Jan Vesely on New Basketball Life, the Lost NBA, and All the Reasons Why | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Jan Vesely on New Basketball Life, the Lost NBA, and All the Reasons Why

Updated: October 31, 2014

[Ed. Note: Jan Vesely, #NeverForget … right? Don’t worry, we won’t. Washington’s 2011 first round draft pick, sixth overall, and the former Czech version of the American version of a very poor man’s Blake Griffin now finds himself back in Europe. Three NBA seasons (two teams), 162 games (25 starts), and 2,455 total minutes was the chance that Vesely got. Now, according to him, he was tired of having to prove himself. And thus, this summer’s retreat to a comfort zone. Boy Honza is not putting to bed his NBA dreams just yet, but he’s certainly got a long, long way to go before even having a chance at returning. Vesely recently sat down with the Czech basketball publication BasketMag.cz for an interview on an array of topics. TAI’s Czech correspondent, Lukas Kuba (@Luke_Mellow), provides a translation of that interview below. —Kyle W.]

Fenerbahce Ulker's Jan Vesely talking to the Czech media last week.

[Fenerbahce Ulker’s Jan Vesely talking to the Czech media last week.]

Jan Vesely on his end in the NBA (and potential return), beating Saty, connection with Obradovic, and reason for not representing the Czech national team

[via BasketMag.cz – October 23, 2014]

Jan Vesely on his summer decision-making process in regard to where he’ll play this season:

At that time (the beginning of free agency), I was in America and everybody had to wait until NBA teams signed the major stars. In the meantime, Fenerbahçe [Ulker] came calling. I let that aside for some time and waited to see if some NBA team would be interested in me, but those offers weren’t to my liking. For example, there was one offer for just one season and then (after the season) they would decide again what to do next. And it didn’t suit me, there was no assurance, and it’d be a lot of pressure on myself. In contrast, Fenerbahçe got me a two-year contract and the chance to play, so I took it as the most important [factor].

On which NBA team offered him the aforementioned one-year deal:

I wouldn’t want to comment on that.

On if his stint in Denver played a role in his decision making:

It did not. Those months in Denver I played more than in Washington, but it didn’t play any role. I just didn’t want to go somewhere where I had to prove again that I can play or to think about the fact that I had to show something (in order to play). I just want to play.

On if he heard from other European clubs, and the Real Madrid rumor:

There was some talk about Real way back during last season, but I just read about it. I don’t know anything about it. And there wasn’t any [European] offer before the Fenerbahçe one. 

On if the fact that Fenerbahçe has Serbians on the team influenced him to pick them:

Of course, the first question was who leads the team, and that is coach [Zeljko] Obradovic. It was the most important thing for me. It was always my dream to play under him, so I’m glad it came true.

Vesely with Fenerbahce coach Zeljko Obradovic.

[Vesely with Fenerbahce coach Zeljko Obradovic. — photos from the Turow Zgorzelec vs. Fenerbahce Ulker Euroleague game, courtesy of Basketmag.cz and Xbasket.net.]


On if coach Obradovic wanted him in the past, back when he was coaching Panathinaikos Athens and Jan was a Partizan Belgrade player:

There was some contact between us then, but this summer it was definitely more serious. We knew each other since our stint in Partizan—we played some preseason games against Panathinaikos, too, and actually, we share the same agent. And with regard to Panathinaikos, I think that he wanted me to play for them, but I was still just a young player then, playing under coach [Dusko] Vujosevic, and it was wiser to stay there at that time.

On how many times, in his short time in Fenerbahçe, he’s been yelled at by coach Obradovic:

Every day there’s someone. It happened to me already a few times, too. It’s about being focused all the time and not making any mistakes. He’s a demanding coach, probably he’s not ideal for every player, but [after three years in Serbia] I got used to it and I don’t mind. I consider myself a half-Serbian, I just like the Serbian school [of coaching].


On what he thinks is the main reason for not being an NBA player anymore and for his return to Europe after three seasons:

I didn’t play and didn’t get the opportunity I had envisioned. That‘s the only reason for my return. I don’t want to sit on the bench anymore and to prove something [to NBA teams], having to think about doing such and such thing. Now I play and here in Fenerbahçe the players have the support [of the coach]. That’s why I’m happy here.


On if he had bad luck in regard to his team and head coach in the NBA:

This is all about that business of the NBA. Either I accept it or I somehow fight with it. Honestly, I don’t know how I could have fought it, but also I cannot say if I had bad luck with the coach or team.

On if some NBA teams would suit him more:

I played for two teams and I can’t say how it would have looked in San Antonio or somewhere else. Therefore, I can’t assess whether it would be better on some other team elsewhere. But I know what kind of style of play and coaching the Serbian coaches have.

On last month’s NBA Global Games preseason game versus the Spurs:

It was a good game. Basically every time I played against them I did well. They play a European style defense and offense, which suits me well. I took it as a normal game, there was no nostalgia [about missing the NBA]. It was one of the first games in front of our fans and we wanted to leave a good impression. [In the beginning of the second half] we defended well and quickly ran into fastbreaks where it’s easiest to throw me the ball for alley-oops, especially when I was the first player down the floor. And we had one alley-oop while playing a halfcourt offense, too. That was a play from our playbook.

On if the level of play in the Euroleague is not that far behind the NBA:

When the best club team in the world comes, of course you’re pumped up to play. So even when the team is weaker on paper, such a team usually finds extra energy [and can play them evenly].


On if you can compare the quality of the Fenerbahçe team with what you experience in the NBA:

I wouldn’t compare this. All the teams in the NBA are quality teams, but you can say the same about teams in Euroleague, too. So then it’s about assembling the particular rosters and how the coach can use those players. 

On if he permanently closed the door on his career in the NBA:

No. At the end of this [two-year] contract I will be 26 years old. I don’t take the NBA as a closed chapter. But my head is now in Fenerbahçe, and I try to do my best for the team and likewise for myself.


On if the fact that only a few players managed to return to the NBA from Europe concerns him at all:

I didn’t think about that. I wouldn’t stay in the NBA riding the bench and agonizing about not playing just because once you leave it’s more difficult to come back there. Then it’s better to leave to Europe, which I did.

On his ambitions with Fenerbahce this season:

[Our ambitions are] high. We want to go as far as we can in Euroleague and to win the Turkish league championship.


On if he’s looking forward to the crazy atmosphere in the derby match against cross-town rival Galatasaray:

[Of course, I do.] I know how [passionate] the Serbians fans are in those derby games, so these games are always tense and inflammatory.

On if he’s looking forward to playing a Euroleague game against good pal Tomas Satoransky and FC Barcelona:

Definitely. The first game is a home game for us, so that’s an advantage. It will be the first official game ever when we two match-up against each other. Of course, Fenerbahçe is going to win both games. (laughs)


On a change moving from 650,000-populated Washington, D.C., to 14 million Euro-Asian city of Istanbul, Turkey:

To me, it comes as a sort of a bigger Belgrade. Everyone drives like crazy here, riding through Istanbul traffic jams is quite a madhouse. And basically no one speaks English in Istanbul, which is a difference compared to Belgrade, where you can [generally] converse in some foreign language. In Turkey, when you go shopping somewhere or to the restaurant, it’s a problem. Then the only way to communicate is by hands and legs. At least until I learn Turkish… When I came here I said to myself that I’d try to learn something, some Turkish phrases, but after a month I gave up. (laughs)

On his broadly-criticized decision to not play for the Czech Rep. national team in EuroBasket 2015 Qualification games this summer:

Well, I didn’t want to use the national team in order to play some games… At that time I hadn’t scrimmaged 5-on-5 for three long months, everything had been just 1-on-1 or individual workouts. So to come to the national team and immediately play real games where everybody would expect big things from me… In case I didn’t play well, everyone would have been assessing it as poor. Therefore, when I came to Istanbul on Monday [Note: a few days before the start of Qualification] to sign a contract, I said that I wouldn’t be able to come back in time for the qualification and thus I withdrew from playing. On Wednesday, Fenerbahçe announced the signing of the contract, but physical tests lasted until Friday. What then appeared in the newspapers, I won’t comment on that, but I can’t say I didn’t communicate with the national team [brass]. They expected I’d come to join the team Friday or even during the qualification. But after three months of not playing [any games], I was concerned about what my performance would look like. Moreover, I didn’t find it reasonable to join a team which already had been practicing together for month and a half. That’s why I made ​that decision. 

On if some national team players tried to persuade him to play:

No one tried to persuade me, we just called each other a few times.

On his participation in the EuroBasket 2015:

The season will be long and ends later than the NBA regular season. We’ll see how it all plays out. But I never had a tendency to not represent [my country] and I am inclined to play next summer. I‘d definitely love to play.


Lukas Kuba