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Bogdanovic says Croatia will only get better
WASHINGTON (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - It's going to be a while before Bojan Bogdanovic can firmly focus on another important summer with Croatia's national team because for the second time in his career, the 27-year-old sharpshooter is in the NBA Play-Offs.
Bogdanovic made his post-season bow with the Brooklyn Nets in 2015 and following his trade nearly two months ago from the Nets to Washington, he is again in the opening round of the play-offs with the Wizards. Washington won Game 1 of the best-of-seven series at home on Sunday.
The European star gave this interview to FIBA.com.
FIBA EuroBasket 2017 tips off August 31. When you think about that tournament and about Croatia, what comes to mind?
I have been playing with the national team for a while now and I am always proud and happy to wear the national team jersey and to compete for my country. I love being with the national team every summer. It's always a great opportunity to help my country. I like to help them be competitive and I want to give my best to help build an ambitious group of players. We have a talented team. I'm only 27 and things are going to be even better and more exciting for all of us as the national team is going to be more and more competitive in the years to come.
The big news since the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics for the national side was the decision to keep Aleksandar Petrovic as head coach.
I think it's a good thing. He did a great job last summer, nobody expected us to go to Rio and we qualified, so the job done so far has been great in my opinion.
Why is he such a good fit for Croatia?
He has a lot of experience; he knows how to manage a group of players. All of us, from the staff to the coaches and the players, want to keep having the same positive dynamic that we've had since last summer.
Petrovic pulled the right strings for Croatia in 2016
Looking ahead to the FIBA EuroBasket, Croatia will be in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, in Group C. Once again, you get to face Spain, a team you beat on the opening day of the Olympics. You will also take on Montenegro, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.
It's a very interesting group. Our first goal is to go to the second round. We want to go to Istanbul and from there, anything can happen. I hope we'll finish in first or second position of our group to try to avoid playing against a big team in the first game of the knockout stage. We are ambitious and we have the talent to have a great campaign this summer.
If Croatia do, as expected, make it to the Round of 16, you'll go back to Istanbul, the city where you played a first summer with Croatia's national team at the 2010 FIBA Basketball World Cup. It's also where you spent a few years playing for Fenerbahce.
Living and playing in Istanbul for those years was incredible. I really enjoyed it over there and they were some of the best years of my life and career, so far. I had the opportunity to work in my last season there with one of the best basketball coaches in the world, Zeljko Obradovic, and I learned a lot during my spell in Turkey. That would be amazing to go back there and compete in front of some of the best fans in the world.
Considering the positive vibe of last year, what chance is there that we'll see Croatia not only reach Istanbul but make it to the podium?
I mean, we have a new team; a lot of young guys and it is going to be tough for us to win a medal by having such a young group of players. But as I said earlier, nobody expected us to go to Rio. We surprised a lot of people by doing so. Let's try to surprise people again this summer.
Dario Saric, 23, swatted Pau Gasol at the end as Croatia edged Spain in Rio
As for the here and now, you're just several weeks removed from the trade that sent you from the Nets to Washington?
I feel good about it. I was in the starting line-up in Brooklyn and I am coming off the bench here, but I have no problem with that situation as I was exactly in the same one for the first two seasons with the Nets. I like to give my help to one of the best teams in the league at the moment, and I enjoy playing with the Wizards. We have a great and competitive team, one of the top teams in the NBA, and it feels good being here.