Remember Zoran Planinic? Croatian point guard, 6'7" tall ball handler played for the Nets between 2003. and 2006, but never made impact as he supposed to made? He remembers the Nets.
As a member of Cibona Zagreb, the same club that three Nets, the late Drazen Petrovic, Bojan Bogdanovic and Alan Anderson, all played for, he thrived in European league in the beginning of a new millennium. The then New Jersey Nets selected him 22th overall in 2003, but in three seasons with Nets he never fulfilled his huge potential.
Averaging only four points and 1.1 assists, in Nets waived him after 2006 season and he went back to Europe.
In his familiar habitat, Planinic thrived in Europe again. He played for a while with CSKA Moscow, Mikhail Prokhorov's old team, then teamed up with Mirza Teletovic, who was also bornin Mostar.. Then between 2011 and 2013 Planinic played the best basketball of his career, earning MVP award in the Eurocup (2nd best league in Europe, after the Euroleage) and a lucrative deal with Efes, the wealthy Turkish wealthy club. But after his first year there were a lot of changes at Efes and the new coach, --one of the best European coaches ever-- Dusan Ivkovic, didn’t see Planinic in his vision of team, but Planinic had firm deal with club.
Now Zoran Planinic is some sort of status quo – he has a deal, collecting paychecks every month, but doesn’t play at all. For a change he has a lot of spare time which we used to talk about his tenure with the Nets.
"Those times in Nets weren’t happy time for me, comparing with my time in Cibona Zagreb where I had time of my life, but it was very useful’ – says the now 32-year-old Planinic. "I found out what true professionalism means. In NBA things work like this: If you don’t want to do something, there is always someone who wants if more."
"European basketball fans think NBA is all run-and-gun style and no one tries hard before playoffs, but it’s not even close. I learned how huge NBA is, how a high level of basketball is played. I found in my own experience the only way to succeed is to commit yourself completely to basketball. NBA and Nets helped me to become more complete and more mature player."
In his 15 years long career Planinic played on numerous European championships, in one World Cup and Olympics, representing Croatia. He played with and against fantastic players, but one of them is above all the rest.
"I watched him every day, in games or practices. I watched him play and played against him in practices. Without doubt he’s the best point guard I’ve seen in my life."
But Kidd was maybe the biggest reason Planinic didn’t have NBA career as he excepted. He had just three 30+ minutes games in NBA. In every of them Jason Kidd wasn’t on the roster.
"From this perspective, it probably would be better for me if I went to another team, because on another team maybe I wouldn’t be a sub to such player. Kidd is a basketball player who makes a difference, who maintains unbelievable high pace of game. When you come in after Kidd, it is very hard to keep up. If I went to some other team, who knows… Maybe I would play more, had better numbers or even stayed longer in NBA. But, I don’t regret not one second from my three years in Nets."
The Nets connection doesn't end there. Zoran Planinic was born in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the same town of Mostar where Bojan Bogdanovic was born.
‘Yeah, I spoke with Bojan, but he didn’t come to ask for advice, we talked about Nets and everything over coffee. I could tell him about my experiences in Nets, but Nets now and Nets then are different worlds. I’ve heard that Nets now had just three staff members from my time – two doctors and a PR man. The whole organization changed completely. For God sake, even the location changed.".
Planinic believes in Bogdanovic and he strongly believes his countryman won’t be just a passerby, that the Nets rookie will stay in Nets much longer then he did.
"Bojan is legit NBA player right now. If he gets faith and space from coaches he could be better and better. Self-confidence is important for every player and he shouldn’t lose it when times are bad for him. In the NBA, every game is high demanding and he certainly didn’t use to playing four or five games a week. The rookie season is always learning process and he has to go through that process’.