By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
“I am sorry but I can’t give you a headline”. That’s what Vasilje Micic said when asked about his future and the NBA. He wasn’t denying any comment, he wasn’t trying to avoid the question, but just minutes after winning the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, he was already calm and composed like he is on the court.
After all, NBA rumors have been part of Micic’s life since he was a teenage prospect. However, after being drafted with the 52nd pick back in 2014 by the Sixers, his career was almost derailed after a series of injuries and bad fits on teams where he signed.
“I was a big NBA prospect when I was young. And then I had some to go through some very difficult situations, because of that”, Micic explained.
“They were pushing me to the skies, I was always realistic about myself. And after that, I said that I would not plan anything. Honestly, right now I am just thinking about how to stay calm, to finish this season, because that’s what makes me feel relaxed. Of course, I am aware of the NBA rumors, there’s something in the air, but I have not made any decision yet. This is something that I have kind of experienced before and I like to stay grounded. I think it’s something that’s going to come up soon, the season is ending soon. And sooner or later I may have to make this decision”.
Chances are that Micic, a free agent in the summer, will end up in the NBA. And he is ready beyond any doubt. He won the EuroLeague, leading Anadolu Efes to its first-ever title, he was the season MVP and the EuroLeague Final Four MVP.
And beyond that, as he admitted to Eurohoops, at 27 years of age, he is finally entering the stage of his career where the game is slowing down for him and he sees things that previously he couldn’t.
To be exact, Micic is feeling that he gets to the level of game awareness that can be compared to how Luka Doncic sees the NBA game: “I spoke yesterday to (ed. note: Anadolu Efes teammate and former NBA champion) Rodrigue Beaubois and he told me a similar thing. For me, one of the examples that I learned from, speaking for other players, is Luka Doncic. I was watching him, he is five years younger than me. This guy has something that I had never seen. I played against him and I always said to myself: “There’s something secret that he is doing. The thing that he does and creates his space”. When you have this kind of confidence, this is the most important thing, to control yourself and to have your own rhythm and momentum. He is doing that at the NBA level and it’s really important to be able to do that on the court. I am feeling that this ability is starting to come to me also and there’s always room to improve. But I am going in that direction and I am trying to improve everything”.
It’s a level of basketball IQ that few can achieve and Micic right now feels that he is entering basketball nirvana: “All these three years I was trying to dedicate myself towards this direction. It’s something that opponents have seen and understand. I am really calm. I am not faking it, I still have my share of reactions, spontaneous reactions on the court, but when I am concentrated, people probably recognize it. This is something that I really work on”.
And that comes out not only of talent but also of painful experience in the case of Micic. After bouncing around between Bayern Munich, Crvena Zvezda, and Tofas, Micic made the first step to “enlightenment” after signing with Zalgiris Kaunas and being part of a miracle Cinderella run that ended in the Final Four semifinal of 2018: “My first final four in Belgrade was a great learning experience for me. Just the excitement to be in a final, to be part of the scene that I was watching while I was growing up, took away my concentration. So that time, after the semifinal I said to myself: “This is just a game. You have to prepare yourself as you do in every game of the regular season”.
The second step came one year in the 2019 Final Four with Anadolu Efes and then in this year’s semifinal against CSKA Moscow: “In Vitoria, I had a much better semifinal against Fenerbahce. I was calm, I didn’t chase points, the MVP award, or whatever. And in the final against CSKA, I wasn’t that calm again. But I always try to give my best. I am still young, but also kind of old for the point guard position. And after the final once again I talked honestly to myself and said: “Hey, you didn’t do well. You have to learn from this”. I think that I have learned. And I also learned from the semifinal of this Final Four against CSKA. I saved my energy for the last quarter of the final, cause in the semifinal I couldn’t help my team in the last three minutes after being ejected with five fouls”.
In the final, especially in the second half, it was Micic’s time to shine: “I wanted to be on the court in the closing minutes of the final, without, however, a special plan. I was also trying a lot in the first half, but I didn’t really control myself. Still, I knew that my time would come and all this happened in the second half”.
So how he managed to manhandle Barcelona’s defense? “I used to play for Sarunas Jasikevicius and he is close to genius in everything basketball-related. Playing for him was a big lesson for me, but in Efes, I got something that I was always looking for and that’s freedom on the court. I think that now I have a very good awareness of my mistakes, of what works and what is not, and I get the freedom from the coach to make mistakes. So even when they played really good defense, I was keeping myself ready for the moments, because in this kind of close contest, in two or three minutes you can break the game open, and you have to stay consistent. And this is what happened in the second half.”
It was a fairy tale ending, an incredible fulfillment with one bitter footnote.
“I wasn’t planning to say this tonight, everyone has difficult moments, this is the time to celebrate but I definitely miss my mom. I wanted to avoid this, but she is the most important person in my life”.
Vasilje Micic lost his mother Vesela during the 2019 FIBA World Cup. At the time, he was playing basketball in China with the Serbian national team. And when he is on the court, he is calm.
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