I always liked Rasho - thought he was a smart player- but he is a lot better than I thought.
Here is an excellent article from Conrad.
Rasho's best attribute? Nothing. And everything.
Mike Wells and I were working into the embers of Tuesday night, tying up loose ends after the Pacers' 113-96 victory over Atlanta, when The Indianapolis Star's stellar beat writer interrupted his typing, looked over and asked a question that has been rattling around in my head ever since:
"What would you say is Rasho Nesterovic's best attribute as a player?"
I started to answer but realized nothing came to mind. Or better put, everything came to mind. Rasho's greatest strength is that he doesn't have a greatest strength. He does everything pretty well. He's one of the most fundamentally sound big men I've ever seen. On nights like Tuesday, when he racked up 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocked shots, it's plain to anyone who watched.
But nights like these are exceptions. Normally, Rasho's a 10-and-5 guy with a few assists and a blocked shot or two mixed in, not the kind of numbers that get your attention -- unless you happen to really like watching good professional basketball players at work.
Or, if you're someone who understands and appreciates the game at a level most of us can never begin to approach. Someone like, for example, Jim O'Brien.
He didn't hesitate at all when I repeated Wells' question to him.
"I would say his basketball IQ," said the coach. "I think he understands the game of basketball. He understands in particular what we're trying to accomplish offensively. He understands the strengths of his teammates. He understands the weaknesses of his teammates. He's a very, very good communicator.
"Physically, I'd say his best attribute is probably passing the basketball."
Which partially explains one other group that truly appreciates Rasho's game: his teammates.
"He's what you call a good pro," said T.J. Ford, who spent two years with Rasho in Toronto. "He carries himself the way a professional should. He doesn't have a big name. He never has. But if you ask around the NBA, they know he's a solid player."
There is someone you simply shouldn't ask, though, when the time comes to heap praise upon the 7-foot veteran from Slovenia. That would be the 7-foot veteran from Slovenia.
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."
Many have said that. Few mean it. I'll never forget the one player (now retired) who shall remain nameless who looked a TV reporter squarely in the eye, said he never even looked at the box score because stats were for losers. As soon as the reporter turned off his camera and turned to walk away, the player reached under his chair, grabbed the box score and began complaining to the guy in the next locker about how the stat crew missed a couple of his assists.
Rasho's a guy who means it. It's a big reason he has never been on a team that failed to make the playoffs. You can look it up: five seasons in Minnesota, three (including a title) in San Antonio, two in Toronto, none fell short of the playoffs.
"Don't think I don't know that," O'Brien said.
Which brings us to the one statistic that may best explain his game: my beloved plus-minus. In the four games since Rasho has returned from the sprained ankle, the Pacers have outscored their opponents by 54 points when he's been on the floor. When he's been on the bench, the Pacers have been outscored by 41.
"Lawrence Frank from the Nets told me when we got him that he felt Rasho was one of the most underrated centers in the league," O'Brien said. "He just knows how to play basketball."
When you get right down to it, that's the most important attribute a player can hope to have.
Nov 19, 2008 3:41 PM EST