Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs put a stamp on a whirlwind 24 hours with an introductory press conference at HSS Training Center on Friday afternoon. With their families looking on, they met the media, then posed with their jerseys on the facility’s practice court and rooftop deck. (It’s No. 17 for Kurucs, and No. 30 for Musa).
They were joined at the press conference by Nets general manger Sean Marks, who expanded a bit on his initial thoughts from the night before.
“We’re thrilled to have both these young men here,” said Marks. “Part of our job is to find talent, develop talent, but more importantly develop young men. That’s going to be our jobs, from the front office, from the performance staff, from the coaching staff. We’re thrilled to welcome these guys to our Nets family.”
Here’s five key points addressed during Friday’s media session:
READY TO FIT IN
Musa and Kurucs are both 6-foot-9 players with perimeter-oriented offensive games, but Marks is in no hurry to narrow down what that means. Call it positional versatility or even positionless basketball, but it’s an NBA trend the Nets are leaning into. So by not fitting into any one particular spot, both Musa and Kurucs fit right into the way the Nets are trying to play.
“I would hate to pigeonhole any of these guys into, ‘You’re a 2-guard, you’re a 3-guard, you’re a 4.’ It goes back to how they develop, what their development plan is here,” said Marks. “Young guys coming into the league, there’s some stepping stones that they’ve got to go through. It would be far too early for me or anybody to decide this is the role or this is the position that they have to play. Let’s see how it pans out. But they do have a skill set – length, body size, IQ, all those intangibles.”
Both players stressed their comfort level with any position, and their confidence in having the skills to fill those roles.
“I can handle the ball a lot,” said Musa. “So, point guard, shooting guard, 3, whatever, I’m ready to do it.”
On Thursday night, Marks stressed the experience of both Kurucs and Musa in playing against “high-level competition.”
Musa is just 19 years old but has been playing professionally since he was 16.
“In Europe it’s like that,” said Musa. “If you have a little bit of talent, they push you in the fire. We’re hopefully good enough to play here.”
Kurucs is 20 years old and spent the last three years with the powerhouse club at FC Barcelona. And both players have extensive international experience playing against national teams at their age group.
“It was very helpful to play senior basketball at such a young age,” said Kurucs. “We are very ready to compete at the highest level because we already know how it is in Europe to play against grown men. But we know we have to put a lot of work in and we’re ready to do it.”
Turns out some of that tough international competition came when the pair faced each other early on.
“My first game was against this guy in national team,” said Musa. “He kicked our ass. He scored against us like, 28, 30 points. He dunked on us like eight times. So I remember this guy, a lot.”
Musa, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, is familiar with the Nets from following the team while his countryman Mirza Teletovic, who he counts as a mentor and a friend, played in Brooklyn. But he’s recently come to develop an appreciation for a legendary Net, Drazen Petrovic.
The first European player to earn an All-NBA honor while playing for the Nets in 1992-93, Petrovic was an icon in Europe before he played a minute in the NBA. His death in a 1993 automobile accident was a national tragedy.
“I didn’t know so much about him when I was playing in Bosnia,” said Musa. “But as soon as I came into Croatia, I realized how big a person, how big a player he was. I was very glad to play in his gym multiple times and I was very glad to have spoken to his friends, to his mom. She gave me advice how to succeed and you cannot buy that. That’s really amazing.”
THE NEXT STEP
Marks’ faith in coach Kenny Atkinson’s staff and the organization’s performance staff has contributed to personnel decisions, and it’s no different here. Musa and Kurucs have extensive experience for their ages, but they’re still just 19 and 20 years old. While both are 6-9, Musa weights just 195 and Kurucs 220.
“I want to gain some muscle on my body,” said Musa. “I want to work on that the entire summer. I want to improve my defense a lot because the guards in the NBA are very strong and very fast so I want to be capable of guarding them and scoring on them. It’s going to be a process, but I believe I can do that.”
Kurucs was quick to cite the franchise’s reputation for working with and developing young players as one of the reasons he was excited to be in Brooklyn.
“I look forward to getting them in here with our coaching staff, with our development staff in this system, and, to be brutally honest, to seeing what Kenny and the coaches and the performance team can do with them,” said Marks. “These guys are both hungry. They’re competitive. They’ve got a certain fire and grit to them and they want to succeed. Those are some of the intangibles that you don’t see on the court, you see behind closed doors.”
KIND OF LIKE …
It’s a staple of NBA Draft week to compare prospects to established or historical players. So who do Musa and Kurucs list as examples to follow?
“My idol growing up was Kobe Bryant because of that killer mentality,” said Musa. “All night he went on the court and he just wanted to kill everybody. From Manu Ginobili I picked up that leadership, that teamwork, that work ethic. That would be my two favorites.”
“I like Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward,” said Kurucs. “I look more like Durant because I’m so skinny. Shooting like Hayward, I have his skills. I think I’m compared to him more.”