Fans have no doubt run through endless YouTube highlights and scouting reports since Thursday night in an effort to familiarize themselves with the newest Nets, Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs.
Highlights, of course, only show one side of a player. On Friday we learned another: these two are going to be fun.
Beyond their emotions of simply being drafted to Brooklyn – shock, excitement, relief, etc – Musa and Kurucs (we’ll come up with a combined nickname at some point) showed off their personalities — and considerable wit — during their first joint media session at the Nets training facility in Sunset Park.
Musa, whose command of English is the better of the two, talked for example about how his love for the game began.
“As soon as I got a ball,” said the 19-year old, describing the moment when his father first put a ball in his hands at age 7, “I was like, ‘I’m going to marry you one day.’ Now, I’m here.”
And here is where he wants to be. He spoke about how he talked on Tuesday night with fellow Bosnian and ex-Net Mirza Teletovic, “a good friend of mine.”
“Mirza Teletovic was playing here four or five years ago, so I watched the Brooklyn Nets a lot because that’s my captain of the national team. We’re good friends, so I would watch the Nets a lot,” Musa said.
He spoke as well about who — besides Teletovic — he models his game after.
“My idol growing up was Kobe Bryant because of that killer mentality. He went on the court and he just wanted to kill everybody,” offered Musa with a smile. “From Manu Ginobili, I picked up that leadership, that teamwork, that work ethic. So that would be my two favorites.”
And then, there’s the overriding presence for any player born and raised in the Balkans, Drazen Petrovic. Musa revealed that he had reached out to Drazen’s mother, Bisirka.
“[His mother] gave me advice how to succeed. You cannot buy that. That’s really amazing.” he said, his voice filled with reverence.
For Kurucs, the drop off in confidence, in wit wasn’t that great, if any at all.
“I like Kevin Durant (and) Gordon Hayward. I look more like Durant because I’m also skinny,” he said, also smiling. (I have a) skinny, skinny, skinny body. I’m actually like him (Durant) more or less; have his skills. I think I get compared to him more.”
And Kurucs had the signature moment of the day when NetsDaily asked about his relationship with the other Latvian player in the NBA, Kristaps Prozingis.
He’s never been Porzingis’ teammate, as the two are three years apart in age, but they know each other a bit and, Kurucs directed a pretty sweet message to the second healthiest Latvian big man in New York City.
“I don’t know him that much. We spoke some times. I didn’t play with him. I met him once before he got drafted. After that, we didn’t meet. I hope to play with him some day on the national team,” said Kurucs,
When we followed up and asked if he was looking forward to playing against him in New York, Kurucs smiled and confidently responded with the following: “Sure, and beat his ass.”
Well ... okay then.
The two even interrupted the boss, who spent the press conference doing a lot of smiling at the audaciousness of the two. Sean Marks in fact didn’t speak much compared to similar pressers with Net players by his side.
At one point, Marks was asked how his new combination of 6’9 forwards would position themselves on the floor when they arrive on the Brooklyn hardwood stage.
“I can handle the ball … like a lot,” said Musa, cutting off Marks, prompting a smile from the GM and laughs in the room. “So, point guard, shooting guard, three, whatever. I’m ready to do it.”
Kurucs chimed in, similarly highlighting his versatility, saying he could play the 2, 3 or 4, and whatever coach needs.
The big Latvian also made Marks happy when he spoke about why he wanted to play in Brooklyn. Kurucs expressed his excitement about coming to an organization that puts an emphasis and great care into developing young players on the roster. It’s a big portion of the Nets’ positively budding reputation.
“I was pretty excited. I was super, super, surprised. Actually that was where I wanted to go, this place with the Nets,” Kurucs said. “And I’m happy to be here. I know the staff is great here, and the club is great for the performance, and I know they’ll work with the young guys. That’s what I like.”
Now, regarding their respective games, how they’ll fit and other, you know, basketball stuff, we’ve got that, too.
Musa says that over the summer, the near 6’10” wing aims to add muscle to his slender 195-pound Anthony Randolph-like frame. He also revealed that he sees himself as a “guard.”
“First of all I want to gain some muscle from my body,” said Musa, turning serious. “I want to work on that the entire summer,” he said. “I want to improve my defense a lot because the guards in the NBA are very strong and very fast. I want to be capable of guarding them and score on them. It’s going to be a process but I believe I can do that.”
“When I was young I couldn’t imagine my life without basketball,” offered Kurucs. “I was practicing every day, working every day. I didn’t realize I’d be here one day,”
Both are among the most honored young players in Europe ... and the Nets thought both were first round material. Musa, asked by NetsDaily, if the two knew each other before being drafted, nodded.
“My first game was against this guy with the national team. He kicked our ass,” Musa said. “He scored like 20, 30 points, dunked on us like eight times. So I remember this guy.”
Kurucs just smiled.
Marks said in following the two, their confidence is one thing the team noticed.
“Both these guys have been playing at a high level for years now. We’ve followed them closely. It’s a thrill to watch how they conduct themselves on the court. They can rise up in big moments.
Regarding how they’ll actually fit, Marks echoed Atkinson’s often repeated theme of “positionless basketball.”
“I think this goes back to the NBA where it’s a league of versatility now. I would hate to pigeonhole any of these guys and say you’re a two-guard, a three-guard, a four,” the GM said. “It’s far too early for me or anybody else to decide this is the role or this is the position. Let’s see how it pans out. They do have a skill set – length, body, size, IQ – some of those intangibles.”
He spoke as well as how the Nets system —their development staff, their performance team— allows them to take some risks on Draft Night, whether it’s on skinny kids from Eastern Europe and Texas or an injury-prone star from Michigan.
“I don’t know that we could have done this without them. When you have a coaching staff and performance staff that’s involved in the process throughout the draft process and getting their hands on them, that means a lot.
“Then, it affords the front office the ability to say, ‘Let’s take a young guys like Caris LeVert, coming off a couple injuries. Let’s take a young guy like Jarrett Allen that needs to develop. Let’s take these two young men, for example, where you’re saying how we develop them as basketball players, how we develop them as young men...
“They check a lot of boxes for us.”
So when will we see them. The players were asked about playing for their national teams in FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments next week (which would probably preclude summer league). Musa said “dont know yet; Kurucs “we’ll see.”
Marks was less than certain. “There’s a little bit of decompressing and recovery that needs to take place. We’ll weigh it and see what happens,” said the GM, noting Musa just stopped playing 10 days ago after a 75-game season.
That would be too bad. These guys will be fun to watch play ... and develop.
- Surprising Nets connections run deep for first-round draft pick - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Rodions Kurucs wants to play with Porzingis and ‘beat his ass’ - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Dzanan Musa, Rodions Kurucs thrilled to be drafted by Nets - Greg Logan - Newsday
- NETS WELCOME DZANAN MUSA AND RODIONS KURUCS TO BROOKLYN - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets
- Nets’ young guns eager to fit in fast - John Torenli - Brooklyn Daily Eagle