A Daily Babble Production
All indications are that Nenad Krstic will be returning to the NBA sooner rather than later, and he will be doing so in a new locale.
The Newark Star-Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro reported Friday that the New Jersey Nets are not expected to match the Oklahoma City Thunder's offer to the restricted free agent forward. Krstic's soon-to-be-signed deal is being reported at $15.58 million over three years.
Good and good. This is an excellent move for the 25-year-old Serbian-born forward, who had most recently been playing in Russia.
This is a guy who just had to have another opportunity in the Association. He simply showed too much promise in his first three seasons not to get another shot.
Drafted 24th by the Nets in 2002, Krstic finally came to the States in 2004. He became an impact player immediately for the Nets, starting 57 of his 75 games played and averaging 10 points per game as a rookie. Over the next two seasons, Krstic began to blossom, showing off finer touch and stronger moves around the rim, crashing the glass hard and playing improved defense as he emerged as a full-time starter from the beginning of the 2005-06 campaign. He put up 13.5 points and 6.4 boards per game with a true shooting of 54.1 percent that season and upped those figures to 16.4-6.8-56.6 in 2006-07 before a torn ACL cut his season short after just 26 games.
Recovering from an ACL injury is no picnic (just ask Tony Allen - or anyone else who has ever had one). So it wasn't an enormous surprise when 2007-08 turned into a disaster for Krstic. He made it through just 45 games at 18 minutes per, and his production fell badly. His true shooting fell to an abominable 45.1 percent as he scored 6.6 points per game (13.2 per 36 minutes, a notable drop from the progress he had made in his first three seasons). Krstic looked uncomfortable on offense and didn't move well on the defensive end, and it didn't take long before the stress from the physical troubles found its way into the youngster's head. He talked to the media during the season about feeling lost within the team's offense and being out of his comfort zone on the floor.
So the Nets didn't give Krstic a lucrative offer this summer. They weren't alone among NBA teams in that brand of inaction, and it is hard to blame them. But Oklahoma City seems a good fit for Krstic. By the midst of last season, it was clear that the forward was battling his own head in addition to his ACL tear. Sometimes, a change of scenery is the way to go, especially when that change of scenery moves a player out of the eye of the northeastern media. While the Nets aren't the Knicks by any means, they get no shortage of attention in the New York-New Jersey metro area, and the pressure wasn't helping Krstic. Going out to the Midwest to play for a last-place team with little going right and an interim coach trying to prove himself should be as pressure-free an endeavor as possible for Krstic. He will be well paid, and there won't be an absurd rush for him to return to his past levels of production.
While I'm a bit surprised by the spending decision on the Thunder's end, one can't fault Krstic for jumping at an offer that does seem a bit high for someone who has yet to prove that he can return to form from what could be a career-altering injury. But it's good to see that Nenad Krstic will get the chance to try to do just that.