Drazen Petrovic, who left the United States a few weeks ago unsure if he would return to the New Jersey Nets, was killed in an automobile accident in Germany on Monday, his attorney said.
Nicholas Goyak said from his home in McMinnville, Ore., that he had spoken with members of Petrovic’s family, and they confirmed that the Croatia native was killed.
Television station WWOR in New Jersey reported that Petrovic was traveling with two female Americans, but did not specify their injuries.
Petrovic, 28, one of the NBA’s top guards, was a member of Croatia’s silver medal-winning Olympic team. He left the United States after the Nets were eliminated by Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs. He was upset that the Nets had not offered him a new contract until March and talking about playing with a European club next season.
“I took a chance, played the whole year without a contract,” Petrovic said the day after the Net season ended. “I have to do what’s best for me, and now definitely more money is coming from Europe. A lot more.”
The Nets’ offer was reportedly was $15 million over five years, one that would have made Petrovic second only to Michael Jordan on the pay scale among shooting guards.
Petrovic, who was selected to the All-NBA third team, averaged 22.3 points on 52% shooting and was one of the league’s top three-point shooters.
He had just finished playing with Croatia in the qualifying tournament for the European championships in Wroclaw, Poland. The team advanced to the June 22 championships in Germany.
Petrovic was acquired by the Nets on Jan. 23, 1991, from Portland for a first-round draft pick in 1992. He had been a third-round pick by Portland, and he was still a raw talent when he arrived in New Jersey. But he developed quickly with added playing time.
A pure shooting guard, he averaged 12.6 points in 61 games after the trade and boosted his output to 20.6 points the following year.
His average dipped to 15.6 points in the playoff loss to Cleveland, but it was a series that saw Petrovic at less than 100%. He sprained ligaments in his left knee in a collision with LaBradford Smith of the Washington Bullets in March and missed almost a month.