Phil Jackson/role players 1, Vlad Radmanovic 0
Vlad Radmanovic joined his new Bobcat team on Sunday, but wasn't able to suit up for the day's game in Miami, as Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown have yet to take their physicals. But that didn't prevent the ex-Laker from creating a minor stir. While taking questions from the media, Vlad shared the following about his time in L.A.
"Here I'll do what I do best. Being a Laker was a great experience, but it was also frustrating not knowing when and how I'd play,'' Radmanovic told the Observer. "Phil's system, great as it is, doesn't give a role player much opportunity. For Kobe Bryant, it's great. For Paul Gasol, it's great. But role players don't do much.''
Well, give the guy credit. If there was ever any debate whether the "space cadet" nickname was merited, he managed to settle it. That, as they say, is a rather goofy statement.
Look, I understand that unhappy feelings often accompany being traded, especially when the situation is still raw and barely digested. And to a certain degree, I understand why Vlad was frustrated by his experience with Phil Jackson. Aside from the sarcastic zings (a PJ staple some players handle better than others), this season in particular Vlad was hitting from behind the arc at a very good clip and that's his calling card. On a very specifically and narrowly defined level, it could be argued that Radmanovic was "doing his job." But even cutting him that slack and sympathy... Dude, are you kidding me?
Phil Jackson doesn't provide opportunities for role players?
The coach that has always gone out of his way to champion the importance of the non-star guys, often to the point where fans wish he'd let the big names (MJ, Kobe, Shaq) simply cut loose?
The coach who's built his career on a system Michael Jordan derisively labeled the "equal opportunity offense" due to its propensity for spreading the wealth?
Sorry, but that's a sell Alec Baldwin's "Glengarry Glen Ross" character couldn't close.
Let's take a look at just a partial list of the lunch pail cats now in possession of a jewelry collection they earned (emphasis on "earned") while working under Phil.
Ron Harper (a former All-star caliber player who learned to tailor his game)
Robert Horry (considered one of the best role players ever in part because of time under Phil)
As for quality fellas that have yet to land bling, but have thus far seen their best seasons under Phil compared to other coaches
Hell, there are even a few role players that were never really all that, but undoubtedly saw their best drawn out under Phil's watch. No coach has ever made Kwame Brown, Smush Parker or Brian Cook come off more like useful role players than Phil. You can debate how successful they were or curse them even being on the floor (the latter issue as much the "fault" of Mitch Kupchak's roster assemblage as Phil's rotational decisions), but the fact remains that those three enjoyed the best- and truth be told, reasonably productive- seasons of their careers taking cues from Jackson.
And that's to say nothing of Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic, who technically fit the bill, but lack of time spent outside the triangle doesn't allow much of a comparison. Who knows. They may have been just as or more successful anywhere else. For argument's sake, I won't count them, despite doing fine as role players under Phil. But even without these guys added to my list, it's pretty apparent Vlad's claims don't hold much water. Instead, they sound like a parting shot from a player who didn't really like his old coach.
Again, I get it. Phil isn't perfect and you'll never hear me play the "Who are you to criticize a guy with nine rings?" card. There's undoubtedly an arrogance to him and those tweaks through the media may not have been the most effective way for Phil to relay his goals for Vlad. Thus, on some level, The Zen Master bears some blame in not being able to get what he wanted from a player. That's only fair, as communication (along with responsibility) is a two-way street. But at the same time, was this a code so complicated it required the basketball version of a windtalker to crack? I think I figured out the criteria for steady burn rather easily.
Play a modicum of defense. Don't turn the ball over at a very high rate for essentially a catch and shoot player. Don't make strange decisions while on the court. Avoid being the league's most "tangible" player if you're not hitting shots. And above all, be reliable and consistent, traits, by Vlad's own admission, that have eluded him during his career. (It's also ironic how, in that same interview, Vlad praises the triangle because the system lends itself to finding consistency. I guess Tex Winter must have tweaked its foundation a lot between between June 2008 and now.) Ain't much mystery involved, particularly for an eight-year veteran like Vlad. I said last June that his minutes could turn scarce without addressing this stuff. If he can't at least figure the basics out, the problem is in more ways his, not Phil's.
It's also worth noting that Phil isn't the first coach Vlad has clashed with, nor is it the first time PT has created tension between him and a team. He turned down an offer from the Sonics bigger than the one he eventually signed in L.A., opting instead for a one-year tender with the idea being that he'd play his way into the money he wanted. Only one problem, he wasn't getting the minutes he needed to make that happen (which made the business decision something of a head scratcher), which remained a point of contention until he eventually got dealt to the Clips. It's also worth nothing that Vlad resisted the coaching staff's request to see a sports psychologist, a tactic that's grown more common in many sports. There comes a point where the onus is on the player, not those around him, especially with a repeat pattern in the works.
As I've said on many occasions in the past, I really like Vladdy quite a bit as a person. Good dude. Good sense of humor. Charitably minded. I genuinely want to see the guy succeed. But I also think he needs to take more stock in the issues that have dogged him during his NBA life. Particularly upon playing for Larry Brown, who's been known for both his impatience and propensity for putting fellas in the dog house rather quickly. Often players a lot like Vlad. If Vlad wants to flourish in the land of tobacco and Tarheels, he'll need to really sharpen his focus and make a point of playing at the top of his game at ALL times. Otherwise, I have a feeling the future will be a case of "same story, new uni." And I don't think any of us want to see that, save those two times a season the Lakers and Bobcats meet. For whatever reason, they don't need Vlad's help to chalk up a "W" as it is.