Damjan Rudez plays a limited role off the bench for Croatia in the FIBA World Cup, but when his team was down this morning to Senegal, Rudez was on the floor at the end of the game looking to score.
As it turned out, a shot to tie the game came Rudez's late in the game but it bounced and Senegal went on to earn a 77-75 upset over Croatia. Minnesota's Gorgui Dieng was a monster around the hoop with 27 points and six rebounds, just another young talent ready to emerge for the Timberwolves.
Rudez is heading into the prime of his career at 28, so now is the time for him to see what he can do on the big stage in the NBA. Prior to Paul George's injury, the likely best-case scenario this year was for Rudez to provide a very similar role to that he is filling for Croatia right now --a regular rotation player for about 12-18 minutes per game. The opportunity is now there for Rudez to prove he can do more at the NBA level.
Rudez talked about joining the Pacers in a recent interview with Spanish writer Sergio Gomez. Here are a few translated comments from the interview. Sounds like Larry Bird's presence translates loud and clear in any language.
We finish with NBA. Indiana Pacers has bet on you. With the Paul George's injury you playing as a SF too, do you think you will have more pressure on your first year?
I wouldn`t say I feel any pressure about going to the NBA now with Paul George hurt. Unfortunately, for our team is a great handicap because he is a franchise player, plays both ways, on offense and on defense and he is a great value for the team, but now this is only a sign for everybody else to step up and hopefully fulfill the expectations. I really don't put any pressure on myself. I think maybe the situation was different maybe if I was 18 or 20 years old, I would maybe feel different, but now I really feel ready and feel confident about me going to the NBA and hopefully I'm gonna do good.
What did you feel being face to face with a legend like Larry Bird? Does he command?
Being face to face with Larry Bird is a very unique experience. He is a great person and a great player and of course very very...I wouldn't say intimidating but he is, you know, a historic icon and one of the best player than ever played the game, so whenever you are in his presence you know that and everybody is admiring to him and looking up to him which is really very very impressive. The way he affects people is really something impressive than I never seen before.