Michael Redd and Team USA will face the Turkish National team today in Macau (7 am CT, ESPN2). The Turkish squad features former (and future?) Buck Ersan Ilyasova, along with the NBA's reigning "Most Improved player" Hedo Turkoglu and 2008 second round draft picks Omar Asik (Chicago) and Semi Erden (Boston).
Many Bucks fans have kept close tabs on Ilyasova since his departure from the team last summer, and although the 6-10 forward has opted to spend another season in Spain, don't think the Bucks have forgotten about him. Ilyasova spent much of his summer working out in Milwaukee at the Cousins center and "boy did he look good," according to Director of Player Personnel Dave Babcock.
Babcock maintains that Ilyasova is still very much in the Bucks plans, and quite possibly would have been back with the team this summer if money weren't an issue. "If our financial situation was better we would have re-signed him," stated Babcock. "Everybody here likes him. Our hope is to get (Ilyasova) back with the Bucks next year."
Financially, Ersan had much more to gain by continuing to bank Euros in Barcelona rather than return to the NBA, where he remains a restricted free agent. As such, the Bucks have the right to match any NBA offer, and Ilyasova's new two-year deal reportedly allows him to leave next summer if he has an NBA offer he prefers. Ilyasova's situations has become something of a theme in the NBA this summer, with Josh Childress and Nenad Krstic the most notable examples of quality players opting to take the tax-free riches of European clubs over the cap-constrained offers they received in the NBA.
"He got such a great offer over there," says Babcock. "What are you going to do, have the kid leave multi-million dollars on the table? You can't ask him to do that."
Babcock followed Ersan's season with FC Barcelona intently and noticed substantial progress in his game. "His quickness, mobility and speed are much improved from a year ago."
While he finished his season on a strong note, helping lead the club to the ACB finals, the transition from the NBA back to Europe wasn't exactly seamless for the young Turk. "The coach Ersan played for at first (Dusko Ivanovic) really liked him, but he doesn't like young players, so he didn't get to play. Ersan would play five minutes here and there, you know how that goes..."
But by mid season Ivanovic had gotten the boot and Ilyasova's minutes started to increase. "Once they made the coaching change, Ersan was starting and he was basically one of the best players in Spain for the last month and a half," proclaimed Babcock. Being one of the best players in Spain is no easy feat, as the Spanish ACB league is generally thought to the second best league in the world after the NBA.
Ilyasova's run with the Turkish national team has been inconsistent. At just 19 years old he was one of the team's best players at the 2006 World Championships in Japan, averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds in 25 minutes. Ilyasova helped lead an undermanned squad (without either Hedo Turkoglu or Mehmet Okur) to a surprising 5th place in the tournament. But at last year's Eurobasket in Spain, Turkoglu and Okur did suit up for Turkey, and Ilyasova was a complete non-factor, putting up just 2.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in over 17 minutes of action. There have been rumors that Turkoglu and Okur don't exactly see eye to eye with head coach Bogdan Tandjevic, and the Turkish team has not been very successful when the two prominent NBAers have been in the lineup.
Okur is not with the team this summer, but Turkey should still be a nice tune-up for the Red, White and Blue. Most of the Turks play professionally in their country, which "is a good league" according to Babcock. "I don't think it's quite as good as Spain or Greece, but it's right up there. It's a physical league".
You can read more about Turkey's disappointing performance at Eurobasket last year from Jonathan Givony of Draftexpress. In his account of the tournament, Givony called out Turkoglu, Okur and Tandjevic.