Nemanja Bjelica keeps his promise: “I had to come back”

2022-10-03T11:29:52+00:00 2022-10-03T11:41:29+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

03/Oct/22 11:29

Back to Fenerbahce Beko, Nemanja Bjelica is hunting for the championship in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague

By Bugra Uzar/

Becoming the NBA champion made Nemanja Bjelica feel the need to open a new chapter. Kind of new, since the next stop is Fenerbahce Beko.

Bjelica, 34, talked to Eurohoops about his decision to return to the team based in Istanbul, after seven years in the NBA.

“It was a great year for me. I accomplished what I always dreamed about. Being part of that team, the Golden State Warriors won the ring. I kind of felt that I almost gave everything I got in the NBA,” he explained his decision to reunite with Fener, “It was a tough decision because I had the opportunity to stay for another year. I felt like I closed one chapter and needed to open a new one. In August, when Fenerbahce showed interest in signing me, I was happy to finally have the opportunity to go back to play with this team, where I was playing seven years ago. I am very excited and happy.”

“It was a great experience to play with those guys, Steph [Curry], Draymond [Green], Klay [Thompson]. Three competitors, three winners, three different personalities,” he described the stint at the Warriors, “I am very thankful for the opportunity to be part of the team with them and the entire organization. It was a pleasure, a dream for any basketball player to be on the best team in the world. What we did as a group was unbelievable. I learned a lot of great things, how to handle my job, even in a smaller role to be part of something bigger. It was amazing to just be with them.”

Back in 2015, he was named season MVP in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, falling a couple of years short of Fener’s lone EuroLeague title coming in 2017. Now, an NBA champion and much more experienced player, he is back, as he promised to the fans seven years ago.

“They are really passionate, they love you and never forget. Seven years ago, I told them ‘one day, I will come back,’ I had to come back, obviously,” he said with a pinch of humor, “It was really a great choice I made. Just to be with them again. I feel like I never left. I feel part of his family.”

The Serbian power forward logged 471 games played in the NBA between the Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, and Minnesota Timberwolves. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, he can reconfigure habits.

“Another reason to return was trying to be me,” he told Eurohoops, “A lot of things changed, like the format. I played in EuroLeague for a long time and have a lot of experience. But this is different from the NBA. It is going to take some time. I am in a great spot with a great coach.”

Due to injury, he was ruled out of the 2022 EuroBasket with Serbia absorbing the blow. Shifting to EuroLeague, the schedule of Regular Season Round 1 has Fener visiting FC Bayern Thursday.

“I am trying to be ready for the first game in EuroLeague. Hopefully, I am going to play. We will see,” said Bjelica, “It is not a serious injury. It was just my calf. I hurt it with the national team and tried to play. It usually takes more time but I will be ready soon.”

Plenty of new players for Fenerbahce and also the new head coach in Dimitris Itoudis going into the new EuroLeague season.

“I am looking forward to working with him. From my own point of view, he influenced basketball in a modern way. He lets you play freely. With the team that we have, we can read each other and play together. I like the way he is coaching. He understands the players, which is the most important. He has character. He is a winner. That is good for this team,” he replied to a question regarding the Greek tactician.

Joining the Professor in the list of summer additions were Nick Calathes, Johnathan Motley, Samet Geyik, Scottie Wilbekin, Tonye Jekiri, Nigel Davis-Hayes, and Carsen Edwards. Also, Melih Mahmutoglu, Marko Guduric, Dyshawn Pierre, Sehmus Hazer, and Ismet Akpinar are among the players remaining from the 2021-22 squad.