Approached by a reporter with a request for an interview, Roko Ukic tore himself away from his iPhone with only minimal hesitation.
The avowed sports junkie who doubles as a Raptors point guard was interrupting his on-the-road ritual of browsing the sports news of the world. But he acknowledged he wasn't exactly upset to have a reason to cut himself off from the habitual scroll.
Ukic is earning $1.2 million (U.S.) this season, but one gets the idea that if he indulged the extent of his appetite for mobile Internet access, his bottom line would take a serious hit.
"In the States, it costs a lot of money. It's crazy. I get a bill for TV, Internet, two cell phones and almost half the bill is (U.S. mobile Internet charges)," he said, shaking his head and smiling. "This was my rookie mistake the first month of the season. I said, `No more.'"
For Ukic, a 23-year-old from Croatia, surely there are more rookie mistakes to be made. But after an abysmal beginning to the season, when he and teammate Will Solomon took turns providing weak performances in relief of starting point guard Jose Calderon, Ukic, at least, has shown signs of improvement.
Though the Raptors coughed up Monday night's tilt in Milwaukee, Ukic played a solid game on the offensive end. He scored all of his 11 points within 10 feet of the hoop, penetrating for three layups in service of a squad that's been short on that kind of aggressiveness.
And the game-clinching floater he hit in Sunday's win over Orlando was yet another piece of evidence that he is beginning to grasp his NBA niche.
"You cannot just go on the glass and just (lay it in), because this is a blocked shot (for the opponent)," he said. "In Europe, every third game you've got one good shot blocker. Here, every game you've got three on each team, so it's a little bit harder. ... I need to come with this floater."
The jury is still out, of course, on whether a slim-bodied Croatian with a below-average jump shot and questionable defensive acumen can be a viable NBA concern. And sitting among a troupe of opposing-team scouts in Milwaukee on Monday, assessments of Ukic were not kind.
"This kid," one birddog said, "is terrible."
Ukic is, those close to the team will tell you, diligently working to upgrade that scouting report, not that that's a guarantee of much. Ukic, after all, has been a faithful gym rat all his life, yet there are high-school kids all over the world with smoother-looking jump shots. Ukic is possessed, at the very least, of the correct approach.
"I don't think too much, `Will I play? How much will I play?' ... I just need to be ready," he said. "Every time I don't play, or if I play less, I can save that time and energy for practice. It can also be good, like you put money in the bank for the future."
Speaking of which, some web-surfing money would come in handy on road trips. As pricey as it is to indulge it, Ukic has a passionate fan's yearning to follow the exploits of athletes not regularly covered by USA Today. He checks in on the exploits of his hometown soccer team, Hajduk, and those of rabid rival Dinamo Zagreb. He follows Euroleague basketball. He's even an aficionado of ski racing's World Cup circuit.
"Don't write how much my (Internet) bill is," said Ukic, who could probably lease a luxury car for a few more dollars a month. "If my father finds out, he will kill me."