The Jan Vesely Media Circuit: Hopes EuroBasket 2013 Revitalizes Spirit, NBA Summer League in Doubt
In the first week of March, Jan Vesely told Czech Sport Daily that he wants to represent the Czech Republic at EuroBasket 2013. Is anyone surprised? Probably not, but in his homeland this constituted big news. Honza hasn’t played for the Czech national team in four years, and some fans at home surely began to grow angry at him not suiting up. His last game happened to be in August 2009 during the relegation round of EuroBasket 2009 qualification, where the Czechs went 3-3, losing to Oleksiy Pecherov and the Ukraine team in their final game. In six career games for the Czech Republic senior team, Vesely has averaged 11 points, 5.5 rebounds and 0.8 assists.
That final game also marks the last time Jan played on the same team with his close buddy Tomas Satoransky, back when they were a couple of cool teen kids nicknamed “The Gunpowder” (Tomas) and “The Detonator” (Jan) by the Czech media. Vesely has indicated that he’s longing for games where he can play a crucial role, and he will get the opportunity to do so on September 4, 2013, when the Czechs open EuroBasket in a game against the host nation, Slovenia. It seems Vesely was so anxious to play that he picked up a phone and called George Zidek, the Czech National Team GM. Said Zidek, “The fact that Honza called me personally, I consider it the most important [thing]. In the past, it was not always the rule. We talked about our preliminary plan for preparation and games, then Honza chatted with Coach Budinsky and declared his interest in representing the country.”
Some quotes Vesely uttered in the short interview:
On looking forward to play:
“There’ll be another good bunch of guys, all Czechs, with half of them having already played for our national team. I’m looking forward to it.”
On whether he’ll start as a small forward or power forward and his position in the team’s pecking order:
“After the NBA season there will be exit meetings with Coach [Randy Wittman] and team management, and I’ll know what I have to work on this summer. So with Coach Budinsky, we’ll sit down and have a talk. It’s just March, [so] it’s early to deal with such matters.”
On a need to play in games in order to be a better player:
“Perhaps it‘s going to help me, playing in competitive games there [before the 2013-14 NBA season] and getting more playing time. I had a talk with Saty [Satoransky], and I’m looking forward to playing with him again.”
On guarding LeBron James in an NBA game:
“It was a great experience, guarding LeBron. He’s the best player in the world.”
On the same page of the Sport Daily, Czech National Team Coach Pavel Budinsky revealed a thing or two about Vesely. Definitely worth a read, and maybe a revealing glimpse into how the Czech coaching community in general perceives the Washington Wizards franchise, its system, and Jan Vesely’s place in it.
Budinsky: “I hope that it will be a chance for Honza to show himself [on the stage], and that he’ll help us to be a more competitive team at EuroBasket.”
Q: When he did call you, what was your reaction?
Budinsky: “I was glad that I could speak with him, the conversation lasted about 10 minutes, and I had a good feeling about it. You could see it coming, when we qualified for EuroBasket.”
Q: What did you manage to talk over together?
Budinsky: “Honza wants to work on himself and work out until the end of July. It is clear that this second NBA season is not what he expected, and he must significantly work harder in all aspects of the game. So he should join the [Czech] national team in good physical condition and connect with the team. I’d like to sit down with him and outline what the team can expect from him.”
Q: What do you, as a coach, expect from Vesely?
Budinsky: “Of course, I’m curious myself! When a player doesn’t play and you can’t see him personally, it’s hard to for you to devise a system or plan for him, because the system they had for him in Partizan [Belgrade], such [system] may not have applied a long time ago. High quality press defense, versatility at the three and four [positions], sometimes even rebounding playing the five, his strengths are obvious. I’ll have to think about the offense a lot, we want him to be surrounded by teammates who would make him better [on that end of the floor].”
Q: Will you take into consideration what the Wizards’ coach wants out of him or will you kind of remodel him for your needs?
Budinsky: “Exactly, it will be debatable. We’ll have to tell ourselves what’s more important. I’d be for Jan benefiting our team first and foremost than dealing with what the Wizards coaches are going to tell him to play. I don’t want to develop him for their system, they had two years to do that there. I’d want to get Honza relaxed and into the groove in order it to suit us.”
Q: Your communication with each other had lots of cracks in the past couple of years. Did you set any constraints in order to make everything work?
Budinsky: “I hope that for Honza the predominant reasoning is being humble and an effort to raise his profile differently than refusing to represent his country. The phone call did please me. Honza is aware that his situation is not pink, he sees a chance to prove himself on the grand stage, to play alongside Jiri Welsch and Lubos Barton. If his performance is up to par, he’ll get playing time, there is no reason in not finding common ground. But he has to validate he’s an NBA player, on and off the court. He’s not such a star that we will be in awe of him, yet.”
About a week later, Jan’s would-be teammate, Lubos Barton, spoke to David Hein of fibaeurope.com, as you can read for yourself in an article titled “Don’t Expect Too Much of Vesely.”
The outspoken and always honest Barton expressed his opinions on the state of Honza’s American journey and what Czech (and Serbian) basketball fans can expect out of him when he returns to the Balkans for the first time since he left Partizan Belgrade some 22 months ago.
“Obviously, it’s not good having a player with an important role on the team not really having played the whole season. He would have to come in and see how he fits in. But you cannot expect a guy who has not played all season to come here and play like [Manu] Ginobili for Argentina or [Tony] Parker for France or Dirk [Nowitzki] for Germany. It would not be fair for him,” said Barton. Indeed, the other Czech players can’t just come to the tournament and rely on Vesely to carry the burden fully on his “NBA player” shoulders.
“The rest of the guys have to help him out and not put too much pressure on him that he has to come back and prove himself. The rhythm of the game is a funny thing. You lose it pretty quick,” continued Barton. “You can have an injury or a coach that doesn’t play you, and within a couple of months you are not playing half as good as you were before.”
Barton’s last quote about Vesely contains a well-known truth for the Wizards faithful: Vesely’s jump shot is not where it needs to be. Barton, putting it lightly: “Jan would obviously give us a great boost at both forward positions and center. He’s extremely versatile and athletic. He doesn’t have the shot, which I think is hurting his chances to be a great player in the NBA right now. He didn’t do much improvement, and that’s why he’s not playing.”
A couple weeks ago, another Czech National teammate (and former NBA player), Jiri Welsch, chatted with Czech sports fans. He had some interesting tidbits to say about his NBA career, and, of course, he couldn’t avoid being asked about the “Airwolf” Vesely.
Welsch on his four-season NBA career:
“I like reminiscing on my NBA career, in particular on the times in Boston, which brought me lots of beautiful experiences. The trade to the Cavs happened basically on my own request, because I wasn’t satisfied with my role on the team under Coach Doc Rivers, and today I see it as a bad decision on my part. I should have tried to stay longer in Boston.”
On how LeBron James is off the court, if he is a bit conceited/swollen-headed:
“I don’t know how he conducts himself nowadays, but when I was his teammate on the Cavs, he was a 20-year-old boy who wasn’t swollen-headed at all. The way the athlete conducts himself on the court doesn’t mean he behaves the same way off the court.”
On what cars his then-teammates/NBA players used to ride:
“The most frequent and popular cars were Cadillac Escalades, Range Rovers and Hummers. Then the other cars were fancy ones like Bentley GT Continental (Michael Redd), Ferrari 575 Maranello (Toni Kukoc), Mercedes SL (Paul Pierce), Lamborghini (Chris Mills, a big fan of cars) and Maybach with its own driver (Tracy McGrady and LeBron).”
On the best dunker he played with:
“There had been couple of them. For example, Jason Richardson (Golden State), LeBron James (Cleveland) and Marcus Haislip (Malaga in the Spanish ACB League).”
On what he thinks how’s Jan Vesely’s NBA career going to pan out, and on Vesely’s perceived lack of self-confidence:
“It’s good he’s got a guaranteed contract for next season, and hopefully he will get an opportunity to improve his current situation. Self-confidence is an important thing in sports. It’s hard to gain confidence sitting on the bench or even in the stands. I think Honza would benefit from the change of team. He needs to have better and more experienced teammates around him, who would be able to utilize his basketball skills. [He needs to] play and be in the rotation again, to have the feeling that he’s a part of the team. That’s also why I hope he will play in the EuroBasket.”
After a grim March, when Vesely supporters didn’t even see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. But, “Easter Bunny” Jan hopped onto the Verizon Center floor on Sunday and unleashed one of his top three games of the season to date, doing all the important small stuff on the court—winning the 50/50 balls, grabbing four offensive rebounds (eight overall), scoring nine points—and once again looking like a legit NBA player.
Truth About It.net’s Kyle Weidie was able to get some Vesely quotes and video after the game on topics ranging from getting a rhythm to revitalizing his spirit for the game.
On how key getting back on the court and getting a rhythm is for him:
“It’s hard, you know. I didn’t play a couple games, but I have to stay ready.”
Is it hard to stay ready when you guys aren’t practicing a lot?
“You don’t know when a chance is coming, so you just got to stay ready every second and just keep working and stay focused.”
What are you looking to get out of playing in EuroBasket 2013?
“I want to come back and play with my old teammates and play with some of the young generation. I think it will be fun. But for me, just to get more confidence, and just to see different faces and different basketball. I think I will enjoy it.”
Will playing with Tomas help revitalize your spirit, help you gain more confidence?
“Of course. I’m looking forward to playing with [Tomas Satoransky] again, I think it will be fun for both of us.”
Vesely wouldn’t directly indicate his intentions in terms of playing in the 2013 Las Vegas NBA Summer League with the Wizards, but did admit that training with the Czech National team for EuroBasket begins at the end of July (Summer League in Vegas is tentatively scheduled to run from July 12 to 20, or so).
In all likelihood, Vesely would want time off or would not want to risk injury heading into EuroBasket, so his participation with the Wizards in Nevada is in doubt. But, if team brass is insistent that Vesely participate in summer league, then he’ll probably comply. The Wizards would likely concede that EuroBasket would do more for Vesely’s confidence, development and potential than another July in Vegas.
Jan Vesely, Wizards vs. Raptors Post-Game:
Randy Wittman on Jan Vesely (and the other Wiz Kids):
John Wall on Jan Vesely: