Former Cavs big man complains about NBA tenure: ‘The organization is a headache’

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cleveland Cavaliers moved on from Kyrie Irving in the 2017 offseason, one of the promising pieces they acquired from the Boston Celtics was Ante Zizic.

The Croatian center ended up playing just three seasons with the Cavs before deciding to head back overseas. He recently looked back on his brief time in the NBA, highlighting how his return to his home continent happened to be a wise move.

“The NBA is a show, the organization is a headache,” he said. “I definitely see myself better in Europe. The NBA for me was an episode where everything started from the trade and did not go in the direction I imagined.”

On the other hand, Zizic did share some of his positive experiences, including the opportunity to share the floor with some of the league’s all-time greats, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Dwyane Wade. As a kicker, he also got to play in the Finals.

“I spent three years there,” Zizic added. “I experienced all kinds of good things, a great school and a lesson for the future. I’ve been fortunate to have teammates who are future Hall of Famers and to get to play in the Finals.”

The big man began his professional career in Europe, showing promise for several years before declaring for the 2016 NBA Draft. Boston picked him with the No. 23 selection and signed him the following year. However, before he could play a single minute for the Celtics, he found himself in a new home.

Zizic made 32 appearances in a Cavs jersey in the 2017-18 campaign while also spending some time with the franchise’s G League affiliate, the Canton Charge. That season turned out to be the last time Cleveland reached the Finals, where it lost to the Golden State Warriors.

Unfortunately, the Cavs had no answer for a star-studded Warriors squad, losing in four games. Three of those losses came by double digits. As a consolation, Zizic had the opportunity to suit up on the NBA’s grandest stage, playing in three of the four meetings and making all three of his field-goal attempts.

He experienced another eventful offseason after James decided to leave town in 2018 to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.

A roster revamp allowed Zizic to see more playing time. He played in 59 games (25 starts) in the 2018-19 campaign. Averaging 7.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in just 18.3 minutes per game of action, he looked poised to continue his strong showing in the following seasons.

However, Zizic appeared in just 22 matches in the 2019-20 season before joining Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2020. Since then, he has played for two more basketball clubs, Anadolu Efes and Virtus Bologna.

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Orel is a freelance writer who is passionate about the NBA. He has followed the league since the late '90s and found increased interest in it in 2003 – when an 18-year-old prodigy from Akron, Ohio took the league by storm.