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MANILA, Philippines – Bogdan Bogdanovic paid tribute to the players who answered the call for Serbia as the Orlovi moved on the cusp of their first FIBA World Cup crown.
Bogdanovic and Serbia torched a loaded Canada squad featuring seven NBA players with a red-hot shooting display in a 95-86 victory at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, September 8, to secure their place in the finale.
“It’s an opportunity for the other guys. If you’re in, you’re in. If you’re out, you’re out. That’s fair and that’s very professional,” said Bogdanovic, who finished with 23 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals against the Canadians.
The absence of several key players raised concerns whether Serbia can make a deep run in the 32-team tournament.
Other team standouts missing were Houston Rockets big man Boban Marjanovic and former EuroLeague MVP Nemanja Bjelica.
Among all the four semifinalists, Serbia has the fewest active NBA players in its roster with two in Bogdanovic and Nikola Jovic.
Still, the Serbians took those who stood in their path to school, eliminating a Canada side led by All-NBA First Team member Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to reach the World Cup final for the second time in three editions.
“They saw this as an opportunity, they didn’t see this as pressure. To get to play at the World Cup, you get a couple chances in life. I think this is one of the best groups of guys I’ve worked with,” said Bogdanovic.
Bogdanovic, though, said there are no hard feelings towards players who turned down the offer to represent the country in the World Cup.
“We respect everyone that came here and [those who] couldn’t as well. We’re still friends, we still love them, we need them,” said Bogdanovic.
“I’m just happy for the guys. We went through all this. In the end, we are in the finals.”
A member of the Serbia crew that won silver in 2014, Bogdanovic hopes to get the job done this time as the Orlovi face either the USA or Germany in the championship game on Sunday, September 10. – Rappler.com