Vladimir Radmanovic: "We all have to take care of business first"
How do you feel as a new member of the Clippers?
Do you feel better now, since the jinx of three consecutive Clipper losses after your arrival is finally over?
VR: Sure, I feel much better tonight (Friday). I came from Seattle where things are not going in the direction that suited me, and then I came here and we lost three games in a row. But even the games that we lost were not disasters. In each of them, we were contending until the end. From the very start I was more than happy with my new teammates, and I think that only good things are ahead for us.
How do you feel in your old No. 7 jersey after wearing No. 77 in Seattle for four and a half years?
VR: I finally feel like a basketball player now. With that 77 on my back, I always felt like an American football player (laughs). My history with No. 7 is too long. I just like the number, but there was always somebody else on my previous teams that had it before me, so it wasn’t available.
Even though the rosters of last year’s Seattle team and this year’s Clippers are completely different, it seems that both teams had that intangible ingredient that made them special. What do you think about these two teams you played in the last two seasons?
VR: I think that these two teams are definitely comparable in their team chemistry and success. Both teams didn’t stand a chance before the start of their respective seasons, nobody thought they would make the playoffs… We surprised everybody last season and played hard against San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals. I hope that the Clipper team this season has a potential of doing even something more than what we did with Seattle last season.
What went wrong in Seattle this season?
VR: Honestly, I don’t see an explanation for the poor results of the Sonics this year. The coaching change definitely had something to do with it – different concepts, new plays… All of that was introduced on a team that three months before played so well and would have been a title contender if Ray Allen and myself weren’t injured in that series against San Antonio. It seems that, even though we all said after their departure that Antonio Daniels and Jerome James weren’t key pieces for our success, we have been wrong. Obviously, these two players were bringing something more, something special to our team. In this league, everything revolves around the details. Any team can beat any other any given night, but the team that resolves these details in the best possible way will ultimately win the title. Antonio was that accelerator from the bench, he brought us 12 points per night, and we didn’t have that this season.
How much did the rumors about the possible team move from Seattle affect you guys this season?
VR: Honestly, I didn’t even hear about those things until about three weeks ago. I probably know about it as much as you do. Owners aren’t satisfied with the contract they have with the city, they want to build the new arena, but the city doesn’t let them.
Playing time and not being part of the starting five were always problems for you with the Sonics. How do you feel about those issues now with the Clippers?
VR: I feel a different coach’s approach to me, to the team. That concept is something that I feel I fit in very well. In Seattle, I had a predetermined position on the team, and I simply wasn’t able to get out of that chamber I was put in. This is such a great fresh start for me. I talked to Coach Dunleavy, immediately after I learned that I’ve been traded and his story was a very positive one. He told me that I will be playing small and power forward, which suited me perfectly well. I didn’t play small forward, my natural position, since my time in Europe when I was 19. Guys that play inside here in the Clippers, such as Elton Brand and Chris Kaman, leave enough room for us to operate in the backcourt.
You could veto any trade from Seattle. Was this a no-brainer or you would have approved any trade that would take you outside Seattle?
VR: When I heard that I might be traded during the season, I thought that I there were no possible reasons for me to stay in Seattle. My minutes on the floor were shrinking, the team went on a different direction compared to the previous season… They gave up on this season and wanted to give a chance to players under contract, younger players, and the players that, according to them, will be the future of the Sonics. With me staying in Seattle until the end of this season, nothing positive would have come out either for me or the Sonics. However, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere. But the Clippers were interested in me for a long time – practically from the start of this season. In my opinion, if they were interested in me throughout the season, I thought that they really wanted me and that I will have an opportunity to play here.
The Clippers’ history of re-signing the free agents is not too extensive. Would you like to stay here after your contract expires this summer?
VR: That depends on many factors. The Clippers will definitely be one of the candidates if they are interested in giving me a new contract. They might even be on the top of my wish list. But a lot of it depends on the Clipper management's plans this summer. Will there be a spot for me on the roster when Maggette comes back? I would need to sit down with the coach and see what plans they have for me when the season is over But the Clippers will definitely be one of my options for the new contract.
How do you like L.A. so far?
VR: I love the weather for sure. I’m still living in a hotel since nobody wants to rent out a place only for three months around here. Rents are exorbitant close to our training facility, but I don’t like staying in the hotel too much, because I always have this feeling that I am on the road. My parents are taking care of the move from my house in Seattle, so everything seems to be OK.
You closed a chapter of your life and your career by moving from your house in West Seattle and leaving the Sonics. After all the ups and downs you had with that team, how would you rate the first four and a half years in the NBA?
VR: Honestly, I had a good time while playing for the Sonics. I can’t complain. I left Europe for the NBA when I was 20, and it was my dream come true. If somebody offered me the situation that I have right now, I wouldn’t think for a moment and I would embrace it immediately. As any other player, I always strive for more. There were some negative things that happened while I was with the Sonics, but I think that I came full circle with them and my feelings about the past are utterly positive. I met a lot of great people in Seattle, experienced new things, bought a house over there… That was the club that I played in the longest in my career, and I wish them all the best. However, business is business and we all have to take care of it first.
The issue of the National Team of Serbia-Montenegro, still the reigning world champion, is the hottest topic in your home country after terrible results the last three years. As one of the leaders of the team, can you comment about this whole situation?
VR: This is something very painful for me. Following the remarks made by Zeljko Obradovic, our former national team coach, that the players’ attitude and behavior during the Euros were the main culprits for the poor results in that competition, I was literally haunted by all sorts of people from Serbia. I had to change my phone number, I felt horrible…
There were reports that the National Team had lost importance for many young players. How do you feel about that?
VR: A lot of things have been said about that situation that are simply not true. People have to understand that we show our patriotism every time we play for the National Team, since we don’t get paid for that and we do it only for the love of our country. Many players played injured last September. Many of them, including myself, jeopardized their careers since we didn’t have a contract with our teams. But we didn’t care.
What about those purported conflicts between players during the preparation and competition itself?
VR: These conflicts among the players were way exaggerated in the media. They practically tried to provoke us against each other, making graphics in their newspapers about how much money each of us makes and things like that. I don’t think that there is a single player from that last year’s team that couldn’t play with any of the teammates from the last year’s Euros.
Are you going to play in the World Championships, where Serbia-Montenegro will defend its title from Indianapolis 2002?
VR: There is absolutely no question about it. I would come and play for any coach. I think that our new National Team coach Dragan Sakota can assemble the best team possible – especially considering his ties from the time that he coached Peja Stojakovic and Marko Jaric in Greece. However, the times when it was enough to just show up at the championships and win it easily are long gone. The best examples are the recent results of our team and Team USA. The quality of basketball has improved all around the world, and there is not a single team in the World Championships that can be taken lightly.
Nebojsa Petrovacki is the editor of Sportska Centrala, a sports news agency from Serbia-Montenegro
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