Montenegro Lose Pekovic And A Dream

06 August 2013

EUROBASKET 2013

14. Nikola Pekovic (Montenegro)
With his contract situation in the NBA not clarified yet, Nikola Pekovic will skip the EuroBasket in Slovenia

It was a fascinating prospect while it lasted, but Montenegro will not line up with a twin tower formation that would be the envy of Europe - and the biggest part of the world - at EuroBasket 2013.

The Montenegrin Basketball Federation (KSCG) announced officially on Tuesday that Nikola Pekovic, one of the best centers in the world at the best stage of his career, will not suit up for the national team in September's big tournament in Slovenia.

Consequently, Pekovic will not team up with fellow big man Nikola Vucevic, the up-and-coming center of the Orlando Magic who finished the season as the second-best rebounder in the NBA, with 11.9 boards per game to go with his 13.1 points per night.

Pekovic had stated his intention to play for the national team and was included in the preliminary squad, but the fact that he is a restricted free agent in the NBA (with the Minnesota Timberwolves) who has still to sign his new contract, complicated the situation.

"Nikola is about to sign the most important contract in his career and we fully understand the gravity of this moment," Montenegro's national teams director Danilo Mitrovic explained.

"We were in constant contact with him and we had agreed that the 5th August deadline for him to join the team [in their preparations for the EuroBasket] made sense for both sides.

"However, after talking with him and his manager yesterday [Monday] we were informed that the contract has not been signed and that it will take some time for details of the agreement to be clarified.

"Therefore, Nikola Pekovic will not play at the EuroBasket in Slovenia.

"The entire national team and the KSCG wish him good health and the best of luck for the next season in the NBA," Mitrovic added.

Pekovic would have been one of the biggest stars to grace the courts in Slovenia, and his decision is a huge blow to Montenegro's ambitions.

Nonetheless, a Montenegro squad without Pekovic nor Vucevic secured their participation to the EuroBasket thanks to an impressive campaign in the Qualification Round last summer, as they topped Group A with a perfect 10-0 record.

Mitrovic is hopeful that the team will build upon that success and impress again on the big stage, despite the significant absence of their star player.

"Of course the team will be weakened at the EuroBasket without Pekovic, but our ambitions remain unchanged and we want to qualify to the second phase," he said.

"I'm confident that the team is undergoing strenuous preparations, and will be ready for the start of the EuroBasket.

"With the great atmosphere that we had in last year's qualifications and the strong desire that exists among all players, the team can achieve the goals that we have set."

Montenegro were drawn into First Round Group B and will do battle for a top-three finish with F.Y.R. of Macedonia, Serbia, Lithuania, Latvia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.


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