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Warriors' hire of Milojević is an investment in Wiseman

NBC Sports
James Wiseman

The clearest indication the Warriors plan to keep James Wiseman for at least the next few years came last week, when coach Steve Kerr created openings on his staff.

Further proof that Wiseman’s development is a high priority came this week, when Kerr agreed to add Dejan Milojević, a 44-year-old Serbian who was serving as head coach for Budućnost VOLI in Montenegro.

His prize pupil is familiar: Nikola Jokić, the Denver Nuggets center who last week was announced and the NBA MVP for this season.

Though the Warriors have made no official announcement, multiple league sources say the hire is a done deal and that Milojević, who signed with Budućnost in January, is utilizing a clause in his contract that allows him to leave for a job in the NBA.

Moreover, two sources said the Warriors were known to have had interest in Milojević as far back as last offseason.

With the brain trust consistently insisting Wiseman is part of the future, it makes perfect sense that the Warriors would invest in someone to teach him, push him, do whatever is necessary to tap into his potential.

After all, NBA archives are rife with sad stories involving young players with tremendous physical gifts that failed to receive proper nurturing.

 

That’s where Milojević comes in. He’s said to be cut from common Eastern European coaching cloth, meaning he is stringent in his methods and can be blunt, even fiery.

Though he was known as a rugged and productive big man for the better part of his 15-year playing career in Europe, his greatest feat as it relates to his new job is his work during three seasons coaching Jokić.

No one has been more influential to the development of Jokić, who as a teenager began studying under the guidance of Milojević. By the time Jokić was in his third NBA season, at age 22, it was apparent that he possessed exceptional skills. Now, at 26, those skills are polished and are as comprehensive as any center in NBA history.

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Much of the credit for Nikola’s rise, according to Tim Connelly, president of basketball operations in Denver, should go to Milojević.

“I've spent so much time in countless gyms all over the world, but Dejan quickly jumps out as completely different,” Connelly told ESPN last September. “He's not teaching Nikola to 'dribble, dribble, to the left shoulder.' It's 'dribble, dribble, and reach under the elbow to shoot with the left hand.'

“There's no cookie-cutter learning. He's teaching his guys to become unique players.”

It’s expected that Milojević will work mostly with Wiseman but also with other players on the roster.

With three Golden State assistants -- defensive coordinator Jarron Collins, and player-development coaches Luke Loucks and Theo Robertson -- not returning, there will be more additions. Kerr is in the midst of evaluating and interviewing prospective assistants.

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