Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Hello everyone. On the eve of opening of the 2005-2006 NBA regular season, my Darko Milicic blog is open for business. I have decided to chronicle Darko’s progress as he takes what is likely to be his first real shot at showing his stuff.

For those of you who are not familiar with Darko, he is the player who has probably been dumped on in the sports media. Prior to coming to the NBA, Darko was a teenaged baller in Serbia. He began receiving a fair bit of hype, included that provided by espn.com’s Chad Ford in this glowing January 2003 article about the then 17-year-old.

When it came to draft time in June of 2003, Detroit Pistons GM Joe Dumars was sufficiently impressed with Milicic to draft him in the second spot overall.

The overall top 5 picks were as follows:

1. LeBron James, Cleveland
2. Darko Milicic, Detroit
3. Carmelo Anthony, Denver
4. Chris Bosh, Toronto
5. Dwyane Wade, Miami

Anyone that follows the NBA in any capacity is aware that the other four players on this list have made significant contributions in their two years in the league (LeBron's no. 1 selection was a foregone conclusion years before Draft Day came along), while Darko has done basically nothing. Under the coaching of Larry Brown, Darko has ridden the pines and generally only been given playing time in the closing minutes of games in which the Pistons have built insurmountable leads, which has given rise to the nickname “The Human Victory Cigar”. Dumars’ wisdom in choosing the young Serb has been questioned time and again, and the consensus opinion has been that Darko was a wasted pick.

I am of the opinion that Darko has really not yet been given a chance. A look at the total minutes played over the last two seasons of players mentioned above bears evidence of this:

LeBron – 6,510
Carmelo – 5,603
Bosh – 5,527
Wade – 5,100
Darko – 413

Darko has played less than 1/12th the minutes of the next-lowest guy on the list!!! He has not been given any kind of chance to show what he has to offer!!!

Combine this with the fact that Darko is the youngest of the five and was a teenager less than six months ago, and it’s not hard at all to make a case that it is way too early to give up on him.

With the arrival of Flip Saunders to replace Brown as head coach, Darko has been all but promised a much more regular amount of playing time. He has already shown a few signs of shaking off the “bust” tag. His showing this pre-season was, by most accounts, promising. His pre-season stats suggest that he can indeed score points (7.9 per game average), rebound (4.9 average), and block shots (2.88 average) if given a chance.

Most naysayers will suggest that the pre-season competition is far inferior that which takes place in the regular season, so it remains to be seen if Darko whether or not he will continue to make progress once the games count for something.

Although not technically true, Darko is only now getting his first chance to be a rookie. Will he be a superstar? A serviceable player? A bust? I have no idea, but I we are about to find out.



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