Former Cavaliers coach David Blatt is now coaching Celtics draft pick Ante Zizic on the Euroleague team Darussafaka Dogus.
Blatt, a Framingham native, spoke to the Globe about Zizic’s progression, the Celtics, and more. Here are some excerpts from that conversation.
Q. How has Zizic developed this year?
A. “I think the mere fact that he’s playing in the Euroleague, which is the closest thing to the NBA that there is, both in terms of the quality of play, the level of competition and the seriousness of the seasons themselves, says a lot. Ante as a 20-year-old kid has acquitted himself extremely well. He’s played significant minutes for us. We brought him in to play and he’s become a starter and he has performed at a very high level despite his age, despite his lack of experience at this level and despite what perhaps many European pundits would have believed he could do in his first season in Euroleague.”
Q. What is his potential with the Celtics?
A. “Without question Ante brings to the table a level of energy and intangibles that will allow him initially as a role player to contribute, because he’s going to rebound, he’s going to run, he’s going to go after loose balls, he’s going to be able to finish and he’s going to compete. Now, he’s going to improve his skill set because he’s a worker and he has abilities and he’s going to find that sometimes the space that the NBA allows will actually make it easier for him to score in different ways. He’s going to find that the level of athleticism and size in the NBA is like nowhere else in the world, and he’s going to have to adjust to that. But he’s very smart and he’s very adaptable and he’s very, very competitive. So I believe that he’s going to be able to do those things to be able to make the sort of improvements that he has to make in order to at some point in time contribute to the Celtics. Now, when that is going to be is another question, but without a doubt, in my mind, the Celtics made a tremendous 23rd pick in the draft. This guy, at that number is in my mind just a great pick, a great pick. And I do know a little bit about the NBA, so I can tell you that with confidence.”
Q. Who is an NBA comparison?
A. “One guy that sort of comes to mind is [Steven] Adams from Oklahoma. And he’s certainly turned out to be a pretty fine player. That’s the first guy that sort of jumps out at me when I think of a comparison.”
Q. What makes him so coachable?
A. “In all honesty, you are not going to find a better kid than Ante Zizic. And I know how easy it is for people to say things like that, because that’s what people do when they want to support their player or when they want to sound like they’re playing the right thing. But I’m telling you, all B.S. aside, you will not find a better kid than Ante Zizic. You will not. Anywhere. Hands down.”
Q. How much communication have you had with the Celtics?
A. “I’ll be honest, I’ve had contact with the Celtics and they indeed have not in any way meddled. I didn’t bring Ante to help the Celtics. I brought Ante to help me and to help us. But we certainly have communicated and understanding each other’s situation seeing where we could perhaps help each other, that’s been exactly the case. Ante has helped us a great deal and I hope we’re helping Ante develop, and I believe that we are. So I think this is good business for both sides and good business for the kid.
Q. Are you able to watch the NBA much?
A. “I’m pretty busy. I catch a little bit here and there, but I’m a pretty busy cat right now. But I’m certainly aware of what’s going on, yes.”
Q. What do you think of the Celtics?
A. “I think what you’re seeing is a very nice progression from where they started since the time that Brad came in, and Danny and his group and management and the owners have sort of put in place both a road map and groundwork and ambition to make the Celtics a great team. It seems to me they’re following the path in a very consistent and very professional way and making progress every step that they go. It’s nice to see. It’s very nice to see. They’re not skipping steps and they’re not getting ahead of themselves, but at the same time they’re showing consistent progress and improvement. That’s really the way you should do things if you’re thinking long-term.”
Q. Any Framingham stops in your future?
A. “I don’t any longer have family in Framingham. My parents have passed away and the rest of my family has moved away, but Framingham always has a warm place in my heart, and when the opportunity comes to ride through there, I certainly will.”