On the first day of the rest of their professional basketball lives, young European-born forwards Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs wasted no time making themselves at home in Brooklyn as the newest Nets. Both were accompanied by family members to their introductory news conference Friday, and they expressed their delight to be in the New York metro area with an organization dedicated to developing them.
Kurucs is a 6-9 forward from Latvia who was taken in the second round with the 40th overall pick, and even though the Nets showed interest a year ago before he took his name out of the draft, he said: “I was super, super surprised. Actually, that was where I wanted to go, this place with the Nets. I’m happy to be here.
“I know the staff is great here, the club is great for the performance, and I know they’ll work with the young guys . . . They give you everything you need to improve your game. That’s the most important thing on this club.”
On draft night, Musa admitted crying when his name was called with the 29th pick of the first round. “It was very emotional, a very exciting time for us and our families,” he said.
Musa is a 6-9 guard/forward who is from Bosnia and Herzegovina but played professionally the past three seasons in Croatia. Because of that background, he feels a connection to the Nets by way of his friendship with Bosnian Mirza Teletovic, who played for the Nets from 2012-15, and through his admiration for Croatian Drazen Petrovic, who starred for the Nets from 1990-93 before dying in an auto accident.
In the days leading up to the draft, Musa spoke several times with Teletovic. “Mirza Teletovic was playing here, so I watched the Brooklyn Nets a lot because that’s my captain of the national team,” Musa said. We’re good friends . . . I’m very thankful and appreciative to have a friend like him.”
While playing for Cedevita Zagreb, Musa learned all about Petrovic, whose jersey was retired by the Nets.
“I didn’t know so much about him when I was playing in Bosnia, but as soon as I came to Croatia, I realized how big a person, how big a player he was,” Musa said. “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. You cannot buy that. That’s really amazing.”
Asked if they had met or competed against each other in Europe before sharing the podium at the Nets’ training facility, Musa smiled and said of Kurucs: “Actually, my first game was against this guy with the national team . . . He scored against us like 20, 30 points. He dunked on us like eight times. So I remember this guy.”
The new Nets said they expect to take part in the Las Vegas Summer League, but general manager Sean Marks cautioned that their playing status must be evaluated after their recently completed seasons in Europe.
Both players have lofty aspirations. Kurucs said he compares his skill set and skinny frame to Kevin Durant and has heard comparisons to Gordon Hayward.
Musa said: “My idol growing up was Kobe Bryant because of that killer mentality. From Manu Ginobili, I picked up that leadership, that teamwork, that work ethic. So that would be my two favorites.”
Kurucs becomes the second Latvian forward in the New York market after Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis. They have met only once, but Kurucs eventually hopes to play with him on the national team. Reminded that he soon will be playing against Porzingis, Kurucs smiled slyly and said, “Sure, and beat his .”