Belgradian Hulk: Let’s Get to Know Miroslav
USA Today Sports
Butt-ugly as the Eastern Conference standings look these days, we can’t be reminded often enough that the players we see on the NBA hardwood are so many cuts above their global would-be competitors.
A dude like Slavko Vranes can turn a Euroleague game into a farce; he only lasted three victory-cigar minutes in the Association. Ha Seung-Jin could still throw down over international competition so many years after he bought his second one-way ticket over the Pacific; he played his 46 NBA games at the astoundingly raw ages of 19 and 20, and still no NBA team thought it worthwhile to see him develop into proper adulthood. Pavel Podkolzin earned $2.8 million to play 28 total minutes for the Dallas Mavericks, and has probably earned that some times over as he stomps about the Russian leagues to this day. When they see this devastating highlight tape, future archaeologists will be befuddled when they learn that Yi Jianlian was only a short-lived bit player.
And now we have this fuzzy and breathtaking highlight package from a 30%-full Serbian gym. Its protagonist is shown, among other things, celebrating a heady fast-break dunk by running full-speed into the stanchion, and then cornering his opponent into checkmate with two mere slaps of the ball.
(The footage only needs to be a little grainier in order to acquire the mythological status of a young Sabonis.)
This year that protagonist has flown to America and joined the Association.
We’re 212 minutes into the NBA career of Miroslav Raduljica and, who knows, a cut could be levied down from on high any day, costing Milwaukee only a scant handful of millions and forever relegating Raduljica to this obscure almanac of brief foreign curiosities. After all, requiring Zaza Pachulia to go down with injury in order to get minutes is not a trustworthy route to career stability and success. At this point in time, he’s most “famous” among NBA watchers for his keyboard-stomp name, as evidenced by what has to be the least-followed NBA Twitter account ever.
I propose that we amend these errors. Let’s learn how to pronounce that name. Let’s follow that Twitter account–any nuggets that tumble out of it in future days will be well-worth the follow. Trust.
Because, look, this is a seven-foot iron wrecking ball who will make the floorboards shake and the rim rock. This is a man who will not be knocked off-kilter by the beefiest of his fellow true-5′s, meantime with a deft enough touch to shoot a svelte 83.3% from the free-throw line. His top-15 true shooting percentage stands as testament to the blunt force Raduljica can employ in the low post against the hapless wisps whose bodies suddenly seem frail and inadequate when standing next to this anvil of a man.
Raduljica’s stat line–26 years old, 10.1 minutes per game, 2.2 rebounds, a .587 FG% and 4.5 points–hardly seems cause for the earnest hope that swells within my bosom to see years and years of bruising Miroslavian post-ups. But please consider the striking similarities between the production of a rookie Raduljica and a rookie Omer Asik (24/12.1/3.7/.553/2.8) and a rookie Nikola Pekovic (25/13.6/3.0/.517/5.5).
Footage of Raduljica speaking in English is sparse, but this interview from over the summer is required viewing for all of us who eagerly await Miroslav to sub into the game. How can you not love the man:
Even though Raduljica is on his fifth league in the last four years (playing in Turkey, Germany, his home country of Serbia, and Ukraine before arriving in Milwaukee), his life is still simple. He just wants to bump and slam his opponent into resignation, shoot some 3′s, ride home from the arena in his Harley-Davidson, and enjoy the rest of his evening curled up with a horror novel. This is all he needs out of life. A simple economy of desires we should all seek to emulate.
Milwaukee has already visited Boston twice this year, the closest NBA team to Stephen King’s homes in Maine. If there is any justice in this world, may Miroslav remain on the Bucks’ roster–or, heck, any NBA team’s roster, really–for the 2014-15 season, and can somebody make sure that King goes to the Celtics game when Raduljica is in town? This is the only trappings of celebrity that Raduljica wants from his time on the bright American sporting stage–why wouldn’t he deserve to have this wish fulfilled?
Snark all you want on the Bucks’ ghastly 7-27 record. Craft those derogatory rhymes (“Hex ‘em for Exum“) about their draft position. Between Raduljica’s brute force, the impossibly lengthy shut-down brigade of Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh, and John Henson, and the coming-of-age three-point barrage from Khris Middleton, the Bucks have the depth of a meaningful, quality team. They have the worst record in the league because they’re missing a crown jewel, the apex of their pyramid. (The Bucks are the inverse of the Knicks, who are forced to lean on Carmelo and can’t distribute their weight on anything else.) They might be years from integrating these wonky parts into a dynamic whole, but even before then, I’ll be eagerly watching this most avant-garde brand of basketball.