Nenad or Nene?
From the January 31st issue of ESPN the Magazine:
"The Nets were willing to give up Alonzo Mourning and Eric Williams for Vince Carter in part because 21-year-old Nenad Krstic needs to play. The seven-foot Serb not only has the finesse game of a typical Euro import, he's got some heart. "I don't want to be soft," he says..."
I thank Nenad for being concise. So very much said in so very little.
As my peer shoefly (who seems to be a chief source of inspiration) alluded to below in his fine column, Nenad is a enigma in a league where so many big men are failures. So many of the Euros are soft, yet Mr. Kristic promises that he will deliver his hard. In this, he offers redemption to his native continent and the generation of euros who failed before him. To be hard is a success only fulfilled by the tree-men of the Black Forest. Recently, only the bruising aryan known as Dirk! has been able to deliver. In the eighties, it was the walking dynamo Detlef Schrempf that put the world on notice of things to come from the Old World.
Will Nenad deliver? He desires much. To not be soft. To grind. To muscle. To hustle.
Nenad's aspirations are inspiring and impressive. Yet we can gauge so much in so little as the delivery of his simple message revealed a weak man aspiring to be a bonafide virtuoso. A man who in his desire to not to be soft reveals the very real softness of his core. Champions do not speak about not being soft. They go out and clobber. If Eddy Curry said it, we would all be chuckling. Yet, since a Euro offers his hard we give him the benefit of the doubt. We lend hope. Yet, that is foolish folly. He is trying to make amends where so many others have failed. The richness of it is laughable. I recognize, do you?
I have had many reservations about Mr. Kristic, first and foremost among them his heritage. I admit that I assume, label and stereotype people. In this case, I believe it will reap truth.
Mr. Kristic's Yugoslavian squad, KK Partizan, is headed by two NBAers themselves. Vlade Divac is president of the team, while Sasha Danilovic is vice president. The latter of course is the smooth looking, smooth shooting 2 guard that played for the Heat and saw his career fizzle after he was traded for Jamal Mashburn. The Riley knew Danilovic was softer than the toilet paper women prefer, in fact even Tim Hardaway said Danilovic's face could be used as a substitute.
Insiders know that KK Partizan is a modern day joy-luck club. A dinner feast where tall and pale men speak of their memories of the NBA. Fleeting in a wonderful way because as I will reveal, the good fortune of KK Partizan is loathe to run out very soon.
See, as our hero Darko Milicic is the finest example of, there is a limit in the NBA to the success of the Euro Invasion. As recent as two years ago, we know that Mr. Stern was preparing to pay his players in Euros and expand to London, Paris, et al. Yet, today we know that the much hyped invasion has fizzled.
The emergence of Amare, LeBron, D-Wade and others has reminded us that basketball (at least the NBA brand of it) is still and will always be America's sport. We are International (yes!, as the Olympics suggest and we enrapture by our love for these offshore freaks), but Euros will continue to be damned as hungrier (literally) imports from Asia and South America (Nenad's alter-ego Nene is from Brazil) have begun to outshine the Slavs, Serbs, Croats, Goats and Spaniards. Even the ever underrated Pau Gasol continues to fly under the radar, and he can only hope to one day be as recognizable as Keith Van Horn. And he has no Slavic ancestry, he is a proud and fierce Catalan. Almost an honorary Cuban like Gilbert Arenas.
Gasol aside (as I will dedicate much future effort to him), Danilovic and Divac demonstrate the wisdom of my limit to euro success theory. Apart from Sasha having every letter of Divac in his last name alone, the two men couldn't be further apart in the annals of the Imperial NBA. Divac is quite possibly the most successful bigman from over there ever - the Russian version of Bill Wennington that played for the Blazers on iron knees aside. Sasha is a forgotten swinger whose smooth jumper couldn't outclass his lack of athleticism.
For Nenad the same will be true. He may not want to be soft. But when the corn-fed American trolls come a calling, they will knock his potato loving, vodka drinking ass firmly back to Montenegro. Weak man doesn't want to be soft. Nenad, you've failed us already.