There’s no real indication of how much time, if any, the Nets draft picks — Dzanan Musa or Rodions Kurucs — will spend with the Long Island Nets, but in conversations with the media, both players said they’re perfectly willing to play in the G-League. They see as part of the development process, which both said they trust.
The two Europeans are both young. At 19, Musa will be the seventh youngest player in the league this season ... and the second youngest Net ever. Kurucs is 15 months older, but much less experienced. So, an assignment to Nassau Coliseum would not be surprising for either.
Both say they are happy to be with a team that puts such a high premium on development and say they understand the value of the G-League. Both also hope they can play well enough in practice to warrant staying with the big club.
“I’d definitely use this option,” said Kurucs on Media Day. “I am not against it. I am for it. I know it will be a great, great thing. It will be a chance to prove, to try new things I learn in practice, and work. It will be a very good opportunity for me.
Earlier last month, in a Latvian television interview, he said basically the same thing. “I will try to prove myself to the G-League, And then, if I’m called to the NBA, I’ll try to take advantage of my chance and my minutes to show that I can compete with NBA players and fight for my place in the team.“
Asked on Media Day if he sees this season as part of a development year, Kurucs answered, “Sure. But who knows, maybe I will show something. I’ll be like a surprise.”
Of the two, in fact, Kurucs is more likely to spend time in Uniondale. He lost a development year in 2018 because of a corporate decision F.C. Barcelona made last season. They decided not to play three players with NBA ambitions and Kurucs got on the court with Barca only six times. In some ways worst, he played only another 16 with the Spanish team’s development squad. It’s one reason he appreciates the attention he’s getting from Brooklyn.
“They’re just working overall on my game,” he said of the Nets coaching staff and performance team. “You know in Europe, it’s different basketball. Here, they are teaching me basic, small things —how to play one-on-one defense, things like that.”
He also noted that he’s been doing a lot of strength and conditioning work ... “a lot of weights, I like that. I see my body improving a little bit.” He says he’s added “about three kilograms” almost seven pounds.
Musa is much more accomplished. He played 75 games last season for Cedevita which although it’s not a Euroleague team, is one of the best in the former Yugoslavia, a hotbed of basketball talent. And just last month, he played a couple of games (at point guard) for the Bosnian national team. He called a possible assignment to Long Island part of his progression to NBA player.
“It’s all a part of this journey,” he said. “I think That will be the coaches’ decision and the decision for the general manager. I am here to serve the Brooklyn Nets, so whatever they say, I will do it, but my goal is to be part of the rotation of the Brooklyn Nets.”
He, too, said he liked being drafted by a team with the reputation for development.
“I’m just waiting for the chance because I know that when i get the chance, I know I will prove that I can play in the NBA. I think that now, but of course, I have to develop. When I get that first chance, I will assure everybody that I can play.”
Both admit that they are re-learning the game because of the big differences between Europe and the NBA. One thing both also admit liking is the Nets’ green light for shotmakers, whether playing for the big club or the G-League team.
“I love it (the green light),” said Kurucs. “Everyone is always telling me, be ready to shoot. That’s great because I like to shoot the ball. In Europe, it was different. You’re a young guy. You can’t just shoot. you have to respect the older players. Here, everybody is pushing you, everybody is helping you to get better. It’s hard in Europe for young players to get better in big teams.”
“It’s a lot faster, the pace,” he said of the NBA. “They’re shooting the ball more often than we do in Europe. But its so fun when you have freedom in a game. I am happy that i end up here.”
He noted as well that he too had a problem when younger, the lesson of which he said was humility.
“I didn’t play for one year even though it was the best shooting guard on the team. But the coach didn’t trust me at that point but I had other coaches and my family to support me.”
As for his development work, Musa has said he’s added seven kilograms or 16 pounds.
Both also said that they like the Nets hands-on style, whether in the gym, weight room, Long Island or elsewhere. It’s a big part of the development culture. Musa noted how much he appreciated having assistant coach Pablo Prigioni and strength and conditioning coach Dan Liburd with him in Sarajevo for the FIBA World Cup qualifiiers when he hurt his ankle.
“Dan and Pablo were with me,” Musa noted. “That showed that Brooklyn cares about me. That was really really helpful because I had my guys next to me when my ankle got injured. They were there to help me, give me advice.”
“It’s a great club for the young players because they work with them,” added Kurucs. “They want their players to improve. That’s the most important thing for me. My agent told me, ‘this would be a good place for you, for your development, for your skills. You will be a good fit for the Nets team.’”
The G-League opens on November 3. In addition to Musa and Kurucs, the Nets rookie two-way, Theo Pinson, will be on the Long Island roster.