TREVISO, Italy – This was pure Vlade Divac, awash in endless optimism while dealing with the latest in a life of personal tragedies, expressing hope he will soon return to the NBA, smiling a lot and volleying that, honestly, he didn’t get a good seat on the Spurs bandwagon because Divac is Serbian and Gregg Popovich has Serbian roots.
Divac was sitting in a chair on the baseline of one of the three gyms at the La Ghirada Sports Complex a few days ago after an appearance as a guest speaker at the adidas Eurocamp. It is a time of particular upheaval, five months after his father had been killed in a car crash in Serbia that also injured his mother, possibly a few months before he will move back to the United States to join a front office, all while serving as head of the Serbian Olympic committee as his daughter attends high school in Belgrade, one son is in college in California and another in New York. But one of the most-likable players of his or any other NBA generation seems as at ease as ever.
He grew up in the former Yugoslavia, lived through a war there that caused death and destruction all around him with the collateral damage of an emotional divide that ended friendships. He had a 16-year NBA run and a highly decorated international career. And now he is trying to get back to the future.
NBA.com: What would you like to do when you come back to the U.S.?
Divac: I would definitely find some involvement in the NBA with some team. Right after my retirement, I was doing some scouting for the Lakers. I tried to see how management works. I went to Real Madrid, worked for them for a year. That helped me to kind of develop some interest in management. So now my second term on the Olympic committee of Serbia — and I’m so proud of that, we did a great job — so something in management.
NBA.com: Have you had any conversations with anybody?
Divac: With the Kings, yeah. We’ll see.
NBA.com: What do you think you would do with them?
Divac: My ultimate goal is one day — it doesn’t have to be tomorrow or two days, three days — I want to be a GM. Go level by level.
NBA.com: Have they told you “When you’re ready to come over, we definitely want you”?
Divac: No. We just talked. I told them my view about plans. We’ll see.
NBA.com: I know it’s been a difficult time the last few months. How are you doing with the tragedy in your personal life?
Divac: OK. Life is a roller-coaster. You just have to balance. There’s always tomorrow.
NBA.com: Has it been difficult?
Divac: Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes. But when you look, there’s a lot of different stories, worse stories, than my life. What are you going to do?
NBA.com: And you’ve lived through a lot of those in your younger days.
Divac: Yeah. Absolutely.
NBA.com: Do you think you have a unique perspective, different than a lot of other people because of what you (grew up around) in your
Divac: Of course. If you went through things like that, you just learn how things can change the next day. Either positive or negative. Even when you’re so high and positive, you have to keep a balance.
NBA.com: Do you still watch a lot of NBA?
Divac: I do.
NBA.com: What jumps out to you about the game now compared to when you played?
Divac: It’s obviously more physical and faster. What bothers me is the tendency for low-post guys to not play with their back to the basket. It’s more facing. I think basketball needs that inside-outside game. If it doesn’t have that, that’s like taking heart from basketball.
NBA.com: Do you have a favorite player?
Divac: No. But I have a favorite team. I think the Spurs is a team that plays basketball the way it’s supposed to be. Sharing the ball. Gregg is a great coach.
NBA.com: What’s his background? What’s his heritage?
Divac: He’s a Serbian. But I’m not saying that because of that. You know how many people I met in the NBA. Jerry West, Gregg Popovich — that’s my two favorite guys. Even though they are totally, completely different, I have a lot of respect for them.
NBA.com: How much would your game have been changed by these new flopping rules that are in place now?
Divac: They wouldn’t take that away from me. Especially playing against Shaq. I mentioned that’s not my rule. That’s Shaq’s rule. He forced us to do that. I think it’s good that they changed because whenever you overdue it, it just takes away from the game.
NBA.com: How much money would you have been fined? How much money would you have lost over the years?
Divac: Not that much. I was doing that just against the Lakers, when I played Shaq. I don’t know. I think it’s good that they put it in. Games, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
NBA.com: You would have had to get a new contract, right, just to pay all your fine money?
Divac: The agent would make a clause. ‘The team pays the fine.’ Because I was doing that for the team, not for me.
Best of luck to Vlade Divac! It's funny how when I was younger and the Lakers-Kings were in the thick of things as the best basketball rivalry I hated his gut and his flopping. But now as time has run its course and as I've matured I have a lot of admiration and respect for him.
Similar to what going on with the Spurs these last 2 years. I really won't or wouldn't be mad or sad at all if the Spurs win another ring. We've had so many battles with them and that respect factor is there. We've all been through a lot, Kobe and Duncan and so I admire him. Duncan and the Spurs weren't given instant success or credibility (i.e. Heat Big 3) they earned it and I see the same qualities in Vlade.