Rodions Kurucs continued his surprising season at the All-Star weekend, scoring 10 points, five assists and four rebounds in 15 minutes in the Rising Stars Challenge. He was all smiles during and after the match.
And why not? The 6'10 "wing (officially 6'9 3/4" in sneakers) found refuge in Brooklyn and was respected around the league. The story of how the Nets tried their luck on Kurucs, who had only played 44 minutes at F.C. Barcelona, is known. As Michael Scotto wrote in The Athletic, it's not so well known, it's that his agent has always wanted it in Brooklyn.
Arthurs Kalnitis was aware.
"As an agent, you always try to guide the player in a direction that you think would be beneficial for your client and for the work done with different players in the past," said Kalnitis.
"Given the importance of a player from Europe landing in the right place, Brooklyn was our priority. But as we all know, the NBA project is unpredictable, so everything could have happened, but it worked out perfectly for us and I think Brooklyn is more than happy with his 40th pick. "
Kalnitis, of course, played an important role in preparing the choice. He negotiated the acquisition of Kurucs, which went from $ 5 million to $ 750,000.
Once found, written and signed (for a $ 7 million contract over four years), Kurucs began to surprise his coaches and teammates.
"Honestly, before I got here, I did not know who he was," Ed Davis said. "I remember the training camp and pre-season while we were working, I just remember him for being very strong and super aggressive, strong and very active.
"I did not know it was going to be a match. I knew he was a bit brutal, but he's the best player in the NBA at the moment. He is 6'8 ", length, athletic, can move, can shoot all three. That's what these GMs are doing, that's what they're going for now, guys like him.
Kenny Atkinson admitted that he, too, was surprised, although his general manager and his scouts told him about the potential of Kurucs.
"It was like I did not think any of us – and you should have asked Sean – to think," Oh, he'll be ready for the NBA now. I think it was a development project, "said the head coach. . "It's an amazing surprise that he's physically ready. He can handle the mental part of the game and it's an amazing surprise. "
Not everyone was surprised. Dzanan Musa knew the Kurucs of the FIBA Europe circuit, as he noted the day after the draft.
"In fact, my first match was against this guy from the national team," said the 29th pick of the Nets about Kurucs. "He kicked our ass. He scored against us like 20, 30 points. He's thrown at us like eight times. So, I remember that guy. "
As Scotto notes, Kurucs hit a wall. In the nine games leading up to the break, he averaged 5.9 points on a total shooting of 29.2% and 20.7% over a distance of 3 points.
The Nets need him, as D'Angelo Russell told The Athletic.
"It's just a different weapon for us," Russell said. "He grows up every game. I do not really know what his role is because he can influence the game on the defensive side, but on the offensive side as well, you do not really know what to expect from him. He shoots, he gets into the lane when he wants, he passes it in the pick-and-roll. I do not know, man. He shows me a lot every game and I am more than impressed by that. "
So now, at the end of the journey from the Latvian city of Cēsis to Brooklyn via Barcelona, Kurucs is all smiles.
"Thinking of all that has happened in the past, I want to say that the whole situation in Barcelona and the few wounds Rodions had suffered were a blessing in disguise to the extent that it led us to be written by the Nets, "said his agent, Kalnitis told Scotto. "I know Rodions is finally really pleased with the experience he's had in Brooklyn and he enjoys every day spent on the basketball court. Brooklyn is home to Rodi. "