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Jax Misses His Extraterrestrial Shooter

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Move over, Shaq and Kobe.  There's a new front-runner for "Most Shocking Laker-Relevant Relationship Development" this season.

Phil Jackson misses his spaceman.

Or he thinks his team does, at the very least.  Jackson spoke to the media about Vladimir Radmanovic before the Lakers visited VladRad's Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday.  As reported by the LA Times' Mike Bresnahan:

Radmanovic was vilified by fans while playing for the Lakers because of his inconsistency, but Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said Monday that Radmanovic was missed by the team.

"He's a qualified player. He can do things, he's going to have an impact on ballgames," Jackson said. "We miss him, there's no doubt about it. But that's it -- water under the bridge, you move on."

While I wouldn't doubt that Lakers fans vilified the Rad Man (that's what fans tend to do to players whose play is rife with flaws), it bears remembering that it was the legendary coach who often showed them the way.

Jackson spent much of Radmanovic's time in La La Land leading the bash party.  His two most well-known nicknames for the forward were Space Cadet and My Favorite Martian, both meant as references to the player's tendency to space out and lose focus while on the floor, particularly at the defensive end.  As an AP article from the time of the trade reminded me, Jax even went so far as to suggest to the media at one point last season that Radmanovic seek psychological help.  Meanwhile, he stripped the sharpshooter of his starting spot and dropped his minutes to a career low 16.8 per game before the deal occurred in early February.

While I bring this all up mostly because I find it amusing to see Phil paying public compliments to a player he rode mercilessly to the media during his tenure in LA, it's only fair to note that the coach makes a good point as well.  The Lakers now sit 18th in the league at 36 percent three-point shooting.  Derek Fisher is hitting at a 41.8 percent clip, but no other Laker is hitting even 36 percent from beyond the arc.  Radmanovic shot 44.1 percent on threes as a Laker this season and is checking at 43.2 percent for the year.  There is no question that he can stretch the floor and be a factor at the offensive end.

But the limited nature of his game also kept him from being able to earn consistent playing time despite posting a true shooting better than 60 percent for the Lakers this season.  VladRad is 6-foot-10 and has taken 241 of his 426 field-goal attempts from behind the arc this season.  He can't create for himself off the dribble and doesn't have a post game. 

The man doesn't do a whole lot on the glass either, averaging just 5.6 boards per 36 minutes and posting a rebound rate of 9.1 percent.  That's good for 160th in the NBA this season.  Those listed in front of him on the rebound rate list include Jason Kidd, Thabo Sefolosha, Keith Bogans and Rajon Rondo.  Have I mentioned that we're talking about a guy who is 6-foot-10?  And his individual defense is appalling.  He doesn't have the quickness to stay with many threes (see what happened when he got near Paul Pierce last year), and as Celtics fans got to witness on a couple of occasions this past Wednesday, he doesn't always bring his 'A' effort to that end of the floor.  How the 'Cats have been more efficient defensively with him on the floor than off it is baffling to me.

Ultimately, Vladimir Radmanovic does maintain high-level proficiency in one skill in this game, and so long as he does, he'll find a spot somewhere.  But seeing Phil Jackson reversing his normal company line on Vlad now that he's gone brought me a bit of amusement this week.