Nets second round pick Aleksandar Vezenkov, who hasn’t played for F.C. Barcelona in two weeks, got some time off this weekend to play for the Bulgarian national team in the FIBA World Cup qualfiers. He played well, but a big comeback by the green-and-red failed to get the job done and Bulgaria lost to Finland, 82-80, in Botevgrad, Bulgaria.
The 22-year-old forward finished with 16 points on 4-of-13 shooting (3-of-7 from deep) to go along with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Here’s the block...
Aleksandar Vezenkov defending his against @basketfinland as Bulgaria trail 36-39 at halftime. #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse— FIBA World Cup (@FIBAWC) November 24, 2017
Vezenkov did not think he played well.
"I can not talk about the whole team, but about myself, I'm not going to look for justification, I was not good," he said. "If I was in better shape and we had not made so many mistakes, we would have won the game with ease.”
In the third, Finland went on an 18-3 run that transformed a 40-39 deficit into a 57-43 lead in a matter of minutes. Then, Bulgaria came back. erasing all but one point of the 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Vezenkov and his teammates got within a single point in the final minute of the game, but saw multiple attempts to turn the scales their way fall short.
The teams are playing for a place in the 2018 FIBA World Cup. Bulgaria plays again Sunday.
The 6’9” Vezenkov, taken at No. 57 in the Draft, was only freed to play in the games by on Wednesday. European professional teams like Barcelona and FIBA are in a major dispute over whether players can return to their national teams to participate in the mid-season qualifiers. The decisions are on a case-by-case basis. With Vezenkov inactive for Barcelona the last two weeks, it would have been difficult for the Spanish team to hold him back.
As for his inactivity with Barca, Vezenkov was diplomatic. He noted that Barcelona had signed a number of new players who play the same position he does. “I continue to train. I'm ready for a fight,” he added.
- Game Report: Finland 82, Bulgaria 80 - FIBA.com