When the Pacers game ended in a win Saturday night, Chris Shearn turned to Mike Fratello for an analysis on the YES post-game report. Fratello wanted to talk about Bojan Bogdanovic.
Fratello won 666 games as an NBA coach before he went behind the mic but In recent years, he's returned to the bench as coach of the Ukrainian national team in FIBA competition. That made him one of Bogdanovic's biggest fans. He told us back in 2012 about the first time he took notice of the swingman from Mostar. It was in the final moments of a Ukraine - Croatia game in FIBA Europe that summer.
"Bogdanovic is really a good scorer," he said, adding with a bit of a sigh, "We were up 79-77 with four seconds left. He has the ball, our guy is in right spot, has his hand in front of the ball and Bogdanovic cocks it back a little, shoots it a little higher, makes the three and we lose, 80-79. He is very confident, he gets to the foul line.
"Fans are going to be happy when he comes over."
Since the 6'8" Croatian joined the Nets, Fratello has on occasion offered other reminiscences of those encounters. His European experience made him one of Bogdanovic's biggest fans.
When Shearn turned to Fratello, the Czar of the Telestrator talked about how he told Billy King what to expect ... and why he thought .Bogdanovic didn't want to talk about himself to Sarah Kustok, insisting that his success was all about the team trusting him more.
"I understand what he's saying by not saying anything," Fratello told Shearn. "What I mean by that is a couple of years back when I was talking to Billy King, the general manager of the Nets team, about this young man who they had the rights to, he had asked me about him. I had coached the Ukrainian national team against his national team and he was a stud. I said, 'you're gonna love this guy. This guy can really score, Bill. He has a toughness about him. He makes his free throws. He can play a little bit on the inside. He makes three point shots from the outside.'"
His prediction of course has come true but it took a while. No surprise to Fratello.
"When he came here, he didn't have that confidence," Fratello added. "And now, all of a sudden since the All-Star Break, you're seeing a different player. And in his mind, I know what he's saying is, 'I know I can play in the NBA. I know how good I was over in Europe. Now, I'm just finally showing you what I can do.' So, I am very happy for him because he's struggled with himself, knowing that he's not doing what he's capable of doing. That's why he was angry because he wasn't able to help the team win games early on. He's doing it now!"
And Fratello expects he will become more of a factor as the season and hopefully the preseason wears on. After all, Fratello knows first hand that his biggest successes in Europe came in the biggest moments.