By Johnny Askounis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in action as a leading player of Monbus Obradoiro, Dragan Bender recovered from a serious knee injury forcing him to miss the entire 2021-22 season.
“I am healthy. That is the most important thing right now,” he explained in an interview with Israeli outlet One.
Over seven appearances in Spain’s Liga Endesa, the Croatian big man has averaged 20.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per ACB contest. Shooting 58.1% from two-point range and 46.9% from beyond the arc further illustrate brilliant showings early in the season.
Bender, 25, is a veteran of 187 NBA games between the Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, and Golden State Warriors. His Turkish Airlines EuroLeague experience drew up 41 appearances between the 2015-16 and 2020-21 campaigns as a member of Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“I really fell in love with European basketball and EuroLeague. It is a great concept with numerous competitive teams and many very good players,” he said, “The league is becoming stronger every year. So, I can definitely see myself returning. As I said, it is simply a matter of staying healthy.”
“It does not really matter,” he replied to a question about preferring any EuroLeague team in particular, “Of course, I would love to return to Maccabi. It is a special club. For me, it is more about how the situation unfolds, more about which teams will be aiming to qualify for the Playoffs and be championship contenders. Those are the teams I want to be part of.”
“Undoubtedly, I want to return to the NBA down the road,’ added Bender.
The fourth overall pick of the 2016 NBA draft made his way back to Maccabi after four seasons in the NBA. Tearing his ACL in the EuroLeague Playoffs prematurely ended his 2020-21 campaign.
“I believe you just know something has happened in these situations,” he recalled, “After the diagnosis, you definitely feel terrible, but it is what it is. I had a great season up to that point. I was playing and then I was out for a year and a half. This is basketball and you must be ready for these kinds of setbacks.”
Photo Credit: ACB.com