Over the weekend, I was somewhat troubled by the report that Kevin Love’s earlier reference to “bad blood” being removed from the Timberwolves’ locker room may have been a reference to Darko Milicic, and not just Michael Beasley. The Darko barometer here on my blog again plummeted, forecasting storm clouds and rain for the 2012-13 NBA season.
On the one hand, it shouldn’t have come as a great shock. We already knew that Milicic had a falling out with head coach Rick Adelman, and it really isn’t that far of a stretch to go from problems with the coach to problems in the locker room. On the other hand, reports like this disappoint me because Minnesota’s Darko problem sounds a little like Boston’s Mark Blount problem from a few years back. This is to say, Minnesota overpaid for a player who showed flashes of talent and dedication, only to see that promise disappear over time, becoming victim to injury, attitude, and conditioning issues. The word “cancer” comes to mind.
How’s that for a thought to kick off the work week?
Florida Celts Fan (FCF) has done her best to lift us out of the Darko doldrums.
Darko is a huge fella. Forget about the videos I posted from last week. They were two years old. That Darko was like Shaq in college or maybe his rookie year. Today Darko looks more like the Shaq of later years. He’s listed at 7-1 270. I’m gonna say that’s 30 pounds shy, and I might not be doing his torso justice. I’ll even play glass half full and suppose that most of Darko’s mass is muscle.
FCF suggests that perhaps this should be Darko’s role, i.e., that of an enforcer. This is quite the interesting suggestion when you think about it. Darko has failed elsewhere largely because he failed to meet expectations. Those expectations were not just being the #2 overall pick in a draft loaded with superstars. Salary must be taken into account as well. Darko’s last contract paid him $20m over 4 years. This means even if a coach/team can get over the fact that Darko once was the #2 overall pick and the expectations that come with that, they still need to reconcile his paycheck with his output.
As good as Darko looked in those videos, he clearly isn’t always that focused, full of energy, and dedicated to the mission. Nor is he always that good. So what happens the rest of the time that isn’t captured by the video? Well, I think we know a little bit more about that now than we did before Media Day. Darko sees himself as an “over the hill” player long-since removed from his days as a top-pick who can expect to see lots of minutes. It doesn’t take long listening to Darko to get the feeling that the guy is a little down on himself.
That’s where FCF comes in.
You limit his role to something very specific and very do-able, and that accomplishes at least two things. First, he can fulfill his role and start building a sense of teamwork and belonging, and we know that Darko needs to feel like he belongs. With the bar now set very low, everything else is icing on the cake. This is where the other Darko, the talented Darko, sneaks up on you. If he can pick his spots to show off his other skills and otherwise be productive above and beyond just being big, you’ve invented a whole new ball-game for the Dark One.
Keep in mind Darko was amnestied on July 12, but wasn’t signed by the Celtics until last week. Also keep in mind that Danny was the first GM to call him. So that gave #99 more than two months to think about the very limited role he will play on the C’s. He didn’t really discuss that role much on Media Day. But you can bet it will be the same role that Jason Collins described for himself, namely putting a body on the leauge’s biggest and best bigs. There will be other little-noticed things Darko is asked to do, like set picks, draw charges, and maybe make a good pass now and again. Darko knows he can do all of these things.
What’s different this time is that the Celtics won’t expect anything else. Playing for minimum money, no one will expect him to post any particular numbers. Darko may have hit rock bottom. But this is a golden opportunity for him to start lifting himself up and building a new persona that NBA teams value, not like they do a lottery pick, but value nonetheless. And he’s only 27.
In other words, this might be year one of the rest of Darko’s career, if he makes the effort to do what Doc asks him to do and changes himself into a commodity that is marketable for an entirely different set of reasons than when he was drafted by Detroit. That’s a big if, but at least it pushes the rain clouds away from the Dark-0-meter for the present.