NBC Sports

Bjelica's return to Sacramento 'not like a regular game'

NBC Sports

Nemanja Bjelica spent 32 months as a member of the Kings and clearly treasures his time in Sacramento, which is why he’s unable to suppress the emotions when he returns Sunday as a member of the Warriors.

He feels obligated to attempt to take the high road, but it’s quite the battle with his heart.

“'I would lie if I say it's like a regular game for me,” Bjelica said Saturday night, shortly before the Warriors boarded the bus to Sacramento. “I've got a lot of friends there, special people from the coaching staff, my teammates. I spent almost three years there. The first two years in Sacramento was the best years of my NBA career.”

After spending his first three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bjelica signed with the Kings in July 2018. The decision was no small part related to his relationship with former Kings vice president/general manager Vlade Divać, a fellow Serbian who fashioned a 16-year NBA career.

As Bjelica spoke, there was no apparent bitterness. There was, however, an expression of regret about how things turned out. Divać was forced out in August 2020. Three months later, the Kings declined to match an offer sheet extended to Serbian shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanović, who signed with the Hawks. 

Four months later, Bjelica, coming off his best season, was traded to the Heat.

“A lot of players got hurt, and sometimes I was pissed because that was the only opportunity for me to play and show I am more than a stretch-4,” Bjelica said. “But in the NBA, it’s all about the situation and opportunity. We had a good system there. A good fit.


“But after (Covid-19) hit, they fired Vlade and went in another direction. I think they made a big mistake for letting Bogdan Bogdanović leave the team for nothing. They just tried to rebuild, I guess.”

RELATED: Warriors attempted to trade for Bjelica last year

The Kings are 1-1 this season, winning at Portland on Wednesday before losing to Utah in the home opener Friday. There is optimism, though, with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton sharing the backcourt, Harrison Barnes off to a good start and sharpshooter Buddy Hield in the Sixth Man role.

Bjelica said these Kings are “looking really good,” and he’s impressed with their effort. While he considers the Warriors a great fit for his game, he left a piece of his heart in state capital.

“Sacramento will always be important for me,” he said, “as a city and (because) I met a lot of people there.” 

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