By Cindy Garcia-Bennett, PA Sport
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Marko Jaric is fed up with being raked over the coals for Serbia & Montenegro's EuroBasket failure and has blasted coach Zeljko Obradovic for not standing by the players.
A proud hoops nation, hosts for the glamorous event, was left stunned as the two-time defending world champions lost 74-71 in the elimination round and Obradovic revealed afterwards that Jaric's poor relationship with fellow playmaker Igor Rakocevic had been the biggest problem.
"I'm very angry about everything that happened here," Jaric said to PA Sport.
"I am the kind of man that doesn't run away from responsibility and if they think I did something for my team not to win, and if it was true, then I would take responsibility."
||I probably in the future will play for the national team
Jaric was in the side that captured the EuroBasket crown in Turkey four years ago and in the group which won the world title in Indianapolis in 2002.
"Every time when the team wins, everyone is a winner, but when the team loses, the blame is going to go to a couple of players and even to one player," he said.
"But I don't care, I was never scared of that, there's nothing to be ashamed of. I gave 100% of what I have (at EuroBasket 2005). I came here to play and win but I didn't make it.
"I didn't do anything wrong and for me it is important to be clear in front of myself, what people talk or what newspapers say, the truth is we live in an angry world, you don't know if people want to win or they want you to lose so that they can be hard on you and tougher on you because you are maybe a successful person.
"This is a pressure that all professional athletes face. But I'm looking forward to it and I probably in the future will play for the national team."
After the 74-71 defeat to France, Obradovic announced to the media that players had fought in the team.
The coach has since resigned.
Obradovic said on Tuesday: "I knew about old dissidence between our main playmakers, Marko Jaric and Igor Rakocevic.
"I held an excellent meeting with them during our preparations and it was really open and sincere communication.
"But, when the preparation games started, the same problems occurred again. Everything exploded during the game against France which decided the team to gain passage to the quarter-finals.
"I still can't understand how someone can care more about getting the ball than if his team wins. Does anyone know how to deal with such things?"
None of the problems, particularly between Jaric and Rakocevic, were made public during the build-up.
Obradovic freely talks about the issue, now.
"The relations between Jaric and Rakocevic was, without doubt, our biggest problem," he said.
"I'm sad because of that, as we don't have better playmakers than these two players.
"In our squad, there was some kind of jealousy as Rakocevic is becoming a leader of national team.
"After a big defeat in the first round against Spain, I saw Jaric, alone with his thoughts."
Spain had destroyed the hosts, 89-70.
"I asked Rakocevic to talk with him, to support him, and Igor did that," Obradovic said.
When asked about fighting after the loss to France, Jaric said: "We are emotional players, there were a lot of hard words said.
"We were very disappointed and it's normal that this happens in the locker room and not because we hate each other only we were just frustrated with what happened and we knew that we were going to be torn apart by the newspapers and by the people in the coming days."
What hurts Jaric just as much as the defeat is how Obradovic spoke to the media about the problems in the team.
|Tension between Igor Rakocevic and Jaric was a major problem for Obradovic|
"What the coach did to the players at the press conference, he scared a lot of young players," Jaric said.
"Nobody wants to be a part of the one team that after that, everyone wants to kill you, including your coach. And I can guarantee you that all those guys are good guys, with a lot of heart and we all played with a lot of heart.
"Of course, there's no one team that everybody likes each other 100% and that everything works 100%. Even in the Greek team that won, I am sure that there's some things that didn't work. In the past when things don't work, these things come out."
The press conferences by Obradovic were, Jaric says, unacceptable.
He added "It's not the way to talk, to pull yourself from the crisis and put the players in the crisis...
"We need to understand something. We the players wanted to come here to play for our people and the coaches are paid to come to be in this team and to lead the team," he said.
"We, the 12 players and 15 players have given our hearts out and even if they are coaching for the national team, they are professionals and they are paid.
"Anybody who is a little bit smart knows that we are all here because we want to bring a bit of happiness to these people, we are not doing it because of personal things because we are already successful in the NBA or in Europe and everyone already has contracts and nobody is trying to sell himself using the national team."
Jaric says the federation also made mistakes.
"I'm slightly frustrated with them because they were there for us to bring the team together but most important, they let one coach who declared that he was done forever with the national team tear us apart, the players that this federation needs for next year, the following year and afterwards, down.
"Nobody stood up for the players and protected players from all this stuff."
Jaric was also dismayed by the criticism aimed at NBA players taking part in the EuroBasket.
"Everybody in America blames you for playing in the national team, everybody here blames you for playing in the NBA," he said. "You know what, if people don't want us here to play for the national team that's fine, just tell us that you are superstars, in your mind we don't need you, that's fine, we are never going to show up again.
"If they think that European Championships are going to be more quality with just European players without Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Andrei Kirilenko, and the rest of the great players like Pau Gasol, you know what, that's their choice."
One of the ramifications of Serbia & Montenegro's early exit is the country must now receive one of four wild cards to be offered by FIBA to take part in the World Championship in Japan.
"I really hope so," Jaric said. "I think despite our disappointing EuroBasket, we deserve to defend the World Championship title. And I hope that we can do better.
"Several things need to change in order for me to consider playing for the national team. At this time I'm very angry but we will see what happens."