Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 16th 2015 Contents A55
Thursday, July 16, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
MINNEAPOLIS---Five years after Nemanja Bjelica s
rights were acquired by Minnesota, the Timberwolves
have finally added him to the roster.
The wait was worth it for this 27-year-old rook-
ie-to-be. In his mind, Bjelica believed he was ready
for the NBA right away. Now that he s arriving with
more experience and a Euroleague MVP award, well,
he ought to be all the better for it.
The Wolves obtained Bjelica in 2010 through a
draft-day trade of then-inconsequential late picks
with the Washington Wizards in 2010. The native of
Nemanja Bjelica signs with Minnesota Timberwolves.
never an option
MEMPHIS---All-Star Marc Gasol says he s sorry
if Grizzlies fans worried over how long it took him
to announce that he wasn t leaving Memphis.
There was never reason to fret, though. The Spanish
center said Tuesday he already knew he wasn t going
"Once the dust settled and I started thinking about
the process of next season. every scenario would
bring me back to Memphis," he said. "It never opened
up to different teams. So, actually, it was pretty easy."
The 7-foot-1 Spaniard spoke Tuesday at a news
conference that was much more a celebration, with
fans packing the lobby of the Grizzlies arena a day
after Gasol signed his five-year contract. Although
the Grizzlies didn t release terms of the deal, The
Associated Press previously reported Gasol agreed
to a five-year maximum contract worth more than
Gasol says he needed to reflect after the season
ended, but told Grizzlies owner Robert Pera over
dinner July 1 in Spain he would remain with Memphis.
He was unaware that the delay in his signing was
causing consternation for Grizzlies fans. He said
"things in Spain take a little longer."
Meanwhile, Grizzlies fans waited and worried,
expressing their concern on sports talk shows.
Unaware of the hand-wringing, Gasol did see a
video by director Craig Brewer of Memphis urging
the center to return, and the center called the work
"emotional." The piece featured Justin Timberlake,
a minority owner from the Memphis area, fans and
teammates, including point guard Mike Conley,
whose own long-term commitment was a major
factor in Gasol s decision. (AP)
Serbia has played the five seasons since then in Europe,
until the Wolves signed him last week to a three-year,
$11.7 million contract. There were opportunities to
trade Bjelica over that time, Wolves president of bas-
ketball operations and coach Flip Saunders said, but
they didn t want to give up on his potential.
"I am very happy because I will come to the NBA
this way, because I know how it was very tough and
difficult but I didn t suffer," Bjelica said yesterday at
an introductory news conference. "I want to show to
everybody that I deserve to be here."
At one point, Bjelica said he needs to "learn many
things here." Saunders then turned to the 6-foot-10,
235-pound Bjelica and said with a pat on the back,
"We ll teach you."
Bjelica shot 54.1 percent from the field and 37.4
percent from 3-point range while averaging 11.5 points
and 8.2 rebounds over 63 combined games last season
for Fenerbahce Ulker in Euroleague and Turkish Bas-
ketball League action. Statistics are smaller overseas
because players play fewer minutes than in the NBA,
often only 25 or so per game even for the stars.
"Five years was like 100 years for me, but I believe
in myself," Bjelica said.
The Wolves ranked 25th out of 30 in the league last
season in 3-point shooting at 33.2 per cent, so Saunders
has been aiming to address that. Damjan Rudez, a
player similar to Bjelica acquired in a trade with Indiana
last week that sent Chase Budinger to the Pacers, was
another move made with that weakness in mind.
Bjelica can play either forward spot, but Saunders
has said often he d prefer a "position-less" team to
maximize flexibility in terms of match-ups on defence.
This team has no shortage of forwards, though, so
Bjelica isn t coming with a clear path to playing time.
European star Bjelica
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