Over the last decade, 31-year-old Bostjan Nachbar has played ball in five different countries including seasons in the NBA with the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Hornets and New Jersey Nets. He made the 2008-09 All-Eurocup first team in his first season out of the Association with Dynamo Moscow and this past season struck a deal to play for Istanbul’s Efes Pilsen. With veterans like Matjaz Smodis, Beno Udrih and Erazem Lorbek taking the summer off for various reasons (we’ll get to Udrih’s decision in a minute), Boki brings experience to an otherwise young Slovenia side that boasts some of the world’s most passionate fans. And even on a bum ankle he went out there and dropped a 13 pot on Team USA, good for the team high. ELA spoke to him after the game:
[other reporter asks Bostjan about Slovenia’s 99-77 loss to the USA]
Bostjan Nachbar:I think we tried our best. We made Team USA play their best basketball which was very important. I think over 40 minutes you saw which team was better, I don’t think there was any question about it. But for us, especially for our young players, it was a big confidence booster, and we’re going to play even better these next couple games.
[same reporter asks ‘Where do these fans come from?]
BN: Slovenia. We have the best fans in the world. People don’t believe me when I say it all the time. Everywhere we go. It’s unbelievable. We only have two million people and probably half of Slovenia is here right now.
BN: We knew it was going to be tough, I mean they have 12 players that are rotating, sometimes they sub four or five players at one time, five fresh players come in. We don’t have that luxury. So it’s not easy, but I think the teams are going to get Team USA, you five minutes to go, they’ll be able to cause Team USA some trouble. But we’ll see. I still think they’re one of the favorites to win the title.
[Now I jump in…]
Freaknick: You’re facing a Croatian team tomorrow that you obviously know very well. What do you take from today that you can use against them?
BN: We’re going to play aggressive, that’s the first thing. We have to shoot the ball a little better. We have to rebound better. But those are all things that individually we can correct, it’s not like we have a tactical problem. I think we’re going to come prepared as always and we have great fan support.
FN: And what about the rebounding today (outrebounded 50-32)? Is that effort, positioning?
BN: First of all Team USA’s more athletic. They have guards and forwards running from outside and rebounding and that’s tough to box out, especially when you’re helping. Other teams don’t have that, but still we’re going to have to rebound the ball better. We want to run, we want to play faster, and you can’t do that without the ball in your hands.
FN: Did you expect Gasper Vidmar to playing this well?
BN: Yeah. I told everyone two months ago that Vidmar’s going to be one of the best big guys, definitely on our team, and that he’s going to surprise a lot of people. I’m not surprised. I’m sure people are because maybe they’ve never heard of him, but I’m not. If you check the newspapers, check the internet sites back home, I made that statement.
FN: What about Goran? Slowed it down a little today and even yesterday, but had a more productive game yesterday. Do you think all the pressure on him to handle the ball and run the point with Jaka [Lakovic] getting older has led to him being less assertive?
BN: Naah, I think Goran’s going to be fine. You know, he wanted to show what he can do but Team USA knows him, they’ve prepared well against him. He made a couple of silly fouls early that cost him some minutes, but he’s going to be fine. He’s one of the best players. I’m not worried about it.
FN: And what about you? How have you been playing?
BN:OK. I had some problems with my ankle in preparation period so I’m just getting back in shape but I’m happy I can help as much as I can. We have a lot of key players missing that are my age. You know Beno Udrih, [Erazem] Lorbek isn’t here, [Matjaz] Smodis. Those are guys that are all starters so there’s more pressure on me this year to not just play well, but to be on the sidelines helping young players, so I’m doing my best.
FN: Let’s talk about Udrih. When he quit the team, did that help unify you guys at all?
BN: Well…I wouldn’t he say he just quit the team. He expected a different role, and whether he deserved that role or not we can debate on that, but it’s his decision. We were disappointed because he’s our best point guard, no question about it, but hopefully we’re going to see him next year [in Eurobasket]. We’re missing him. But we’re going to do everything we can so that when we play, you can’t notice.
FN: The whole issue with starting, he knows European basketball. It’s not always about who starts, so what was his line of thinking there?
BN: He’s never really been the starter for this national team even though he’s shown that he could be. Am I on his side when it comes to quality? Yeah, he’s the best point guard. Am I on his side when it comes to deciding to leave the team because he’s not the first point guard? No. So I’m split 50-50.
FN: Thanks Bostjan. Good game.