24 April 1967 |
Split, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia
|Listed height||6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)|
|Listed weight||225 lb (102 kg)|
|NBA draft||1989 / Round: 2 / Pick: 40th overall|
|Selected by the Boston Celtics|
|Position||Power forward / Center|
|1990–1993||Il Messaggero Roma|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||3,733 (16.7 ppg)|
|Rebounds||1,883 (8.4 rpg)|
|Assists||356 (1.6 apg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Dino Rađa (also Dino Radja, Croatian pronunciation: [ˌdǐːno ˈrâd͜ʑa]) (born April 24, 1967), is a retired Croatian professional basketball player. He was a member of the Jugoplastika team of the late 1980s and early 1990s, which he helped to win two EuroLeague titles. In the United States, he is best known for the three and a half seasons that he spent with the Boston Celtics of the NBA.
Rađa began his basketball life in his native town, as a junior at KK Dalvin. From there, he went on to KK Split to polish his professional career. He starred with Jugoplastika, as he and his friend Toni Kukoč led the team to win the pinnacle of European club basketball, the EuroLeague (then known as the FIBA European Champions Cup), twice in a row (1989 and 1990).
In late June 1989, the 22-year-old center got drafted by the Boston Celtics, in the second round, as the 40th pick of the draft. Right away, he publicly expressed his willingness to go to Boston immediately, "if the financial offer is good", and thus join fellow Yugoslavs Vlade Divac, Dražen Petrović, and Žarko Paspalj, who were also on their way to the NBA that summer. However, led by general-manager Josip Bilić, Jugoplastika was adamant Rađa would not be released, since they had him under contract until 1992. The entire case quickly turned into a months-long saga that played out in the Yugoslav media. The club's head coach, Maljković, even publicly called on the Yugoslav Basketball Association (KSJ) to adopt safeguard policies, preventing players younger than age 26 from transferring to NBA teams. After weeks of wrangling over his status, Rađa tried to force Jugoplastika's hand, by physically going over to the U.S., in early August 1989, and signing a one-year contract with the Celtics, reportedly worth in the neighborhood of $500,000. He also started practicing with the team at the Brandeis University facilities. However, seeing the situation as a clear case of contract poaching by Boston and its GM Jan Volk (who claimed Radja's contract with Jugoplastika was amateur and thus non-binding), the Split club wouldn't give up the legal fight, taking the case to the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, seeking an injunction to prevent Radja from playing for the Celtics, on the grounds that he had a valid and legally binding contract with Jugoplastika. Following a hearing on 26 September, Judge Douglas Woodlock ruled in their favour two days later, thus preventing Radja from playing for the Celtics. Since Radja was physically already in Boston, bringing him back required some kind of an agreement. By mid November 1989, Jugoplastika and the Celtics agreed to terms, under which the player went back to Yugoslavia to complete the 1989–90 season in Split, before having the rights to his services transferred to the Celtics, effective June 1, 1990. The Celtics paid an undisclosed sum of money to Jugoplastika, which in turn agreed to let Radja go two years short of his contract's completion.
Radja was thus back in Split for Jugoplastika's 1989–90 season. That same season, Jugoplastika again won the Yugoslav League, its third consecutive national domestic league title, as well as its second straight FIBA European Champions Cup (now called EuroLeague).
Despite the team's success, as previously agreed, Rađa would not stay in Split past June 1990, thus relinquishing the chance to go for the historic FIBA European Champions Cup three-peat (which the club, led by Kukoč, achieved the following year), but he would not go to Boston either.
Instead of going to the NBA, Rađa went to Italy, in August 1990, and signed with the wealthy club Virtus Roma, despite claiming all along that he wanted to join the Celtics. He changed his mind once the offer came from Virtus, which was at the time an ambitious and financially stable club, that was bankrolled by the riches of the Gruppo Ferruzzi food company. Virtus' offer was reportedly valued in the $15–18 million range, for a 5-year contract. The Boston Celtics did not insist on him honouring his contract with them, and they instead agreed to let Radja go to Virtus, in return for an undisclosed amount of money, but with the Celtics retaining his NBA rights. Part of the reason Boston did not put up much of a fight when Radja suddenly decided to sign with Virtus, was the July 1990 court decision against them, following the motion by Radja's American agent, Marc Fleisher, after the Virtus offer came in. Taking advantage of an administrative loophole, Fleisher claimed that Radja's contract with the Celtics violated a provision of the agreement between the league and the NBA players that said, among other things, that one-year contracts could not be extended. A special officer of the court had heard the case, and ruled in Radja's favour, against the Celtics.
In 2005, when commenting on his summer 1990 decision to remain in Europe, even after only a year earlier he seemed desperately intent on playing in the NBA, Radja said:
|“||I was playing well. I was making a great salary in Europe. The thing about playing in the NBA was that there were so many unknowns. The NBA was more physical, because the players were bigger and stronger than in Europe. I also would have had to get used to an entirely different culture.||”|
Rađa averaged 17.9 points in the Italian League in his first season with Il Messaggero (Virtus Roma enjoyed sponsorship from that popular Roman newspaper at the time). European sports journalists voted him the second best European player that season, behind only his former teammate and friend, Kukoč. He improved his scoring average each of the next two seasons with the Roman club, averaging 20.3 and 21.7 points in the Italian League, respectively.
Rađa finally joined the Celtics in the summer of 1993, signing a three-year contract on July 9, four years after initial interest from both parties, and the voided contract in 1989. Some two and a half weeks later, the team went through a shocking incident, when the Celtics' leading scorer, small forward Reggie Lewis, died on the basketball court, at the team's Brandeis University practice facility, after suffering sudden cardiac death, from a heart defect.
Playing alongside Dee Brown, 40-year-old veteran Robert Parish, and Rick Fox, then 26-year-old Rađa averaged 15.1 points and 7.2 rebounds, in his debut season, during which he made $1.5 million in salary. With a 32-50 regular season record, the Celtics missed the NBA playoffs, finishing 10th overall in the eastern conference. At the end of the season, Rađa was voted to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team, along with Kukoč, who was at that time a rookie with the Chicago Bulls.
In early November 1994, at the start of his second season with the Celtics, Radja was looking for a contract extension on his existing three-year deal, which was expiring in the summer of 1996. With his agent Mark Fleisher engaged in long negotiations with the Celtics brass, which was led by GM Jan Volk, the deal was reached to add three more years to Radja's existing contract, beginning with the 1996–97 season.
The 1996–97 season, Radja's fourth in Boston, was marked by a left knee injury that forced him to miss 57 regular season games. In January 1997, he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee. The Celtics finished the season dead-last in their division, with a 15-67 record, the worst in the eastern conference, forcing a coaching change at the end of the season, with Rick Pitino replacing M. L. Carr.
In June 1997, a trade that was to send then 30-year-old Radja to the Philadelphia 76ers, in exchange for Clarence Weatherspoon and Michael Cage, fell through, when Radja failed his physical with the 76ers on June 24, 1997. Apparently, the 76ers staffers that examined Radja, determined he had no cartilage in his left knee, and estimated that, "because his left knee is bone-on-bone, he can play games, but he can't practice afterwards, because his knee will swell", and that "he can't play four games in six days". The Celtics initially challenged the 76ers' decision to void the trade, but quickly dropped their arbitration request. Since Radja had three more years left on his guaranteed contract, if he could not pass another team's physical, it meant that the Celtics would have to pay his entire remaining salary. The Celtics were not convinced he could do so over the coming weeks, so the team and the player agreed to a buyout of the three years that remained on his contract, and then, on July 16, the Celtics waived Radja.
In 2005, Radja talked about his exit from Boston:
|“||I went to Pitino and asked him if I fit into his plans. With a new coach, I obviously wanted to know what he thought of my game. I loved playing for Boston and just wanted to find out if there was any possibility I might be traded, because I had heard some rumours. Pitino looked me right in the eyes and said, 'Dino, don't worry. You're going to be a big part of our offense. When we run a set play, the ball is going to go through you.' I left the meeting feeling great. Five days later, I found out I was being traded to Philadelphia. I can't tell you how much I felt betrayed. Either Pitino lied or something changed in a matter of a few days.||”|
Over the course of his four seasons with the Celtics, Radja averaged 16.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in the regular season. In the NBA playoffs, where he only made a single appearance, with four games played, he averaged 15.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
In the wake of his failed physical in Philadelphia, and Rick Pitino's unwillingness to keep him on the Celtics' roster, Radja returned to Europe in July 1997, joining Panathinaikos, a rich and ambitious club bankrolled by the Giannakopoulos brothers (Pavlos and Thanasis), who made their money in the pharmaceutical industry.
For Panathinaikos' owners, finishing the previous 1996–97 season without winning any trophies (after finally winning both the EuroLeague and the Greek Cup in the 1995–96 season, after years of trying), was deemed unacceptable, and brought about big changes to the team. The team's head coach, Božidar Maljković (Radja's mentor from his Split days), was already released during the previous failed season, while his interim replacement, Michalis Kokalis, was let go in the summer of 1997, to make way for new head coach Lefteris Subotić. Also coming in alongside Radja and coach Subotić, was 36-year-old NBA veteran Byron Scott, from the LA Lakers.
Radja spent two years in Athens, winning two Greek League championships, but in 1999, he returned to his native Croatia, to play for Zadar. He left Panathinaikos partly because of an encounter with the club president's son, Dimitrios Giannakopoulos, in the locker room after a game. The president's son, Dimitrios, allegedly cursed at the team's head coach Subotić, but at that time, Rađa didn't know that the person he was arguing with was the son of the club's president. He left the club at the end of the season, after winning the Greek League finals against Olympiacos.
In 2000, he returned to Greece, joining Panathinaikos' long-time rivals, Olympiacos, in an unsuccessful attempt to regain the Greek League championship. With Olympiacos, on 16 October 2000, he scored his first points in the EuroLeague competition, under its new format in which it was run by Euroleague Basketball, in a match against Real Madrid.
Radja was on the senior men's Yugoslavian national team that won the silver medal in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul. He was also a part of the golden Yugoslavian teams at the 1987 FIBA Junior World Championship in Bormio, Italy, 1989 EuroBasket in Zagreb, and the 1991 EuroBasket in Rome.
Following Croatian independence, Radja became an important part of the senior men's Croatian national basketball team, most notably at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, where Croatia won the silver medal. Radja was also on the Croatian teams that won the bronze at the 1993 EuroBasket in Germany, 1994 FIBA World Championship in Toronto, and the 1995 EuroBasket in Athens. With 1,764 points scored, he is the all-time top scorer for the Croatian national team.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
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