An Introduction

Written by Nick Ruzich

Sunday, 05 April 2009 13:16

 

MOST VERSATILE CANADIAN PLAYER ALL-TIME: Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns

 

Seeing as this is my first entry, I thought I would introduce myself and what I’m planning to discuss in future articles.  My name is Nick Ruzich and I was born, raised and continue to live in London, Ontario, Canada to Croatian parents.  Growing up in the 80’s, the majority of my basketball knowledge came from watching the Lakers play the Celtics pretty much every year in the finals. As for Croatian basketball, I admit that I didn’t know too much about it, and only vaguely remember my parents telling me about the 1989 European Championships in Zagreb. But things started to change when the 1992 Olympics came around and Croatia was in their first big tournament as an independent nation.  I still remember my brother excitedly telling me how they came back and beat the Unified Team in the semi-finals when I returned home that day, and my extended family cheering when Franjo Arapovic dunked to take the lead against the Dream Team in the finals and for a moment we could dream of an upset.  Ever since, I’ve been hooked and I’ve been following the national team as closely as I can from North America.  Studying to be an engineer for the last 11 years, it’s safe to say that I’m a fan of numbers, so for the last few years I’ve been attempting to collect stats for every official game (i.e. Eurobasket and Eurobasket Qualifying, Olympics and Olympic qualifying, World Championships) for both the senior and junior national teams.  So a lot of my articles will be based on these stats I’ve collected, since I haven’t been able to see the majority of the games that have been played.  I will also talk about some of my personal experiences seeing Croatia play, Croatians that have played in the NBA (which I have also collected stats for), and the current state of the national team.  As well, being from Canada I will also occasionally discuss the Canadian Men’s national team, both past and present.

 

Nick Ruzich, CroHoops.com correspondent from London, Ontario, Canada.

 

 

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Canadian Men’s National Team History: 1982 – 1994

 

JAMES NAISMITH, THE FATHER OF BASKETBALL WAS ALSO A CANADIAN

 

Despite not achieving any significant medals in major competitions during this time, the Canadian men’s national team managed to qualify for every tournament excluding the 1992 Olympics (as well as being automatically qualified for the 1994 World Championships as hosts):   1982 World Championships (held in Columbia) – The Canadians finished a respectable 6th place, with future national team head coach and current Toronto Raptors coach Jay Triano finishing the sixth highest point producer at 18.5 PPG.  That team also included current national team coach Leo Rautins, future NBAer Bill Wennington, and national team veteran Eli Pasquale.   1984 Olympics (held in Los Angeles) – Missing the Soviet Union among others, Canada just missed the medals and placed 4th overall.  Led by 25 points from Jay Triano and 20 points from Gerald Kazanowski, the Canadians beat Italy 78-72 to advance to the semi-finals, where they lost 79-59 to a US team led by future dream team members Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin.  They then lost to Yugoslavia 88-82 (behind 37 from Drazen Dalipagic) to miss out on the bronze medal.  Jay Triano led the team with 15 PPG. 1986 World Championships (held in Spain) – After advancing past the first round with a 4-1 record, Canada could not compete with the top teams and finished in 8th place.  The team was again led by Jay Triano with 17.1 PPG 1988 Olympics (held in South Korea) – Advancing to the quarterfinals, Canada ran into a powerhouse Yugoslavia team once again, losing 95-73 and eventually finishing 6th.  For the fourth straight tournament, Jay Triano led the team with 16 PPG, while Karl Tilleman had games of 29 and 37 points to finish second with 11.88 PPG.   1990 World Championships (held in Argentina) – Missing Jay Triano from the team, Canada struggled at this tournament, not making it out of the first round and finishing 11th.  The team included veterans Eli Pasquale and Gerald Kazanowski, as well as youngsters such as future NBAer Rick Fox. 1994 World Championships (held in Toronto and Hamilton) – Led by Rick Fox (16.3 PGG) and Kory Hallas (14 PPG) and including former NBAer Mike Smrek, Canada’s lack of size could not compete with top teams Croatia, Russia and Greece, resulting in a disappointing 7th place finish at home.  This tournament was also the international debut of future 2-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, who was still attending Santa Clara University at the time.

 

Nick Ruzich, Canadian correspondent

 

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Mike Smrek – Two NBA rings and a Croatian connection

 

 

L.A. LAKERS feat. MIKE SMREK: back-to-back NBA Champs from 1987 and 1988 perform “Just say NO to drugs”. Two decades later, some international scouts share opinion that this young man from Croatia could be the second coming of the Canadian center.

 

Mike Smrek was born in the small town of Port Robinson Ontario and didn’t start playing basketball until grade 11, at the insistence of a teacher, when he reached a height of 7’0.  Instilled with a strong work ethic gained from growing up and working on a farm, Smrek was able to turn his late start in basketball to a scholarship at nearby Canisus College in Buffalo, New York. He improved his numbers each year, averaging 15.8 PPG and 6.9 RPG with a 60.1% field goal percentage.

 

That was enough to get him drafted in the first round, 25th overall to the Portland Trailblazers, who immediately traded him to the Chicago Bulls.  He played one season with Chicago, where he was teammates with a young Michael Jordan and future Hall-of-Famer George “The Iceman” Gervin.   However he only got into 38 games, averaging 10.7 minutes and 2.8 points per game.

 

After the season he was waived and was signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers.  There he spent the next two seasons playing for the back-to-back World Champions and NBA greats Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.  Despite owning 2 championship rings, he was once again only a part-time player, playing a combined 83 games and averaging less than 10 minutes around 2.5 points per game.

 

 

Mike Smrek and Lakers coach Pat Riley

 

For the next 4 years he bounced around 4 teams, playing at different times for the San Antonio Spurs, LA Clippers and the Golden State Warriors.  His most productive year was in 1988-89 with the Spurs, where he played 43 games and averaged 4.5 points, 3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.  He finished his NBA career in the 1991-92 season, playing only 2 games for the Warriors.

 

That summer he played for Canada at the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament, where they failed to qualify for the 1992 Olympics.  Smrek was the leading scorer for Canada in their game against the original Dream Team, scoring 14 points and dunking over David Robinson as one of the teams highlights.

 

With no opportunities left in the NBA, Smrek played one season in the Greece playing for Dafni Athina A.O. before a recurring foot injury that plagued him over his career forced him to retire at the age of 30.  However he did suit up for Canada once again at the 1994 World Championships in Toronto, where he played sparingly and averaged 4.1 points and 3 rebounds per game (including 5 points and 4 rebounds versus Croatia).

 

Here’s where the Croatian connection comes in.  First of all, his wife, Sonja, is a Croatian from Sibenik.  After he retired, they moved back to Port Robinson where he worked at a local YMCA.  In 1996 he was a coaching a big man’s camp for the Canadian National Team when scouts for the Toronto Raptors were impressed with him and invited him to training camp.  Although he didn’t make the last series of cuts, he did sign a six month contract with Split Croatia Insurance, which turned out to be his last professional team.  Competing in the Euroleague, Smrek played in 5 of the final 6 games of the preliminary round, where he averaged 16.2 minutes 4.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.

 

These numbers, much like the rest of his professional career, were not overwhelming. But despite nagging injuries and a lack of certain skills, Smrek was one of the more successful Canadian basketball players, playing seven years in the NBA and becoming the first Canadian to own an NBA championship ring.

 

Nick Ruzich, Canadian correspondent

 

 

 

Canadian Men’s National Team History –1995-2003– The “Steve Nash Era”– Part 1      

Written by Nick Ruzich

Monday, 01 June 2009 23:46

 

 

EXCELLENT FREE THROW SHOOTING FORM: One of the main reasons that this 6’3” guy from Vancouver B.C. was voted MVP of the NBA not once, but twice in a row…

 

After the 1994 World Championships, two significant changes to the Canadian men’s national team helped to improve their success compared to the previous 4 years.  First they hired Steve Konchalski as coach (and later, current Toronto Raptors head coach Jay Triano), and second they left the team in the hands of Steve Nash, an up and coming college star who would eventually become a superstar in the NBA.  1995 Tournament of the Americas (held in Argentina) – Missing NBA players Bill Wennington and Rick Fox, Canada’s chances of reaching the 96 Olympics were fairly slim, as only 3 teams from the tournament would qualify.  They started off with two straight losses, before winning the next two and advancing to the second round.  Thanks to a balanced attack of young players consisting of Nash, Bobby Allen, Joey Vickery and Michael Meeks, Canada won three straight in the second round to advance to the semi-finals.  Needing to win one of their final two games to qualify, they first lost to Puerto Rico in the semi-finals 98-81 after Nash got into early foul trouble.  Faced with a do-or-die game against Brazil, Canada was heavily outrebounded and lost 97-77 to the more experienced Brazilians despite 24 points from Meeks.   1997 Tournament of the Americas (held in Uruguay) – Once again led by Nash, Rowan Barrett, Michael Meeks and veteran Martin Keane, Canada finished the preliminary round at 3-1 with only a loss to the United States.  After beating host Uruguay in the first game of the second round, Canada only needed one more win to clinch a spot for the medals and a spot in the 1998 World Championships.  But like two years earlier, the Canadians entered a small slump and lost three straight games to Cuba, Brazil and Argentina.  That set up another do-or-die game against Cuba, with the winner picking up fifth place and the last spot for the world championships.  Unlike two years earlier, Canada came out on top with a 92-83 victory.  Steve Nash, battling the flu for the final few games, led the way with 29 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds.  For the first time since 1990, Canada had qualified for a major international tournament.

 

Steve Nash 1998 World Championships (held in Greece) – After leading the team in the qualification tournament, Steve Nash was forced to miss the world championships due to a foot injury.  Missing Nash, and not having any other players from the NBA replacing him, Canada struggled greatly against the tougher competition, winning only one of eight games and finishing 12th overall.  The team was led by Sherman Hamilton (10.13 PPG) and centre Greg Newton from Duke University, who led the team with 11.5 PPG.  The tournament was also the debut of future NBA centre Todd MacCollough with the national team.  After the disappointing finish, coach Konchalski was let go and replaced with Jay Triano. 1999 Tournament of the Americas (held in Puerto Rico) – At a tournament where only two spots were available for the 2000 Olympics, with one almost certainly going to the US, Canada found there form and began a three year run as one of the premier teams from the Americas.  With a starting line-up featuring Steve Nash and Sherman Hamilton at guard, Rowan Barrett and Michael Meeks at forward and Todd MacCollough at centre, as well as a strong bench including Greg Newton and Pete Guarasci, The Canadians finished the preliminary round at 3-1 with only a loss to the US.  The quarterfinal round produced similar results, again going 3-1 with only a 5-point loss to host Puerto Rico.  This led to a semi-final rematch with the Puerto Ricans, with the winner advancing to the Olympics.  In front of a hostile crowd, the Canadians prevailed 83-71, with Steve Nash again leading the way with 26 points and 8 rebounds.  In a balanced attack, Sherman Hamilton added 19, Rowan Barrett 18 and Michael Meeks with 16.  In the finals, having already clinched a spot, the Canadians lost handily to the US 92-66, with Todd MacCollough the high man with 22 points.

 

Part 2 coming soon…

 

 

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Canadian Men’s National Team History –1995-2003– The “Steve Nash Era”– Part 2

Written by Nick Ruzich

Friday, 01 January 2010 13:29

 

2000 Summer Olympics (held in Australia) – On the Olympic stage for the first time in 12 years, Canada quickly proved that their qualifying was no fluke by taking out the host Australians in the first game of the tournament, 101-90.  The team was led by Michael Meeks with 27 points, Rowan Barrett with 21, and Steve Nash with 15 points and an incredible 15 assists.  After 2 more wins and a loss to Russia, Canada faced Yugoslavia in the final game of the preliminary round for first place in the group.  In one of the bigger upsets of the tournament, Canada overcame a 9-point halftime deficit to prevail 83-75.  Steve Nash had another great overall game with 26 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, while Todd MacCollough chipped in with 21 points.  Heading into the quarterfinals as the number 1 seed, Canada decided to play their worst game of the tournament at the wrong time, losing 68-63 to France and missing out on a chance at a medal.  While MacCollough had another strong game with 23 points and 9 rebounds, Nash struggled with his shooting, ending up with only 10 points and 8 assists.  The team finished the tournament off strong by beating Russia 86-83 to finish an undeserved seventh place despite finishing with a 5-2 record.  Michael Meeks led the team with 14.29 PPG, while Nash contributed 13.71 points and 6.86 assists per game.   2001 Tournament of the Americas (held in Argentina) – With five spots up for grabs to the 2002 World Championships, and the US not sending NBA players to the tournament since they were the hosts, Canada had a relatively easy chance to qualify.  Led by the same starting line-up from the previous two tournaments and including new young players like Prosper Karangwa and Andy Kwiatkowski, the Canadians finished 3-1 in the preliminary round with only a three point loss to Puerto Rico ruining a perfect record.  Steve Nash had another outstanding beginning to the tournament, with three straight double doubles (13 points and 16 assists, 34 points and 12 assists, 11 points and 12 assists).  The Canadians went on to split their four quarterfinal games, finishing in the top four and clinching a spot in the world championships.  In terms of medals, Canada lost to host Argentina in the semi-finals before avenging their earlier loss to Puerto Rico to clinch 3rd place.  Nash finished the tournament with 16.1 PPG and 5 games of at least 11 assists, while Todd MacCollough finished with 14.4 PPG and Kwiatkowski chipped in with five consecutive double-digit games in points. 2002 World Championships (held in USA) – While the biggest story of this tournament was the US losing for the first time with NBA players, the biggest story for Team Canada came before the tournament.  Due to his large contract with the Dallas Mavericks, team owner Mark Cuban didn’t believe there was sufficient insurance if Nash were to suffer a serious injury representing Canada.  After weeks of controversy between Cuban, Canada basketball and FIBA, Nash decided to not play in the tournament a little over a week before it was to begin, essentially ruining any chances for Canada at the tournament.  The insurance problem also prevented fellow NBAers Todd MacCollugh and Jamal Magloire from participating, further hurting Canada’s chances.  I had the chance to watch Canada’s first exhibition game after Nash quit the team against the eventual 4th place finishers of the World Championships (New Zealand) in London, Ontario.  Despite missing their NBA talent, the team played well and won 75-72 on a controversial last second three pointer from Michael Meeks.  The team was led by Prosper Karangwa (20 points) and Rowan Barrett (16 points), while Titus Channer (the man who replaced Nash as the starting point guard) scored only 5 points.  This positive win unfortunately did not continue into the tournament, where the team lost all three of their preliminary round games (including a loss to Angola), relegating them to the classification round.  The team did manage to win their two classification games, finishing 13th out of 16 teams.  The team was led by now veterans Rowan Barrett (17 PPG) and Michael Meeks (12.4 PPG).        Michael Meeks vs. Angola at the 2002 World Championships  2003 Tournament of the Americas (held in Puerto Rico) – With Steve Nash once again leading the team, Canada had a good chance of capturing one of the three qualifying spots for the 2004 Olympics.  Although Nash and Rowan Barrett were still a part of the team, this team was missing NBAers Todd MacCollough (suffering with what turned out to be a career ending nerve disorder), Rick Fox (foot injury), Jamal Magloire (waiting to sign an NBA contract) and even Carl English (who had signed a free agent contract with the Indiana Pacers).  The team was also without veterans Michael Meeks and Sherman Hamilton, and was therefore relying on new faces like Denham Brown from UConn.  As was the norm in previous T of A tournaments, Canada finished 3-1 after the preliminary round, advancing to the quarterfinal round.  The team then split their four quarterfinal games, advancing to the semi-finals against Argentina and needing to win one of their final two games.  After losing by 16 to Argentina, Canada faced a similar situation to the 1999 tournament with a do-or-die game against Puerto Rico in front of a hostile crowd.  Lightning did not strike twice however, with Canada losing 79-66 and missing out on the Olympics.  The team was led by Rowan Barrett (17.67 PPG), Denham Brown (12.78 PPG) and Nash (11.89 PPG and 6.67 PPG).  After being with the national team for 8 of the previous 10 years, Nash did not play for the national team again (at least as of 2009) due to age and repeated long playoff runs with both Dallas and Phoenix (as well as, some might argue, the firing of long-time friend Jay Triano as coach).

 

Nash at the 2003 T of A

 

 

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My Personal Experiences watching the 1994 Croatian NT – Part 1

Written by Nick Ruzich
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 20:34

 

Despite only seeing the Croatian NT playing twice in person, I believe I might be a curse.   Exhibit 1 – 1994 World Championships in TorontoFor those who remember, leading up to the tournament everyone believed that a Dream Team II – Croatia gold medal match up was inevitable.  After all, Lithuania had failed to even qualify for the tournament, and defending European champion Germany was missing Detlef Schrempf and Christian Welp.  Led by Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja, as well as the shot blocking and rebounding of Stojan Vrankovic and Arijan Komazec coming into his own as a scorer, Croatia did nothing to show that they wouldn’t be a finalist heading into the semi-finals by going 6-0 thorough the first two rounds.  Radja was averaging 23.5 PPG, Komazec 18.9 PPG, and Kukoc, despite not scoring a lot, was averaging an incredible 8.5 assists per game.  Being 16 years old at the time, I wasn’t able to make it to any of the preliminary games.  My brother had been to two games, against Australia and Canada, where the crowd support was so pro-Croatia you would have thought that the games were being played there. Local Fan SupportI finally got to go to a game, getting tickets with my dad and some others to go to the semi-final game against Russia at the Skydome (now Rogers Centre).  Everyone was confident heading into the game that Croatia would pull it out.  Well, we all know how it turned out: Croatia struggled with their shooting, and despite making some good runs, never held the lead and lost 66-64.  Radja shot 4-16 (and 8-14 from the line), Kukoc was 2-8 with only 2 assists, and despite leading the team with 22 points, Komazec shot 2-10 form 2-point range.  Needless to say I was shocked.  Of course they managed to beat Greece for the second time to win the bronze, so they finished the tournament at 7-1 and their only loss was the one game I attended.  Of course, this was the second of three major tournaments in a row that they lost a semi-final game that they were expected to win, so maybe I’m not the only one who feels like a curse. Croatian NT starting lineup (from my view in the upper deck)

 

Exhibit 2 is coming soon…

 

 

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My Personal Experiences watching the Croatian NT – Part 2 – 1996

Written by Nick Ruzich
Friday, 11 December 2009 16:14

 

 TONI KUKOC BREAKS HIS FINGER BEFORE 1996 ATLANTA OLYMPICS: In an exhibition game in Hamilton, Ontario vs. Canada on July 9th, 1996, Toni Kukoc hits two straight threes before stealing the ball and starting a fast-break that ends with a dunk by Dino Radja. Kukoc broke a finger when he stole the ball, putting into doubt his participation at the 96 Olympics.

 

My brother heard that before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Croatia was going to play a few exhibition games in North America, including a couple games against Canada.  We decided to get tickets for the game in Hamilton on July 9th.  My awkward teenage self standing behind (from left) Damir Mulaomerovic, Arijan Komazec (in the back row), new NT coach Josip Vrankovic, Zan Tabak, Toni Kukoc and Stojan Vrankovic (in the middle row) during another exhibition game before Croatia vs. Canada.Croatia was once again led by Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja and Arijan Komazec, as well as Zan Tabak coming off his first year with the Toronto Raptors.  You might ask yourself how I could be a curse at an exhibition game, especially one that they ended up winning 82-72.  Well let me take you to about 8 minutes into the first half.  With Canada leading 15-14, Toni Kukoc hit an open 3 to take the lead.  Vladan Alanovic then stole the inbounds pass and found Kukoc for another three.  At this point, the mostly pro-Croatia crowd finally had something to cheer about.  On the ensuing trip down the court, Kukoc stuck his hand out to intercept a Canadian pass, starting a fast break.  After passing behind his back to Komazec, who promptly returned the ball back, Kukoc again passed behind his back to the trailing Dino Radja for a thunderous dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy.  Soon after, a timeout was called and the crowd continued to cheer throughout the break.  But once the game started up again, Kukoc surprisingly stayed on the bench.  Sitting in the second row on the opposite side of the court, my brother and I noticed that Toni seemed to be favouring his hand, soaking it in a cup of ice.  As the game went on it became obvious that he wasn’t going to return, and he eventually changed into street clothes by the end of the game. Toni Kukoc during warmups before the injuryOver the next few days we learned that he had broken a bone in his hand, and there was talk that he might miss the Olympics completely, which would obviously be a blow to the teams chances.  Although he did end up playing, including one of his best games with the NT in the loss to Lithuania (33 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists), the broken bone did affect his shooting.  He only shot 27% from three-point range, including 1 for 7 in their fateful quarterfinal loss to Australia.  So I have watched two games and two bad things have happened.  I haven’t watched them since (mostly since I live in Canada), but if I ever do get the chance I will tempt fate and watch them again…unless it’s a championship game.Other notes from this game:- Steve Nash, who was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by Phoenix a few weeks before, attended the game but did not dress.  My brother and I had a chance to meet him and get a picture.  Little did we know that we had just met a future 2-time NBA MVP.

 

My brother with Steve Nash

 

Jamal Magloire, another Canadian in the NBA who never played an official game with the Canadian NT for various reasons, suited up in this exhibition game for a rare appearance wearing the Canadian colours.  It was the summer before his first year at the University of Kentucky.-   there was a mini scuffle between the two teams late in the game when Zan Tabak and Keith Vassel of Team Canada got tangled up and Tabak through an elbow while they were on the ground.  The benches cleared but no further punches were thrown.  Steve Nash, who was speaking with the TV broadcasters at the time, joked that he was ready to jump over the table and take down 7’1 Stojan Vrankovic (who was standing nearby in street clothes).

 

 

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REMEMBERING ARIJAN KOMAZEC: His Brief Stay in Canada and the NBA

Written by Nick Ruzich
Wednesday, 03 November 2010 08:54

 

NEW JERSEY NETS EMPLOYEE DISCUSSES KOMAZEC IN 1996: Hal Wissel, Director of Player Personnel for the New Jersey Nets discusses his teams interest in Arijan Komazec during a 1996 exhibition game between Croatia and Canada in Hamilton Ontario.

 

One of the best shooters in Europe during the 1990’s, Arijan Komazec seemed to have a better than average chance of one day making the NBA.  When all was said and done however, his chance came a few years later than most people expected, in Canada as an all-too-brief member of the Vancouver Grizzlies.  The interest level for Komazec in North America rose in the early to mid-90’s, thanks to a strong showing at the 1994 World Championships in Toronto (19.4 PPG).  He also helped his club team Cagiva Varese in Italy first reach the A1 league with an incredible 93-94 season (31.8 PPG, 69% 2FG%, 53% 3FG%) and then leading them to a fifth place finish the following year with an equally impressive season (33.7 PPG, 68% 2FG%, 47% 3FG%).In the offseason prior to the 1995 European Championships, Komazec received interest from many teams, including the other Canadian NBA team, the Toronto Raptors.  However the strongest interest came from the New Jersey Nets and the Phoenix Suns. Komazec himself was interested in playing for the Nets, telling reporters at the time that “I’m proud that the Nets have an interest in me. Drazen Petrovic is my idol and Drazen was a big part of the Nets.   feel I can play in the NBA and I see a chance to play with the Nets.”  After working out for them, the Nets were impressed with his ability to shoot the ball, but still had some doubts with his ability to create his own shot and the typical worry for European players being able to play defence against NBA-quality players.  The Phoenix Suns had similar conclusions, saying he was an uncanny shooter but not someone who can break someone off the dribble and take it to the basket strong.  Ultimately the NBA’s labour problems during that offseason and his own concerns about leaving Europe led Komazec to re-sign in Italy, this time with Buckler Bologna.  The following summer, the Nets once again showed interest in signing Komazec, but failed to pull the trigger.  At this point it seemed that Komazec’s NBA plans were put on hold, as he spent the next four years between leagues in Italy, Greece, and back to his native Zadar for the 99-00 season.  Finally in late September 2000 the Vancouver Grizzlies, a perennial underachieving team coming off a 22-60 season, decided to sign him to a contract.  At the time of the signing the Grizzlies looked forward to bringing him aboard, with GM Billy Knight quoted as saying they were “very excited to bring a player of Komazec’s abilities and experience to the NBA. He is very sound fundamentally. He’s not flashy but plays under control.”   However, as the exhibition season began, Komazec did not receive a lot of playing time.  By the end of the preseason, he ended up playing in only two games: The first for 2 minutes in which he picked up 3 fouls and had 1 turnover with no shots, the second for a whopping 5 minutes, in which he was 1-2 from the free throw line, as well as picking up 1 rebound and 1 foul.  I remember watching that second game on television, a game against the Raptors in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.  Being a Vancouver fan at the time, I was excited to see one of my favourite Croatian players suiting up for my team. Unfortunately that turned out to be the last time he ever played an official game with the Grizzlies.  He was waived two weeks later on October 27th, four days before the regular season started.  His NBA career lasted 7 preseason minutes, all played on Canadian soil, and the man who routinely averaged 20 or 30 points a game in Europe ended up scoring 1 single point.

 

Nick Ruzich is CroHoops.com correspondent from London, Ontario, Canada.

 

 

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