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