It was subtle but it was effective. On June 5, shortly after Nenad Krstic expressed doubts about joining the Serbian National Team, he and Orlando's Darko Milicic were invited to a cocktail party with the President of Serbia, Boris Tadic.
Also on hand, Dragan Sakota, the National Team coach and the man Krstic had said he would have talk with.
Tadic is known as one of his country's biggest hoops fans. He also understood Serbia's chances of winning the worlds have been hurt by the recent defections of Peja Stojakovic and Dejan Bodiroga, among others. Losing the "Twin Towers" of Krstic and Milicic would really hurt. But Tadic could not demand the two play. That sort of thing went out of style when Slobodan Milosevic, "the Butcher of the Balkans" was ousted and sent to The Hague for war crimes.
In the cocktail party, the reform president offered his congratulations to them on their careers, spoke of how they were helping US-Serbian relations and added that he hoped that the two NBA seven-footers could find the time to represent their country at the World Championships in Japan this summer, noting that before they left for the Worlds, he would host the entire team.
The national basketball federation wasted no time in putting out a statement on the meeting, without suggesting any sort of presidential pressure. Here's how the federation put it, as translated by Milan Lazarevic of 24sec.net:
"Serbian President Boris Tadic hosted today our two youngest National players in NBA: Nenad Krstic and Darko Milicic. These two players came together with President of National Basketball Association Goran Knezevic, with Director of National Association Predrag Bojic, with National team head-coach Dragan Sakota and with manager Dragan Delic.
"President Tadic wished them lot of luck and successes with our National team and in their NBA careers and to be good Serbian sport ambassadors in USA.
"It was arranged yesterday that President Tadic will host whole National team before World Cup in Japan"
Not long after, the President got his wish and the two have agreed to join the "Blues", what Serbian fans call their national teams. One now has to wonder if Jason Kidd or Vince Carter would be packing for Tokyo if President Bush asked the two of them to Washington.