Exit Interviews: Nikola Pekovic

The NBA's harder than you thought, eh?

Although you never produced up to your potential, this season was not a lost one. You are a rookie in the NBA, you do have time to improve.

Alongside your new best friend, Darko Milicic, you grew into the NBA game and the American lifestyle. It’s not an easy adaptation to say that least. But it could’ve gone a lot smoother than it did. At times I feel we just threw you in to a den of hungry lions. A season, or at least a start, in the D-League could’ve helped you gain some confidence and give you time to work on your fundamentals. How many times did you find yourself in foul trouble this year? How many times did you influence a 3-second call? How many lay-ups did you miss, thinking work under the hoop would be as easy as the Euro-league?

Wake up, it’s the NBA.

Seeing that we signed you long-term — I’m questioning why now — you’ll be with us next season, so listen up. Start your work on the defensive end. Your help defense is pathetic. Just like the rest of your teammates, you rely too heavily on reaction to time out your defensive rotations. But in your case, for some reason, your reaction time is possibly three seconds behind everyone else. Can you explain? Somehow, someway, we need you to learn the idea of help defense without having to madly foul anyone in the process. This is a tough task, I know, but I think you can do it.

Another aspect of you game that needs work is conditioning. Conditioning is going to be huge going forward for you. Sometimes you looked like the fat white kid on the court that huffs and puffs his way to alternating ends of the court. Oh, wait. That was you. Well, perhaps you start taking brisk runs with Darko through the dense forests of Serbia this summer? Both of you could use it.

Now, on the offensive end is where you found your stride. Sort of. Your post moves lack fluidity and grace but your bouldering and powerful moves are effective. Your shoulder thrusts and pump fakes are all it takes to get these gullible NBA centers in the air and to potentially foul you. I really like how you can get to the free throw line, and cash in too (76-percent is actually very good for a 6-10 center). If you could add a 10-foot jumper to your game, you could very well become a good post player for years to come, so definitely work on that. You do struggle at passing out of the post, though. You were an awful lof like a black hole. When the ball came to you, everyone was as good as dead. Work with Darko and learn to pass in, out and from the post. Some more versatility to your offensive game will go a long way.

Other than that, I don’t have much for you. When we come back to start the season, we may need to evaluate whether you’re ready to contribute to this team without being detrimental to our defense and whether or not, for that reason, if you should start in the D-League or not. But that’s a ways away. Keep on lumbering, big man.

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