Playing Shrink with Darko

I'm going to violate convention on this post, and offer some thoughts before including the material that provoked the thoughts. A blogger recently discussed the "Seven Stages of Darko." It was humorous, and, sadly, contained enough truth that Celtics' fans may soon be able to bear witness. Problem is I don't want to laugh at Darko. I want to root for him.

So I’m left with to trying to figure out the Dark Man's last couple of years in Minny, where he went from starter and meaningful contributor to the great disappearing act who wasn't even traveling with the team on road trips. We start with the premise that Darko had enough impressive outings during the 2010-11 NBA season that even you Celtics' fans are probably sick of me posting videos of him by now. This was not the case last year. In fact, as you work your way through the below material I pulled from newspaper coverage in Minnesota, you'll start to get a feeling entirely different from the one we get when watching the videos.

Where Darko is intent and focused (and effective) in the videos, he seems to be on the outside looking in during his final season with the Timber-puppies. Part of the problem, no doubt, was that first year Timberwolf coach Rick Adelman changed the direction of the team, going from the more traditional line-up featuring a big man in the middle used by prior coach Kurt Rambis to a more small-ball approach. Another part of the problem was Darko had a string of injuries, and then fell out of shape. Plenty of blame to go around.

But I still sense something more was afoot.

I sense a total falling out between player and coach. Milicic missed the final 24 games of the season due to a "hamstring" injury. Once the season was over, Adelman told a Timberwolf executive he wanted Darko gone. Back in the March time-frame, Adelman told the media he had lost faith in Darko. Shortly thereafter, Darko said he supported Adelman's decision to start teammate and close friend Nikola Pekovic ahead of him. I have no doubt Darko was happy for his friend.

At the same time, I start to get the feeling of "here we go again" with Darko, where Darko starts out well with a new team, a couple of obstacles present themselves, and if they are not cleared quickly, everything begins to snowball and Darko gives up, depressed and despondent. I'm certainly no shrink. But this is the feeling I get (especially in light of some of his other comments, like this one about impressing in practice but getting no PT). There is simply a disconnect between the Darko of 2010-11 and the player who a year later gets injured, falls out of shape, becomes a bumbler and fumbler instead of a meaningful contributor, and finishes the season confined to the pine for 24 straight games with a mysterious "hamstring" injury.

If I am even partly correct, Doc (and KG) will have their hands full getting this guy back on his game.

The first contract that raises speculation belongs to unproductive center Darko Milicic, who sat out the final 24 games because of a hamstring injury but showed little interest in returning to the court. 4/29/12

DARKO MILICIC. Comment: This will end just as it has with four other NBA teams -- badly. Don't expect him to play another game as long as Rick Adelman is coach. The question is whether the team will use its one-time-only amnesty clause to get his $5.2 million salary off their cap books next season or just send him home, hoping to use his contract in a trade down the road. 4/25/12.

Injuries: Wolves F Kevin Love (concussion, strained neck) and G Ridnour (sprained ankle) are game-time decisions. G Ricky Rubio (knee surgery) and C Darko Milicic (hamstring or something). 4/22/12.

Milicic remains out apparently because of a hamstring he injured working out one day. Before Wednesday's game, Beasley asked him if he would play. Milicic shrugged an answer of no and said, "I'm not playing anyway." 4/5/12.

Also missing was reserve center Darko Milicic, who not only now has disappeared from the team's nightly lineup but also from its traveling party. 4/2/12.

Where's Darko? Milicic has played in only one of the Wolves' past 12 games -- he started March 18 at Sacramento -- and clearly has become the last player on Adelman's bench, even if he doesn't always sit there. The team said he didn't make the trip because of a right hamstring strain. Adelman recently said he has little faith playing Milicic, partly because he has not kept himself in shape while he was not playing. 4/2/12.

Rick Adelman was blunt in his assessment of the team's other likely option, starting Darko Milicic at center. “He hasn't done anything to give you faith that he's going to go out and do the job,” Adelman said before the game. “He's gotten himself out of shape, and I don't think he's been as driven as you'd like.” 3/22/12.

The Timberwolves weren't at full strength; center Darko Milicic didn't make the trip due to a stomach ailment. Milicic just recently returned to the lineup after missing a few games with a sprained right ankle. March 2012.

Darko Milicic accompanied the team and saw his first action after missing five consecutive games because of bruised quadriceps and sprained ankle. He picked up three quick fouls in four second-quarter minutes coming off the bench behind new starter Nikola Pekovic and didn't play again. February 2012.

There's a chance Timberwolves center Darko Milicic, out the past five games because of a bruised left quadriceps and sprained right ankle, might be available to play tonight at Orlando. But his return doesn't mean he's getting his starting job back. If Milicic plays, he already knows he'll be coming off the bench, a role he might have to get used to.

His close friend Nikola Pekovic has established himself as the Wolves' starting center. The way Pekovic has been playing - averaging 17.3 points and 9.8 rebounds and shooting 67.6 percent from the floor the past six games - Milicic has no intention of campaigning to return to the starting lineup. "He deserves to play," Milicic said. "He's playing in a great rhythm right now. I'm happy for him."

Adelman was hoping Milicic would assert himself in the middle, but Milicic has been slowed by injuries. Adelman said after Saturday's practice he has no intention of taking Pekovic out of the starting lineup. Adelman made a subtle reference to Milicic when he praised Pekovic for being able to "finish around the basket." Milicic regularly missed layups or drives to the basket, a concern the Wolves haven't had to worry about much in the past three weeks.
Adelman said after Saturday's practice he has no intention of taking Pekovic out of the starting lineup. Adelman made a subtle reference to Milicic when he praised Pekovic for being able to "finish around the basket." Milicic regularly missed layups or drives to the basket, a concern the Wolves haven't had to worry about much in the past three weeks. February 2012.

Milicic has also been struggling with a low potassium count, which has limited him to 18 minutes in the past four games. 2/3/12.

"I think they're still kind of curious what's going on," Milicic said about team doctors. "We still can't figure it out. I'll play. I'll go as long as I can. I can't stay out no more, go eat some bananas and drink some water." Milicic complained of dizziness after warming up for Sunday night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Target Center and was advised to remain in the locker room for treatment after consulting with a team physician. Milicic was later diagnosed with a low potassium count. "I felt good when I left home," Milicic said before Sunday's game. "I got kind of light-headed when I tried to warm up. I went to the hospital the other day to get checked out, and they told me my potassium was low. And I was dehydrated. They said I wasn't drinking enough fluids." Milicic said he also had some light swelling inside his ears. 1/30/12



Lex said...

But is there anything to Danny’s Darko experiment? That’s the key. The last two seasons have shown the best and worst of Milicic. Two years ago, he averaged 8.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 assists in 24.4 minutes a night over 69 games. In other words, Milicic was Kendrick Perkins. Last season, he averaged just 4.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.9 blocks and 0.6 assists in 16.3 minutes over 29 games. In other words, he was Jason Collins.

Lex said...

Uh oh.

Ben Rohrbach compared Darko to Perk.

I hope ben keeps an eye out for someone we all know and love.

She might not be to happy with that comparison.


FLCeltsFan said...

He wasn't Perk and never will be. Perk's scowl has it's own locker and can defend players all by itself. Perk is Perk. Darko is Darko. Never the twain shall meet.

FLCeltsFan said...

But back to Darko (Who is NOT Perk by the way). I've said it several times, his biggest problem has been being drafted #2. At every stop too much has been expected of him and when he didn't play like a #2 draft pick, he was discarded. If they expected him to play like a, say 29th draft pick, or a 34th draft pick, we'd be talking right now about what a steal he is.

I hope the Celtics bring him in as another Stiemsma ( a much closer comparison in my opinion) and bring him along in the system without expecting too much from him. If they do, I think he'll respond and really will be a steal.

Lex said...

Yeah, you know he was committed to playing in Europe. I read that he was talking about that during the final stages of Adelman.

So for him to come back and play for minimum...the C's must have sparked something in him.

I'm sure doc sold him on kg and that he won't have any shortage of true bigs to play against.

FLCeltsFan said...

I can imagine that he is tired of fighting against the reputation of being a bust. I can see him viewing the Celtics as an organization that will give him a chance - maybe his last chance.

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