Dzanan Musa is in a new city Thursday ... Las Vegas, Nevada. Musa won’t play in the NBA Summer League this weekend but he’s with his teammates working out, sightseeing a bit and learning how to be an NBA player.
The 6’9” (and maybe still growing) Bosnian is used to having basketball introduce him to new worlds. At age 11, he left his hometown of Bihac and headed to Sarajevo, Bosnia’s capital, for some intense basketball training. Coaches could see his potential even then. At first, it was difficult being alone in the big city but he adjusted, developed toughness.
“Yes, of course. When I left home at 11, I went to Sarajevo. … You get tougher, especially with me alone since I was 11. That was really a tough time for me and I really struggled a lot,” Musa told Brian Lewis earlier this week as he visited the Coney Island boardwalk.
“But that helped set my mindset into something else: basketball. Not to think about other things, about drinking, going out, having fun; just about basketball. That really helped me a lot. … You had to do your laundry, to go to colleges to go eat, to be right on schedule. Everything is about the discipline.”
His promise has been fulfilled over and over. At age 16, he was the MVP of the FIBA Europe U16 championships, bringing his young and troubled nation its first sports title and setting off celebrations across the country. Since then, he’s led Cedevita, his Croatian team, to multiple titles, finishing up his season on June 3 with a Croatian League championship, his 75th game since last September.
Immediately after that game — and championship ceremony, he drove three and a half hours at night across Croatia, Slovenia and Italy to participate in the NBA Elite International Camp outside Venice, Europe’s version of the Draft Combine.
Once he finished there, it was back home, then took a plane to New York —his first time in the U.S.— and a series of NBA workouts and interviews before hearing his name called in Brooklyn by Brooklyn. That was followed by a press conference, apartment hunting and familiarization with his new city.
Like we said, he’s disciplined.
Since being drafted, he’s had help adjusting from a former teammate and a future one, both of whom have played in Brooklyn. The first was Mirza Teletovic, the ex-Net and Bosnian team captain who helped him refine that discipline.
“We talk a lot. Every second day he’s calling to ask is everything OK, do I need something?” Musa told Lewis. “Right away, like five minutes from (getting drafted) the call was with his number.
“He said it’s going to be tough, a whole different world than Europe. You have to just stay humble. With hard work, your talent will go into the light. I know you love basketball. I’ll support you. … He was like a father, and I respect him a lot.”
His other guide has been D’Angelo Russell, who’s taken Musa under his wing. They’ve been practicing from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with a half-dozen other Nets ... and hanging out at DLo’s apartment, Lewis reports.
“D’Angelo called me to his house, to play games, to hang around,” Musa said. “It was very generous of him. I’m glad I have teammates like him. I’m ready to put everything that it takes to be the best. So whatever it takes. I really mean it. … When I went at the age of 11 from home, I’m doing everything that it takes to become the best.”
The Nets are very high on him, not the least of all because of his discipline and confidence. “He’s very dynamic. His offensive skills are pretty special,” Sean Marks said of Musa at the introductory press conference. The Nets reportedly had him a lot higher on their internal board, but after those 75 games in three leagues and a FIBA tournament, they want to rest him, get him ready for the real games in October.
It happens every year in the Summer League, a player gets hurt just before the games begin and this year, it’s happened to the Nets’ Ding Yanyuhang, the 6’7” Chinese League MVP. According to Chinese media, he felt pain in his right knee that’s been diagnosed as tendinitis in the kneecap. He underwent acupuncture Wednesday and wants to play, even if he has take pain killers. The Nets medical staff thinks he should rest, according to the reports out of China.
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