Zizic on decision to sign in Israel: 'I want to fight for championships'


For Ante Zizic, the decision to return to pro basketball overseas was easy.

"I felt more welcome here," Zizic told Israeli sports channel ONE about his decision to sign with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Zizic spent three seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers ... but his role started to dwindle following the team's trade for center Andre Drummond in February. Center also happens to be the position Zizic plays.

At the end of the season, the Cavs had Drummond and Tristan Thompson (and sometimes Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr.) ahead of Zizic on the depth chart. Those are all highly paid and decorated veterans.

Meanwhile, Zizic's biggest claim to fame was being the lone remaining player with the same team after the Cavs traded Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics in 2017. Yes, Collin Sexton is still in Cleveland, but he wasn't drafted until nearly a year after the trade.

The Cavs decided early last season they weren't going to exercise Zizic's player option. This offseason, they signed free agent center/forward Jordan Bell.

So a move for Zizic made sense, and he officially signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv in August.

“The whole situation with the virus, with the league, was pretty tough because I was a free agent," Zizic said. "My season finished in March so I had time to decide. In the end, my decision was easy."

Uncertainty about NBA free agency, and even when next season will begin, led Zizic to start considering other options. It seemed that in Europe, he could play right away, get paid, and quite frankly, be a bigger part of the offense.

So he spoke with Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos and GM Nikola Vujcic, and that was that. Zizic would begin a new run in pro hoops. 

Zizic averaged 4.4 points and 3.0 rebounds last season. Those numbers were down from 2018-19, when he compiled career-highs of 7.8 points and 5.4 boards.

Clearly, his career in Cleveland had reached an end.

“Three years in the NBA were great for me," Zizic said. "In the first year, I played with six All-Stars. In the second year, I played a lot but we were in some kind of a rebuilding process so I didn’t play a lot in my third year. 

"I didn’t want to do that. I want to play, I want to compete, I want to fight for championships. In the NBA, it’s tough. If you’re not a playoff team, you’re not fighting for anything except for a higher pick.” 

Zizic and Maccabi Tel Aviv tip off the EuroLeague season Thursday vs. Alba Berlin.