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Krstic: They were blackmailing me with army obligations

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by Milan Lazarevic

Now that Nenad Krstic has definitely decided not to play for the Serbian National team on the World Cup, the reaction has begun. The Serbian public expected that he would accept with a smile his new obligation and chance to be a new leader of the two-time World Champions, but Krstic obviously had some other plans.

It can be freely said that his decision was a subject of discussion in every Serbian tram, taxi, bus, café and coffee chat. People are disappointed and surely "Krle" will be under a great deal of pressure every time he visits his homeland from now on. "The Blues" won 3 of the last 4 World Cups and people are more then disappointed with fact that players don’t feel responsible enough to defend all that.

On the other side, Krstic has now given his version of the story. The Serbian daily "Kurir" published an interview Saturday in which he tried to explain what happened...and claimed that Serbia authorities had tried to "blackmail" him into playing, using the threat of military service:

KURIR: Center of New Jersey Nets, Nenad Krstic, is more the disappointed with latest official and public statements of Serbian National Association and its Director Predrag Bojic. The 7-footer from Kraljevo, who’s again in his hometown, was shocked with the latest newspaper headlines. There, he read that he was the main problem with the National team. Other than the well-known reasons, Krstic explained that an attempt at blackmailing him was also one of the reasons he decided not to play.

KRSTIC: Believe me, after hard thinking in USA, I had already decided to play for National team, in spite of everything. Then I heard from very close friends that National Association will try to blackmail me. They were mentioning army service and some other things. Even my family was under their direct pressure. I was shocked. I must say that such things have only a counter productive effect on me. Then, I definitely decided not to play.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that I will not play for National Team ever again. I don’t play for National Association, but for people in my country. In the coming years, I will be always there to help. I just begged to skip this competition, nothing more. I promise that I will be first player who will come on practice for European Championship next year.

KURIR: Nenad is especially disappointed with fact that people forget that his position in [the NBA] draft was much lower because of National Team. Before European Championship in Sweden 2003 he was practicing with broken foot. Actually it was broken in 3 places.

KRSTIC: Obviously that some people have a short memory. I skipped many NBA camps a few years ago because of the National Team, which directly led to my poor draft position that year, which again meant a much lower NBA contract. I was not even at the draft ceremony in New York because of the National Team. I was practicing for European Championship 2003 with triple stress fracture of my foot, and not even one of our doctors could diagnose what it was. After few days Greek doctors told me that I could have ended my career because of that injury if I had had to wait a bit longer for another diagnosis.

KURIR: Krstic is especially disappointed with official statement of National Association.

KRSTIC: I let my manager explain whole story to National Association. I had contacts with head-coach Dragan Sakota, my telephone was non-stop turned on and no one called. O.K. some things happened, but I am disappointed because of our public. It is unbelievable that the a bad image has been created around my name. I don’t want someone to think that I am not a patriot, or that I betrayed Serbia, because that is a monstrous lie. I love this country the most and I will always be ready to play for it. How can not they understand that I will become better player with individual practices during summer? They can have the benefit of that on European Championship next year. I am not a machine. I played over 200 NBA games and I am just so tired.