On the official website of the Spanish league —the ACB— Nets stash Aleksandar Vezenkov is listed under the heading, “Jugadores y entrenadores dados de baja,” roughly “Players and coaches written off.”
And, until Wednesday night, that’s how F.C. Barcelona, the perennial Spanish league powerhouse had treated him. For 51 days and 14 games, the Barcelona coach Sito Alonso glued the 6’8” forward to the bench. He said it was nothing other than he wanted to shake things up after Barca had lost four straight. Alonso said it had nothing to do with his attitude, calling his response professional. And Vezenkov didn’t complain, although some of his teammates did. He was, you could say, the Spanish Jahlil Okafor.
Then, on Wednesday, Alonso needed to shake up his team again after another losing streak and so brought Vezenko back to the bench, even played him six minutes in a Euroleague game Barcelona lost. Vezenkov shot 1-of-2, scoring two points.
It’s been a bit of a comedown for Vezenko, taken by the Nets at No. 57 in 2017 NBA Draft after a productive season, in which he played 65 games in the ACB and Euroleague, shooting 47.9 percent from three in 30 Euroleague games. Sean Marks, who personally scouted him, called Vezenkov an elite shooter after drafting him.
FCB did permit Vezenkov to play for Bulgaria’s national team for two games in November’s FIBA World Cup qualifiers, but he admitted that he was not in the best condition after not playing for F.C. Barcelona. (Now he really sounds like the European Okafor!)
Vezenkov’s future with Barcelona seems cloudy at best. The 22-year-old is in the second year of a three-year deal, which pays him a little more than $300,000. The Nets could buy out the last year, but there’s no indication they plan on doing that. There’s the G-League option as well.