'Tough' enough for NBA after three years in Turkey
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The NBA game is not for the faint of heart.
The schedule is grueling, the talent level is otherworldly and the media scrutiny, especially here in Brooklyn, can be intimidating.
Bojan Bogdanovic believes he’s ready for all the NBA has to offer, and more, as he embarks on what he hopes will be a long and productive career with the Nets.
"I think I’m a tough guy," Bogdanovic told the media throng gathered for his introductory press conference Monday at the Nets’ practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J.
"That’s why I come, because I think the time’s ready,” he insisted. “I’m tough enough to play in this league."
Fresh off a three-year stint with European powerhouse Fenerbahce Ulker, Bogdanovic agreed last week to a reported three-year deal worth upwards of $10 million via the Nets’ mid-level exception.
Brooklyn general manager Billy King, who tried in vain to sign Bogdanovic after drafting him in the second round in 2011, and again just last summer, finally has the coveted versatile forward that can help fill the void left by recently departed free agent Paul Pierce.
“Having drafted Bojan in 2011, it is rewarding to finally welcome him to the Nets,” King said. “We obviously have a high regard for his game, and we are glad he will now bring that talent to Brooklyn.”
After failing to lure Bogdanovic out of Istanbul a year ago, King inked power forward Andrei Kirilenko last summer.
Now, he’ll have both European-bred players, as well as Alan Anderson, Mirza Teletovic, yet another native Croatian, and newly acquired Sergey Karasev, to absorb Pierce’s minutes and provide bench depth for Brooklyn.
Though he flashed some bravado in his “tough guy” claim, Bogdanovic admits that his three seasons overseas, plus the 20 pounds he gained during that time, were just what he needed to bone up his overall game for the 82-game grind of an NBA season.
"First of all, I’m a pure shooter," noted the 6-foot-8 Croatian National Team member.
"I think in the last three years since Brooklyn drafted me I grew a lot in my game, especially with the ball. I had a lot of good coaching in those three years."
Now, he and his teammates will have a brand new coach in Lionel Hollins as they embark on Season Three here in Downtown Brooklyn.
The Nets were ousted by Chicago in a humbling first-round playoff exit after winning 49 games during their debut campaign, and went out in the Eastern Conference semifinals this past season before Jason Kidd’s well-chronicled exit to Milwaukee.
The addition of Bogdanovic gives Hollins another option at the small forward spot, and frees up some salary cap space for the coming years after billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov spent nearly $200 million putting together last season’s squad.
Bogdanovic averaged 14.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists while logging just over 30 minutes per contest last season in 24 Euroleague contests with Fenerbahce.
He shined brightest during last summer’s European Championships, leading Croatia to eight straight wins in the tournament and joining the likes of NBA regulars Tony Parker, Goran Dragic, Linus Kleiza and Marc Gasol on the FIBA Eurobasket All-Star Team.
But still, the well-decorated European star realizes that those accolades will mean little to nothing once he slaps on his black-and-white No. 44 jersey and tries to establish a new legacy at the Barclays Center.
“It’s not gonna be easy,” he said. “I have to make some adjustments, especially because there’s a lot of games, a lot more than in Europe. But I am ready, and I think I can help the team.”
Having shared a meal with Hollins over the weekend, Bogdanovic revealed that he told his new coach he was ready to start, come off the bench or do anything else to help the Nets claim their first-ever NBA title.
“I will fight for my minutes, but like I told him, I think I can help immediately,” Bogdanovic said. “I am glad and very proud to come over and play for Brooklyn.”
Nothing But Net: Bogdanovic admitted that he was looking forward to playing with Teletovic as both players hail from Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The newest Net also played against new teammate Deron Williams, when Brooklyn’s starting point guard was in Turkey during the NBA lockout the season before last. “I can’t wait to meet them and I can’t wait to start playing for the Nets,” Bogdanovic said. … King showed Bogdanovic the Barclays Center last Friday. “I was so impressed because it’s one of the best gyms in the world, and I was very excited,” Bogdanovic said. … Nets CEO Brett Yormark made a recent trip to Beijing as the team prepares to play a pair of exhibition games there in October. "China is, obviously, a critical market,” Yormark told China Daily, according to the Nets’ website. “It's the biggest global market for the NBA. I think all teams aspire to have a following just because of the scale that exists here.”