Krstic, Pavlovic: From war-torn homes to pro ball

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Krstic, Pavlovic: From war-torn homes to pro ball

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA
After seven seasons in the NBA and a playoff run with the Boston Celtics, Serbia native Nenad Krstic is reportedly returning to Europe to continue his basketball career with CSKA Moskow in Russia.

Krstic made an impact in his short stint with the Celtics after joining the team from the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the Jeff Green-Kendrick Perkins trade. He stepped into the starting lineup in place of injured Jermaine and Shaquille ONeal and contributed off the bench during the playoffs.

Krstic gave a glimpse into his game during his time in Boston, but there is more to who he is as a basketball player than his skills on the court. He shared a long journey with teammate Sasha Pavlovic, one that took him from a war-torn country to the NBA, and now, back across the globe to Russia.

Growing up, life was just as much about war as it was about basketball for Krstic and Pavlovic.

The two were less than 10 years old when battles for independence in Yugoslavia ensued in the early 1990s. Krstic was growing up in Kraljevo, Yugoslavia while Pavlovic lived in Montenegro.

The effects of the strife were widespread. Even though the battles were not taking place close to them, both families were impacted. Krstics father, a construction worker, and his mother, a nurse, worked to bring home meager wages each month.

My parents worked -- and not just my parents, all people worked for like 10 a month, basically surviving, Krstic said. Inflation, every day was just really expensive. And there was war going on. The people in Serbia were going to fight in Bosnia and Croatia. A lot of people died. It was just bad. I was in elementary school back in the days and my parents tried to protect me and not see that stuff on TV and put food on the table every day, but it was a really tough time.

Pavlovics upbringing was similar.

We as kids didnt go through a very nice childhood like everybody else did, he said. It was great, but it was always talking about war. Even though it never happened right where we lived, it happened all the way around us and it was involved with our people.

Back then there was nothing, you couldnt buy anything. I dont even know how they went through that, my parents and everybody. No money, no food. I lived on the coast and its a big port and my parents worked connected to ports. It was tough, but like Im telling you, our people are kind of used to that, from generations back. I dont know how we handled that, but its actually unbelievable.

The internal struggle continued throughout Krstic and Pavlovics childhood. In 1999, in response to a conflict in Kosovo, NATO began a series of air strikes that lasted nearly three months.

Pavlovic felt the rumbles shortly before Krstic did.

It was scary, as much as I remember, Pavlovic said. I was at practice when the first bomb fell. It was actually like only five miles away from the place I was practicing. I heard a loud sound and the gym was shaking. Everybody went back home and we saw the planes in the air. It was a little bit shocking.

Both had heard about the possibility of air strikes, but words could not have prepared them for the reality of them.

"Everybody was just shocked and mad," Pavlovic said. Actually, before practice we talked about that and we said there is no way theyre going to do that. Theres no reason to do that. And in the middle of the practice they did. Everybody was so shocked. But nobody was really scared because you just cant believe that thats happening.

He continued, You forget those things pretty quick. It was just a couple days. We felt bad because we didnt feel like as a people, as a nation, we deserved that. We knew as us regular people they were not going to bomb us because they said they were only going to deal with the military stuff and everything, even though they said they missed the targets a couple of times when they hit some regular people. And thats what makes you mad, but you get over it.

Pavlovic turned in his seat in the Celtics locker room toward Krstic.

You know whats crazy? he said. The first time I heard the siren sounds, its scary. And then two days after that, you just keep walking around the streets, playing basketball, you just dont care anymore.

Except during the nights you have to turn off the lights in the house, Krstic replied.

But its not like that, Pavlovic said. You get used to it pretty quick.

The bombings near Pavlovic lasted only one night. For Krstic, though, the threat of danger lasted from late March into June. After an initial period of shock and fear, war became part of life.

Its how we grew up, Krstic said matter-of-factly. It was scary. Its scary when you hear air raids and stuff, but after a couple weeks you kind of got used to it. People stopped caring. You have two choices stop caring if the bombs going to fall on you, thats your destiny. Or, you are just going to go insane and in panic. Serbian people are very proud people. We take our pride and we dont surrender.

Krstic and his family spent the first night of air raids in a shelter that was, as he described it, dirty, cold, and nobody had used it for 20 years. Because of the conditions, he fell ill with a high fever and cough.

His parents wanted better for their children.

The following day, his father left for the military. Krstics mother took him, his sister, and his grandparents to seek refuge in a summer house in a nearby village.

My mom was thinking it was not safe to stay in the town because when the war started you heard a lot of people start talking and rumors theyre going to bomb this today or theyre going to bomb this factory or theyre going to bomb the hospital, he said. So you start to panic, and she was thinking the best way was just to go outside of everything and live in the village for a little bit until the war stopped. So thats how we lived for three months.

The five moved into a cozy two-bedroom home. Krstic and his sister shared a bedroom, his grandparents slept in the other, and his mother slept on a pull-out couch.

There were no indoor showers, instead Krstic would often bathe outside in his shorts. Once a week, his family returned to their apartment in the city to take a shower and bring back fresh clothing to their temporary home.

It was OK. It was not big but we didnt complain, he said. We didnt know better.

But he learned. Out of school with little to keep himself occupied, Krstic spent most of his days in the yard playing basketball. He had been involved in the sport before the war broke out, but not this focused. He practiced and grew -- in height and maturity.

The good thing is I grew up in those three months. I think I grew up a lot, he said. I started playing basketball and I just ate healthy food. I was outside all day playing basketball. Before the war I played basketball and I went to school. During the war I just played basketball for like three months, and I think that helped just to really start to like basketball a lot. When I came back after that, I was totally different. I was so much better and I was maybe four inches taller. I became more of like a basketball player. Before that I was like, its OK, but after the war, I was so much better and so much smarter. It was a good thing.

Krstic and his family eventually returned to Kraljevo, and he returned to organized basketball. He joined the U18 Serbian National Team, where he met Pavlovic and they became quick friends. They would play for the Serbian Olympic Team together and enter the NBA Draft one year apart. This season, they were reunited on the Celtics. Pavlovic signed as a free agent shortly after Krstic was traded from the Thunder.

Krstic and Pavlovic sat adjacent to each other in the locker room and shared long pregame chats. They spoke quietly in Serbian, got into friendly debates (Krstic, the captain of the Serbian National Team, believes playing for his home country is the ultimate honor while Pavlovic attests the NBA is the best basketball in the world), and laughed as they displayed an undeniable bond.

It was easier for the friends, both 27, to move forward in Boston alongside someone who had such a deep understanding of where they had come from in Europe.

Where I am right now, making money, having a good life, and doing what I like to do, Im still appreciative where I came from, said Krstic. When it comes to hard times, like injuries, I just think of what goes on in Serbia. Even right now, people live very bad because of the economy and stuff.

Both Krstic and Pavlovic like to return home in the offseason. Krstic retreats to the same village home that his family had sought refuge in. He has since renovated the property, happy to note that he has added a pool outside in the yard where he once had to bathe. He also likes to return to his apartment in the Kraljevo and visit the same coffee shops and restaurants he frequented growing up. Pavlovic, on the other hand, enjoys the coasts of Montenegro with the relaxing views of the water.

"I live on the coast, palm trees, beach," Pavlovic said before pausing and giving his friend a mischievous grin. Hes all the way up in the mountains and I dont know what hes doing there.

Krstic didnt say anything for a moment, searching for a response.

He knows what I mean, Pavlovic laughed. He knows its true.

Krstic gave in, Its true . . . but its nice.

Nice. It is a simple word but has such a significant meaning for those who emerged from a difficult environment like Krstic and Pavlovic. Thats why today, playing professional basketball is just as much about a game as it is about overcoming a childhood marked by war, fear, and sacrifices.

When I was practicing when I was like 13, 14, 15, I was in the same shoes, Pavlovic recalled. They broke down, I put the tape around them. There was nothing to buy from because we were in the war and nothing was coming into the country.

Yeah, sometimes I wore them for like two years, Krstic concurred. You just couldnt find them, your size.

Pavlovic nodded in agreement. Then he reclined in his seat, put his hands behind his head, and flashed a proud smile.

"Now I have like 500 pairs of shoes," he said. Everybody asks me why. I say, Because I can now. "

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBAShe can bereached at jessicacamerato@gmail.com.

Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

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Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

Knicks president Phil Jackson’s biggest mistake? Taking the job in the first place?

Well, besides that. Jackson tells Today’s Fastbreak that it was not getting Jae Crowder when he had the chance.

Here’s Jackson quote, part of a long interview with Charley Rosen: 

"I think my biggest mistake was actually this…One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics. In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn't get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick, which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder."

Jackson’s timeline is actually a little off. The Chandler and Felton to the Mavs deal was actually in June 2014. The Celtics, of course, acquired Crowder at the December 2014 trade deadline in the deal that sent Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks. Still, you get the point. Jackson covets Jae Crowder, who has proven to be a little more valuable than Cleanthony Early. And, in light of where NBA salaries have gone, the five-year, $35 million deal Crowder signed with the Celtics last offseason now seems like one of the biggest bargains in the NBA. 

 

 

Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

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Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – Considering all the different storylines that developed among the Celtics at the end of last season and this summer, it’s easy to forget that Jonas Jerebko was in the starting lineup.

With sporadic minutes in the regular season, Boston found itself trailing the Atlanta Hawks 2-0 in their best-of-seven playoff series.

So what did coach Brad Stevens do?

He shook up the starting lineup by inserting Jerebko. who helped Boston even up the series at two games apiece before the Hawks bounced back and ended the Celtics season after six games.

Those last four games against the Hawks – the only games Jerebko started all season - served as a reminder to many that the 29-year-old could still be an impact performer.

It was the kind of run to close out the season that Jerebko will certainly be focused on trying to build upon this season.

The ceiling for Jerebko: Starter

While he will likely begin the season as a reserve, Jerebko will certainly come into camp with a little more bounce in his step courtesy of a strong showing in the playoffs.

After averaging just 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in the regular season a year ago, Jerebko became a major force in the playoffs for Boston.

In his first game as a starter, Jerebko had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds as Boston won Game 3, 111-103.

He was even more impactful 48 hours later with another a second straight double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in yet another Celtics victory.

The Hawks made some adjustments in Games 5 and 6 to close out the series, but it wasn’t before Jerebko had put together the best postseason stretch of his career.

Compared to the regular season, Jerebko more than doubled his playing time in those final four games by averaging 31.3 minutes to go with 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Jerebko will be hard-pressed to return to that role at the start of this season.

Boston signed Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract, so you know he’s starting.

And Amir Johnson’s defense and ability to run the floor so effectively will likely result in him resuming a starting role, too.

That leaves Jerebko joining what looks to be a very talented and deep Celtics bench.

Even though he’s unlikely to start, Jerebko will get his share of opportunities to play.

At 6-foot-10, Jerebko has the size to play both power forward and center. And depending on the opposing team’s lineup, Jerebko has the potential play some small forward as well.

It was that versatility that made Stevens turn to Jerebko in the playoffs last season to replace Jared Sullinger, who signed with the Toronto Raptors in the offseason.

And while the idea of Jerebko as a starter seems a bit far-fetched at this point, he is yet another Celtics reserve who has proven himself to be ready to play and play well when given an opportunity to step on the floor regardless of what that role may be.

The floor for Jerebko: Seldom-used reserve

Despite a strong finish last season, Jerebko will once again have to fight and claw for any minutes on the floor. While the Celtics certainly were aided by his versatility, this season’s roster has a number of players who, like Jerebko, can play multiple positions at both ends of the floor.

NBA veteran Gerald Green is 6-8 and will play shooting guard and small forward. But depending on the lineup, it’s not a stretch to envision him playing some power forward. Ditto for rookie Jaylen Brown and starting small forward Jae Crowder sliding up one position.

Beginning the season on the rotation fringes is nothing new to Jerebko, whose role was very much up in the air when the Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to Detroit prior to the 2015 trade deadline for Jerebko and Gigi Datome.

Gradually, Jerebko earned his minutes and proved he was indeed a valuable piece of what Stevens and the Celtics were trying to build here in Boston.

And now, with a season-plus of time with the Celtics under his belt, Jerebko finds himself once again being challenged to show that he’s more than just a body on the roster.

 

Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

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Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

By Dan Feldman, NBCSports.com Pro Basketball Talk

The Celtics bought the No. 53 pick in the 2013 NBA draft to get Colton Iverson out of Colorado State, and he thanked them by allowing them to keep his rights the last three years.

Iverson rejected the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum, teams must extend to retain exclusive negotiating rights to a second-round pick – year after year to sign overseas. Accepting the tender would’ve likely meant Iverson going to Boston’s training camp and getting waived. Perhaps, the timing of that would’ve limited his European options that year. But it would’ve made him an NBA free agent – or, best-case scenario, he could’ve made the Celtics and drawn an NBA paycheck.

As it was, Iverson limited himself to joining Boston and only Boston. If another NBA team wanted Iverson, it would have had to trade for him.

And what does Iverson get for that loyalty? A Celtics contract with at least a partial guarantee?

Nope.

Just a head start on finding another team – which he could’ve gotten for himself three years ago.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

This is why second-round picks should be more aggressive about accepting the required tender. Even if you get waived, you open NBA options.

Iverson is a strong 7-foot center who plays with physicality. He can help in certain matchups, and he’d make sense as a third center on teams that have first- and second-stringers playing a different style.

But Iverson is 27, and his NBA window may be closing if it hasn’t already.

It’s a shame he spent so many years beholden to Boston, which didn’t want him.

It was probably just courtesy of the Celtics to renounce his rights now rather than have him sign the tender. They would have guaranteed him no money with the tender, and they could have gotten a few minor benefits with it – an extra body for training camp, the ability to assign his D-League rights to their affiliate after waiving him and the slightest chance he impresses enough in the preseason to hold trade value.

But them forgoing those potential advantages, even if out of courtesy, also sends a signal about how little they value him. Teams don’t do these types of favors for players they actually covet.