OAKLAND — Nemanja Nedovic is a long way from home. He’s in the Golden State, for a while, he hopes, and can’t believe it:
“Finally, yeah. It’s very exciting.”
The Warriors dealt their way to the 30th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft to acquire the 6-foot-3 Serbian guard, who arrived Monday night after a 12-hour European flight.
Nedovic said it still hasn’t sunk in that he’s in the NBA, playing alongside people he has idolized:
“It’s still unreal that I’m here with them and shaking their hands.”
Head coach Mark Jackson describes Nedovic a guy who can make plays, a deceptively fast player who is very good with the ball in his hands.
Jackson said Nedovic isn’t expected to play lights-out right away and that they’re going to be patient with his progress:
“He’a guy that we drafted for a reason. We like what he brings to the table and we’ll see where it falls.”
Golden State training camp officially began Saturday, and though Nedovic was the last to arrive, he’s not worried. He said the time he spent with some of the team during Las Vegas Summer League is helping.
In Vegas, Nedovic got to spend time with Warriors teammates off the court and also familiarized himself with some of the team’s plays and defensive schemes.
Jackson agrees that Vegas was helpful, but now it’s about getting him on the court:
“He’s not really behind because a lot of the stuff he knows from the couple of days he spent with us in Summer League. He picks up stuff relatively quickly, now its about getting game reps.”
Nedovic said he is tired from his long summer that included training with and playing in the European Championship for the Serbian national team. But he said playing against the likes of Tony Parker and Ricky Rubio made it worth it.
As Nedovic steers toward a rookie season in the NBA, Nedovic said he expects to have to work for his playing time:
“I just want to earn my minutes. I’m not here to sit on the bench but I want to earn my minutes. We’ll see, I’ll do my best during practice, practice hard, learn from the veterans and I think it’s going to be enough.”
Roster spots at the guard position are limited, with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Toney Douglas already slotted in. Nedovic will likely be competing for minutes at the wing with fan favorite Kent Bazemore.
Bazemore said he doesn’t see it that way, and that practice competition is about pushing each other to the next level and getting better as a team, not as an individual:
“You can’t really be a selfish player like that in this league. Then everyone gets their own agendas and you’re not gonna win that way. I think we’re all on same page in that we all want to win a championship.”
With the perimeter talent on the Warriors roster, Nedovic is aware of the battle he’ll face in trying to get minutes. Staying positive though is something he knows will pay off:
“Two years ago I had a lot of ups and downs in my career during my season in Belgrade (Serbia) and I stayed positive and that’s why I’m here today. I don’t expect anything to be given to me.”
Prior to training camp, Warriors general manager Bob Myers said that if Nedovic was having trouble getting into the rotation, he doesn’t want to see him go back to Europe, but instead would have him play in Santa Cruz for Golden State’s D-League affiliate.
While European basketball is gaining traction, Nedovic said that the NBA is the best league in the world where all the best players play and he’s just trying to adapt as fast as he can. Part of adapting is taking on the role of the rookie.
Nedovic said he’s seen videos of NBA rookie hazing, including the Warriors filling Kent Bazemore’s car with popcorn. Nedovic laughed as he said his plan is to make sure he’s on the veterans’ good side so that he doesn’t become another victim:
“I watched on YouTube, the popcorn prank. I’m going to do whatever they say. I don’t want to be in Kent’s position.”
The Warriors take a day off from practice Wednesday, with only two more days of training remaining before their first exhibition game Saturday against the Lakers in Ontario, Calif. Golden State then returns to face the Sacramento Kings at Oracle Arena on Monday.