It was reported that the former Barcelona youngster had a meeting with Croatia coach Velimir Perasovic to notify of his intentions this summer according to a tweet from sports writer Igor Marinovic. But Perasovic has dismissed those reports and stated that all his NBA-based players will report for international duty on August 1.
But Dragan Bender never suited up for the Croatians, who were considered one of the gold-medal contenders along with the U.S., Turkey, Greece and Serbia. News broke on the first day of the tournament that Bender was out, due to the fact that he’s signed to an exclusive endorsement contract with adidas, and the Croatian federation was taking a hard-line stance on its players wearing Jordans or Nikes, in order not to jeopardize its own lucrative contract with Jordan Brand. Neither side budged, and so Bender watched Croatia’s first two games from the stands, flanked by his Italian agent, Maurizio Balducci, and then flew home on Monday. NBA scouts—not to mention media and Croatian fans—were dismayed. A different scout told SI, “It just boggles my mind that the Croatian federation, which should be trying to win tournaments, did something that prevented its best prospect from playing.”
The Toronto Raptors announced Tuesday they have acquired guard Luke Ridnour and cash considerations from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for the draft rights to forward Tomislav Zubcic. Ridnour, 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, has averaged 9.3 points, 4.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 26.1 minutes in 830 career games (493 starts). He has played with Seattle (2003-08), Milwaukee (2008-10, 2013-14), Minnesota (2010-13), Charlotte (2013-14) and Orlando (2014-15).
The kit brand is pretty much seen as heavily US focused so why did they choose to go with Croatia? The hardest working man in sports journalism was on the case and he found Zeljko Draksic, the Croatian Basketball Federation HKS secretary general in Madrid. Here’s Draksic’s explanation: “When I asked the people from the Jordan brand why us, the answer was that we have unbelievably nice, great, great young players and for the future we’ll maybe be good.” Hein cites the likes of Dario Saric, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marko Arapaovic, and Dragan Bender as players Jordan Brand want to identify with.