Darko captivates, Timberwolves baffle
Two new internet sightings caught my attention recently. The first is an acidic little number by Matt Moore at ProBasketballTalk. It’s sort of a dark Socratic dialogue riffing on Darko’s recent resurgence. The piece is called “Three Good Games from Darko Justifies the Kahn Era…or Something”. Let’s take a peak:
And now, a call and response…
Look out, world! You doubted the Kahn-O-Matic, now you reap the whirlwind! You all laughed when David Kahn signed Darko Milicic to a $20 million deal. You said there was no way a player with his history of massive failure was worth a four-year investment. But who’s laughing now, huh?
(Well, we are. Pretty loudly, actually. But go on.)
Check this out, you Hatorade drinker! Ha! See! It’s like Gatorade, only with Hate! I just made that up!
(Very amusing. What was your point, exactly?)
Moore rightly points out, in his way, that Darko’s three game explosion came on the heels of one of the more truly awful five game stretches of this season or any other. And that anyone who actually believes that this trend will be the new normal, that these numbers indicate some future All-Star appearances and thus heroically justify Kahn’s vision, are a touch wrong in the head.
But so let’s look at something a bit more realistic. Let’s say that for the next three years, Darko is neither the 12% shooting, 3 rebound a game juggernaut from the early going, nor the double-digit rebounding, shot-blocking, double-team drawing house afire from the Lakers and Spurs games. Let’s say he manages to become simply average, a decent NBA center. (Right here, by the way, is a fairly sober, even-handed statistical take on Darko’s season so far, by Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus).
Can anyone find me a veteran (that is, a player not on his rookie contract) starting NBA center not named Joel Anthony making less than Darko’s $4.3 million this year? I know, me neither. So while David Kahn may seem a touch erratic to you, and while three years (that fourth year and final $5.6 million is a team option year, mind you) might be one too many for a player this unproven, can we really say that this contract is such a disaster?
But what really interests me most about this whole dialectic–either Darko is the worst starter in the league or the second coming of Vlade Divac–is how interwoven it’s become with a certain unbounded hope and ridiculous disappointment. With the fact, in other words, of being the exotic, seventeen-year-old, blonde-tipped prodigy taken ahead of Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. In the basketball cosmology, a 7’2″ Eastern European with spidery arms, soft touch and good feet is a mythic, enchanted creature, a fairy tale mothers whisper to their children as they begin to dream. Darko is a unicorn: one part messiah, one part fraud.
The unicorn speaks! (to the Detroit Free Press): “They can say whatever the (expletive) they want about me, I’m not going to worry.” You tell em, Darko.
* * *
Here’s the next one, from 48 Minutes of Hell:
Stockpiling redundant, mismatched talent, bungling draft picks, overpaying never were veterans, and somewhere off in the distance rumors of a city landing a relocated professional sports franchise–but only if that team can tank enough to get out of its lease…But here the Minnesota Timberwolves are, a collection of talent not unlike the rag tag fictional Cleveland Indians (in the sense that even the locals came into the season proclaiming “They’re [expletive deleted]“). Little of what general manager David Kahn has done with the Timberwolves has made any sense. Unless he’s secretly an evil genius.
The rest is an admittedly fanciful, though still rather mind-boggling conspiracy theory, full of shady backroom dealings and cinematic resonance. I will comment on it in this way only: right now the Wolves are a totally captivating team, filled with strange alchemies of potential and talent, front-office intrigue and on-court experiment. People are fascinated. Isn’t that an amazing thing to say about the Timberwolves?