Oklahoma City Thunder center Nenad Krstic yearning for his glory days

BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, mbaldwin@opubco.com Published: October 9, 2009
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’ll help us on both ends.”

Krstic once said his goal was to be the next Pau Gasol. This summer, he captained the Serbian National Team that reached the European Championship finals before falling to Gasol’s Spain team.

"I’m in the best shape I’ve been since I was injured,” Krstic said. "Getting a full season here will help me get back to where I was three years ago.”

Thunder general manager Sam Presti was part of the San Antonio Spurs’ brain trust that was confident they would land the skinny 18-year-old project in the 2002 Draft.

New Jersey, two spots in front of the Spurs, spoiled the plan by selecting Krstic 24th. The Nets stashed him in Europe for two seasons before bringing him to the NBA.

"We didn’t think anybody knew who he was,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said three years ago. "It was obvious there were a lot of people who didn’t know who he was because he would have gone higher without a doubt.”

When Presti discovered that Krstic wanted out of his contract in Russia, he seized the opportunity, knowing the Nets still owned his rights but faced salary cap and roster limitations. Krstic signed a three-year, $16 million deal with OKC.

Can Krstic be the player who averaged 15.8 points and 8.3 rebounds the final six weeks his second season?

Can Krstic be the player who impressed Riley during 11 playoff games?

"He’s done a great job helping us on the defensive end,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "He’s not a guy who is going to block a lot of shots, but he’s a good position defender who can take charges. He’s a big body and is smart. He’s usually in the right spot.

"There’s no doubt Nenad can do more than just pick-and-pop. We’ll see that more and more. The coaching staff has noticed how he feels comfortable when we throw it in down low. He’s not just a perimeter shooting big man.”


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