Tomas Satoransky will likely never forget the cross-continent trip he made from Asia to Europe in early August for at least two reasons: It marked the end of a fulfilling stay for him in Tokyo at the Olympics, where Satoransky proudly represented the Czech Republic in men’s basketball. The flight was also when the 6-foot-7 guard learned he’d been traded to New Orleans.
“The timing wasn’t the best, because I was on the way (home to Prague), through Paris,” Satoransky said Monday morning. “When I landed, I knew the trade (happened).”
Although the circumstances behind being notified of the deal were highly unusual, the 29-year-old quickly began looking forward to joining his third different NBA franchise, where he’ll be very familiar with at least two Pelicans players, Willy Hernangomez and Garrett Temple, the latter a teammate last season in Chicago.
“I was very excited,” Satoransky said of coming to New Orleans. “I think it’s a great, young team. I’ve heard the best about the organization. Very, very excited to be around a team that has so much potential.”
Satoransky received a bit of a “scouting report” on the Pelicans from close friend Hernangomez, who played 47 games and made 12 starts for New Orleans in 2020-21. The friends were teammates in Spain when Hernangomez was still a teenager, on a squad that also featured Kristaps Porzingis. Satoransky and Hernangomez have often met up for dinner over the five seasons each has played in the NBA.
“I like this the most about him: He always gives you the numbers when he gets the opportunity,” Satoransky said of Hernangomez. “He’s the guy who can give you 10 (points) and 10 (rebounds) in one quarter. He’s always the guy who plays with a lot of energy. I always tell him he’s like a kid, but in a good way, because he just plays with a passion and he doesn’t care about anything else, but to help his team and play with energy. That’s why he always fits in whenever his name is called.”
NBA analysts have often described Satoransky in similar terms, as a savvy player who makes minimal mistakes and thrives on setting up teammates for open shots. Satoransky is commonly among the league leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio, having averaged 5.4 assists and just 1.8 turnovers in 333 career games (169 starts).
“In my five years in the NBA, I think I’ve shown people I know how to play with different lineups,” Satoransky said. “I can adjust a lot to whatever the team needs me to do. I always find pride in playing very hard every day, playing hard on defense and offense, and being a team player. I always try to improve the teammates that I’m playing around, always getting them involved and trying to make them better… I always take pride in my teammates liking to share the floor with me.”
Satoransky and Temple, 35, bonded last season as Bulls teammates who joined forward Thaddeus Young in mentoring Chicago’s collection of young players.
“Garrett helped me with a lot of things and helped with the young guys we had last year with the Bulls,” Satoransky said of the Baton Rouge native and LSU product. “Obviously he’s going back home, so I know he’s very excited. I think it always helps when you share this process (of changing teams) with someone you know, that you played with. He’s one of the best professionals that I was around. That’s what (the Pelicans) will get from him, to kind of help the young guys to develop.”
New Orleans’ roster is composed similarly, with numerous players in the early stages of their professional careers. Also like Chicago, the Pelicans are hoping to make a jump to playoff participation in 2021-22. Satoransky is intrigued by New Orleans’ talent and upside.
“I was definitely very excited,” Satoransky said of rejoining Hernangomez and playing for the Pelicans. “He told me about New Orleans and (his) teammates, and always spoke very highly of them. Thanks to that, I’m very excited.”