Ergin Ataman entered the Anadolu Efes locker room after the final game of the season. EuroLeague champions swept Fenerbahce 3-0 and lifted the Turkish league title for the second consecutive season. It was a short conversation, but the message was clear.

Vasilije Micic

Vasilije  Micic
Team: Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Position: PG, SG
Age: 27
Height: 195 cm
Weight: 92 kg
Birth place: Kraljevo, Serbia

"We'll continue with the same team. We'll enjoy going on the court like the EuroLeague champions. Stay together. I'll stay on the team. I hope you'll continue with this team too," Ataman finished his five-minute speech.

The EuroLeague MVP and the Final Four MVP, Vasilije Micic, wasn't such a big believer.

"I didn't believe we'll get together again," he revealed on the Urbonus podcast.

He was weighing his NBA options. Vasa also knew Shane Larkin still had hope and desire to go to the NBA too. Soon Micic received an unexpectedly early offer from CSKA Moscow while he was on the Serbia NT training camp.

"It was a great offer. I was really happy they showed interest in me. I believe CSKA always will be and still is one of the best teams," Micic added.

At the same time, the 27-year-old point guard was discussing his NBA situation. He wanted to make up his mind about his future sooner than later. First of all, Micic didn't want to risk getting an injury. Also, he wanted to focus on an Olympic mission with Serbia. Micic discussed his NBA potential with the Serbia NT head Igor Kokoskov, who later joined the Dallas Mavericks coaching staff.

"Igor Kokoskov was one of the biggest supporters. I'm very thankful for that," Micic said. "He compared me with the players that are on that level, back-up point guards. He told me honestly that I could reach that level and that I was on that level, actually. He was one of the guys I really listened to, and we had good conversations. I have huge respect for him. I'm very sad he left our National Team because I believe he had the potential to be successful with the upcoming generation with his vision and approach. But we have to respect his decision."

Micic was eager to test the NBA not because he aimed at a $100-200M contract. He wanted to check where he belongs among the best players in the world. The MVP had two options in his mind.

He considered playing for the title contenders with a clear role. Micic gave Facundo Campazzo example. The Argentinian guard left Real Madrid last year on a crazy buyout to join Denver Nuggets.

The other option was the NBA team, which was trying to develop something new with a vision to put Micic in a visible position.

He spoke about it with the Oklahoma City Thunder GM, Sam Presti. The OKC holds his NBA rights: "Presti is an amazing guy and the GM. That conversation was very useful. I was completely honest that I couldn't be visible if I didn't have a ball (in my hands) or no clear role.

That happened to me when I was in Zalgiris. In Zalgiris, it was different because Saras (Jasikevicius) controlled the game for 40 minutes. Of course, Kevin Pangos was a big reason. But I had limited options on the offense and limited time with the ball. I can be solid that way, but it's not my full potential. I told him something similar that I would like to have this ball. My mindset is not to kill the team. If I have the ball at the end of the game, I can give more positives than negatives.

I might sound arrogant, but I can't compare myself with someone there (in the NBA). I feel that it's possible to put my game style at that level. I don't know if I'm right or not, but with the game style I have, with the size and everything, I believe I could do good things over there."

However, Sam Presti couldn't provide him clear answers. The Oklahoma City Thunder was facing a very uncertain off-season. They weren't sure about their future decisions, and they were still a month away from the NBA draft or the free agency.

"For me, it was too long to wait," Micic revealed.

Micic turned back to CSKA's offer and started the negotiations with the Efes. He told them he received a very serious offer from the Russian powerhouse.

"But I wanted to give Efes the priority if they can match or offer me something similar. I was very happy Efes understood my desire to stay. In the end, they offered me the conditions I wanted. I just didn't feel I had to wait. I felt this is it," Micic told on the Urbonus podcast.

Micic put his signature on a three-year guaranteed deal with Anadolu Efes, with an NBA-out clause included after every season.

"My decision to stay in Efes was based on my connection with Ataman and the freedom that's hard to get from anyone," Micic explained. "When I look at CSKA, I believe I could reach that freedom, that style. But why should I go there if I'm on the same level as them? And having that freedom to keep playing one more year that way, with creativity at the point guard position, shooting the ball off the screen, making assists, and playing important minutes defensively well... It's something how I believe I can play everywhere.

I finally felt happy that I didn't need to change my jersey for a different logo. And we were champions. In the end, everything together was so good, and the moment to wait (for the NBA) was not perfect."

I was perfectly aware that people were thinking differently. They said it's a perfect time, that I won everything, that I'm at my best age. But I don't think like that. Because in life, everything is happening so fast, and I'm always ready for everything. I don't take everything for granted. That makes me peaceful.

Even now, when I made the decision, a three-year deal, guaranteed, everything is good. But I still feel it's like just any other contract. One year and after that, we'll see. The good thing about this contract is that I have options to leave because of the buyouts. But I don't think about the future. I think about the present."

When Micic decided to stay in Efes for the first time, he felt like going home. He thought he was going back to the group of guys that he accepted for the first time.

This group has been fighting for the same goal since 2018. They made the EuroLeague Final 4, later advanced to the final, were on the top of the EuroLeague before the COVID happened, and finally reached the podium last season.

They're back again. Sertac Sanli was the only player that left this championship squad. When he was deciding his future, Micic thought if the same group would be hungry enough again to defend the title. But Micic understood there's a lot of things you can't replace in Anadolu Efes.

"There is one thing that I don't believe everybody sees about us. We have an older team, but if you take each player individually, they have something you can't buy, you can't build, or you can't copy. This is self-responsibility. Self-pride," Micic explained. "It's really hard for us to lose because when you have these characters, you don't need to worry for serious games and the serious part of the season. We know our roles, and each player will be motivated enough."

Watch the entire conversation with Vasilije Micic about his connection with Shane Larkin, Nikola Jokic, and desire for coaching on the Urbonus podcast:

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