For perhaps the first time since he was drafted at no. 2 overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 2003 NBA Draft, Darko Milicic’s picture is in newspapers across the world. Of course, the location is far from the safe confines of a basketball court and the Associated Press piece instead captures the beleaguered baller on Friday in O’Hare Airport, from where Al Italia had canceled all flights to Serbia due to that great bloody cloud of ash spewed forth from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano that’s hovering malevolently over swathes of The Continent.
BallinEurope can, as of yet, find no word in Serbian or English-language media on whether Milicic has actually managed to depart Chicago and/or arrive on The Continent since then, but i’m reckoning there’s some sort of conspiracy going on involving Odin, Loki, the board of directors of the former Kaupthing Bank and Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn to keep him in America.
After all, while (for all we know) Milicic continues to stew at O’Hare, the Timberwolves-centered bits of the interweb are warm to agog about the team’s
meaningless late-season addition lucky find.
One of the boys at Bleacher Report last night noted that “Kahn’s most notable move last season was acquiring C Darko Milicic from the New York Knicks. Milicic, who has been strongly criticized for not reaching his full potential, found a home in Minnesota and put up decent numbers.” Another called the Team Serbia stalwart one of the highlights of the Timberwolves’ 2009-10 season: “Darko Milicic can play,” Matthew Hayden claims.
Pens Technorati NBA blogger Dwayne Dunham in a blaze of enthusiasm: “Darko Milicic even revived his career by getting a consistent amount of starts, providing a great compliment (sic) in the front court to Al Jefferson while also allowing Jefferson to play his natural power forward. If Darko decides to stay, he will definitely get a chance to show what he can do and be an early favorite for Most Improved Player [in 2010-11].”
The Detroit Pistons blogger over at M Live even begrudgingly throws some words of admiration the new Minnesotan’s way, describing his career as “resurrected.” Bill Laimbeer states that Darko is a “pretty good addition” and “an outstanding defender.” And over at NBC Sports’ Pro Basketball Talk, writer Matt Moore noted that in the Wolves’ final match “Darko Milicic, the franchise savior, had six rebounds.” (Though BiE thinks he was being sarcastic.)
This, after 27 games with the team: a stretch, incidentally, over which Minnesota went warp speed into Tankville at an incredible record of 2-25.
What gives? Is this hoopla all about Minnesota fans’ exceedingly low expectations/desperation and Bill Simmons’ classic “illusion of regret” theory? Is Kahn about to bamboozle fans once again when they act delightedly to his approportioning much of the reported $15-20 million in team cap space to Milicic when every other big-name center passes on the “opportunity” to play for a perpetually losing franchise?
After, Milicic has changed his formerly hardcore position vis-à-vis staying in the NBA, now declaring that he’ll stay in the ‘States. But only with Minnesota. And only if he starts. And only if he gets beaucoup bucks.
On the plus side, Khan and coach Kurt Rambis have shown more enthusiasm toward Milicic than any personnel in the dude’s NBA career. (Ahem, cough, cough, “That’s our fault, and we absorbed the blame for that, not the players,” hack, cough, excuse me.) Plus, the triangle offense Rambis continues to espouse is literally ideal for a seven-foot low post who can pass – and Darko can still pass. Pretty much.
On the minus side, well, he’s *Darko Milicic*! How could any NBA squad, including a 15-67 team with a fumbling front office, be seriously considering this guy? Is 27 games of competent play enough to justify a $5-or-so million per year contract?
Sanity may yet win out in Timberwolves land, but if Kahn and his PR machine come at the local fanbase next season with a team full of guards (are they really going for John Wall?), the $7 million Serb and fairy tales of a future with Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic, well, 2010-11’ll be another loooooong year for Minnesota fans.
Then probably 2011-12, 2012-13…
In the meantime, Darko can at least enjoy the publicity while he waits in limbo on both travel and career: He’s sharing news space with Angela Merkel, Jens Stoltenberg (who ran Norwegian governmental matters via iPad; great stuff for an ad campaign there), and John Cleese (who, in a scene straight out of Clockwise, paid $5,100 in taxi fare from Oslo to Brussels).
And today, Minnesota fans are hoping that Darko’s not making any sort of business call in that picture there, especially not to their home front office. Or maybe they are. Weird time to be a Timberwolves fan.