He said his coach did not think he was ready. Viacheslav Kravtsov sat. He sat on the BC Kyiv bench waiting for the 2009 NBA Draft, when he again was told he wasn’t ready by all 32 teams.
“Coach didn’t play me for almost 30 something years…,” he said. “…I mean games.”
It felt like years.
Kravtsov was in a frustrating situation. He was losing his confidence as a basketball player. The Ukranian did not foresee this road as a 12-year-old, when he began to consider the sport more as a way of life. He persisted with his quest – getting paid for the sport he loves.
He looked for the light at the end of the tunnel. Returning to the Ukranian League to play for BC Donetsk helped refine his skills – to shoot quicker and play faster.
“Everything changed,” he said. “I could show how I can dominate in the paint, show my skill level and go from not playing at all to becoming the best center in the league. That’s how I prove myself.”
This was his “in.” He returned to the United States.
“It was my target to come here,” said Kravstov, who recognizes the NBA as the premier basketball league in the world. “I felt like I could do it. It is a good chance prove myself again, to show everybody that I can play at this level and play very well.”
Kravtsov dabbled in the NBA prior to being traded to the Phoenix Suns; he was a member of the Detroit Pistons his rookie season last year. His adjustments from international (in Ukraine from 2006-2012) to national play was an easy transition, said Suns coach Jeff Hornacek.
“When we picked him up, he was kind of in the same boat Goran was,” said Hornacek, referring to Suns guard Goran Dragic. “When he got here, he was a little worn out but he’s long, he can block shots. Especially his last, probably week, when he’s got his legs back under him he’s got better. He’s familiar with the NBA game. It’s an advantage for him.”
Hornacek said he’s “got the length and strength.” Kravtsov has a slow motion to him, but has the vertical to block shots, which adds to the team’s versatility.
So methodically, he leans into the invisible defender. In shootarounds and practices, Kravstov backs down and works his post move – a little shimmy and a quick flick of the wrist.
…Brick. He resets.
…Swish. He smiles.
“I was angry,” said Kravtsov about his struggles to make it into the NBA. “But whenever I receive the ball in the paint I go hard. That’s what I like to do. Since I came here, I think this is a good change for me.”
Kravstov said he is ready; his teammates said he is a good go-to player.
“He’s a big guy who can run,” Dragic said. “You know, every time he gets an offensive rebound he can score.”
Dragic said last year’s Suns did not have enough chemistry. But, with a young team now there is potential. Dragic is one of five Suns on the roster who has more than five years of NBA experience.
The Suns did not put in any offensive options for their new big man, and Dragic expects the team to mimic the up-tempo playing style the Suns have used in the past.
“We have a lot of new guys so we just need some time to figure out these things,” Dragic said. “We can run. Last year we didn’t do that, but we want to play old Suns basketball.”
Though, there is a twist: defense. Hornacek is emphasizing defense so players can run the court and capitalize on easy baskets.
With chemistry in mind, the rotation is only as strong as the weakest player. The acquisition: worth it. Hornacek said he sees Kravstov as a growing investment who will make the team stronger.
“He’s done some nice things for us,” he said. “So, with his long arms and his jumping ability, it adds something.”