Former Oklahoma City Thunder center Nenad Krstic, who was part of a trade with the Boston Celtics, has agreed to a two-year, $8.8-million deal to play for CSKA Moscow, according to a report by the Russian International News Agency.
The move comes as no surprise, with the NBA headed toward an apparent lockout and Krstic, a native of Serbia, having already played pro ball extensively overseas.
The Thunder sent Krstic, forward Jeff Green, the Los Angeles Clippers' 2012 first-round pick (top-10 protected) and cash to the Celtics in exchange for center Kendrick Perkins and reserve guard Nate Robinson on Feb. 24. The Celtics had expressed an interest in retaining Krstic and might be able to offer a slight pay increase if the league's new collective bargaining agreement allowed teams to re-sign their own free agents as the expiring CBA currently does.
With a potential lockout looming and no pay coming in, other NBA players might opt to play overseas.
The 27-year-old Krstic averaged 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds over 23 minutes per game in Boston. He made 24 appearances with the team, starting 20 games, but late-season knee injuries limited his postseason role.
According to ESPN Boston, requests to confirm the potential deal, which likely cannot be completed until Krstic's NBA deal officially expires later this month, were not immediately returned by Krstic's European management firm, Invictus Sports Group. Krstic, who made $5.8 million this season, joined Invictus late last month to manage his overseas opportunities.
"Krstic played great when he first got here, and then he hit a slump, he wasn't playing well for a while, and then he got hurt," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said after the season. "He had the bruised knee, we were worried that it something worse. With all of the injuries, it seemed like whoever was playing center for us this year got hurt. So he got hurt and he never really got his starting job back after he got hurt, and then he got hurt again on a different knee. He had two bruised knees. And I think he was finally healthy about the time the Miami series started, but by that time, Jermaine (O'Neal) was playing really well defensively for us, and Doc was trying to get (Glen Davis') confidence back, and get something out of Glen Davis that he had given us the first half of the season. But we saw with Krstic – in the last game – that he was back ready, he was playing, his confidence was there, and he contributed in that last game (against Miami)."
Drafted 24th overall by the New Jersey Nets in the 2002 draft, Krstic played professionally in Serbia for four seasons before joining the New Jersey Nets for the 2004-05 season. He averaged career highs of 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in 2006-07 before suffering an ACL injury. He returned the following season, but struggled and ultimately signed with Russian squad Triumph Lyubertsy the next offseason.
By mid-December of 2008, he had agreed to a three-year deal with the Thunder and returned to the NBA.