Officially it was a do or die 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifier for Serbia. In reality, Milos Teodosic took the opportunity to remind all his suitors that he is exactly who they hoped he was and that he’ll have his choice of any Euroleague side come the summer chase for the continent’s hottest free agent. Emmet Ryan on how Milos kept us wanting more with his brief outing before taking the rest of the season off
It’s good to be Milos Teodosic. He had his opportunity in the NBA, it didn’t work out as a seismic move for the association but he had his moments and got what he wanted financially out of it. He’s recently become a father and he wants to enjoy that time. He also really loves playing for his national team, as anyone who has every so much as hinted at the topic around him will testify. In the NBA, those opportunities were limited. As a free agent, he was able to make two appearances for Serbia before getting back to dad duties until the World Cup in China at the end of the summer. These two games were about getting Serbia on the plane and reminding everyone that he is the man they all want to sign this summer. He comfortably accomplished both missions.
Granted, it could have been a touch easier. The shock defeat in Estonia, where Teodosic had 16 points and 10 assists in his first outing since 15 December and the most minutes he had played since 25 March. That 11 month gap between serious basketball didn’t really seem to affect him but the loss meant Serbia still had work to do. It also meant everybody who cared would be tuning into their game with Israel last Sunday and Milos put on a show.
He picked up 4 assists quickly on Serbia’s first 13 points, quickly establishing himself offensively and then drained a three for his first score of the afternoon. He looked relaxed and just in control through that 7 minute stint to start the game. After a 2 minute breather, he came back to nail a three on the buzzer and give Serbia a 26-18 lead after 10 minutes.
The Serbs were flat to start the second until Teodosic fired a bullet pass for the alley oop to Dragan Milosavljević to wake everybody up. After another 2 minute break in the middle of the frame, he came back and things looked just fine. He had 9 points and 5 assists in the half as Serbia eased into a 49-33 lead at the break.For our analysis series The Ballin After, post-game interviews, and more, subscribe to BallinEurope’s YouTube channel
We saw the Milos we all know early in the third. Moving towards the baseline he looked for Miroslav Raduljica inside, didn’t like what he saw, and falling over the baseline he whipped it out to Vladimir Lucic for the three. He had another breather and then came back with a between the legs bounce pass for a Nikola Milutinov score as Serbia were home and host at the end of the third, 67-50.
An alley-up to Milutinov to start the fourth and we had almost gotten the last highlight of the day from Milos. He hung around just long enough to make a steal that ended with him face flat on the floor. After a missed three, he sat with 4 minutes left in the game, finishing with 11 points, 9 assists, and 3 rebounds in 28 minutes as Serbia punched their ticket with a 97-76 win. It was businesslike and the Milos we know. He’s hardly a defensive maestro but he can run an offence as well as anybody in Europe while remaining a reliable threat as a shooter anywhere.BallinEurope now has merch, like actual merch, t-shirts, phone covers, and even pillows. Check it all out on our RedBubble page.
We won’t get to see him conjure an assist out of nothing until August at the earliest when Serbia begin their World Cup preparations. That side should be reinforced by NBA bodies like Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nemanja Bjelica, and Nikola Jokic. Without those vaunted names, he was still able to do all we know he can in a game that Serbia simply had to win.
That’s what Teodosic wanted, to deliver and show there was no rust. He’s a competitor, nobody was doubting his conditioning, but time in the gym can’t make up for time lost on the floor. This weekend back in the national jersey gave him all the opportunity he needed to show he was ready for action.
— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) February 24, 2019
Now the grand pursuit begins. Maccabi Tel Aviv were famously thirsty for him throughout the season to get him over to help with this campaign. He opted to take his time instead. The Israeli club will still be in contention but the teams with the biggest budgets in Euroleague will be falling over themselves to get him. CSKA Moscow was where he won everything, including his lone Euroleague title, while Fenerbahce offers him a chance to try a new challenge. Similarly, Real Madrid wouldn’t turn down the shot at him because literally nobody would. After that, it’s hard to see who would be able to afford him. Unless Panathinaikos or Olympiacos opt to seriously up their budgets for next season with the Euroleague Final Four being in Athens, nobody outside of the current top three and Maccabi seem capable of affording him.
This won’t bother Milos, he can take his time. He’s got some dad work to do before getting down to the business of the World Cup. His new home will be wherever he wants on the continent.
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