(MCT) — CHICAGO — In December 2006, Phil Jackson famously called Vladimir Radmanovic a “space cadet” who “could be on Mars.”
Late Saturday at the United Center, Radmanovic smiled when asked about the Hall of Fame coach, who won six championships with the Bulls and an all-time best 11 overall.
“Phil is different than anybody else I have worked with,” the Bulls forward said with no rancor. “He has his own point of view and view of life, and that is his approach to everybody. He tries to have everybody think his way. He doesn’t try to adjust to anybody. With all the success that he had, I guess he has a right for that.
“I had a pretty good relationship with him. As I said, he’s different. That’s the best way to describe him.”
You don’t last 11 years in the NBA, as Radmanovic has, without being able to adapt. Currently, the 3-point specialist is adjusting to a new role — bench warmer.
After averaging 4.5 points and shooting 37 percent from 3-point range with Atlanta last season, Radmanovic hasn’t yet cracked Tom Thibodeau’s rotation. Similar to his take on Jackson, the Serbian is playing along professionally.
“It’s tough, but then again, you never try to think about yourself in this league,” Radmanovic said. “You think about what the team needs. You have to come to practice every day, stay in shape and be ready in case somebody goes down. That’s your job. Obviously, that’s my role right now, and I’m going to try to fill it as best I can.”
Radmanovic, who will turn 32 this month, averaged 12 points for the Seattle SuperSonics in 2003-04. He is a career 38 percent shooter from beyond the arc who entered his 12th season averaging 8.2 points in 712 career games.
Proud of his longevity, he has no plans to retire.
“I don’t think there’s a complete plan when it comes to how long you’re going to stay in the league,” he said. “Obviously, you have to stay healthy and then perform at some level in order to stay. I was fortunate enough to stay healthy and play for some good teams and good coaches.
“I have nothing better to do. I still enjoy it and will try to play as long as I can.”
Radmanovic spent 21/2 seasons with Jackson and the Lakers, starting 84 games and averaging 7.3 points in the 2008 NBA Finals won by the Celtics, with Thibodeau as an assistant. Mastering the triangle offense proved difficult for Radmanovic, helping lead to Jackson’s comments.
“The first year was tough, just picking up the offense and not thinking too much about what you have to do,” Radmanovic said. “That throws your whole game off, and you feel lost. That’s at least how I felt my first year there. But after that, it was very enjoyable.
“It’s not like any other offense. Everything you learn about basketball before that kind of doesn’t apply anymore. It’s a totally new system and new way of coaching.”
In February 2009, the Lakers traded Radmanovic to Charlotte, who dealt him to Golden State nine months later. While Radmanovic was playing for the Warriors, Jackson called him “one of my favorite sons,” proof their relationship endured.
Radmanovic said he even enjoyed the book Jackson once gave him in the coach’s tradition for long road trips.
“It was some Albanian writer,” Radmanovic said. “At that time, Serbia had a problem with Kosovo. It was interesting.”
There’s that word again.