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Dzanan Musa Settled in Brooklyn and Looking Forward

Young Net training for Summer League with an eye on second NBA season

First impressions can often last, and that is the case for Dzanan Musa and his earliest days in Brooklyn.

It was a whirlwind experience for a 19-year-old from Bosnia and Herzegovina last summer as he took his first steps into settling in a new home. In the early days of summer, when the East River waterfront buzzes with energy in the shadows of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, he found his spot.

“I just kind of found it on my own,” says Musa. “I Googled the places where I could go on my first two, three days, and when I settled down I said to myself, ‘We’re going to Dumbo.’”

He returns regularly, and last week he stopped in for lunch at one of his favorite spots, Sugarcane, settling in for a lunch of California rolls at an outdoor table as the foot traffic filled the sidewalks. Typically, he likes to come a little bit earlier in the day when things are a little quieter.

“That’s my go-to when I come here,” says Musa of his lunch order. “But this is my place, the first place when I came in Brooklyn, the first place I visited, so it’s close to my heart.”

He’s amazed at how quickly time has flown since those days. It’s closing in on a year since Musa heard NBA commissioner Adam Silver call his name from the stage at Barclays Center as the Nets made him the 29th pick of the 2018 NBA Draft. Surrounded by family, with the retired jersey banner of childhood hero Drazen Petrovic hanging from the rafters above, Musa recalls being overwhelmed by the moment.

“I was cool most of the night,” says Musa. “I was sitting there in my new suit and new shoes. It was all good. The moment when all the cameras were pointing at me, I started to cry. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what was the reason of that. But all the emotions, all the hard work, all the dedication, all the sacrifices were in my head. I just was proud of myself at that moment that I reached a level that I could say that I’m playing in the NBA that I realized at the same point that this is only the beginning, that I have to work twice as much as before just to become part of a standard rotation in the NBA.”

Make no mistake, Musa is relentlessly determined to make that last bit a reality as soon as possible.

He spent most of his rookie season in the NBA G League, playing nine games with Brooklyn and 36 for the Long Island Nets. With Long Island he averaged 19.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

Musa spent more time in Brooklyn than just the nine games, and the dual experience provided him with the best of both worlds. He absorbed lessons about the professional life from vets like Jared Dudley and Ed Davis and bonded with younger teammates like D’Angelo Russell, who was part of a group of Brooklyn players who went out to Long Island to cheer on the G League squad in the playoffs.

He had the benefit of not just major minutes, but a leading role on the court with Long Island. The 6-foot-9 guard/forward was put in a position to share a playmaking role in a wide-open offense, expanding and refining his game. Through it all, the synergy between Brooklyn and Long Island made the experience seamless.

“That’s crazy how similar practices are, how similar coaches are,” said Musa. “It’s crazy that I don’t feel any difference when I’m in Brooklyn and in Long Island except for obviously the crowds and the quality of the players. I think everything Long Island is doing is reflective of the Brooklyn Nets, so I think that’s a great part of our organization.”

With Musa second on the team in scoring, Long Island finished in first place in the Eastern Conference, won the Eastern Conference playoff title and advanced to the G League Finals before falling in the decisive Game 3 to Rio Grande Valley.

“We had guys with high character,” said Musa. “We had guys who were loving to be on the court. We love to play with each other. We had a great coach. We had a great coaching staff. So I think that family mentality within us brought us to the finals and at the end we just missed it for the one win. But I’m proud with what we became and what we achieved.”

Soon after the playoffs wrapped up, Musa took a trip home before returning to Brooklyn, where he’s maintained a steady presence at HSS Training Center with daily morning workouts. For Musa, season two began in May with phase one his preparation for NBA Summer League in July.

He calls it “the highlight of my summer,” an opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff and make a case that he’s ready to contribute next season. There’s nothing more important to him right now.

“Just to clear my head, just to be ready for this right here,” said of the brief respite back home. “And I had the opportunity to go right now again I think but I decided to stay right here and prepare myself for the Summer League because that’s really important to me and to the other guys.”

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Shortly after he was drafted last summer, Musa took a ride out to Coney Island with fellow rookie Rodions Kurucs as part of an introduction to Brooklyn by the team. He and Kurucs played a few games, mugged for pictures and video, and talked about what they hoped the future held.

He’s been back once, bringing his visiting family on a little sightseeing trip. It brought him back to last summer, those first days in Brooklyn.

“I was walking there three or four months ago and I think that reflected of me going eight months ago and now it’s like a whole other person,” said Musa. “I’m a whole other person. I was walking with my family over there and it’s a special feeling when you realize that you’re drafted here and you have so much love for this city and I’m looking forward to the rest of the seasons.”

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