I’ll admit that I was kind of looking forward to the mournful/literary obituaries for Darko Milicic’s NBA career. When the former second overall pick — behind LeBron and ahead of Carmelo Anthony, if you’d forgotten, which no one has — announced last year that he intended to finish his career in
anonymous semi-disgrace Europe, it seemed a fittingly meh end to what probably qualifies as the most disappointing career for a player chosen as high as Darko was. I’m kind of finding myself writing that eulogy now: he defended not wisely, but not very well, either; he made a shit-ton of money but seemed to hate doing it; he couldn’t get off the bench on some truly terrible teams. Better, then, for him to go to Europe, where his tendency to disappear for quarters on end presumably will be less irksome and people will actually understand his ultra-profane post-game rants. And while he’ll be missed in a sense, in another sense the NBA failure of Darko speaks to… wait, I’m sorry, he just did what now?
So: with the exception of restricted free agent Rudy Gay’s already inked near-max deal with the Memphis Grizzlies — which FanHouse’s Tom Ziller compared, on Memphis’ part, to “a NASCAR driver winning pole position, then telling the race director, ‘Naaah, I’ll start in the back.’” — the biggest deals thus far have been for Drew Gooden (six years and $32 hard to explain dollars from the Bucks) and Mr. Darko Milicic, who inked a four-year, $20 million deal with the Timberwolves. Darko finished last year averaging 8.3 PPG with the Wolves, and is still just 25, but given that ESPN’s Chad Ford sees the contract as the first step towards the Wolves dealing Al Jefferson, it’s all kind of puzzling. If intentionally replacing Al Jefferson with Darko Milicic wasn’t weird enough — and it is plenty weird enough, thanks — the prospect of seeing in Darko’s partial season of 8.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG ball, which were just about the best numbers of the 25-year-old’s career, a potential franchise building block just seems… well, not a terribly original mistake.
At the very excellent Minnesota Timberwolves blog a Wolf Among Wolves, Ben Polk goes deep on what will almost certainly rank as one of the free agent period’s odder signings. At least unless/until someone offers Tim Thomas multiple years. Anyway:
No matter how badly it hurts your stomach to think of it, please remember that it really is not Darko Milicic™s fault that he was drafted ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He was just an 18-year-old Serbian kid with bleached tips who wanted to play in the NBA. Not his fault.
[But] here™s the best part of Ford™s article: œThe deal for Milicic is extraordinary considering in February he wasn™t playing and said he was giving up on the NBA to return to Europe. Hey, that is extraordinary, would somebody please give that guy 20 million dollars!? Recall: this means that Al Jefferson™s days as a Wolf are essentially over. So, no more of the Big Al torture chamber, no more of that surly Mississippi wit, no more of that silky up-fake…
…So we can hope“as Memphis, Detroit, Orlando and the Knicks all hoped“that Darko will one day live up to the promise of his immense gifts, will learn to attack the basket, to bring a measure of intensity to his defensive battles, to pursue rebounds with abandon. We can hope, in other words, that he will somehow, in his seventh NBA season, totally reinvent his game and remake his mental approach.
There’s more, including some unflattering statistical comparisons to Patrick O’Bryant. Who, if the Darko signing is indicative of anything, should probably answer his phone right now.