Tanjevic: Worlds have plenty of room to improve

by Kaz Nagatsuka

SAITAMA — Turkey coach Bogdan Tanjevic was clearly under the weather after the game.

It was not just because he was anguished by a 56-64 loss to France in the fifth-place playoff on Saturday, but it was also because he was upset about the FIBA World Championship still having a lot of room to develop as basketball’s most privileged stage.

Why? That is because of the NBA.

“The NBA doesn’t help,” Tanjevic said on Saturday. “They just come to this tournament to take the best players back home.”

Tanjevic also was complaining about the World Championship not embracing the best talents possible.

This time around, Turkey ended up playing without its star and core hoopsters like Mehmet Okur and Hidayet Turkoglu, both of whom refused to play because of “injuries.” And at the end of the tournament, it had to play with some injured players, such as Ibrahim Kutluay, the team’s spiritual leader who played for the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA in the 2004-05 season.

Turkey were not alone. A lot of NBA players were reluctant to play at the worlds and actually chose not to perform at it, such as Italy’s Andrea Bargnani, who was drafted by the Toronto Raptors as the No. 1 overall pick in June and did not participate in this year’s tournament.

Obviously, the number of international players is increasing in the NBA these days. But ironically those internationals, especially Europeans, tend to place more importance on the NBA season.

“(The NBA players) just spend summers doing nothing,” Tanjevic said. “When you ask them what they are doing during summer, they’ll say ‘weightlifting.’ “

The 59-year-old Tanjevic also questioned the rule that a participating country is not allowed to change the 12-man roster once a tournament tips off.

“It has to be changed because this competition is so long and you expect some players to get an injury later in it,” he said. “The NBA players don’t want to come and play here because they’re afraid of getting hurt.”

Tanjevic cited soccer’s World Cup as a good example, saying the World Championship should follow its path.

“In the World Cup, you see the best players in the world,” he said. “That is because the FIFA makes players play for national teams. That’s what the FIBA has to do.

“It’d be to the NBA’s advantage as well if the best players play in the World Championship because it’ll make it more exciting.”