NBA

EXCLUSIVE: Damjan Rudez reveals LeBron James and Rudy Gay as his toughest opponents

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The Indiana Pacers struggled this season and missed the NBA Playoffs for the first time in five years, losing out in the race for the 8 seed to the Brooklyn Nets by just one game.

Injuries proved a big problem for Indiana with Paul George, George Hill and David West all missing significant time at one point or another.

However, those injuries afforded chances to some lesser known players, one of them being small forward Damjan Rudez, who we spoke to last week.

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Rookie Rudez

The 6"10 Croatian was in his first season in the NBA in 2014-15 and would not have dreamt of averaging 14 minutes ago when he first touched down in Indiana, coming from CAI Zaragoza of Liga ACB in Spain.

Rudez was undrafted when he was up for selection back in 2008, and was 28-years old when he came over to North America and made his NBA debut, but the small forward benefitted thanks to the horrific broken leg suffered by Paul George.

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The NBA is a massive step up from playing in Spain and the rest of Europe, and Rudez revealed to us the two players that he struggled against most during his rookie season in the Big League: LeBron James and Rudy Gay.

LeBron and Rudy

"I think for me it was LeBron James, obviously he is a great player, but also Rudy Gay," Rudez told us when asked about the toughest opponent he faced. "Yeah, Rudy has great size and quickness and his ability to handle the ball is excellent."

"He is a really impressive talent and I had a lot of trouble going up against him. And LeBron doesn’t need a reason, he is just phenomenal. So yes, it’s those two for sure."

Rudez is right, LeBron needs no introduction. He is the best player in the league when healthy and the only reason that the Cleveland Cavaliers are still in with a chance of winning the NBA Finals is because he is playing like a Superhero every night, putting up ridiculous numbers on a consistent basis.

But Rudy Gay is different, and not someone I expected to hear at all. Since being drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2006, Gay has failed to make a single All-Star Game or make All-NBA honours. 

He was incredibly impressive this season however, having one of the best years of his career at the age of 28, averaging over 21 points per game along with 5.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

Rudez spoke to us from Gran Canaria, where he was part of the NBA's Basketball Without Borders initiative, serving as NBA ambassadors to European youth in what was the 15th year of Basketball Without Borders.

Some of the league's premier players attended the BWB camp when they were kids, including Joel Embiid, Marc Gasol, Marco Belinelli and Nikola Mirotic.

WHO DO YOU THINK ARE THE BEST SMALL FORWARDS IN THE NBA? TELL US BELOW...

Topics:
Indiana Pacers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
NBA
LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Sacramento Kings
Pacific Division
Western Conference

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