Tag: Croatia

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Peja Stojakovic announces retirement after 13 seasons


Peja Stojakovic, the Croatian-born sharpshooter, has announced he is going to retire from the NBA after a 13-year NBA career.

Stojakovic spoke to ESPNDallas.com about the decision.

The three-time All-Star told ESPN.com on Monday that the physical toll involved in playing after a string of back and neck troubles, at age 34, convinced him that “it’s time” to step away from the game despite interest from a handful of contenders in signing the sharpshooter away from the Mavericks.

“When you start competing against your body more than you’re preparing for the actual game,” Stojakovic said, “it’s a wakeup call.”

Stojakovic was a three-time All-Star on some very good Sacramento Kings teams a decade ago (a team that featured Chris Webber and then very good Mike Bibby). He went on to be the designated kick-out guy for Chris Paul in New Orleans, then last year won a ring with Dallas (having some big games in the sweep of the Lakers). We think of him as a catch-and-shoot three-point specialist (he was) but his game was more rounded than that, he could put it on the floor and played with a high IQ of the game.

For his career he averaged 17 points per game and shot 40.1 percent from three. Impressive numbers. He also helped lead Yugoslavia to two European championships.

David Stern released this statement on Stojakovic’s retirement.

“Peja will go down as one of the great shooters in the history of the NBA. His success was the result of a tireless work ethic and an unquenchable desire to be the best at what he did. Peja’s legacy, however, goes way beyond his 3-point skills and that elusive Finals title he won last season with the Dallas Mavericks. Peja was part of the wave of international stars that helped introduce the world to the NBA game and inspired thousands of fans to begin playing the sport of basketball.”

Vlade Divac on how a war tore apart friendships, basketball in Yugoslavia

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“…we should take it more seriously, because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. In this movie, everything seemed nice with our team and our relationship and our country and in one second, everything went upside down. It was a lot of manipulations, a lot of politics. You can definitely learn from the experience that I had.”

—Vlade Divac, in an interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin.

Vlade Divac’s life in basketball — on and off the court — is a fascinating one. And maybe nobody has had the realities of politics, war and death cross the imaginary lines we set up between the “real world” and the escape that is basketball quite like Divac.

It is all chronicled in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary that debuts tonight, Once Brothers. (Watch the trailer here.)

The movie focuses on the relationship between Divac and Drazen Petrovic, two good friends who had their relationship torn apart by the civil war, genocide and more that tore apart the country of Yugoslavia. It speaks to relationships never repaired, in this case because Petrovic died in a car crash at the age of 28.

It bothers me so much after all these years that I never had the opportunity to sit with him and go through our problems that we had. Before everything happened, we were roommates on the [Yugoslavian] national team. We had the same goals and we supported each other for the first couple years of the NBA. Basically, we opened the door for all those internationals because we had some trust as European players. Before, it was very tough to break through.

That relationship was ripped apart by the war that eventually divided Yugoslavia. Petrovic was Croatian, Divac Serbian. That left them on the opposite sides of ugly feelings and actions that were not of their creation, but a gulf they could not bridge. That may have changed eventually, had Petrovic’s life not been cut short on a German highway.

War, what is it good for?

World Championships Round of 16: Spain looks good again, Serbia survives

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krstic_serbia_dunk.jpgSaturday was the most interesting day of the round of 16, two very interesting games between three good teams (Spain, Greece and Serbia) and one solid one (Croatia). Here’s a little roundup.

Spain 80, Greece 72. There was some pretty basketball early on in this one and it became clear that the team that figured out how to stop the other first was going to win this one. That turned out to be Spain, who went to a zone the last 10 minutes of the game that stumped the Greeks.

It was some smart coaching from Spain — they had success with the zone for a stretch in the second quarter but went back to man-to-man and actually fell behind by six points during the third, then went to the zone with the game on the line late. If they had just stuck with the zone, the Greeks might have figured it out.

Ricky Rubio looks good running the offense but he still needs a more consistent shot. He helped Juan Carlos Navarro look good on his way to 22 points on 7 of 10 shooting.

Serbia 73, Croatia 72. Really exciting if not well executed game to start off the knockout round.

Serbia seemed to be in control with just a few minutes to go and up seven, and they had Nenad Krstic to thank for it. He finished with a team high to 16. But Croatia tied it up thanks in large part to some Marko Popovic threes.

Serbia held a three-point lead in a free-throw shooting contest late until a Croatia basket, then Croatia stole a Serbian inbound pass. The ball went to Popovic who was fouled and went to the line, down one. He missed the first and hit the second, so with 11.6 seconds left the game was tied. Then Croatia had a terrible defensive lapse and a back-screen led to a layup for Serbia and a two-point lead.

Then Serbia did something you basically never see in the NBA — they intentionally fouled a Croatian, sending him to the line with the chance to tie it up. Popovic was at the line and he did it, tying the game.

Serbia’s ball, 5.6 seconds left and Serbia’s Aleksandar Rasic got the ball and tried to go the distance, and when a Croatian defender slipped he fouled Rasic in the paint, sending him to the line with a second to go.

Rasic made the first, intentionally missed the second and that was the ballgame.

Serbia gets out with the win, but if they are going to beat Spain next game they are going to have to play a lot better.

Why aren't people pumped about Team USA? Well, did you watch today's game?

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rwworlds.jpgTeam USA is a lot of fun to watch if you truly love the game of basketball.

They are aggressive on defense, they pressure and gamble. They want to run. They have spectacular athletes. They can turn the finesse of international basketball into a day at Rucker Park with dunks and showmanship. Did you see his second-half crossover from the wing, blow by the guy and dunk. That was schoolyard. That was fun.

But the USA’s 106-78 crushing of Croatia shows why it’s just hard to get behind this team at the World Championships.

In a fantastic post at Hardwood Paroxysm our own Rob Mahoney wonders why everyone loves Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder and yet doesn’t care or mocks Kevin Durant and Team USA this summer. He gets into the idea of ownership and passion, and that is a lot of it.

But so is the fact that in this tournament, Team USA will rarely be tested. And it’s hard to be excited about a team that can cruise to victory.

USA Basketball toyed with Croatia, going on a 50-15 run over the second and third quarters. Croatia was a team where the casual basketball fan couldn’t name a player, not one guy in the NBA and a star player who even us basketball junkies went, “oh, I’ve heard of him.”

Slovenia on Sunday has a few guys we know (Goran Dragic, Primoz Brezec and Bostjan Nachbar) and the same with Brazil on Monday (Leandro Barbosa, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao). But those two games will end with scores a lot like this one. Then comes Iran and Tunisia, and they are about as good at basketball as you think.

We Americans love scrappy underdogs, but this team is really only a borderline underdog to one team in the world, Spain. That semifinal will be a real contest. Argentina, Turkey and Greece have a puncher’s chance against us in a one-game elimination setting. After that, we win easy.

So no doubt this is a fun team. But it’s hard to get excited about an underdog team that is barely an underdog.

Still, they are a lot of fun to watch. In the playground sense, with Kevin Love’s outlets and Durant doing whatever Durant wants to. We just want to see a test.

Scouting report on Croatia (that's the USA's opening game Saturday, in case you forgot)

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Thumbnail image for USA_Logo.jpgLet me guess, you have not spent a lot of time watching Croatia’s national team.

To be honest, neither have we. Fortunately there is Tony Ronzone, Team USA’s director of international player personnel (and assistant GM for the Timberwolves). He gets paid to watch and know these teams and provide scouting reports.

Which he did a mini-version of for Chris Sheridan of ESPN (who is traveling with the team).

“[Croatia is] a team that’s done very well early in tournaments. If you look at their matches, they always win three or four games right in a row. They’re a team that with Roko Ukic is very streaky, talented. They’ve played together for many, many years. They’re going to play this game trying to win it and attack us. Marko Tomas is one of the best European guards, he can score, he does a lot of stuff, Ante Tomic of the Utah Jazz, he’s a very skilled player at 7-foot-2, more of a finesse type of guy. They’re big, they’ve got three bigs, so they’re going to be tough….”

“Marco Banic is kind of like a Carlos Boozer type, physical, tough, beats you up, pounds you. So they’re more of a finesse team, but with those two guys they tend to get physical. But they’re more kind of like a U.S. team. They get after you a little bit, they streak shoot, and they have a guard that can go for 40 on you if you let him get hot, Marko Popovic. He’s put up big numbers over in Europe, so you’ve got to respect those guys.

“I think they’re going to start out man-to-man on defense, and if things don’t go well they’ll drop into a zone. I think we’re going to see a lot of zone, I really do. As we continue in this tournament we’re going to see more and more zone. We haven’t seen it at all so far,” Ronzone said.