A Look at #FreeSato Coverage in the Czech Media | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

A Look at #FreeSato Coverage in the Czech Media

Updated: March 19, 2018

[Drawing by Bretislav Kovarik appears in a story in the print edition of Sport, titled “Sato is Freed.”]

Nope, the #FreeSato movement is not yet a phenomenon in the Czech lands. Basketball is not that popular here. But even casual Czech sports fans know that their country has a player in the best basketball league on Earth. And with the way Tomas Satoransky has been ballin’ lately, his popularity is growing with each game.

Since the birth of the #FreeSato movement in October 2016, my main man Adam Rubin has been proselytizing/tweeting/speaking on behalf of Tomas Satoransky, and I — as a TAI correspondent monitoring the Czech media coverage of Tomas — have been noticing every mention of #FreeSato in the Czech newspapers and on the Czech sports sites.

Well, there have been exactly three #FreeSato articles of note. The first one by Jiri Puncochar, introducing Adam to Czech basketball fans, appeared last February in the sports daily Sport and is translated below:

The Founder of #FreeSato Has Spoken: Speed ​​Up Satoransky’s Shot Release and He’ll Be Good

In Washington, D.C., Tomas Satoransky has one big supporter. A local reporter named Adam Rubin has been following his play since 2012, when the USK Prague product was drafted by the Wizards, and keeps saying that Satoransky has a lot of promise. He looks critically on the way the Wizards use their rookie. Although he sees his weaknesses, he believes in his potential. That’s why at the beginning of the season he thought up the Twitter hashtag #FreeSato, calling for liberation of Satoransky from the bench.

Rubin, an American, has been following the Washington Wizards for more than thirty years. The last few years he has been a writer at Truth About It, a blog affiliated with ESPN.

Since last year he’s known among the Czech basketball fans, too. The 39-year-old Rubin first saw Satoransky play in 2012, when he liked his performances at the Summer League in Las Vegas. When the Czech player came to Washington last year and the preseason NBA games began, Rubin was convinced: this is a pure point guard, a player whom the Wizards have long been looking for. An ideal guy as a backup to John Wall, the team’s All-Star.

“Personally, I have been a Satoransky fan since I first saw him play. Then we waited until he came to the NBA. In last year’s preseason, Wall was being saved for the regular season, and Satoransky was getting playing time and he played really well. Trey Burke, another point guard backup on the team, didn’t play that well. Even the fans saw it. After a few games it was clear that the chance to be the team’s backup point guard should be given to Satoransky,” says Rubin.

During one of the preseason games which he was watching at home on the TVan idea flashed in his head: to make a tweet with the #FreeSato hashtag and start a movement of sorts. Now there are like-minded fans who also tweet #FreeSato, supporting Satoransky.

“You always want your team to have more options. The Wizards history says that the last four years they have had problems finding a capable backup point guard. They‘ve tried a lot of guys. Satoransky was the first one who was a pure point guard able to be a floor leader, able to run a half-court set and so on. He’s not a good shooter yet, because he still has to work on that part of his game. But having someone like him spelling John Wall, that would be great. I wanted him to play more. I did the hashtag for him because I liked him,” says Rubin.

At that time he did not yet know that Satoransky’s nickname is Saty. Thus, the #FreeSato hashtag is not exactly accurate — comes with a letter O instead of Y.

The #FreeSato initiative soon came through to the Wizards locker room. “The beat writers asked me about it. There are millions things like that happening here. It kind of belongs a bit to the NBA folklore,” says Satoransky with shrugged shoulders.

Interestingly, it is said that Satoransky learned from Rubin that he would be starting his first NBA game. The journalists were told about it from coach Scott Brooks before the game and Rubin then went to the locker room and there he asked Satoransky if he’s looking forward to be in the starting five.

Am I really starting?” the Czech playmaker couldn’t believe what he just heard.

In another interview, Rubin was asking Satoransky about his instructions from the coach. When Satoransky and Burke are on the floor together, is it predetermined who has the ball more and who calls the plays?

“Tomas told me that it isn’t predetermined. He said that the player who gets the ball first has it in his hands,” the reporter says with frowned eyebrows. In his opinion it’s wrong. He says it would be ideal if Satoransky got more playing time, but if it is not possible due to Wall playing great and being one of the MVP candidates, at least the Czech should get more opportunities to play with the ball than Burke.

Supposedly, the situation can change if Satoransky improves his shooting. Or at least that’s what Rubin would expect to happen. “Tomas has the same weakness in shooting like Wall once had, namely that his shot release is slow. He needs to speed it up, to release the ball quicker,” reasons Rubin.

It’s known that the 25-year-old player has been working on his jump shot with a shooting coach. So where’s the problem according to the American writer? “Sometimes he [Satoransky] is open beyond the three-point line, and he gets the ball, but it takes him too long to shoot it and the defender is able to close out on him. As far as guarding the shooter is concerned, the NBA is very quick and athletic. If Satoransky will shoot faster and if he will make those shots, it will bring him a bigger portion of playing time,” opines Rubin.

At that time there was also an iDNES.cz article titled “#FreeSato: How a Washington journalist fights for the only Czech in the NBA.”

And last weekend, I came across the Czech Radio article “Free Satoransky! The Only Czech in the NBA is Getting More and More Playing Time,” by Jan Kaliba who did an interview with Adam in D.C., and after the Raptors game spoke with Tomas about his latest performances, too.

Saty gave him a couple of interesting quotes which I translated and tweeted here:

A month ago — after starting and excelling in four games in a row (remember the block on Russ Westbrook?) — Satoransky also talked about the differences between being an NBA starter and coming off the bench and what Coach Brooks wants from him:

Satoransky on being a starter in the NBA…

“It’s not a major problem for me. I have known my teammates for a long time now and I’ve already been with them on the court. The biggest difference is to go up against the other team’s starting five. Especially at the point guard position the teams often have their big stars. Those guys are dynamic and athletic scorers, so it definitely requires greater readiness and concentration right from the start. I try to devote my time to watching film and prepare for those point guard duels. It’s a challenge, but I like challenges, so I enjoy it. … Only now I really understand how demanding the NBA is and why teams don’t practice that much during the season. As long as you don’t play those starter minutes, you perceive it a bit differently.

Satoransky on his role as a starting point guard…

“My job is to be a floor general, don’t turn the ball over, and to try to get my teammates involved. [Ideally] I want push the ball immediately up court and get us an easy bucket. On defense I try to bring energy – just the same as when I was coming off the bench. [Moreover] now I get into positions where I can be more aggressive and where I can shoot it.”


As I was reading that very Czech Radio article, a friend of mine, Martin Bystricky, sent me a message basically saying, “There’s a great piece about Satoransky in today’s print edition of Sport.” It was already evening here, but he went out and bought that newspaper, for which I’m very thankful. In it, a former basketball player and Czech NBA aficionado Adam Nenadal (@ANenadal) opines — among other things — that “by the way, Satoransky is globally one of the most notable Czech athletes of today.”

Nenadal makes the case that because “the worldwide popularity of the NBA is comparable only to that of English Premier League,” Satoransky is a Czech global sports star on the same level as double Winter Olympic gold winner Ester Ledecka. Nenadal then mentions the legendary Isiah Thomas (plus C-Webb and Baron Davis as well) talking up Saty, which is obviously a big honor for Tomas:

Nenadal writes that “the way Satoransky shines on the court is noteworthy; his biggest asset is a fundamentally sound game. Fundamental basketball: low turnovers, great passing, finding open teammates, shooting good shots, engaged defense, posting up smaller guards.” Thereafter he mentions how he was exchanging e-mails about non-sports stuff with his friend from Boston, who he says is not a sports fanatic, and the Bostonian guy finished his e-mail with this: “Thought of you the other day when this Czech guy on the Wizards was giving us problems! Tomas Satoransky?”

The column’s title is “SATO IS FREED” and it includes the drawing by Bretislav Kovarik at the top of this post. Nenadal concludes the article with these three sentences: “#FreeSato tweets were calls to liberate Satoransky from the bench. It happened. And the NBA now watches with astonishment what free Sato can do.

Yes, #FreeSato forever!

Lukas Kuba