If we get the Vin Baker of the last couple years, he can still be very beneficial for this team.But if we get the Vin Baker of old, it's a home run, maybe of tape-measure proportions.
July 23, 2002
Having traded away Joe Johnson for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk a few months earlier, Celtics' GM Chris Wallace faced even bigger problems the following summer. Rogers, who helped the C's make an unexpected run deep into the playoffs (2 games from the NBA Finals!), was now a looming free agent and expecting a big paycheck. Celtics' owner Don Gastclown wasn't about to cough up the dough.
So what did Wallace do?
He took a huge risk in trading Kenny Anderson, Vitaly Potapenko, and Joseph Forte to Seattle for former All-Star Vin Baker and guard Shammond Williams. Baker's star had been fading for sometime, and rumors linked his declining skills to a drinking problem. The C's failed to do their homework (or maybe they did their homework, and took the risk anyway), and decided to roll the dice.The bet didn't pay off. Baker's drinking problems continued while his play worsened, and soon he was relegated to a roll on the bench. All the while, his bloated contract weighed heavily on the Celtics' salary cap.
Danny Ainge is smarter than Chris Wallace, or at least he's a craftier GM. Nobody would dispute that. Darko Milicic is signed only for a single year at minimum money. Darko's star hasn't faded. It has simply yet to take off. Presumably, he has no drink or drug issues, and should head into camp a relatively healthy 27-year-old, 7-1 NBA player with some obvious basketball skills he shows the world when he takes a notion.
But we still see the comparison. We still see Vin Baker lurking over his shoulder, standing in the shadows, waiting to see if Darko will be the next in a long series of bigs who fail to deliver much of anything after the Celtics placed a chip next to their number on the roulette wheel.
I haven't read what Danny or Doc have had to say about the signing, and I probably won't. It most likely will go something like this:
"We think Darko can contribute right away. He'll have to earn his minutes, of course. But even in a limited, carefully defined role, we think he can contribute. Now if Darko can focus, learn his role, and stay committed playing that role within the team concept, well, then, acquiring the Gangsta may be a home run of, you guessed it, tape-measure proportions."
That's how all GM's think, I guess (unless you are general manager for that one team where talented bigs seem to fall from the sky every other year). I get this.
I'd just like to see one of these gambles pay off every now and then, cuz I can't think of one that has since Red took the gamble on Bill Walton.