Bjelica leaves the Warriors for the Turkish basketball team


Another of the Golden State Warriors’ key veterans left in free agency, with Nemanja Bjelica joining Otto Porter Junior and Gary Payton II in leaving the club after winning a title. Bjelica turned down an offer to return for the veteran minimum to sign with Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahçe, the team where he won EuroLeague MVP in 2015 and led his team to the EuroLeague Final Four.

Bjelica was a key reserve last season, providing space with his excellent outside shot and playing strong defense that defied the eye test. Belli isn’t the fastest big man, but he was excellent at taking up space in the lane and contesting shots inside. His playing time fluctuated throughout the season and playoffs, depending on the matchup: big minutes against Nikola Jokic and Boogie Cousins ​​in the Denver series, barely saw the court against the big-fast Grizzlies in the Denver series. Memphis then came out of the mothballs with a whopping 22 minutes in the Warriors’ closing game against Dallas. In Game Five, Bjelica somehow stoned Luka Doncic on multiple possessions, wrecked the Mavericks’ defense with his pass, and then landed a deep dagger three to effectively end the game with eight minutes remaining.


The graceful pass was the most impressive and the most frustrating of Belli’s season on the Warriors. He threw some amazing passes and also threw some incredibly poor passes this year, averaging 2.2 assists but 1.2 turnovers per game. Bjelica seemed to like playing in the Warriors’ moving offense, and midway through the season he said, “I enjoy every day, because I finally found a place where I feel comfortable and very happy.” One happy element of Bjelica’s creative passing is that he was always ready to catch an ambitious pass from anyone else and finish it at home.

Bjelica became the fourth Serbian player to win a championship this season, after Darko Miličić, Peja Stojaković and Warriors legend Ognjen Kuzmić. He didn’t play much in the Finals, but his defense against Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown was huge in the pivotal Game 4 win.

Now he will bring that winning tradition back to Istanbul, where he will play alongside former Oregon star Tyler Dorsey and Devin Booker (not ESE Devin Booker) for a Fenerbache team trying to get back to the Final Four, led by Bjelica. he there for the first time seven years ago, before leaving for the NBA. Belli played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings before coming to the Warriors. In fact, he had a contract with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2018 before retiring to play in Europe, and then changed his mind again and signed with the Kings. So, barring the intervention of a master negotiator like Vlade Divac, Bejlica is gone.

In a way, the Warriors have become a great college basketball program. They’re always going to compete in the postseason, they have a universally respected coach, a loyal fan base, and they even have a strong alumni program, with beloved former players like Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston getting jobs on the team, and even unloved former players. like Mike Dunleavy Jr. they stayed. And as a large university program, they are now being forced to adapt to an era of “one and done.” Sure, they can recruit talent to come play for a little compensation, just like Coach K, Dean Smith and John Wooden did. The minimum for veterans is the new sports scholarship. But like these programs, they also have to face the new reality of the “one and done” era. These players want to win, but they also won’t stick around when they can make a lot more money elsewhere.

That means Bob Myers, who struck gold with his veteran minimum last year, must hit the recruiting trail again, sifting through scouting reports, advanced stats and, in rare cases, YouTube mix tapes, to compete with the classes. recruitment of the other contenders. . They will make sure to offer Andre Iguodala one more year; I think he missed enough games for the 2021-22 season to qualify as a redshirt year.

They clearly hope first-round pick Patrick Baldwin’s shots can one day give them a boost similar to Belli’s, just as they hope Ryan Rollins can eventually replace GPII’s defense, but for now, they need to find some. free agent forwards who can shoot all three. Don’t worry: Joe Lacob has a very generous policy when it comes to name, image, and likeness rights, and Warriors promoters/season ticket holders have something even better than free cars: stock tips on technology initial public offerings.