August 31, 2007

Growing up in Eastern Europe, Kosta Perovic always dreamed of someday playing in the NBA. The young basketball player from Serbia-Montenegro, who idolized fellow countryman Vlade Divac, worked tirelessly on his game and showed enough potential to sign his first professional contract at the age of 16.

Since then, it’s been all basketball all the time for the 7-foot-2 soon-to-be NBA rookie.

For those not familiar with Perovic, he was the Warriors second round selection (#38 overall) in the 2006 NBA Draft, but he did not immediately sign with the team. After playing one additional season in Europe last year, the Warriors decided it was time to bring the 22-year old big man to America, signing him on August 3.

“We are excited that Kosta will be joining our team this season,” said Warriors Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Chris Mullin following the signing. “He is a very skilled player and we think that he has tremendous potential. We look forward to getting him in our system and continuing his development.”

WARRIORS.COM EXTRAS
Tim Roye Interviews Kosta Perovic
Kosta Perovic Attends
Warriors Basketball Camp
Although he’s the age of a typical college senior, Perovic already owns seven years of professional basketball experience. Playing for the top team in Serbia – Partizan Belgrade – Perovic helped the club win Serbian League titles in each of the past five seasons. But unlike NBA teams, European clubs often play in several different leagues. Partizan Belgrade, for example, participates not only in the Serbian League, but also in the Adriatic League and Euroleague.

All of this competition leaves little room for relaxation, especially when one takes into account the fact that many of the top players in Europe also participate on their respective countries’ national teams.

“Our season is 11 months,” said Perovic in an exclusive sit-down with warriors.com. “We start at the beginning of August and we end at the end of June. But for guys who play for the national team, there is no rest time. This year I had six days of rest between the seasons. Last year after we took the championship, I took a flight the next morning to the U.S. to prepare for the NBA Draft, and then returned later to play with the national team.”

Playing so much and so often will certainly help Perovic deal with the grind of the NBA’s 82-game schedule, but it also took a toll on his body at times. And though he just recently finished playing for Partizan Belgrade, Perovic is now completely focused on becoming the best player he can be for the Warriors. He knows that he still has plenty to learn and much room to grow if he wants to contribute for Golden State.

Perovic has been a common site at the Warriors Practice Facility this summer. (warriors.com photo)

For these reasons, Perovic made the decision to skip this summer’s European Championships in order to come to Oakland early to begin working out, getting stronger and getting healthy for the Warriors’ upcoming season. The decision was a tough one, and one that was somewhat contentious back home in Serbia. When Perovic announced that he was going to forego playing for the national team for the first time in five years, Serbian official Dragan Kapicic publicly questioned Kosta’s dedication to his home country.

Being called out upset Perovic, especially considering the circumstances. He made sure to talk to Serbian Head Coach Zoran Slavnic so that he could explain his reasons for missing the tournament.

“I spoke with Coach Slavnic and told him that I had five years in a row with no rest. I was injured two years ago with a twisted ankle and a broken finger and some other things,” Perovic stated when asked about his decision. “I need some time to prepare my body if I want to play basketball at a high level. I need to prepare my body for every challenge with both my national team and the NBA. I just cancelled this summer, I didn’t cancel forever. I told him I was very thankful for putting me on the team, but I asked him to understand my situation.”

It is quite obvious that Perovic’s decision was well thought out. He knew full well that he had a responsibility to the Warriors, and to himself, to be ready for his rookie season. Coming to the Bay Area ahead of schedule has given him the opportunity to heal from his past injuries, to work on important aspects of his game and to go up against fellow rookies Brandan Wright and Stephane Lasme at the Warriors Practice Facility each day. He has fulfilled his dream of making it to the NBA, but he wants to make sure that when he steps out onto that court, he is completely prepared to make an impact.

“When I grew up, my goal of making it to the NBA started coming closer and closer. I knew if I played [well] over in Europe there would be a chance for me to play in the NBA. Now the Warriors are giving me a chance, so I will try to prove myself.”

Perovic will be making a transition not only to playing in the NBA, but to living in America and traveling across the country with his teammates. The fact that he will be one of up to seven foreign-born players on the Warriors roster should help ease the transition. Perovic also keeps in constant contact with several Serbian players with NBA experience.

“It will probably help to have [the international players] on the team,” said Perovic. “I know Andris (Biedrins), and I talk to (former Warrior) Zarko Cabarkapa a lot. I was in L.A. working out last weekend with Zarko. I will talk to him this year and I have contact with Nenad Krstic as well.”

With all of this preparation and guidance, Perovic is an interesting piece for the Warriors in 2007-08. Warriors fans are ready to see him play, and he is taking every step to make sure they like what they see.

“I am looking forward to the challenge,” said Perovic. “My goal is to help the Warriors get back into the playoffs and to keep becoming a better player.”

Combined with his work ethic and 7-foot-2 frame, statements like these exemplify exactly why the Serbian team covets Perovic so much – and exactly how much Warriors fans have to look forward to.

For more on Kosta Perovic, listen to Tim Roye's warriors.com exclusive interview by clicking here.

For the latest news on the team, visit Warriors Off-Season Central.