Archives For Darko Milicic

HandDryers

I generally hate using hand dryers.

Whenever you hit the button or you turn it on using some Jedi-type stuff, if you’re not seeing ripples in your skin then the blow dryer isn’t going to be good enough to dry your hands in a reasonable amount of time. A hand dryer like the one you see above is terrible at doing its job. The air is lukewarm at best and it’s definitely not going to give enough force to move beads of water away from your skin. Push the button; it’s going to last for about four seconds. There is just nothing efficient or effective about a hand dryer like this.  Continue Reading…

The annual NBA GM survey was released on NBA.com today and as per usual, it’s kind of confusing in places and complimentary in others.

The Wolves were mentioned quite a bit throughout the survey of the 30 GMs around the league, and you know it was outside forces voting nice things about the Wolves because you’re not allowed to vote for your own team or personnel. Some of the nice things said about the Wolves:  Continue Reading…

It’s officially official that Darko Milicic is no longer a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The team used it’s one time amnesty provision during the life of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement to rid themselves of his cap number and roster space so they could have the room to make the 4-year, $46.5 million offer sheet to restricted free agent Nicolas Batum.

Darko Milicic has been somewhat of a lightning rod for some reason. When he was blocking shots two years ago and missing left-handed hooks, there were Wolves fans that wanted to believe he was a defensive stopper for this team. There were those that thought people were too critical of David Kahn and wanted to find the good in this insane contract that was given to a big man that had rarely shown any desire to improve his game and matter for good reasons in this league. There were people that wanted this team to be good so badly, they were willing to look past the warts to appreciate any positives he gave the team.

I don’t necessarily fault fans for doing this. We want to see the good in a player. We want him to realize his potential. We hope the Wolves’ players all come together and figure out how to win while playing their best. It’s part of wanting this team to be good. And Darko wasn’t completely useless a couple seasons ago. He DID block shots and he was okay on defense, overall. He can pass the ball, although not with the ability and proclivity that David Kahn once told Chris Webber. However, that’s where the “production” ended and where his true story begins.

Darko is not a good NBA player. Part of the reason he’s so noticeable in his awful play is because of where he was drafted and how he was hyped. This is unfair because Darko didn’t make the Pistons draft him ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He didn’t write the encouraging scouting reports pre and post-draft that made you wonder if he’ll be an All-Star big man. He didn’t really have anything to do with his popularity, other than possessing a certain agility, size, and skill set that GMs looking to save their jobs pray for drafting.

And it’s not his fault that David Kahn gave him an unwarranted four-year, $20 million contract two summers ago.

However, Darko Milicic is guilty in appearing to not really care whether he’s good or not. There is a certain work ethic and determination that is expected with this job and he seems to possess none of it. He sets himself up for failure by appearing to not have passion for getting better. Of course, that’s me assuming what’s inside his head and that may not be a fair assessment. Maybe he’s tried as hard as he’s capable of trying and has just hit a ceiling that was completely misjudged.

Actually, it’s that line of thinking that keeps giving him a pass in some respect. Some people have been making minor excuses for Darko for quite a while, trying to minimize the trouble and maximize the “what-if” factor. Darko Milicic is a horrible NBA player and mostly everybody has known it for years  He’ll still get chances in this league if he wants them because he’s tall. People will talk themselves into him being a decent backup big man and say, “you can do worse than Darko as your backup.”

Let me tell you that you can’t. I can throw out stats like his 54.1% in the restricted area (tied for 61st amongst centers) or his WS/48 of .003 last season or his assist percentage of 6.2% that was good for 34th amongst centers during 2011-12. I could tell you about the time he got injured on jump balls twice or how he injured himself during his conditioning test. But it’s unnecessary to waste our time breaking down his game.

Darko is apathy incarnate. I don’t mind if other teams take a chance on him. That actually helps the Wolves. And while I’ve been somewhat remorseful over the departure of certain disappointments over the years (Beasley being the most recent), there isn’t an iota of regret in seeing Darko having the exit held open for him.

By way of reviewing this strange season, we here at A Wolf Among Wolves are going down the Wolves roster, discussing each individual player’s season and their outlook for the future. We’ll start with the man in the suit, Darko Milicic.

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Back in October, while we were all still whiling away the lockout, I had this to say about Darko:

He is well over seven feet tall; he has supple feet; he handles the ball with rare ease. Unfortunately, he also seems intimidated by his own gifts and desperately afraid to succeed. We’ve seen too many dunks turned into layups, too many blown three foot jump hooks, too many looks of resigned relief as he settles down on the bench to believe otherwise. I’ve said it before: playing with Rick Adelman, a coach who loves those skilled, finesse Euro big men, seems like Darko’s last chance.

I’ll stand behind every word of that paragraph. Because despite Darko’s customarily great moments, moments that give you just a brief glimpse at what could be possible–his first half in Los Angeles against the Clippers comes to mind–this very large, very talented man clearly blew that chance. His PER was 9.0, his worst since he was a teenager, and three points below his already modest career average. He posted a true shooting rate of .458, embarrassingly bad for a center. His rebounding rate of 11.4 was also, as has been typical, far below average. As always, he blocked a shot or two (1.9 per 36 minutes); but even this was drop from his career numbers. Furthermore, his shot-blocking stats have always papered over the inconsistency of his defensive effort, a fact that was no less true this season.

The sad truth is that Darko has never been able to summon the consistent effort or focus or confidence necessary to be an effective NBA player, much less live up to his talents. And while Kurt Rambis (perhaps tantalized by the glow of those talents or, more likely, simply responding to a mandate from higher up the chain) persisted in giving Darko floor time, Rick Adelman, to his credit wasn’t having it. Here’s what Adelman told the Strib in March:

He hasn’t done anything to really give you a lot of faith that he’s going to go out and do the job. He’s gotten himself out of shape. He hasn’t been as drive (sic) as you’d like so when a situation like this happens, it’s time for someone to have their opportunity and get back in there.

Even when Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love went down and the Wolves were seriously thin on the front line, Darko Milicic remained suited on the bench’s second row. The team can opt out of his contract a year from now, but I would be surprised if we ever see the man in a Wolves’ uniform again.

You know things are really turning around at the Target Center when John Hollinger—who up to this point had been known to Wolves’ fans for serving up incredulous, though generally reasonable, critiques of the Kahn regime—is giving props. Hollinger points out a rather amazing element to the Wolves’ fortunes: drastically increasing a team’s win total from one season to the next is not unprecedented, but doing it with the same players is. Even more remarkable, the significant new faces that the Wolves have added—Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio—have actually made the team younger.

Some of the explanations Hollinger gives are familiar to us: the Wolves renewed competence and competitiveness on defense; the addition of Rubio as a decision-maker and perimeter defender; Love’s blossoming as a star. But another explanation is maybe so familiar that it was hiding in plain sight. Namely, that the Wolves have replaced minutes and shots for ineffective players with minutes and shots for effective ones:

The neon sign in this case [last season] was “go-to” post option Darko Milicic finishing with a higher usage rate than Ridnour, despite Milicic being one of the least efficient offensive players in basketball and Ridnour being well above average.

Darko wasn’t the only one, though; Michael Beasley also had one of the highest usage rates in basketball despite creating little for teammates and mostly long 2s for himself. It’s as though Rambis thought the contested 17-footer was the pinnacle of offensive achievement. Perhaps he’d just been around Kobe too long.

This season, things are different. You know who leads the Wolves in usage rate? Kevin Love! What a concept! And between Barea, Rubio and Ridnour, most of the touches that aren’t flowing through Love are going through a small, quick guard who can create for others. Beasley and Darko still shoot too much, but their roles and their minutes have been curtailed under Rick Adelman.

Agreed. This calls to mind one of the drawbacks to implementing the triangle offense with such a young and unevenly talented crew. When an offense is predicated so fundamentally on flow and reaction, it can be very difficult to control where the ball goes. The first aspect of this pretty elementary. The post feed is the triangle’s basic initiating action. When Darko Milicic is your starting center, on the receiving end of all of those post feeds, asked to create with his passing and back-to-the-basket skills, you’ll find him handling the ball much more than he ought to.

But the second element is probably even more essential. As we’ve seen with the Bulls and Lakers, when the triangle’s machinations are disrupted (by the defense or poor execution), the ball tends to flow into the hands of the highest usage players on the floor. Not such a bad thing when those players are Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, pretty bad when that player is Michael Beasley.

The Wolves’ inexperience exacerbated that problem. Last season, the Wolves were notorious in their inability to adapt and counter when the defense denied their first option. Far too many of their half-court sets devolved into continuity-deadening isolations for Beasley. They lacked the intuition–an intuition forged mainly by experience–to improvise their way into good shots when the offense broke down, which it very often did. Adelman has brought with him the novel idea that the offense ought to be structured, at least in part, around the principle of creating shots for the team’s best players.


Apologize for the late recap post but we had some issues with the site yesterday, and I’m just now able to get it posted.

As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been absent from recap duties and other postings on this site the past week because I was out of town. I went to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston to see what the latest nerds were doing in trying to figure out new ways to quantify sports.

Basketball has always been one of the fuzziest ways to figure out what we’ve just seen and what we’ll see in the future because there are so many variables and intangibles that we haven’t figured out how to measure yet. People argue about PER, Win Shares, plus/minus, adjusted plus/minus and everything under the sun. We don’t know what is good enough for analysis and what isn’t but we do know that advancements in the field are happening every season.

One of the biggest arguments that stats analysts and non-stats analysts have had over the years is about “the hot hand.” Can we really predict if the next shot is going in based on consecutive makes just prior to the next attempt? Do people ever get hot or are they just mathematically trending upward? Whether you believe in the hot hand or not isn’t really relevant to this recap.

Just know that whether he’s hot right now or he’s just trending, Kevin Love has been destroying two really good frontcourts the last two games.  Continue Reading…

“Hanging around. Hanging around. Kid’s got alligator blood. Can’t get rid of him.” – Teddy KGB.

It starts with a run. The Clippers came out of halftime, inexplicably only up three points and looking to put this game away early. A layup from Randy Foye drops in. Blake Griffin hits a jump shot. Randy Foye makes a 3-pointer off of a pass from Blake. The Clippers are carving up a young Wolves’ team with passing and effort. They’re being more physical. They’re quicker to the ball. They’re now up 10 within the blink of an eye.

For some reason this season, the Wolves find a way to stick around. There are plenty of games in which I’ve watched the action unfold before my eyes, then look up at the scoreboard and wonder how Minnesota had kept it so close. They have sneak ways of going on runs immediately after an opponent’s run. And it’s rarely anything but subtle.

Luke Ridnour made a technical free throw after an illegal defense. After a missed 3, an offensive rebound by Rubio and DeAndre Jordan swatting a shot attempt, the Wolves got a stop against the Clippers. Pek gets to the foul line for two, Wes hits a jumper off the Rubio setup, and then Rubio finds Wes in transition for the layup. All of a sudden, the 10-point lead is a two-point deficit and you’re back in the grind of the game.

The story of the mini-runs and the grind it out mentality of this team kept them in it. But the bench certainly won the game for the Wolves tonight.

And the bench. CAUGHT. FIRE.  Continue Reading…

It’s time to Pek a fight

Zach Harper —  February 3, 2012 — 14 Comments

Watching the Indiana Pacers punish the Wolves with physicality the other night made me a little jealous. The Pacers want to punish you. They want you to feel their presence every second of the ball game.

Stop-n-Pop at Canis Hoopus put it beautifully when he said:

The Pacers entered last night’s tilt with a single goal: to beat the living hell out of Our Beloved Puppies.

Mission Accomplished.

Here’s what I think was going through the head of each and every single Indy player:

“You want to run the pick and roll? We’ll crush the pick. You want to throw your body around on the defensive glass? We’ll grab at you until we get called. We’ll poke, pry, hustle, and hack and we’ll beat your finesse. We’ll beat you because you’re soft. We’ll beat you because we’re better. We’ll beat you because our bigs are bigger and our wings can play. We’ll beat you because our coach has an edge.”

I don’t know if this model of play is sustainable in a league in which scoring is valued by the rule-makers and ratings-counters. It’s hard to sell something as ugly as woodshed basketball when you’re trying to convince people they need season tickets to see your product. People love to see scoring. They want to see dunks, no-look passes, and 3-pointers raining hellfire on the nightly opponents.

I, myself, love a free wheeling team. Other than having an affinity for watching Kevin Love’s child-bearing hips remove opposing players from rebounding position, seeing Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, and others whip the ball around the court has given me a joy with this team that I haven’t felt since the KG era. Sharing is caring and sharing is also selling you a team for consumption.

But there is still part of me that wants this team to have a bully and a presence inside. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Darko isn’t that guy. Despite David Kahn’s best attempts to sell this roll of the dice to everybody years ago, the production just isn’t there and probably never will be. Continue Reading…

Against the Clippers, the Wolves did at least three things that they haven’t done consistently for years. They: came back from a double-digit deficit in the second half when it appeared that the game was slipping away; made poised, aggressive plays down the stretch; executed a last shot out-of-bounds play–and actually made the shot. (In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time they did it was Michael Beasley against these Clips last fall, and that game was no where near as interesting or encouraging as this one). This was a wild, ragged, competitive, thrilling game–with Hubie Brown providing the breathless, grandfatherly commentary. In short, its a game we’re not used to seeing our Timberwolves even playing in, much less winning. It was an awful lot of fun.

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Ok, so the thing about being the darlings of the NBA, the “League Pass team of the year,” is that everybody is watching when you serve up an uninspired, low-energy stinker to Cleveland, at home, on Friday night. Everybody sees the gaping suck of confidence that is the Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson wing tandem and the slightly embarrassing fact that if Luke Ridnour has an off shooting night (2-11) your perimeter offense becomes an inefficient, unlovely slog.

Everyone gets to see Darko perform one of his signature moves: the inspired, kinetic first quarter followed by a gentle, balmy three-quarter drift back to mediocrity. Everybody watches as your power forwards get twisted into gummy little knots by Antawn Jamison’s old man craft. The nation looks on in horror as Wayne Ellington airballs a wide-open corner three, squandering a brilliant Ricky Rubio skip pass. The basketball world gets treated to a vintage Samardo Samuels/Nikola Pekovic garbage-time wrestling match.

Continue Reading…