Nenad Krstic in interview for the biggest Serbian sport daily "Sportski Zurnal"
Translated by Milan Lazarevic, 24sec.net, for NetsDaily
Nenad Krstic, the New Jersey star, came back to Kraljevo a week ago. On Tuesday, he was in Belgrade and found a little time for coffee with "Zurnal". Krle came, laughed, satisfied, and a little tired…
Krstic: The most important thing is that I am feeling healthy.
Zurnal: This was very good season for you…
Krstic: I made progress in every segment of my play. I achieved a lot, but I can do it even better. I am very pleased. New Jersey, as a team, played much better. Not just my teammates, but the whole coaching staff and club officials have much more confident in me. That means a lot to me. I achieved all my personal goals.
Zurnal: What goals?
Krstic: I was actor on All-star weekend again, this time in "Sophomore" team. I increased my points and rebounds. I was third on a list of players who made the biggest progress in this season [the Most Improved Player award]. Coach had much more confidence in me. Especially in that very important period when we made 14 wins in a row, lot of things depended on me. Almost every third offensive play was called for me. Last year there was no special plays set up for me, now we have four or five of them. But, generally, the most important thing for me is that a team needs to win. That is our Serbian school. Competition, spirit – more then everything.
Zurnal: Can you describe us your second year in USA?
Krstic: I changed agents. Now, I am a Pinnacle client. I moved out, bought new house. All that made an impact on me. I still don’t know New Jersey that well--almost every two days, we are on the road. This year passed very quickly. I was not so nostalgic. I began exploring New York; I am delighted with that city. It is so specific, it has everything.
Zurnal: Why did you change your agent?
Krstic: I was not satisfied with my ex agent. I need a good agent very much, especially now when I don’t have big contract, when I still have on my back huge compensation which I must give to Partizan.
CONFLICT WITH PARTIZAN
Zurnal: Considering your contract and your obligations to Partizan, does it remain enough money for you?
Krstic: If I want to be honest then I must say that there were problems at the beginning; I was nervous. I don’t have anything to hide. Many people think that I solved all my [financial] problems, but that is not truth. Literally, I am playing for Partizan now. That is truth at this time.
Zurnal: It seems that you are angry with your ex club?
Krstic: Partizan was very incorrect with me. They were sending me letters during season. I didn’t know was there some mistake or what, but I found out in them that I hadn’t paid them anything yet. Letters were signed by some President Colovic.
Zurnal: You think on Vice-President Djordje Colovic?
Krstic: Maybe he is Vice-President, that is not important, I don’t know that man. I made my agreement with Vlade Divac (Partizan’s President when Krstic was leaving the club). The most painful thing for me is that the club where I spent the most beautiful years had such an incorrect approach with me now. I don’t deserve it. They will get the money they are asking for.
Zurnal: You are resentful?
Krstic: Yes, I am. I can’t hide that. I was always trying to have a correct relationship with Partizan. Those letters… that was such a low blw… Just imagine: they were not sending them to my house, but to the team address. Sad. I was showing letters to my teammates and they couldn’t believe it. They were laughing in the locker-room. On the first page they were writing the best wishes to me on Serbian language, and the rest, the money part, was in English?!
Zurnal: Did you go to Partizan after that?
Krstic: No, and I don’t want to. I have more important business to do: to visit my family and friends in Kraljevo.
Zurnal: The most interesting question for Serbian public is: World Championship…
Krstic: I expect to talk with Dragan Sakota (National team head-coach). I have a correct relationship with him. I didn’t decide yet whether would I play or not. Sakota called me, but I didn't have time to answer him. I am in delicate situation. Next season is crucial for my contract. This is first time after 6 years that I don't have gips [casts] on my hands. I was not injured even once in two NBA seasons; I am totally healthy for the first time. We’ll see after these talks. The National team means a lot to me. When I started to play basketball, I didn’t dream about NBA. I was dreaming about the National team. If I decide not to play in Japan, that will be a very stressful decision for me. I am open 100% for the European Championship 2007, maybe for World Cup too. We’ll see, but I must repeat: next season is crucial for me.
Zurnal: As we can read "between the lines", you will not play on World Championship…
Krstic: People will start now to talk that I am selfish, that I think now only about myself. I will play next year 100%, maybe this year too. It is not fair to say something more specifically before I talk with Dragan Sakota.
Zurnal: As we could hear from USA, Nets would like you to skip World Cup…
Krstic: They need me, just as same as National team. For me, the most important thing is to have some rest and to play next year the best basketball I can. They can not forbid me to play for National team. They just can suggest me. They will respect any decision I make.
Zurnal: You missed European Championship 2003 because of injury. In the 2004 Olympics and European Championship 2005, the results were terrible.
Krstic: Since I came, the National team hasn't had good results. Everything is falling apart. I don’t have good memories from the National team, and I mean here also on the youth National selections where I also played. Because of that, I have a huge motivation to do something on the National team in my career.
Zurnal: Let’s back to the subject… As American basketball experts think, you need to improve your defense and defensive rebounding in way to become All-star player…
Krstic: I’ am working on that. I’ am still learning that style and illegal defense rule. I think that I made some improvements in that during the second part of the season. I am also trying to develop my rebounding. But, the Nets were playing very specifically, with lot of fast-breaks, so there were no many opportunities for offensive rebounds. I was not taught to improve [individual] statistics – I have always concentrated only on team.
Zurnal: Can you compare NBA and European basketball?
Krstic: The NBA is much faster; it is mostly "one on one". Sometimes players are shooting after only one pass. That’s good for me. Practicing is also a special story. I don’t remember that we played "5 on 5". We are not killing ourselves with work. In practice, we are mostly walking, not running.
Zurnal: USA media recently gave you a big compliment: that you were a player who could decide play-off games…
Krstic: I decided a game against Indiana with two free throws, 10 seconds till the end. They were surprised how calm I was, especially because this was my second year in NBA. But, I told them that I played very strong and difficult games for four years during my career in Partizan. That was nothing new for me. The atmosphere in games there is almost like theatre.
Zurnal: For the second year in a row, Miami eliminated you from the play-offs. How did you feel about your duels with Shaquile O’Neal?
Krstic: He is still a great center, even he is veteran now. O’Neal plays much more for team now, he doesn’t have problem being in Wade’s shadow, who’s in great form. Maybe Shaq doesn’t have the statistic like before, but he is still unstoppable "one on one". There is unimaginable power in that one man. This year, in comparison with last season, we were not lucky. O’Neal was not so important factor in the final score, bench players were. We played without suspended Cliff Robinson, who’s our best sixth man. We reached our current limit, but they were not a better team. We made huge progress, it will get better.
Zurnal: The biggest stars in Nets are Kidd, Jefferson and Carter. What is your opinion about them?
Krstic: Jefferson and Carter are great guys, but I am impressed with Kidd. He is special player and man. I have had the huge privilege of playing with him on the same team. He is always trying to put me in first plan. Jefferson and Carter are also doing the same thing. They are All-star players with great character. They always mention my name in conversations with journalists. When Kidd says something about you, then every media publishs it. At times when I am not that good, Kidd always says: Keep shooting. And in the next attack, he gives me a ball. And off the court he is always there for me, for anything I need.
Zurnal: Do you have time to meet off court?
Krstic: Not so much. They have own families and we don’t have so much free time, we are always on the road. When they have free time, they are usually with their families. I am spending lot of my time with [Zoran] Planinic and [Boki] Nachbar.
Zurnal: Your coach Lawrence Frank is one of the youngest coaches in a league. What is your opinion about him?
Krstic: He is basketball fanatic! Literally, he is in the gym every day, even when we don’t have any obligations. He is always thinking what we need to correct. He is phenomenal with me. He is two and a half years with the club, and he immediately put me "in the fire". Many times during season when I was not at my best, he was supporting me, telling me to continue. He was the most important person in my progress.
Zurnal: Do you hear some rumors in club about possible new signings?
Krstic: If you think on free agents then, the club says that on the market they can not find the tall player they need.
Zurnal: As we could hear, there is possibility that you and Carter can leave team for Kevin Garnett.
Krstic: Everything is possible. But, I don’t think that Nets are ready to trade Carter after so many problems and the huge desire to bring him to the team. But, in the NBA everything is possible. But, honestly, I think that is only a rumor. Carter hasn’t problems with knees for a long time. He felt healthy during whole season.
Krstic: At the end I want to add one more thing. I decided to buy t-shirt of our National soccer team, but I just hope that they will have my size. I am very, very, very sorry because I can not go directly to Germany on soccer World Cup and watch it live.