(Unfortunately for Krstic perhaps, we’re not the only people investigating, and he already spent a night in jail. People from Greece’s sports violence squad are looking into the brawl. Why don’t we have a sports violence squad in the U.S.? Would this be to investigate sports violence or initiate it? Can I be the commissioner either way?)
Any good analysis starts with the source material, so let’s go to the tape. Just watching it straight through without pausing or slowing it for a more in-depth look, Krstic’s general strategy jumps out to anybody who has or is a younger sibling. It’s a mixture of cheap shots, apparently unwarranted escalation by involving weapons, fighting only from protected positions and a particular fury: He fights like a little brother. Even though he might have a little more edge to him, in the interest of alliteration, lets just call him the Serbian Slapfighter.
Krstic’s first violent foray into the YouTube box comes at about the 0:12 mark, and his little brother-like strategy is already showing. Basically he jumps in, using another engaged teammate as a shield, and throws some open- and closed-fist punches and is wildly grabbing at the face area of the Greek dude. He exits the camera’s view and then reappears at about the 0:20 mark, throwing a couple of wild elbows and weird push-punch-grab moves. The three-moves-at-once type attacks are similar to the uncoordinated methods used by rage-blinded younger siblings.
The next time we see Krstic as an active participant in the melee is when he really begins to remind me most of battles I had with my own little brother growing up. I’ve got two years on him, which is usually just enough to win a fight in almost any circumstance. But he would use his (then) smaller size and (still) better quickness to his advantage. Long after a previous fight had stopped, he’d wait until I wasn’t paying attention and launch a quick attack from behind. Then he would run away, either locking himself in his room or jumping back first on a couch and kicking wildly to deter any attempt to beat the crap out of him. Or he’d grab a bat or stick or whatever, escalating a fight that had previously not involved anything worse than kicks and punches.
Krstic echoes these methods beginning at the 0:39 mark, when he jumps in on a fight that had mostly passed him by and launches a flurry of punches to an opponent who is in a vulnerable position. Pretty cheap. He kind of makes the Kobe Face with the chin stuck out and exhibits more rage in a few seconds than we’ve seen in 1 1/2 seasons in the Ford Center. But as soon as someone brings the fight back to him, he retreats at least 50 feet and waits until a cadre of teammates eliminates the threat against him.
And then he grabs a chair and throws it at some dude’s head. Right before he basically runs away. Right out of the younger siblings’ playbook.
So Thunder fans must face the reality that, while it’s sort of exciting to know that Nenad is ready to brawl for his teammates, he’s basically got a cheap fighting style. But that doesn’t mean Oklahoma City can’t reap some benefits and search for positives.
It must first be noted that at no point has this style been labeled ineffective. I mean, who was bleeding when this thing was over, Krstic or the Greek guy? Right. The guy who got hit in the head with the metal part of a chair. Even if it may not be pretty, the Thunder knows it has a player who can inflict damage when need be.
Second, in the NBA, people are going to expect the European guy with a Slavic accent to fight dirty. We deal in stereotypes, and we prefer the image of the manly American fighting bravely against the cheating, sweaty foreign guy who may be working for the Russians somehow and wears weird clothes. So other fans around the NBA won’t be as mad at the Thunder if it was Krstic throwing cheap elbows as opposed to James Harden.
And finally, the Thunder was able to establish it has a crazy guy without having to sacrifice anything on an NBA court. You know this video is making the rounds in league circles. I can hear the veteran leaders on opposing teams now, speaking to hot-headed younger teammates: “Hey man I know Nick Collison just got you with that elbow on the rebound, but you need to just chill out. You don’t want to get suspended. And you definitely don’t want to mess with these guys anyway — don’t you remember Nenad Krstic throwing a chair at that dude this summer? Just leave him alone man. He’s unpredictable and you could end up with a chair in your face.” All of that was accomplished without an on-court incident that cost the Thunder some suspended players.
We’ve learned that although Nenad Krstic has a posse, he doesn’t need one.