“We weren’t helpless. We’ve got big bodies too.”
When looking at Miroslav Raduljica, helpless is the last word that comes to mind. But he just wanted to make sure we all know that the Milwaukee Bucks have big guys that are NBA players too.
‘Slav addressed the media after Milwaukee’s 104-101 win over the Pistons Wednesday night at his lock, dressed in all black. In a Harley-Davidson leather jacket draped over a thick black hoodie and black boots over his NBA center sized feet, he’s is quite imposing presence.
But he had probably heard all day about the imposing center-forward combo that the Detroit Pistons would be sending out against Milwaukee. And now reporters were asking him if he was surprised about being able to stand up to Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.
On the court, at a distance, chasing down athletic marvels like the 6-foot-10, 270 pound Drummond, Raduljica loses some of that intimidation factor. He looks a lot more like us. That’s what makes a night like his eight point, eight rebound effort against the Pistons interesting. How does someone who meets the lumbering NBA giant stereotypes on the court so well, stay with one of these hybrid, 2014 big men like Drummond? Get physical.
“Yeah, I think this is the way to play with them, because they jump more than me and they’re more athletic than me,” he said. “So I need to find a way to keep them away from the basket.”
So no, Raduljica wasn’t surprised. And neither was he impressed with himself after a productive game. It all seemed very commonplace for him. While most have been surprised at the competency he’s displayed this season, he seems more annoyed that anyone would have expected anything different. Maybe his ability may have caught his coach Larry Drew off guard initially, but Drew wasn’t surprised at his strong play against the Pistons tough front line.
“He knows how to use his body,” Drew said after the game. “He does labor at times getting up and down the floor, but for a man his size, he knows how to throw his body around. Smart players, they understand what they’re up against and they understand where their advantages are and where their disadvantages are. I think if you were to put him in a foot race against their bigs, he’d lose every time.”
“But he understands and knows when he gets into a position, as far as being able to use his body, he does a great job of sealing. And he’s a really good offensive rebounder.”
He isn’t Giannis Antetokounmpo. This isn’t all that new to him, even if it is his first season in the NBA. He started playing professional ball in 2005, at age 17, when the rookie label fit him much better. Before coming to Milwaukee, he played for five different teams in Europe for varying lengths of time, some of them on loan from another team.
He’s confident he can compete and he seems to know his strengths and weaknesses, even if he doesn’t want to spend much time expounding on them. He’s Milwaukee’s leader in offensive rebound percentage this season, having grabbed 12.2 percent of available offensive rebounds when he’s been on the court. He also leads the NBA in contested rebound percentage at 58.2%, meaning the percentage of rebounds he collects is higher than anyone else. That’s where that strength helps.
“I don’t know. I just try to be in a good position crashing the board and … hustle on the board, let’s say it like that,” he said of his prowess on the offensive glass. “I don’t know. This is what I do.”
It’s what he does. He’s played just 294 minutes this season, the fewest on the Bucks by a fair amount. But, given an opportunity early with Larry Sanders battling a cold, he closed out the game against Detroit Wednesday and was productive, which is becoming less and less surprising for the rest of us. We’ve just been slow to catch up to him … which is probably the first time anyone has ever said that about Miroslav Raduljica.