(Two weeks ago, I started a series taking on the topic of how Thunder players should use the off-season to improve. The first edition involved Nick Collison and his lack of super duper awesome facial hair.)
In the Summer of 2008, Nenad Krstic was coming off knee surgery, the U.S. Dollar was cratering, and Russian team Triumph Lyburtsy wanted to make a splash in the Euro Super League. Krstic, who was having to deal with restricted free agency and questions about his knee, took the opportunity to return closer to home where he could make better money. Of course, the novelty of NBA players defecting to Europe wore off quickly when it became clear that the guarantee in “guaranteed contracts” only applies to the team when you are across the pond. Triumph did not make the impact they wanted and pretty much stopped paying their players as a result. Krstic quickly got out of his contract and returned to the U.S.
In just one more example of Sam Presti scouring the bargain bins, the Thunder GM quickly signed him to an offer sheet that paid a below market value for a seven footer who could start at center. Then, considering that Nenad was all of 25 years old and had posted career highs of 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game before his knee injury, it was a coup.
A year and a half later, some people have forgotten just how lucky Oklahoma City was to acquire a free agent capable of starting 105 games in the middle of a season. Now, his faults are scoured over constantly. Today, I will be no different, because everyone knows he can do better.
Step 1: PRACTICE EASY SHOTS
Krstic made 50.2% of his shots this past season. That’s made even more impressive considering that more than half of his shots came from further than 16 feet from the basket. Of course, it could be even better if he didn’t flub so many barely contested shots at the rim. By my count, he missed at least three uncontested two footers against the Lakers in game six of the first round playoff series. That really hurt when the final score had the Thunder falling by a stickman.
Step 2: Rebound better
Oklahoma City may have been one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA, but it wasn’t because they had a big man cleaning up the glass. The combination of Krstic and Jeff Green did little to intimidate opposing front lines.
I don’t expect Krstic to beef up a bunch, but with his height and size are adequate to where he should be able to hold his own. He may need to work on his core strength or lower body to help shield off big centers like Brendan Haywood or Chuck Hayes, but technique is the main problem. This Summer, he should spend every waking moment, even when he’s doing core strengthening exercises, watching old film of Moses Malone and Dennis Rodman.
Step 3: Do something about his hair
I sympathize with Nenad. My hair started falling out before I was old enough to get into Eskimo Joe’s. For years, I dealt with the receding hairline by trying out minoxidil and pretending it was working. But, I cannot sign off on the comb-forward that Krstic has instituted. It makes him look like a Medieval monk.
By the time I was Nenad’s age, I gave it up and just buzzed my hair, and let me tell you, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Unlike Krstic, who is a bachelor (third most eligible in Serbia based on their version of People), I had to deal with the fallout from my wife. He has no excuse.
He would be best off going to the skin like his buddy Marcin Gortat, but even just going with the military style haircut would be enough to get him some more respect around the league. I believe that if you match up against a player looking like an accountant at the YMCA on his lunch break, the opposing player will treat you like an accountant playing at the YMCA on his lunch break. That’s why Pau Gasol has become more revered since he took on the persona of a Geico spokesman.