Dino Radja

Who was that large man visiting Patriots practice? You know him, you love him...

dino-radja.jpg

Who was that large man visiting Patriots practice? You know him, you love him...

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick spent some time early on in Wednesday's practice speaking with a very large man in a knit hat, sunglasses and jeans. The Patriots coach spent most of his time with his head tilted up, giving his neck a little workout as he went back and forth with the near seven-footer. 

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"Needs some treatment," Belichick said. "He's a big guy. Yeah, he's a big guy."

So who was that towering presence? None other than former Celtics big man Dino Radja. The Boston Herald recently made note of Radja's visit to Boston, and his trip apparently extended down to Foxboro. 

Radja played for the Celtics for four seasons in the mid-1990s. He also won two Olympic silver medals. One as a member of the Yugoslavian national team and then, following Croatian independence, the Croatian national team.

Belichick is of Croatian descent and has proudly boasted of his heritage in the past. Speaking about Rob Ninkovich (who also has Croatian roots) on the day Ninkovich announced his retirement this summer, Belichick said, "He’s Croatian so I knew he was tough. There was never any doubt about that. All Croatians are tough."

Don't expect Radja to be suiting up for Belichick's team anytime soon, though, even if, at 6-11, he has the size to be a kick-block specialist.

"Yeah, he’d be good, wouldn’t he? It would be hard to kick it over him," Belichick said, smiling.

Former Celtic Dino Radja sees 'high upside' of draft pick Ante Zizic

Former Celtic Dino Radja sees 'high upside' of draft pick Ante Zizic

BOSTON – Ante Zizic is a bit of an unknown when it comes to players selected in the first round of last June’s NBA draft. 

But the Croatian-born big man has a growing list of fans impressed with his game. 

Among them?

Former Celtic and fellow Croatian Dino Radja.

“He’s very active rebounding. He’s after every ball. He’s not waiting for the ball to come to him,” Radja told CSNNE.com. “He’s a young player. Those are some things I really like.”

Zizic currently plays for Cibona Zagreb of Croatia where the 19-year-old has put up some impressive numbers this season. 

The 6-foot-11 big man averages 19.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 blocks in his first 10 Liga ABA games, while shooting 67 percent from the field. 

In his first three Champions League games, he has averaged 19.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.33 blocks per game while shooting 64.3 percent from the field. 

And in his first A-1 Liga game, he had 29 points, nine rebounds and two assists while shooting 71.4 percent (10-for-14) from the field. 

“He can be a good player,” Radja said. “He needs time to develop. But he has a high upside.”

Radja believes in Zizic’s talent, but believes timing may be just as big a factor in whether he comes to the NBA and makes an immediate impact. 

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis was expected to be a borderline lottery pick (top-14) had he stayed in the 2014 NBA draft. 

But he elected to play overseas for one more season, entered the 2015 NBA draft and was selected with the fourth overall pick. 

Considered a project leading up to the 2015 draft, the 7-foot-3 Porzingis has been one of the best players in his draft class and a cornerstone of the Knicks’ future. 

It’s way too soon to even speculate that Zizic can be that good, that quickly for Boston. 

But his play is certainly trending in the right direction.

“I’ve seen him the last two years and he is progressing very nicely,” said Radja who was in Boston on Friday to watch his son play at a nearby prep school this week. “I think if he (Zizic) picks up the right timing, maybe not next year but the year after that, he would be … come here too early and sit on the bench, too much trouble, too much ... you need your time, you need minutes, you need games in order to be good player.”

One of the reasons the Celtics didn’t bring him over to the states this year was because they knew his chances of playing would be slim. 

In addition to Zizic, the Celtics also stashed one of their other first round picks, 16th overall selection Guerschon Yabusele, with a team overseas to retain his rights without having them take up one of the team’s 15 roster spots. Yabusele is playing for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. 

Radja, who played four seasons (1993-1997) with the Celtics, is looking forward to talking with Zizic about being in Boston and playing for the Celtics which is an experience that Radja reflects upon with fondness. 

“I can tell him only how much I love this place,” Radja said. “I love the people around here. I had a great time. When he comes here, he’s going to have a great time here. I have no doubt about that in my mind.”