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Nenad Krstic: "This is the most important year in my life"

Interview by: Igor Vujičin
Translated by: Milan Lazarevic

B92: New Jersey Nets has great ambitions this year with Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Nenad Krstic on the squad.

Krstic: We have better team then last year, that is sure. Starters are the same, but last year we had problems with bench. This year it looks much better, team is younger, with four rookies. I really hope that we will make a better result – which means the playoff finale in the East, because last year we were eliminated in 2nd round. I expect that we will play much better during regular season and not like last year when we performed good basketball only at the end of the season. I really can not wait next games to see what will happen. This team is good: Kidd, Jefferson, Jason Collins. They were in starting five last 5 or 6 years. Carter came 2 years ago, I am also here, Cliff Robinson who’s playing his 18th NBA season – so, it can be said that we have players who know how to reach the finals. We are really a well-composed team between talented young and experienced players, and you should not forget that we picked four very good rookies this year. We already have good chemistry on the team. I really like how we play: we are faster, actually we are very good. The USA press also puts us among the favorites for high positions, which also means something for this team. Last year they didn’t see us among such teams.

B92: Nenad Krstic is already playing under huge pressure. He was relatively unknown player picked in late phase of first Draft round 2 years ago and now he is playing as start center in Nets.

Krstic: Pressure is surely on a higher level. I felt it already in the playoff and it was really huge, because even then everyone was saying that Nets were depending on me. If you let me to be little immodest, they were saying that if I played well, the whole team played well. Still, it should not be forgotten that I am playing on the same team with Kidd, Carter and Jefferson, so it means that opponents can not cover every player and every treat for own basket. That whole situation makes lot of room for me because I have superstars in my team. Also, one more thing is super important for me: I have more experience; I know how to save myself from early fouls which was main problem during first 2 years in NBA. Also, I think that I’ve been matured during my NBA career, and I still have lot of space for improvements.

B92: Some predictions are saying that you can expect next year record contract - over 70 millions dollars?

Krstic: That kind of pressure I don’t feel. It is correct that I have opportunity to sign huge contact at the end of this season, but I’m still experiencing basketball just as game. Maybe, sometimes, I catch myself thinking about that contract. But, at the end, immediately when I enter gym for training or for a game I forget everything and start to play. I was not afraid even when I was coming to USA, when everything was "to be or not to be". I came here just to mak the squad, to be one of 12 players, but now I am a standard member of starting 5. This year is maybe the most important one in my life because of that contact, but that is not ballast for me.

B92: Last year Krstic decided not to play for National team because he was tired and because he wanted to prepare and relax for new NBA season, which is probably the most important in his career. Few months after he survived all kind of attacks from National basketball association and some Serbian media, Krstic is still angry at some people in Serbia.

Krstic: Of course I am. I don’t want to give some names now; honestly I never considered them as some friends of mine. I was disappointed, but I wanted to do it on my own way because this is really the most important year in my life. But, I was very sorry because ordinary people didn’t realize my motives. I am playing here in USA over 100 games per year, and besides that I played for 5 or 6 years constantly for all kind of our National teams: Under 19, Under 21, senior National team. I simply desperately needed this summer to rest. From next summer and every other time when it will be needed, I am ready and I want to play for National team. But, those people from National Associations don’t work professionally. I was not the only player which was attacked by them, and these players should come to play for National team again, for own country, and someone should be able tomorrow to look at us directly in eyes. I owe nothing to anyone, maybe it looked selfish from my side, but I hope that people will realize that National team made some benefits in Japan because I didn't play. I think I become a better player, I got rest and I will gain a lot, which will be also important for our national team.

B92: Three years in a row our national team won nothing. Krstic still thinks that we can reach Top again where we belong. September 2007 will be the last chance for something like that.

Krstic: We have quality. If we just add several players to this team which was playing in Japan we can do a lot of good things. I don’t want to predict anything, but I think that with good preparations we can make good results. It’s too early for some talks, season has just begun. I will always play for Serbian National team. The situation is clearer now, if we already talk about that. Finally, we have a National anthem, flag, our own National team and it will be much better feeling to play for Serbia.

B92: Krstic was silent and quiet guy even in period when he was playing for Partizan Belgrade. He was working a lot even then. He continued with such approach in USA which helped him to become maybe our biggest star in NBA. But, he doesn’t feel like that…

Krstic: We have lot of good players in NBA. I was lucky to come to team which needed a profile like mine on the squad. What can I say? I was working really a lot in last two or three years and I will continue to work, and that work is becoming to return. I’m glad if people think like that, but I don’t want to do such thing. I am very happy when I see good statistics from any of our players.

B92: This year list of favorites is enlarged for several new names…

Krstic: The favorites in the East are surely the current champions Miami, but we always must count on Detroit. I will recommend you to pay attention to Cleveland and especially Chicago which brought lot of new players in this year, and of course our New Jersey. Washington and Milwaukee can be possibly a threat from the shadows. In the West you can count on Dallas and San Antonio. Phoenix didn’t start season as fans expected, but they will find their rhythm.

B92: NBA has become a global attraction. Lot of people don’t like "hard defenses trend". You always expect from the biggest stars real show, fast basketball. But, obviously they will need to return to good defense style.

Krstic: NBA always had that "run and gun" fast break basketball and that will be a trend also in future. Personally, I like that style. Teams will continue to play on lot of number of points, but don’t think that they will forget defense.

B92: Besides Krstic, our public expects much more from Marko Jaric, Darko Milicic, Sasa Pavlovic and Predrag Stojakovic. The only rookie will be Mile Ilic.

Krstic: Mile Ilic is in the same situation which I had a few years ago. He came here with poor English and without knowledge of what to expect. I help him here about training and lifestyle. He lives in hotel, he doesn’t drive, he is practically, let me say, cut, but I help him as much as I can. We have here Boki Nachbar, the Slovenian international and he helps a lot, too. He works a lot and he is improving. If we talk about others, Stojakovic signed big contract, we’ll see, he is so long in NBA and there will be no problems for him, but still he needs to acclimatize to new team and city. Radmanovic also signed a huge contract with Lakers. Lakers are playing fast basketball and Radmanovic should like that. Marko Jaric came back to rotation and I expect him to return to the starting 5. Pavlovic and Cabarkapa are totally underestimated on their teams. The same situation is with Milicic. Milicic simply must be in the starting five, in my opinion, where he can be fantastic tandem with Howard.