who has won multiple NBA awards, thanked the Utah Jazz on the trade from Memphis and said:

“I'm excited to play next to Bojan Bogdanović and I hope for a special season ahead of us. Now is the time for some fresh air, and when we get together, we will begin our big story."

Bojan Bogdanović is definitely in the circle of players in the NBA who are among the highest paid, and it's no wonder why - just look at the trace he has left in his five NBA seasons so far. Everyone believes in him, including the Utah Jazz, who will pay $73 million for the Croatian for the next four seasons.

“I’m honored to be part of this organization and I have found a good situation for myself here. I'm happy that Utah called me, I knew they had a deep roster, I knew Conley had arrived, that Mitchell, Gobert, Ingles were a brilliant blend of youngsters and veterans, and I am excited about everything that this team can do. The Jazz was one of the best attacking teams and one of the best defensive teams in the NBA last season, and as we have a pretty deep roster, perhaps deeper than anyone, it allows for a huge number of rotations, a lot of combinations that we can use during the game. I can hardly wait for the season to begin,” Bogdanović said before US journalists.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Ivica Zubac Agrees to Extend Contract with LA Clippers

The 22-year-old Ivica Zubac will fight for the NBA title next season with the Los Angeles Clippers, after deciding to extend his contract with the Western Conference team to four years and $28 million.

The news was released by Adrian Wojnarowski on Saturday evening Croatian time, though it was anticipated, given that Zubac did not have an offer on the market. Since the Clippers also signed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, they are a serious contender for the NBA title this season, reports Sportske Novosti on July 6, 2019. 

Thus, by signing the promising young Croatian representative, the Clippers have come one step closer to completing their team for the next season, as there are now ten players in the roster who can be seriously rotated.

Zubac moved to the Clippers in February after he was part of a trade deal that offered Zubac and Michael Beasley to the Clippers for Mike Muscala. The controversial move by Lakers’ president Magic Johnson was highly criticized by numerous analysts. 

This was especially true when the talent from Čitluk wasted no time fitting into Doc Rivers’ squad, where he was given 20.2 minutes per game and gave Rivers a 'thank you' in return by scoring an average of 9.4 points, with 53.8 percent of shots in play and 7.7 rebounds. 

Although he had fewer minutes in the playoffs, and ultimately fell out of the rotation after the third game in the series against the Warriors as Rivers was forced to play with a different composition for better matchups, it did not mean that the Clippers lost faith in their starting center, which is confirmed by this contract. 

Zubac’s new payday is surpassed only by Croatian NBA players Bojan Bogdanović, who will make over $73 million for four years at Utah Jazz, and Toni Kukoč, who in 2000 signed a four-year deal with Philadelphia for $29 million and in 1994 signed with Chicago for six years at $26 million.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Page 5 of 9