Darko captivates, Timberwolves baffle

Benjamin Polk —  December 1, 2010 — 10 Comments

Photo by Rubyblossom

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?

Benjamin Polk

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10 responses to Darko captivates, Timberwolves baffle

  1. It absolutely baffles me that people can’t make sense out of what Khan is doing lol.

    Outside of 5. Rubio 6. Flynn 7. Curry I literally think every call he has made has been good.

  2. Good post. But did just want to point out that Ben Wallace is only making $2.1 million this year and $2.2 next as Detroit’s starting center after making the minimum last year.

  3. We are more exciting to watch this year, granted not many wins but they will come over time. We have some talent and a good coach, could be great. We are 2 good free-agents from competing for the playoffs and maybe more. What we need to do is play some defense, defense, defense!

  4. Matt Moore is truly awful at his job.

  5. I keep telling people who are getting excited about Darko, it doesn’t mean anything until I see a year’s worth of consistent production from him. I’ve seen him have great, productive streaks when he was on Orlando.

    The thing that separates serviceable role players and solid starters, the thing that separates middling lottery teams and playoff teams is consistency. I will remain skeptical of Darko’s game until I see that.

  6. I think you mean “Socratic dialogue” instead of “dialect”.

    And by the way, I am highly supportive of the “Timberwolves team building as alchemy” analogies. I suggest we continue to discuss the Wolves only by way of archaic alchemical terms and metaphors, through which the snark-filled minds of the uninitiated cannot penetrate.

    For example, we could say:
    “In affecting the Chrysopoeia of Saturn, it is expedient that the great Blas of The Vagabond be confined to orderly channels. Thusly he may prove compatible with the capricious Bird of the Khorasan, as well as with The Destroyer of the Bodies (if he will descend, verily, from the three-point line), so that we may hope for the Albedo that lies beyond this Nigredo-Putrefactio.”

    to mean:
    “If the Timberwolves are to become a good team, Corey Brewer needs to stay within the offense. Maybe then he can gel with Beasly and Love (who needs to stop taking so many three’s) and we can transition from a cellar-dwelling to a playoff-contending team.”

    http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1011&context=ljsproceedings

  7. I think I actually meant “dialectic” but I realize now that “dialogue” is more appropriate. Nothing like a blog for precisely written prose, huh?

    “Thusly he may prove compatible with the capricious Bird of the Khorasan, as well as with The Destroyer of the Bodies (if he will descend, verily, from the three-point line), so that we may hope for the Albedo that lies beyond this Nigredo-Putrefactio.”

    This is exactly what I’ve been trying to say all along! Someone finally understands.

  8. I actually think Matt’s doing some pretty good work over there. That illustrated screenshot breakdown of the Celtics-Heat game was pretty funny.

  9. Ah! I knew I had to have missed somebody! Thanks for point that out Patrick!

  10. I love bashing Kahn and pointing out his flaws even more than I love taffy, and I LOVE taffy.

    But the fact is that the team is not worse off under his reign, no matter how puzzling it has been at times. They do not have less talent, they are not less interesting, they do not have a worse coach, their morale is not lower, they do not have a worse financial position.

    Keep in mind, I still think most of the moves Kahn made were bad to neutral. However, a GM only needs to hit a couple of home runs to keep his team in the game. A lot of the moves made by Otis Smith have been terrible. A lot of the moves made by Mitch Kupchak stunk. Steve Kerr got his team into the WCF last year, but most of his picks, signings and trades were panned and now he’s doing TV again.

    Rambis can coach. The Beasley acquisition was free cash. The Darko deal was never going to blow up in their faces because EVEN IF HE IS NOTHING BUT A BACKUP CENTER IT IS A BACKUP CENTER’S CONTRACT, I don’t understand and never have understood the harsh criticism there. They still have Rubio’s rights. By all indication, not drafting Cousins was the right thing to do. Kahn has done good things.

    Kahn often acts and sounds like a schmuck and probably generates a lot of the doubt about himself, but for the time being he deserves praise, not criticism. Attacks on Kahn at present strike me as contrived and bad-natured, it’s like going to a restaurant, getting a very good meal and spending the whole time complaining about the bad meals you’ve had and the bad meals you probably will have there. I would say to such people, why do you even come here? What could ever make you happy?

    I fully understand why people want to hate on Kahn. I want to hate on Kahn. But we haters need to save our hate for when there is hating to be done, which is not now. Not yet.

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