By Eurohoops team / firstname.lastname@example.org
Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Dragan Bender said that he will be pursuing a potential NBA return in the future after now getting a chance to have what he missed during his previous run in the league: Substantial minutes on the floor.
“Definitely,” Bender answered after a question on whether he sees himself going back in the NBA during an interview to Moshe Barda and Israeli website ONE. “My decision to stay here was based on playing minutes. I saw that myself being here had the opportunity to play a lot of really tough and close games compared to if I was in the NBA again. Maybe you don’t have as much minutes out there. Just being the guy on a team who doesn’t get the minutes compared to here where you actually get the minutes. Real minutes on the court and trying to compete each and every day. Trying to improve yourself for the next season.”
“That was one of the biggest goals for myself: Staying here and then obviously talking about going back to the NBA,” Bender added. “Everybody wants to be there, it’s the best league in the world. If it happens it happens, if it doesn’t happen there’s always going to be placed where you can play here.”
Bender, now 23, was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the 4th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. He was considered an elite prospect and the standout player in his class among internationals.
His stint in Phoenix didn’t go as planned and the team declined his fourth-year option in 2018. The Croatian player then spent the 2019-2020 season prior to its suspension with the Milwaukee Bucks and then the Golden State Warriors.
“There was a combination of a little bit of everything,” Bender said when asked what didn’t work for him to become the player everyone expected him to be and if it was the staff, teammates or him maybe not being physically ready enough. “We definitely had a very young team. We made a lot of changes in my three years there. A lot of coaches. People changing positions in front office and stuff like that. A lot of those things. But it was definitely a weird situation and I don’t think that it was a right fit for myself. Leaving Phoenix and going to places like Milwaukee and Golden State and see those type of franchises and see how they operate and how they take care of guys and how they try to make you better… I think that was kind of eye-opening for myself.”
“I had a lot of fun last year with those two franchises. Going forward and if I ever back there I’m definitely going to be looking for situations like that to be in.”