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 Stephen CURRY
  Golden S.
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 Andre DRUMMOND
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 Chris PAUL
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 Hassan WHITESIDE
  Miami Heat
  (213-C-89)
  Avg: 3.1
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Day 34 (Regular Season)

Memphis G. 59% Nov.18 Minn.T.
LA Lakers 66% Nov.18 Miami Heat
New York K. Nov.18 Orlando M. 68%
Portland TB 62% Nov.18 Wash.W.
Golden St.W 61% Nov.18 S.Antonio S
What a magical game last night in Mejdan stadium! - Jun 30, 2018


POSTED BY:
CHRIS MATHIEU
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What a magical game last night in Mejdan stadium, in Tuzla Bosnia and Herzigovina. Tuzla is a magical city when it comes to basketball anyway, given its history of developing players like Mirza Teletovic and the legendary Mirza Delibasic. The local fans are rabid basketball fanatics, turning out for local club Slodboda Tuzla for a regular domestic game and often selling out all 8,000 tickets. This is no ordinary game though, this is a game pitting two titans of NBA basketball, of global giants. The game tips off and on one side of the court you have the French team coming to Tuzla for the first time. Playing for France is European PG Thomas Huertel one of the best point guards in Europe, next to him is Evan Fournier starting shooting guard for the Orlando Magic, small forward is Nicolas Batum one of the best small forwards in the NBA. Starting at power forward is NBA champion Boris Diaw. At center is the human eraser, elite NBA defender Rudy Gobert the NBA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year and two time all NBA Defensive first team. The team even has Nando De Colo coming off the bench, possibly the best player not in the NBA, who's rights are held by an NBA team.
Most fans aren't here to see the freakish athletes and NBA players the French brought to the stadium however. The're here for the local team and they have a star studded lineup themselves. At point guard is Scottie Wilbekin a naturalized American that Bosnia made a part of the team. At Shooting guard is Bojan Bogdanovic a starter for the Indiana Pacers, small forward is the local legend Mirza Teletovic, at power forward is NBA lottery pick Dragan Bender and starting center you have young precocious Jusuf Nurkic. Coming off the bench you have Nemanja Gordic, Dejan Todorovic, Emir Preldzic, Ivica Zubac, Ognjen Kuzmic, Dzanan Musa and Nihad Djedovic an impressive bench collection of NBA players and elite European players.

The game is tight from the beginning as the French teams length and athleticism is difficult to match. The game goes into halftime with the guests leading 49-46 on a turnover and long three from Fournier. The local legends go into halftime and regroup and a second half comeback led by their bench and down the stretch Teletovic hits three threes and Wilbekin's slashes to the basket provides the difference and Bosnia pulls out the win 107-99 behind a standing only crowd that stayed behind to cheer their team even long after the game has ended. The boxscore for Bosnia looks like this Teletovic 21pts, Wilbekin 18pts, Bogdanovic 13pts, Bender 6pts, Nurkic 15pts. Off the bench Gordic had 8pts, Todorovic 7pts, Preldzic 3pts, Zubac 4pts, Djedovic had 12pts. Dzanan Musa the first round NBA draft pick and NBA champion Ognjen Kuzmic didn't play.

Sadly this didn't happen for us last night. Popularized by comic books the multiverse is only a theory at this point and unfortunately for us we don't live in a world where the players of Bosnia and Herzegovina represent their nation. The players listed above play for Turkey, Preldzic, under incredibly dubious circumstances and Wilbekin (who backed out after signing papers agreeing to the BiH National Team), Dejan Todorovic played for the BiH U16 team and Ognjen Kuzmic was with the senior team but through sheer ignorance or incompetence KSBiH insulted him and he left the team. Both players now represent Serbia instead. Djedovic renounced his BiH citizenship allegedly after giving a "loan" to a KSBiH official that was never repaid. Bogdanovic, Bender and Zubac were all allowed to leave BiH and officials signed off on their transfer to Croatia's National team. Ironically the trio of Bogdanovic, Zubac and Darko Planinic all from Mostar recently beat the real Bosnian National team 88-75 in a test match.

No, in our world this elite A team only exists in the imagination of Bosnia basketball fans like myself. Even if the players of Serbia, Croatia and Turkey choose not to play for BiH then you would still have a roster filled with NBA players and quality Europeans though, right? Not exactly. Teletovic had another bout of blood clots in his lungs and his career looks in jeopardy. Lets look at the 'B' team that was envisioned by the current administration. After the debacle of Wilbekin the team thought they had solved their naturalized PG position with Josh Adams, they even announced his participation. After the embarrassment of DJ Cooper, Alex Renfroe and Wilbekin the last three attempts at naturalizing a player ended in embarrassment and disaster. They apparently haven't learned their lesson as once again Adams backed out of the team at the last minute. Musa wanted to prepare for his first NBA season, same too with NCAA leading shot blocker Ajdin Penava who is with the Washington Wizards, Nurkic is waiting on an NBA contract so they are both out. Sani Campara is out with an injury, so too Milan Milosevic, Andrija Stipanovic and Emir Sulejmanovic. Ivan Karacic wasn't available,Croatia wouldn't release him from his obligations sine he represented them on the U16/U18/20 level previously.

Curiously the team could have put together a preliminary roster with players like Luka Garza, Samir Sehic, Dino Muminovic and Denis Alibegovic players who all made a major impact in college basketball. Garza was one of the best freshman in the Big 10, Sehic was instant offense averaging double digits scoring in only 20mpg, Alibegovic played as a freshman on his team that made the NCAA tournament. Muminovic averaged almost four blocks a game and 10 rebounds in the NCAA2. None of these players received an invite, instead Amar Alibegovic and his 1.6ppg and 40% shooting from two as a forward in college played and got minutes for the National Team last night.

If that wasn't bad enough lets look at some other players not invited Diego Kapelan, Mirza Bulic, Adi Alikadic, Haris Delalic, Nedim Djedovic, Imran Polutak, Sandro Gacic, Njegos Sikiras, Miralem Halilovic, Filip Adamovic, Muhamad Pasalic, Robert Drjencic, Kenan Karahodzic, Dino Kobic, Ibrahim Mulaomerovic, Nemanja Mitrovic, Ismet Sefjic and Emir Zimic all deserved at least a phone call to gauge interest. I've talked to some of these players and none I had talked to were even given a call to gauge their interest. Some even reached out to KSBiH and to let them know they were available. The arrogance of officials Sejo Bukva and Sinisa Kovacevic prevented them from even getting a return phone call, just silence from KSBiH.

So if we are keeping tabs we have already moved beyond the 'A' squad the 'B' squad and then the 'C' squad even wasn't bothered to give an invitation to. Nemanja Gordic was allegedly promised help in rebuilding his family home in Herzegovina, destroyed during the war over 20 years ago, a promise that not surprisingly was broken once again by KSBiH. Gordic a player who has sacrificed his body for 10 years for the BiH National Team and was coming off a long season turned down the invitation to play for the 'D' team that ended up in Tuzla last night.

Instead, last night the formidable line up of French NBA players faced off against Markus Loncar, Adin Vrabac, Aleksandar Lazic, Amar Alibegovic, Amar Gegic, Ibrahim Durmo, Darko Talic, Elemedin Kikanovic, Marko Rikalo, Edin Atic, Almir Hasandic and Nedzad Muratovic. A collection of willing players of varying degrees of experience, professionalism and talent. Some have barely played in years, some were cut from their team the previous season and half of the roster played in the Bosnian domestic league competition. The Bosnian domestic league is filled with teams with barely a budget, who barely function on bare bones resources, many players unpaid and having day jobs. The level of competition varies from team to team, some are good enough to compete for a spot in the regional ABA2 league but most are hoping just to exist in the following season. The competition level on the court for these teams is at best a low level NCAA D1 team that would compete against a Horizon league team, others are more like a NCAA Division two or Division three team that plays without scholarships.

The willingness of players like Kikanovic, coming off a grueling season in Monaco that just ended is admirable, especially considering that so many of his compatriots at his level on the team found ways to avoid their service. The young players on the team like Vrabac, Lazic and even Alibegovic gave their best effort but in reality offered little resistance against the professionals playing on the other side of the ball. The team lost 102- 52 but even that result isn't accurate as to how they were dominated on the court last night. France could have played 4 against 5 all night and they still would have won by twenty points. Maybe you would have had a contest if instead of a FIBA 3x3 tournament you had a 3x5 tournament featuring three of the best French players against five guys willing to represent BiH internationally.

Next up for BiH is a game on the road against Belgium a team much less talented than the French but light years beyond what BiH will bring to the Antwerp Lotto Arena next week. Adding insult to the injury of having to face a Belgium side at full strength, facing off against the 'D' team of the Bosnian National team is the fact that one of the players on the other side of the court likely will be Haris Bratanovic a highly skilled 208cm 2001 year born big man who is joining a powerhouse club in Spain to further his career and is already given the chance to represent Belgium's senior team. One of the brightest prospects in Europe of his generation, he wasn't even good enough to get an offer to represent BiH U16 team previously as KSBiH arrogantly refuse to pick up a phone and make a call, send a letter or publicly announce interest in such a young talent. Haris doesn't have to feel alone in rebuffing BiH internationally, as elite prospect Tarik Biberovic 201cm 2001 year born shooting guard announced this week he will represent Turkey internationally, rebuffing a call up from the BiH U18 team. He will be joining Emir Preldzic, Scottie Wilbekin playing for BiH but also Cedi Osman, a half Bosniak who wasn't considered talented enough to play for Sarajevo club team KK BOSNA, but is now good enough to play for the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers sharing ballhandling and scoring duties with the legend LeBron James. Cedi was rebuffed in his interest in playing in BiH and instead plays in the NBA and is a fan favorite in Cleveland. You can even connect Kenan Sipah another Bosniak from Kosovo who was born Kenan Sipahic but was never even asked if he had an interest in playing for BiH before becoming one the best guards in Turkey.

No, none of this will happen, Bosnia will be crushed again against Belgium, wasting the talent of coach Dusko Vujosevic a legend of Balkan and international basketball who was willing to risk his reputation taking on the task of leading a team that lacked a basketball organization behind it. A man of impeccable leadership, skill and coaching abilities who's health is failing him even as I write this paragraph. Sejo Bukva will continue to deflect blame as he tries to ring personal financial gain from being a part of KSBiH and push his personal agenda before the needs of his players and the team. Sinisa Kovacevic who has never been accountable to the team, the fans and the media about his profound inept leadership that makes the ugly Dubravko Babaric era look like a golden age of success and accountability. No doubt Kovacevic time at the top of the food chain at KSBiH will likely come to an inglorious end, most likely without him even being taken to account or answering a single question from the media about his role in this debacle. The only solution that Sinisa and Sejo have come up with to solve this crisis is the creation of what they call a 'B' national team that would be available to them. When the team can't afford hotels in Bosnia, where the youth selections aren't allowed a second assistant, where players have to pay for their own lodging, travel costs and associated expenses, the 'leadership' wants to create a second Senior team. Not a team of U14 players who would help identify and build the youth system at a fraction of the cost. Not even hosting and playing practice matches in BiH, instead they moved their training to the Croatian coast. A second senior team will solve the problems they say! We have already missed out on the A team, the B team and the C team never even received an invite. So KSBiH rolled out their 'D' team to represent BiH internationally but they insist that team 'F' although they claim it is a second level team would solve all the countries problems when it comes to international representation. The 'D' team already relies on half of its team from the unprofessional domestic competition so this 'F' team won't even consist of the best and brightest of one of the worst leagues in Europe, instead would be filled by whom from that league?

In the end all that the fans will have left is a hollow feeling of what could have been if the world was a different place, a different universe where BiH is represented by eight players who played or where drafted by the NBA and four of the most elite level players of European basketball and one of the best coaches in the history of the Balkans and beyond. The truth is this A team was all born and raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina (except maybe a naturalized American) and in a different world or universe would be able to compete and win agains the best the world has to offer including those from the USA. For fans I would say keep your heads up, you can root for Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Belgium, Spain and Turkey and still root for Bosnia and Herzegovina. KSBiH can give you a 'D' or 'F' team but they can't take away who those players are, where they got their start and what they represent. In another Universe.   




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