Report Card/Exit Interview: Vlad Radmanovic
Report Card: We'll begin on a positive note. Vlad's shaggy mane and ever-changing facial hair styles provided some giggles, along with a nickname that allowed me to amuse myself ("Cat Stevens"). For that matter, he inspired quality nicknames from Kobe ("Halfpipe," "Slalom") and Phil Jackson ("Igor," "Count Dracula"), too. Unfortunately, that's pretty much the highlight of Radmanovic's season. The pre-season hand injury may have hurt any chances of a flying start, but he still spent of lot of time freelancing instead of trying to work within the offense. And he capped everything with a beyond stupid off the court injury (and an even stupider explanation). Vlad is the first to say his play and season were awful, so I don't feel bad agreeing with him. He does seem fairly determined to play better for the Lakers. Which works out fantastic, because with his trade value now just slightly higher than Darius Miles' and Mike Dunleavy's, he'll be a Laker for a while. Final Grade: F
Vlad Radmanovic's exit interview is below the jump.
Q: How was your exit meeting?
Vlad Radmanovic: Normal.
(Editor's note: While the K Brothers have both stated that we like Vlad as a person, we've also both stated that the dude is a little... um... odd. This would qualify as a classic "Vlad answer.")
Q: How can it be normal? It's the first one you've ever had here.
VR: It's like all other exit meetings. That's why I said normal.
Q: I suppose of all the people on this team, you might actually be a little happy this season's over, just so you can put it behind you. It's been a tough season.
VR: I'm never happy when we end the season, especially in the first round. But definitely, I have to take some time and try to get back in the basketball shape I need to be in order to play at the level I was supposed to. A frustrating season, definitely. And I'm a big part of it, as you all know, but I'll just try to put it behind me and start from scratch.
AK: There had been some talk that Phil Jackson was going to activate you for the playoffs down the stretch, which didn't end up happening. Did you get a sense that he would?
VR: Honestly, I was ready. I worked hard rehabbing and getting back into shape. If he was about to call my name, I was ready to step up and play. I can be smart and tell you I would have played great, but I don't know how I would have played. He made a decision and I have respect for it.
(At this point, Kwame Brown peeked his head into the doorway and began whispering, "Why'd you jump off that mountain?" Vlad smiled, but I get the impression he's officially "over" snowboarding jokes.)
AK: Does next season carry kind of a "redemption" feeling for you, where you have something to prove?
VR: Definitely. I think I owe a lot to the organization and to the Laker fans. There were high expectations when I first came here and obviously, I didn't prove any of them. Definitely, next year I have to come back and play good basketball. Just try, like I said, to put everything behind me. That's the only way to do it.
Q: Were you able to develop any sort of relationship with Phil Jackson? In the beginning, it was sort of sketchy.
VR: I did, even though I didn't play the last three months. We got to know each other a little bit. He's a great coach. A little strange person, but I like it. He's really straight forward and there's nothing you really can't figure out from him. He just does it his own way and I have respect for it.
Q: Did he give you a book to read this season?
VR: No. (Smiles) That's probably why I didn't play.
Q: Did you ask for one in your exit interview?
VR: No, I'm gonna hope he gives me one next year.
Q: With the obvious first answer being "Park City," is there anything else regarding the season that you wish you could do over or approach differently?
VR: There are a lot of things I would change about last year. Maybe I'll just try to forget about it. There's too many things to change. Just putting it behind me and starting from scratch is something that I have to do in order to be the player I was supposed to be.
Q: What are your summer plans?
VR: I don't have any real plans. I'll stay here for a while, work on the strength in my shoulder. After that, I'll probably go home for a while.
Q: When you talk about being "the player I was supposed to be," how do you envision that?
VR: Somebody who's going to contribute on the floor, each and every night. Consistency is something I definitely have to work on, in order to be a better player. When I first came into the league, I had a goal to be a better player each and every year. This is probably I've had so far since I got into the NBA. It's hard for a player that signs a new contract. A lot of people expect you to get better and bring something new to the team and obviously, I didn't do it. That's what I have to do next year.
Q: How much of that struggle came from it being your first year in the offense?
VR: I never thought the offense was going to be a big problem. Obviously, there is a significant difference between Phil's offense and everything else I've faced in my career. It's a process, but I think so far, I gotta figure it out and hopefully, next year I'll be ready to explore it.
Q: When you arrived in L.A., did you picture yourself as a starter or did you leave it open to see what happened?
VR: I hoped I would be a starter, but I had a hand injury in training camp and Luke (Walton) stepped up and he played really good. He took the spot and there was nothing to complain about. He played better than I did in training camp and he knew the offense. I had no clue about it, so there was the other thing. He deserved it. So hopefully, he'll be back next year and both of us are going to try to fight for the same spot again.
Q: At what point, if at all, did you start feeling comfortable in the offense?
VR: Probably right before the All-Star break. I thought coming back from the break, I'd just be fresh and ready to continue from where I left. But unfortunately, that didn't happen. We all know why.
AK: While you obviously would have preferred to play, do you think you were able to learn a lot just from watching that many games from start to finish?
VR: Watching is different. When you're in a system and you run it, you know the timing and everything. When you watch it, you can figure it out, but unless you're on the floor and in the situation, you can't really pick it up that easy. But I think by February, I pretty much had it in my system. That's something that you work on each and every day and it just becomes a habit.
Q: Will you need surgery on your hand?
VR: I don't know. I'll talk to doctors and if something has to be done, I'd rather do it right now than wait a couple months and then figure out, "Okay, now I have to do a surgery."
Q: Does it still hurt?
VR: I didn't play for three months, so I can't really tell you.
AK: Can the disappointment from this season be channeled next year, either as motivation or a reminder?
VR: Definitely. It's a huge lesson. Unfortunately, we can learn from other people's mistakes, but unless we experience it by ourselves, we don't believe it. You're always suspicious about it. But once it happens, you're like, "Wow. Did that really happen to me?" You all think it's impossible to happen to you, but once things happen, you feel vulnerable, too. It's a big reminder, too. It can definitely be channeled, but it's something that stays on your shoulders for a while. Every time you turn around, you see it. But like I said, just playing good and doing something different can do something to get rid of it.