Ex-NBA champ Kukoc believes Nikola Mirotic has chance in NBA


toni-kukoc-now-Toni Kukoc doesn’t know when or if Nikola Mirotic will leave Actual Madrid to join the Bulls. What Kukoc does know, as well as everyone, is what Mirotic will expertise if he opts for the NBA.

“Thank God Scottie and Michael are not right here to torture him,” Kukoc mentioned with a laugh for the duration of a phone conversation.

Kukoc bore the brunt of the enmity the Hall of Famers had for common manager Jerry Krause relentlessly endorsing Kukoc for the duration of the 1992 Olympics. The pair eventually embraced Kukoc as an important piece in the second three-peat.

Mirotic won’t face such a dynamic. What the Montenegro native will have to overcome are challenges that extend far beyond creating baskets.

“A lot additional games. A lot more travel. Diverse language. Different meals,” Kukoc said. “It really is a lot.”

Kukoc said he has seen Mirotic play five or six instances. He declined to make any comparisons for what Mirotic’s ceiling could be simply because he believes “every person develops his own game.”

Kukoc does see versatility in the six-foot-ten Mirotic. That is a great thing provided the 6-11 Kukoc’s highlights could lead a seminar on the subject.

“Obviously, you can use him at numerous positions,” Kukoc stated. “He can be a huge (tiny forward). But he also can play as a (power forward) for the reason that he’s a solid rebounder. What ever he plays, he can shoot the three-pointer so he can stretch the floor.

“He has a lot of basketball information. Definitely coming right here, he’s going to be mastering a lot as properly.”

Kukoc turned 25 just before his very first coaching camp in 1993, three-plus years right after Krause acquired him with the 29th all round pick (the second pick of Round 2) in the 1990 NBA draft.

Like Mirotic now, Kukoc had earned the “finest player not in the NBA” label right after starring roles for Croatia’s Jugoplastika Split and Benetton Treviso in the Italian League.

Mirotic turned 23 in February. Anytime he comes, he won’t be joining a dynasty as Kukoc did following the very first three-peat.

“Our expectations have been to win a championship or the season was a failure. So he’s going to have a tiny a lot easier demands,” Kukoc mentioned.

“But I’m assuming from the 1st practice on, he’s going to have to function difficult. He’s going to need to have time to get made use of to playing with new players. That’s going to be a huge distinction from the guys he’s playing with in Spain. He’s going to have to come across his spot and his niche on a new group.”

toni-kukoc-now-2Indeed, despite a strong rookie season in which he averaged 10.9 points and a second season where he shot 50.4 % while scoring 15.7 points per game, Kukoc said he did not really feel totally comfy till his third season. That is when Dennis Rodman arrived in the Will Perdue trade, freeing Kukoc to shift from power to tiny forward.

“I had never ever played the position I was constructed for in my initially year,” Kukoc mentioned. “I spent the entire summer lifting weights, putting muscle on. In the lengthy run, that helped me to create a post-up game. But it kind of took away those initial couple of years the speed and initial step and anything I had worked with and utilized when I played in Europe.”

The Bulls are starving for shooters, so Mirotic’s prowess in the “stretch 4” part must prove timely if and when he comes. Kukoc eloquently expressed how leaving his comfortable life in Europe proved the right move, and landing with the Bulls proved even far more fortuitous.

“A lot of persons say if I had played for one more group I would have averaged 20 (points), seven (rebounds) and seven (assists) and been an All-Star and this and that,” Kukoc said. “But honestly, I would not modify 1 point about my profession, even the knowledge of going through these challenging early times.

“Winning championships is priceless. You have a million basketball players going by means of their careers and they in no way get close to a championship and their highlight would be the second round of the playoffs or playing in one All-Star game.

“Every year, we arrived at camp with that pressure of possessing to perform at a high level at all instances. Only a handful of players get to practical experience that. There are so quite a few fantastic memories.”

Kukoc played 13 seasons in the NBA, for Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks.

Kukoc averaged double figures in scoring in 9 of his 13 NBA seasons. He reached career-high 18.8 ppg snd 7.0 rpg in 98-99 season.

Kukoc won three straight NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls in 1991-1992-1993.

/Chicago Tribune/



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