Now that the first two weeks of the NBA regular season have been cancelled, we can get back to focusing on what we’re all really here for: videos for black metal bands with only a coincidental relationship to basketball; recaps of ten-year-old playoff games; dispatches from the front lines of Kevin Love’s beach volleyball career. Oh, and obviously updates on the status of our Wolves on #NBARank.
Well, spots 250-300 certainly do make strange bedfellows. And I do appreciate the Mellvillian mental image of Anthony Tolliver (#289, 3.4/10) and Darko Milicic (#256, 3.76/10) sharing a nice wooden bed (in an old Nantucket Inn, while the cold rain beats down outside). Darko does bear a certain resemblance to old Ishmael: he’s a born ruminator, a fellow who just might find himself “involuntarily passing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral,” who just might have to restrain himself from “deliberately stepping into the street and methodically knocking people’s hats off,” who is a mystery to himself, who seems permanently lost at sea.
But although Darko’s astonishing natural gifts might seem to have blessed him with some kind of divine chosen-ness, his passion for basketball is no match for Ishmael’s obsession with The Whale. Watching close to 100 of Darko’s games in the past year, both of these qualities have been pretty easy to see. (Take a look at that crew of players between 250 and 300. The only players even approaching Darko’s talent level are Yi Jianlian, Jonny Flynn and Michael Redd. That’s sad company.) 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 own 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.
Anthony Tolliver might be the flip side of Darko’s cursed dubloon. Too small to be a four, not quick enough to be a three, he yet managed to score efficiently (58.6% True Shooting) and make the Wolves nearly four points per 100 possession better on defense. He rotates hard; he challenges shooters; he attacks the glass; he’s got a nice little jumper. (He is clearly the harpooner on the Wolves’ doomed vessel–um sorry, are you tired of this yet?) The contrast with Darko could not be more stark: Anthony Tolliver obviously loves to play basketball.