Krstic gives Thunder another 7-footer
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Nenad Krstic's second chance in the NBA developed quickly.
Two weeks ago, Krstic was playing for Triumph Lyubertsy of Russia's Superleague A. On Tuesday, the 25-year-old from Serbia became the newest member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Because Krstic was a restricted free agent, the New Jersey Nets had a week to match Oklahoma City's offer sheet to Krstic, a 7-footer who was picked 24th overall in the 2002 NBA draft. They declined to do so.
Thunder officials wouldn't confirm details of their offer, thought to be a three-year deal worth $15.8 million.
"I'm looking at this as my second opportunity in the NBA," Krstic said. "It always is hard to come in the middle of the season, but hopefully I'll adjust really quickly and try to do everything I can to help this team. I know the team is young and I know we really have a bright future."
Krstic averaged 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in four seasons with New Jersey, but two seasons ago he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He had been averaging 16.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game that season before his injury.
The Nets extended a qualifying offer to Krstic this summer, but he instead signed with Triumph Lyubertsy and averaged 10.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in seven games.
Krstic said he had resigned himself to spending the entire season in Russia and that he's grateful for the opportunity to resume his NBA career sooner than he expected.
"Two weeks ago, I'm in Russia. Then all of a sudden, I'm in the NBA in the middle of the season," he said.
Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti said he had tracked Krstic's progress and thought Krstic would fit into the long-term rebuilding plans for the Thunder, who are an NBA-worst 3-29. Presti cited Krstic's "ability to stretch the floor" and his "high basketball IQ."
"We're always looking for ways to improve our ballclub, and sometimes you've got to wait a little while for that to happen," Presti said. "It's a little bit unique that we're adding a player midseason, but the way we're approaching this is not to rush through the process. ... We're adding someone that we feel like can help us immediately and in the long term."
Presti said the Russian team "was easy to work with."
The Thunder hope Krstic will provide some steady play for a struggling offense that's next-to-last in the NBA in scoring and also serve as the team's last line of defense.
He's the latest in a long line of 7-footers to get a tryout with the franchise. The former Seattle SuperSonics burned first-round draft picks on 7-footers Robert Swift, Johan Petro and Mouhamed Sene in the past few years and none have panned out.
Another 7-footer, Steven Hill, was waived to make room on the roster for Krstic. Hill, who signed with Oklahoma City on Dec. 4, had played in only one game, finishing with two points and three rebounds in two minutes.
"It's not something that we can look at and say, 'We've made this one addition and now we feel like our team is going to change drastically.' It's going to take some time," Presti said. "We have to learn how to use him ... and we always have to look to get better. We feel like this will help us but we still understand we have a lot of work to do."
Krstic can immediately begin practicing with the Thunder, but it's unclear when he might be able to play.
After immigration and visa issues are worked out -- likely sometime next week -- Krstic would be eligible to do so. But Presti and coach Scott Brooks said Krstic still must learn the Thunder's system, become acclimated to his new teammates and work on his conditioning.
Brooks offered no firm timetable as to when Krstic might appear in a game. The Thunder play four of their next five at home.
"It's going to be an adjustment," Brooks said. "We have to figure out what's best for his game to blend in with what we do. It's a situation that we all are going to have to work together. ... It's definitely going to be a process that we will look at the next few weeks and figure that out as it goes along."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press