Sonic rookie works past frightening free fall from rim

  • Rich Myhre / Herald Writer
  • Friday, December 28, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

By Rich Myhre

Herald Writer

SEATTLE – With haunting clarity, Nate McMillan still remembers the way Vladimir Radmanovic crashed to the KeyArena floor, landing flush on the back of his neck and head.

Even now, one week later, McMillan has no need to see a replay.

“I haven’t seen it again and I don’t want to see it again,” he said Friday. “Once was enough.”

It was, perhaps, the most frightening moment in Seattle SuperSonics history. Late in last Saturday’s game against the Detroit Pistons, Radmanovic made a steal near midcourt and raced toward the basket with two Pistons in pursuit. Leaping from just inside the free throw line, Radmanovic dunked the ball and then held the rim as his momentum caused his legs to swing forward until his body was parallel to the court.

Then he lost his grip, with nothing between himself and the hardwood except nine feet of air.

Had he landed head first, Radmanovic might be looking at life in a wheelchair if he survived at all. Instead, he suffered only a mild concussion and some gashes on his lower neck, caused by bones slamming against the floor and splitting the skin.

And tonight, by the grace of God, Radmanovic is expected to be in uniform when the Sonics host the Toronto Raptors at KeyArena.

A final decision is due this morning, but “most likely he’ll play unless something changes,” said McMillan, Seattle’s coach. “Right now he seems OK. If he’s ready, then we’ll use him and see how he goes.”

After the accident, and because of the Christmas holiday, Radmanovic was away from basketball for several days. He practiced Wednesday in anticipation of playing Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, but an accidental blow to the head during a drill caused a new bout of dizziness. As a precaution, team doctors had Radmanovic sit out against the Clippers.

On Friday, the 6-foot-10 Yugoslavian practiced – bizarrely, he was hit in the head again, but without ill effect – and pronounced himself ready for duty.

“I’ll play (tonight) for sure,” Radmanovic said. “I feel all right. It’s just because of the doctors and everybody wanting to be sure that I’m OK that I didn’t play in the last game. But I want to come back because I feel all right and there’s no reason to be off the court any more.”

Radmanovic says he has recollections of the fall and the ensuing moments as he was surrounded by teammates and trainer Mike Shimensky. “But I don’t remember the part where I was walking from the court to the bench,” he said. “And then on the bench, everything was so fast. I remember just a couple of things when I was on the bench.”

In the locker room later, Radmanovic was smiling at the good-natured jibes of his teammates. Now, though, he says he cannot remember being in the locker room after the game.

Moved by curiosity – after all, he was the only one in KeyArena who didn’t see the fall – Radmanovic went home to watch a replay on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “It was scary,” he said. “I saw it a couple of times. Then I couldn’t watch it any more.”

Assuming he plays tonight, the 21-year-old Radmanovic will be continuing a rookie season that is showing increasing promise. Though his defensive skills need significant improvement – typical for a European player in the NBA – he is an agile power forward with 3-point range and an ability to slash to the basket.

Because of his age and background, no one is quite sure how good he may become. This much seems sure, though. Of all the young foreign players the Sonics have signed in recent years – the list includes Vladimir Stepania, Lazaro Borrell, Olumide Oyedeji and Ruben Wolkowyski – Radmanovic should turn out to be the best.

“His skill level was much higher than most guys in the draft, as far as his footwork, his understanding of the game and his ability to shoot the ball,” McMillan said. “Defensively, there are some things he needs to work on, but his skill level is still ahead of most of the guys we brought in (to Seattle before the draft) to work out. It’s just a matter of him getting time on the floor and adjusting to our style of play.

“Now, do I know if he has the hunger to be one of the (NBA’s) best players? I don’t know that yet. But if he does have the hunger, he certainly has that potential.”

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Sports

X
State basketball roundup for Saturday, March 2

State basketball roundup for Saturday, March 2: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Richland’s Landen Northrop (1) shoots the ball during a 4A semifinal game between Glacier Peak and Richland at the Tacoma Dome on Friday, March 1, 2024 in Tacoma, Washington. Glacier Peak fell, 70-59. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Glacier Peak boys fade late against Richland in 4A state semifinals

An 11-0 closing run by the Bombers hands the Grizzlies a 70-59 loss.

Mead’s Teryn Gardner (24) moves with the ball during a 3A semifinal game between Snohomish and Mead at the Tacoma Dome on Friday, March 1, 2024 in Tacoma, Washington. Snohomiosh fell, 56-50. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish girls get rolling too late, fall to Mead in 3A state semifinals

Snohomish makes a valiant second-half push, but comes up short 56-50 against the well-balanced top seed.

X
State basketball roundup for Friday, March 1

State basketball prep roundup for Friday, March 1: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To… Continue reading

Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Matt Brash delivers during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Kevin M. Cox)
Mariners get relieving injury update on Matt Brash

The hard-throwing reliever won’t need surgery. Plus, updates on injuries to Gregory Santos and Luis Urias.

Washington quarterback Michael Penix speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, March 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Penix Jr. confident he’s answered concerns at NFL combine

Varying national reports have stated the UW quarterback has impressed teams in formal meetings

Snohomish junior Tyler Gildersleeve-Stiles hits the floor trying to get the ball during a WIAA 3A Girls Basketball quarterfinal against Arlington on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish girls lock down Arlington, advance to 3A state semifinals

The Panthers run away a 45-25 victory in a rubber match between the Wesco rivals.

Glacier Peak junior Josiah Lee splits the defense on his way to the basket during a WIAA 4A Boys Basketball quarterfinal against Gonzaga Prep on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lee flips switch, Glacier Peak boys rally again to reach 4A state semis

Jo Lee pours in a barrage of 3-pointers down the stretch as the Grizzlies outlast Gonzaga Prep 65-58 in overtime.

X
State basketball roundup for Thursday, Feb. 29

State basketball prep roundup for Thursday, Feb. 29: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To… Continue reading

Mountlake Terrace’s Rayshaun Connor shoots a three during a WIAA 3A Boys Basketball quarterfinal against Mount Spokane on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Terrace boys overpowered by Mt. Spokane in 3A state quarterfinals

The Hawks struggle with the well-oiled Wildcats in an 82-58 loss.

Everett’s Alana Washington is called for an offensive foul during a WIAA 3A Girls Basketball quarterfinal against Garfield on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett girls fall to Garfield in 3A state quarterfinals

Katie Fiso and the Bulldogs prove too much for the Seagulls in a 54-43 loss.

X
State basketball roundup for Wednesday, Feb. 28

State basketball prep roundup for Wednesday, Feb. 28: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To… Continue reading

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.