Earlier this off-season there was a question if newly acquired Andrea Bargnani would play for Italy in Eurobasket competition or sit out and prepare for his first season with the New York Knicks. While the Knicks clearly wanted Bargnani to sit out, his desires were unknown. As it turns out, a bout of pneumonia forced Bargnani's hand and forced him to withdraw from Eurobasket play. Newly signed Beno Udrih has that same Eurobasket decision to make. While Udrih would likely love to represent his home country of Slovenia he's decided to join Bargnani in choosing his NBA club over his country. Hopefully both decisions will pay dividends for the Knicks as both Bargnani and Udrih will sit out Eurobasket play.
Playing in Eurobasket is a big deal for European players. It gives them the opportunity to represent their counties with pride. It's even more of an honor when you're country is hosting the games like Slovenia is this year. One change to the Slovenia national team is that when Eurobasket begins September 7th, New York Knicks' Beno Udrih will not be on Slovenia's roster.
While the decision to not play Eurobasket was undoubtedly a tough one for Udrih there is little doubt that the Knicks are pleased with his decision to sit it out. After signing Udrih, the Knicks have to feel like their in a better position health-wise than they have been in quite a while with their point guard position.
While Udrih has battled injuries in the past, his injury history has nothing on the Knicks whose point guard position has been a magnet for injuries in recent seasons. Udrih has never played less than 54 games in a season and has averaged about 70 games a season over his nine year NBA career.
As a third point guard, clearly he's a worthy gamble. Udrih and Pablo Prigioni will back up Raymond Felton next season and all three could see time playing along-side one another in Mike Woodson's two-point guard set. How those minutes work out throughout the season will be interesting but it's likely the long NBA season will work that out on it's own.
First thing first is coming into training camp healthy and ready to learn the system and push Felton and Prigioni for minutes. Skipping Eurobasket play is the first step to doing just that. This is a wise decision by Udrih. Both he and Bargnani decided to put their NBA careers ahead of Eurobasket play.
That's a smart move by both men who can clearly play but need to use their time in New York to prove to the rest of the NBA that they are worthy of continuing their careers in the United States, and getting paid more than the veteran's minimum to do so. The Knicks may not be favored to be the top team in the Eastern Conference but there is little doubt they'll be one of the best teams in the East and competing for the Atlantic Division title again this next season. Both Udrih and Bargnani have the opportunity to be major contributors on the Knicks roster.
Clearly health is a huge factor in allowing them to do so. While representing your country should never be taken lightly there is a point where your career has to take precedence over playing for your country. Udrih and Bargnani both realized that. Hopefully it translates to their play on the court for the Knicks next season.
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