Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Radmanovich Mystery

Game Three was a turbulent affair filled with shanked free throws, horrific performances from star players (namely Pierce, Gasol, KG, and Odom), and, of course, a Donaghy taint that permeated everything. (Although from where I'm sitting, we didn't need a District Court brief to tell us that the Kings-Lakers game in 2002 was the most unfairly officiated game in modern sports history.) Plus, there was the bizarre way that Doc Rivers used (or, more to the point, didn't use) Rajon Rondo, as well as the dramatic return of "Good Kobe." Lots to talk about.

But the thing that left me scratching my head long after the game was over was the ongoing mystery that is Vlade Radmanovich, Starter.

Does anyone have any clue why Phil Jackson is still starting this guy? I mean, I get that Radman can stretch a defense with his streaky three-point stroke. And I am willing to admit that he looks like a vampire, which is kind of awesome. But what else does this dude bring to the table? He can't play defense, he fouls like it's his job, he has no other dimension to his offensive game beyond catch-and-shoot, and he has a pretty bad attitude on top of everything else. Way back in round two, my brother stated that Vlade was the worst starter in the playoffs and that it wasn't even close. While the likes of Mo Evans and DeShawn Stevenson might take offense at that statement, I have to believe my brother was on the money with his assessment.

The craziest thing about Radman's deficiencies is that he has a backup that is FAR superior. It would be one thing if, like the Wizards and Magic, the backups were equally crappy. This is, after all, the modern NBA, where expansion has diluted talent to the point where even the good teams can have horrible players getting big minutes (paging Fabricio Oberto). But in the case of the Lakers, they have a really good player sitting on the bench in Sasha Vujacic. He's come a long, long way during the last three years and has developed into a really good NBA player. He didn't wind up being the tall point guard that L.A. originally hoped for, but I'd wager that he's actually a better basketball player than even Phil Jackson could have dreamed. The Machine (I absolutely love that he gave himself the nickname, and I'm even more excited about the outfit I saw him wearing at Starbucks a few weeks ago - pink pants tucked into mismatched paisley socks) drills open threes, can put the ball on the floor to create space for his jumper, knows how to move without the ball and work off of screens, plays with emotion, gets under the skin of opponents, and works his butt off on the defensive end. That's not a bad option to play on the wing.

So, I go back to the original mystery: why is Radman starting over The Machine? Vujacic shoots just as well, if not better. He seems to work better with Kobe Bryant. He is a far superior defensive player. He has more tools on the offensive end. He plays with more spirit and emotion. He's just better. I realize that you could probably engineer a stat that says otherwise, but I'd rather trust my eyes on this one.

That said, if someone could give me some insight into what Phil Jackson knows that I don't, I would be forever grateful. This is a mystery that might just keep me up at night.

(Next up on Mystery Finals Theatre - Why Doc Rivers decided to capitalize on Rajon Rondo's breakout 16-assist performance in Game Two by refusing to let his young point guard create on offense and then playing him for just 4 minutes in the entire second half of Game Three.)


Anonymous said...

Maybe he is trying to do a Popovich when he brings in Ginobili and bring some fire power off the bench. Not to say that Sasha is even close to being the same caliber of player that Ginobili is, but I have to admit that when Radmanovich goes to the bench it is a lot more nerve racking watching Sasha spot up for 3 in the corner. Not to mention he is a much bigger pest than Radmanovich on defense too.

Anonymous said...

The "Machine" has a nasty habit of being too aggressive, taking too many shots before handing the ball over to the "Douchebag" (Kobe). I'd love to see Jordan Farmar and the "Machine" get into a slapping fest over who gets to be the star of the game when Kobe is on the bench.