KAYSERI, Turkey – Serbia has been devastated by the suspensions of its two top players for the start of the world basketball championships, coach Dusan Ivkovic said Friday.
Krstic will miss the first three games and Teodosic the first two. Ivkovic said Serbia has lost "two key players" for the games against Angola, Germany and Jordan.
"We will be playing 10 against 12 in the first two matches and 11 against 12 in the third and that's a big handicap," Ivkovic said.
"We have to react in a very short time, I have to prepare my players mentally," Ivkovic added. "Krstic is our captain, or pillar, our main offensive option. Without Teodosic, we lose a lot of creativity."
The 66-year-old veteran coach, who also cut center Miroslav Raduljica from the final 12-man squad, noted that the brawl at a game in a warmup tournament took place on Aug. 19 and that FIBA was "perfidious" in waiting to hand out punishment.
"FIBA could have reacted quicker," said Ivkovic, who led the former Yugoslavia to one of its record five world titles in 1990. "It was buying time."
Krstic was punished for throwing a chair at Yannis Bouroussis, who was not playing for Greece because of an injury.
The bench-clearing fight started after an altercation between Teodosic and Antonis Fotsis. Fotsis and Greece teammate Sofoklis Schortsanitis also have been suspended for two games each.
Krstic, the Oklahoma Thunder center, said he was not surprised by the suspensions.
"We expected something like this. Of course I am disappointed. Now, it's behind us and I don't want to talk about it too much," Krstic said. "We have to look ahead and think about the upcoming games."
Krstic will be available for the final two Group A games against Australia and Argentina, but Ivkovic said his players were very disappointed when they heard about the suspensions during a practice.
"Now I have to lift their spirit, to raise their heads," Ivkovic said, adding that the opening game Saturday against Angola was the "key match" for his team.
"They may not have the height, but they are exceptionally athletic and rebound well," Ivkovic said.
With Ivkovic in charge, Serbia's young team finished runner-up to Spain at last year's European Championship. Spain is also the defending champion in Turkey.