Nenad Krstic's calling card is a 17-foot jumper. It's a weapon that pulls out opposing big men and opens the lane for teammates. But what about Krstic's rebounding? When you're a 7-foot center, hitting the boards will always be part of your job description.
The Thunder was sixth in the NBA in rebounding last season. But two statistics underscore why it remains a concern: 19-27: The Thunder's record in games it outrebounded opponents. 4-32: OKC's record when it didn't. “We were a good offensive rebounding team last season, which helped our overall numbers,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “The concern is rebounding on the defensive end. It takes all five guys, including your bigs.” Krstic averaged 5.5 rebounds with the Thunder. His career average is 5.7. But his second season, Krstic averaged 8.3 rebounds the final six weeks and was close to 7.0 in the playoffs. He averaged 6.8 the first two months during his third season before he was sidelined by a torn ACL in his left knee. “I'm not a big rebounding guy, but I averaged 7.0 before I was injured,” Krstic said. “If I average 7.0 or 8.0, that would be good. I just try to block out my guy. Whoever gets the rebound, it doesn't matter.” Krstic isn't your traditional center that racks up dozens of double-doubles like Orlando's Dwight Howard. But he's willing to mix it up in the paint and is a solid 265 pounds. “For his size, he's sleeper athletically, more athletic than you think,” said Thunder teammate Jeff Green. “It doesn't look like he can jump or move, but he's athletic. He's going to out-rebound a lot of bigs.”
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To be an effective low-post presence? Ready ... Krstic says he's fully recovered from a torn ACL he suffered three years ago with the Nets. He'll never be the classic double-double center but his teams fare better when he hits the boards. New Jersey and Oklahoma City are a combined 45-25 when Krstic grabs eight or more rebounds. Two of OKC's biggest wins (Utah and San Antonio) were when Krstic led the team in rebounding. Or not ... Krstic averaged nearly twice as many free throw attempts (3.1) a game in four seasons with New Jersey than he attempted with the Thunder (1.7). His pick-and-pop, 20-foot presence opens the offense for teammates but he must be equally effective in the low post if Oklahoma City is to reduce its reliance on jump shots.