Bruno's latest Caught in the Web tries to pin down why the Pacers play so well when Rasho Nesterovic is on the court even though he may not leave behind much tangible proof of his impact.
The win over Atlanta was an exception since Rasho's impact stood out in the box score with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 2 assists next to his name. Normally those numbers may be cut in half, at least the scoring would be, but Rasho's time on the floor remains productive for the team.
Since Bruno and Mike Wells couldn't figure out the answer for Rasho's success, Bruno went to the source and his coach to find out. There's some great stuff so check it out.
I'd like to riff off of something Rasho said when asked about his best attribute.
So, Rasho, what's your best attribute?
"I don't think about that," he said. "During the game, you just try to make every pass good, every shot good, every defense good. You are just in the flow of the game."
How did you feel about your big statistical night?
"I don't know the box score," he said. "I mean, this is just stats. It means nothing."
With Rasho's European hoop roots, the above exchange immediately reminded me of this True Hoop post last month about a New York Times article on Josh Childress in which Childress discusses the differences between the game in Europe and the NBA.
It's tougher to score here. There's no defensive three seconds. They play zone. There's all kinds of ways that make it tougher to score; the game is a lot more physical. It's more of a team game. It's a little more evenly spread. Like you said, 15 points in 27 minutes is a good number.
But that's not important. The guys that score big numbers here are on bad teams. The M.V.P. of the Euroleague last year, Theodoros Papaloukas, he's on our team now. He may average 10 points and 5, 6, 7 assists. They really look at who changes the game, who is the most valuable for their team. Not just who puts up 30. So it's a different mind-set.
Last game against Tel Aviv, after the game I was a little down. I had some missed opportunities. We still won, but as a competitor I want to do my best. Papaloukas comes up to me and says: "Hey man, relax. You put your body in there and got a steal and we won the game." It's more of a thing where they appreciate the little things that you do to win games. If I had scored 30 and we lost, they probably would have been mad. I think I had 15 and I got a good steal, and it's like, "Good game."
So Rasho is the product of the European game that values the little things that add up to a successful team. He's a great passer because he pays attention to his teammates, has a feel for how they play and doesn't think about scoring when the ball touches his hand.
It's well known that scoring translates to financial success in the NBA which has skewed the value of players over the past several years. But if Rasho can stay healthy and on the court his value may be impossible to calculate.
If Rasho can continue to lead by example simply by playing, the high basketball IQ that Jim O'Brien mentioned should rub off on the younger players on the roster. With all of the advanced stats that can make my head spin at times, it's nice to think of assessing a player's value qualitatively instead of quantitatively.
Thinking about last night's game in this context, Marquis Daniels was the guy who quietly took care of the little things. Yes, Quisy kept Joe Johnson under control which was no little thing, but part of that was deferring more than usual on offense. He only took six shots and stuck to his role as a cog in the offense. His focus was on defense and Quisy had no problem sacrificing at the other end.
The Pacers only shot at the playoffs and a successful season is to work together as a team willing to take care of all those little things on a consistent basis. Incredibly, Rasho has been on playoff teams in each his his ten previous NBA season, which includes five years in Minnesota. It's nice to know that if anyone on the roster seeks some guidance along the way they can look to Rasho to figure out what to do.