Tarlac Breaks Barriers
Posted Mar 23 2001 12:00AM
Chat transcript: March 26
The Bulls know that in a volatile basketball market, you invest for the long term. And they're finally starting to see dividends from an investment made nearly six years ago. Chicago selected a little-known Yugoslavian player, Dragan Tarlac in the second round of the 1995 NBA Draft. He could have bolstered the front line of the Bulls' championship squads in 1996-98 with Michael Jordan and company, but Tarlac was too busy winning championships of his own in Greece. In fact, his ring total outnumbers Jordan's.
The 6-10 center played the last eight seasons with Olympiakos B.C. Piraeus of the Greece A-1 League and led his team to the National Championship in seven of them, plus a EuroLeague Cup Championship in 1997. This was the same year his Greek team faced his NBA team, Olympiakos played against the Bulls in the McDonald's Cup Championship, where Tarlac scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. His trophy case also includes four Greek League All-Star honors.
Tarlac finally signed with the Bulls on Aug. 16, but before he came stateside, he competed in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney as a member of the Yugoslavian men's basketball team. This season with the Bulls, he's played in 40 games, averaging 14.2 minutes. Tarlac is very active in the Chicago community and recently donated three skids of food in a local food drive. He'll also be participating in the U.N. hoops camp, "Basketball without Borders" this summer, bringing together players aged 12-14 from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Yugoslavia.
Tarlac speaks three languages fluently -- Yugoslavian, Greek and English -- but he stuck to English for us in a live chat on bulls.com and NBA.com on March 26.
Chris Bok from [126.96.36.199], at 3:20pm ET
How has it been adjusting to life in the NBA?
Dragan Tarlac at 3:21pm ET
It's been good. It's been hard. The team is much better than the record shows. We're young and we'll get better.
Fran Ruiz from [188.8.131.52], at 3:22pm ET
How do you feel in your new team? Knowing that is in total renovation ...
Dragan Tarlac at 3:24pm ET
It's tough when you have to and when you look at your record and you look at all those losses, but a great thing here is that we're a young team that wants to come out every night and compete.
Nobody looks at the record because we think we're much, much better than the record, it's just a question of being less experienced than other teams.
Many teams that we've lost to have said that this team will have a better record in a few years. We come out every night to beat every team we play against. That's a great positive side of this team that's totally different than what's written about the team.
Bulls Fan from [184.108.40.206], at 3:25pm ET
What is your favorite city to travel to?
Dragan Tarlac at 3:26pm ET
I am enjoying Chicago a lot, with so many nationalities here, gives so much color to this city. Two others that I really like on the road were San Fransisco and Boston.
Davor Kovac from [220.127.116.11], at 3:27pm ET
How do you feel the Yugoslavian national team will do at the upcoming european championships? Will you be particapating?
Dragan Tarlac at 3:28pm ET
Yes, I will definitely be participating. We hope to do better than the third place we got last time and the fifth place we got at the Olympics. I have not met with the coach yet, but after this season, all the NBA players are expected to go back and come together for the European Championships. And I think we will do very well.
Dawayne from [18.104.22.168], at 3:30pm ET
"How does it feel to be playing on the same floor that the greatest basketball ever played on"?
Dragan Tarlac at 3:31pm ET
It's a lot of pressure. Michael Jordan was the greatest player and had the greatest image. But we're a young team and every time we come to the Berto Center to practice, we see the images of those winning teams who were before us. So we have an obligation to live up to that history and start winning. I think we will.
Fran Ruiz from [22.214.171.124], at 3:32pm ET
What is the main diference between the European basketball and the American that you have found in your arrival?
Dragan Tarlac at 3:36pm ET
The rules are different, somewhere in between college and NBA rules, it has been different for Europe because they cut the shot clock and they cut the length of the game. They are making steps to move closer to NBA rules. Next year should bring more changes.
The biggest difference is the pace of the game. When it was 30-second clock we could see the teams holding the ball and long offenses, which wasn't fun for fans.
The competition level is different. In Europe you do have foreign players, mostly Americans, you have some big, athletic guys to compete with, but not every night.
Damir Skrinjar from [126.96.36.199], at 3:36pm ET
Who did you look up to as your idol?
Dragan Tarlac at 3:38pm ET
Probably all of us look at Michael Jordan as the greatest player.
He was a player and a person that we all look to as somethig special. The way his game was, his image, everything around him was so perfect.
Gavros from [188.8.131.52] at 3:38pm ET
Dragan, will you come back in Olympiakos ever? We are waiting for you, Big guy. Have you ever think of coming back?
Dragan Tarlac at 3:40pm ET
I think about going forward and coming to the NBA was going to a higher level of basketball. I never say I'm never going back. I didn't shut the doors back in Greece. I had a great time and the people were great to me. I'm just looking to bring my game to a higher level.
Danika from [184.108.40.206] at 3:40pm ET
What player on your team do you like to play with the most? Who do you get along with the best?
Dragan Tarlac at 3:41pm ET
I spend the most time with Dalibor Bagaric. He is from Croatia so we speak the same language and we have a lot in common.
Ante Gveric from [220.127.116.11], at 3:41pm ET
Have you ever played with your teemate Bagaric? Would there ever be conflics playing with him because he is Croatian and you are Yugoslavian?
Dragan Tarlac at 3:43pm ET
We have so much history. We live near each other; we speak the same language and our cultures have overlapped throughout the centuries. Then in the last ten years, the leaders have done things to separate the countries and pit us against each other. But for Bagaric and me, we say we shoot twos, we shoot threes, but we don't shoot guns!
Danika from [18.104.22.168] at 3:44pm ET
Do you have any pregame rituals?
Dragan Tarlac at 3:45pm ET
Nothing special that's really interesting to read. In Europe we'd all come together to the stadium by bus even at home games and we'd then come out together before the game.
Here, we get here so early, shoot around. These things are all new to me. Maybe next year I will add something new to my pregame routine.
Dragan Tarlac at 3:47pm ET
Bulls fans are the greatest fans in the league. We have a losing record and they still pack the stadium every night. We're a young team and if our fans will just be patient, we will make them proud very soon. Thank you to all my fans for writing in your questions!