Indianapolis (June 20) --
Introduce the topic of Stanko Barac, and Ryan Carr smiles. "My 7-foot-2 little brother," said the Pacers' Director of Scouting.
The Pacers acquired Barac in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft and have kept close tabs on the Croatian standout. Carr speaks to him regularly on the phone and makes periodic visits to Europe.
"These last couple of years, I've probably talked to Stanko as much as anybody," said Carr. "We have a great relationship. I talk to him all the time, making sure I know what he's going through, how he's feeling through the year. He's a great kid and he has blossomed into a really, really good player and it's been fun to talk with him as he goes through that."
As the Pacers lock in on Thursday's draft, Barac is something of a wild card. He's coming off a breakthrough season with Caja Laboral Baskonia (Spain), taking giant strides in his NBA readiness. The Pacers have a potential dearth of capable bodies in the frontcourt as Jeff Foster, Josh McRoberts and Solomon Jones all are free agents.
But a couple of factors complicate the process. For one, Barac signed a contract extension last November that ties him to his Spanish team through 2015, meaning the Pacers would have to execute a buyout to bring him to the NBA. For another, even if all parties involved considered this the right time to make the move, the looming uncertainty with the league's labor situation is a deterrent.
"Certainly whenever the market opens, I think it's a conversation we're going to entertain and discuss not only with him but his team over in Spain," said General Manager David Morway. "No question about it, he's ready to come over to the NBA. He had a very good year. He's one of the better big men in Europe.
"He's a skilled (center), he's 7-foot-2, he can shoot the ball or score on the block and he knows how to play. It's going to take a period of adjustment but he certainly can become a quality backup in this league and hopefully more."
Stepping into the starting lineup after Tiago Splitter joined the San Antonio Spurs last season, Barac averaged 22.5 minutes, 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in EuroLeague play, shooting .577 from the field and .625 from the 3-point line.
"He's a center, I would say in the mold of a Rasho Nesterovic," said Carr. "He can really shoot the ball but he's also really effective on the block. He understands how to move on the floor. He's not the greatest athlete but his IQ on the floor helps him move in a way that puts him in the right spots.
"He has played for a coach that is disciplined and tough so he knows how to be coached. He has played in a system with a lot of pick-and-rolls, which will help him when he gets here and I think most of all, this year especially he has gained a lot of confidence in himself and in his game after playing behind Splitter for a number of years. This has been a great year for him."
The timing was never right for Erazem Lorbek, a second-round pick of the Pacers in 2005 who became a star in Europe and opted to remain overseas. Will it ever be right for Barac?
"There has to be timing between us and their team coming to an agreement and a time where Stanko feels like he's ready to come," Carr said. "I think he's a good player. I think he could add something to our team and I'd like to see him here but at the same time there are a lot of factors that have to come together."