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Vlade Divac reveals who helped him make adjustment to NBA after playing in Europe

Vlade Divac

Vlade Divac was an important figure for the Los Angeles Lakers during the ’90s. He was a European big who held his own against the best centers the United States had to offer. However, his stint with the Lakers was anything but smooth.

Coming from what was then Yugoslavia, he had to make big adjustments to get used to American life and the American way of playing ball. He sat down with The Athletic’s Jason Jones to talk about his experience as a player.

He talked about who helped him get acclimated to the United States, and his answer will get plenty of Lakers fans giddy:

“I have to say the whole team, even Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], who actually stayed with the Lakers the next year to work out with me before and after practice. But I have to say three names. It would be No. 1, Bill Bertka, assistant coach, who was with the Lakers and he actually called me (this week) to tell me how proud he is, but I told him he has a lot to do with this.

Another name I would say is Magic, playing alongside him helped me adjust a lot from the international game to the NBA and he was a guy who always protected me. And the third name I would mention is Mitch Kupchak, who was the assistant general manager and at the same time he was the development coach with me before and after practice. Even though I was injured my third year, he was somebody who every day he would work with me to get me back on the floor.”

It’s nice to hear that the entire Lakers organization wanted him to succeed. It’s also great to hear an all-time great in Abdul-Jabbar even spending time to practice with him.

Divac played the first seven seasons of his career with the Lakers, and he returned to finish his career with them in 2004-05. He averaged 12.2 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 51% from the field in 535 games with Los Angeles.