Coach: Bans 'something unbelievable'
KAYSERI, Turkey -- Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic said Friday his team has been devastated by the suspensions of its two top players for the start of the FIBA world basketball championship for their roles in a brawl that also resulted in the bans of Greece's Antonis Fotsis and Sofoklis Schortsanitis, decisions their coach called "something unbelievable."
Ivkovic criticized FIBA for waiting until less than 48 hours before the start of the tournament to suspend Oklahoma City Thunder center Nenad Krstic and guard Milos Teodosic for their roles in a brawl in Greece.
Krstic will miss the first three games and Teodosic the first two. Ivkovic said Serbia has lost "two key players" for the games against Angola, Germany and Jordan.
"We will be playing 10 against 12 in the first two matches and 11 against 12 in the third and that's a big handicap," Ivkovic said.
"We have to react in a very short time, I have to prepare my players mentally," Ivkovic added. "Krstic is our captain, our pillar, our main offensive option. Without Teodosic, we lose a lot of creativity."
Greece coach Jonas Kazlauskas said the FIBA suspensions altered his plans ahead of Saturday's opening game against China. Both Fotsis and Schortsanitis also will be sitting on the bench during Sunday's game against Puerto Rico.
"It is a disappointment," Kazlauskas said after practice at Ankara Arena in Ankara, Turkey. "This is something unbelievable."
Fotsis and Schortsanitis said they expected to be punished.
"This is the decision. We can't change it," Fotsis said. "It was very difficult not to punish us. We accept this punishment."
Schortsanitis said he would be ready to help the team when his suspension is over.
"I am not angry," said the Greece center, who is known as Baby Shaq. "We expected it."
The fight broke out during the last game of the Acropolis Tournament, which was canceled with 2:40 remaining and Greece leading by one point. The players from both teams exchanged punches and kicks on the floor and in the tunnels leading to the dressing rooms.
It began when former NBA player Fotsis moved threateningly against Serbia guard Milos, who had fouled him. Krstic then grabbed Fotsis by the throat and threw a chair toward Schortsanitis, who was pursuing him. The chair hit Yannis Bouroussis, who had not played because of a hand injury, and left him with a bloody wound on the side of his head.
The teams were finally separated after they had carried the fray off the court.
Ivkovic, a 66-year-old veteran coach who also cut center Miroslav Raduljica from the final 12-man squad, noted that the brawl at a game in a warmup tournament took place on Aug. 19 and that FIBA was "perfidious" in waiting to hand out punishment.
"FIBA could have reacted quicker," said Ivkovic, who led the former Yugoslavia to one of its record five world titles in 1990. "It was buying time."
Krstic said he was not surprised by the suspensions.
"We expected something like this. Of course I am disappointed. Now, it's behind us and I don't want to talk about it too much," Krstic said. "We have to look ahead and think about the upcoming games."
Krstic will be available for the final two Group A games against Australia and Argentina, but Ivkovic said his players were very disappointed when they heard about the suspensions during a practice.
"Now I have to lift their spirit, to raise their heads," Ivkovic said, adding that the opening game Saturday against Angola was the "key match" for his team.
"They may not have the height, but they are exceptionally athletic and rebound well," Ivkovic said.
With Ivkovic in charge, Serbia's young team finished runner-up to Spain at last year's European Championship. Spain is also the defending champion in Turkey.
China coach Bob Donewald said Greece was one of the best teams in the world and that the suspensions are unlikely to cause any serious problems.
"If the entire Greek team is suspended, then they might be affected," Donewald said. "They have so much talent, I don't think it will affect them."
Greece, the runner-up at the previous worlds in 2006, is in Group C with China, the Ivory Coast, Puerto Rico, Russia and Turkey.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.