Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Well, Darko just keeps on truckin'. In the seven games since DarkoRules was last updated, he has continued to put up big numbers and has especially impressed with his shotblocking abilities.

Even with the relatively low number of minutes that Darko plays, he has still managed to get at least two blocks in six of the seven recent games, the exception being a single stuff in 22 minutes against the Warriors on March 11. However, in the following game against the Indiana Pacers on March 13, he set a career-high by swatting five shots. He matched that career high two nights later against Utah, and just for good measure added another four against the Celtics on March 17. Despite the fact that Darko has only played 428 minutes for the entire season, he has still managed to crack the top 50 in the league with a total of 50 blocks in the 2005-2006 campaign. (He is currently in a tie for 49th place with Emeka Okafor)

So just how well has Darko been doing since moving to the Magic after the All-Star break 15 games ago? Let's compare his per-game numbers with those of his old buddy Ben Wallace in Detroit and last year's number 1 pick, Andrew Bogut:

20.6 minutes, 0.536 FG percentage, 6.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 2.5 blocks

Ben Wallace:
36.1 minutes, 0.558 FG percentage, 7.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.4 blocks

Andrew Bogut:
26.9 minutes, 0.519 FG percentage, 8.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.3 blocks

While Darko has played significantly fewer minutes per game than either Wallace or Bogut, he has put up competitive numbers. In fact, he actually has slightly more blocks per game than does Ben, despite having played barely half the number of minutes per game, and eight times as many as Bogut. Both Wallace and Bogut have higher point, rebound, and assist averages, but again, Darko has played fewer minutes.

To make the comparison a little more fair, let's look at the statistics of the three players on a per-48 minute basis:

16.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 5.8 blocks

Ben Wallace:
10.0 points, 13.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 3.2 blocks

Andrew Bogut:
14.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 0.5 blocks

On a per-48 minute basis, Darko has been scoring more points than either Wallace or Bogut, has been bringing down slightly more boards than Bogut and somewhat fewer than Wallace, has been dishing slightly more assists than Wallace and fewer than Bogut, and has been blocking far more shots than either of the other two. He leads two of the four categories, while the other two lead only one apiece. He is not in last place in any one of the categories, while Ben is last in both points and assists, and Andrew is last in both rebounds and blocks. What is DarkoRules' conclusion? It is that Darko has performed better than both Big Ben and Andrew Bogut since the All-Star break!

Let's keep in mind that Darko has only been in Orlando for a month at this point and has had to adjust to a new environment and a new system. He has also been challenged by the fact that he has a ton of rust on him after essentially not playing at all for more than two and a half seasons. However, he has clearly risen to the challenge. At this point, it is safe to say that Darko has proven that he can play very well at the NBA level and the bust tag should never be applied again. Superstar status seems to be only a matter of time at this point!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Darko and the Magic have just finished a frenzied stretch of four road games in five nights. The bad news is that the Magic have lost all four games. The great news is that Darko has played extremely well. His "Human Victory Cigar" days are now just a speck in the rear view mirror and superstardom is straight ahead of him in his path.

On Tuesday, the Lakers beat Orlando by a score of 102 to 87. Darko was on the floor for 24 minutes, put up 6 points, made a steal, and nabbed a season-high 7 rebounds. Probably the highlight of Darko's evening was the fact that he had 3 early blocks on good old Kwame Brown. So which of these guys is a draft bust?

The following night, the Magic had another tilt in California, but this time against the Warriors. This contest was a bit closer, but Orlando still came out on the losing end, putting up 94 points against Golden State's 98. In 26 minutes, Darko stuffed another 2 shots, scored a season-high 12 points, a career-high 9 rebounds, and throwing in two assists for good measure. He was one rebound away from his first-ever double double!

In Friday night's 123-118 loss to the Suns, Darko had his second straight 26 minute game and was again just shy of a double double. This time around, he was a bit shy on the points count, with 8, but he set yet another career high, grabbing 10 boards.

On Saturday night, the Magic found themselves in Denver, where they lost 110-94. Darko filled up his stat sheet with everything but fouls in his 21 minutes on the court, with 7 points, 3 blocks, 3 rebounds, a steal, and an assist.

Another great four games for Mr. Milicic! He is fitting in well with his new team and the fans love him, with many calling for him to take Tony Battie's starting job. All in good time.

Thanks to these most recent games, Darko now has played more minutes this season (143) with Orlando than he has with Detroit (140), and the same is true for points (49 versus 37) and rebounds (37 versus 28). The Magic have given him more of an opportunity in a couple of weeks than the Pistons had in the previous three and a half months!

Even with his limited minutes, Darko has still managed to make his way into a tie for 97th pace in blocks on the season with 29. With his torrid pace of 4.95 blocks per 48 minutes and another 23 games to go, look for Darko to climb his way up this list and finish in a much higher position!

The road trip continues with a game in Utah on Monday night. Here's hoping that the losing streak ends and that Darko sets himself some more new highs!