Monday, April 03, 2006

The Orlando Magic are suddenly starting to look like a very good team, and Darko Milicic has been one of the reasons for the team's improved play. The team is 9-4 in its last 13 games, and is amazingly still a longshot to make the playoffs. While that isn't likely to happen, it looks as though this group of players will head into next season with a great deal of positive momentum.

Darko's performance has continued to improve. He scored at least 11 points in each of five games prior to having the streak snapped against Dallas on March 31. He is still blocking multiple shots on most games, and now has 65 stuffs on the season, good for a tie for 40th place in league. This position is remarkable given the fact that DMC has only averaged 12.8 minutes over 46 games this season. He may well finish in the top 30 in the league in this category. Darko has also been demonstrating his nice passing touch and has tied his career high of three assists in a game three times with Orlando.

One of Darko's best games came on March 22 in a 111-87 victory over the Knicks and mean old Larry Brown. Dwight Howard arrived late for the team shootaround, so coach Brian Hill decided to bench him at the start of the game, opening the way for Darko's first start with the Magic. How did DMC respond? 13 points, 4 blocks, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists! What did coach Brown have to say about Darko's performance? He was gracious enough to acknowledge that "Darko did great."

A number of personal milestones have been reached. Darko passed the 1000 minute mark in his career in the Dallas game, and his total now stands at 1003. The fact that it took nearly three seasons to get to 1000 minutes is sickening. Had it not been for the 450 minutes that Darko has played in his 21 games with Orlando, Darko could very possibly have gone another season without hitting the 1000 mark. He has played nearly as many minutes in one quarter of a season in Orlando (the aforementioned 450) as he did in two and a half seasons in Detroit (553). In another five games or so, Darko will have seen more court time as a Magic member than as a Piston.

Darko now has points with Orlando (163) than he did with Detroit (152), more blocks (50 versus 47), more assists (27 versus 23), and more offensive rebounds (28 versus 24).

The mainstream media is finally coming around to admitting that Darko is an extremely talented baller after all. Peter Vescey has written an extremely positive article in today's (April 2) New York Post. A couple of brief quotes from the article:

"Describing Milicic as a luxury item? Only those who haven't closely checked out how the lefty 7-foot, 21-year-old (come June 20) is doing in Orlando think I'm goofing on him. From where I'm scoping, he's an adept shooter, a clever-touch distributor, a skilled rebounder, an adroit outlet passer and a fertile shot blocker. Look, Ma, Darko's fundamentally flawless. "

"Orlando's Darko Deal, it says here, will go down in NBA history as one of the league's all-time player-jackings. "

Mr. Vescey is right on the money.

Meanwhile, it seems that there are still plenty of sour grapes in Detroit. In a March 28 article, Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press discusses the fact that Carlos Delfino is now stuck with a similar lack-of-minutes situation as Darko had to endure. While Delfino also seems to be upset with the situation (as he very rightfully should be), likening it to "a slap in the face," Mr. Sharp seems to save all of his harsh words for Darko, who was clearly unhappy with his playing time in Detroit (as he very rightfully should have been).

From Sharp, comparing the Darko situation to the Delfinio situation:
"But Milicic was neither mature enough, nor emotionally resilient enough, to understand that the answer to his problems rested primarily within himself."


"Darko was a disaster-in-waiting at the outset. He never liked the game, an indifference exposed in his lackadaisical work ethic. But that's not the case with Delfino. He's canned energy and has a borderline-reckless spirit, which, when properly channeled, will serve him well at this level."

So what are you trying to say here, Mr. Sharp? Are you suggesting that Darko should have been happy sitting on the bench and wasting his time? That Darko should have been more like Delfino and taken his lumps and sat on the bench more quietly? The fact of the matter is that Darko sat on Detroit's bench for a full season before Carlos Delfino arrived and played far fewer minutes than even Delfino. (At the time of this writing, Delfino has played a total of 1079 minutes in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, which is not very significant, but it's still much more of a sniff than Darko ever had). Should the Serbian gangster have just sat there doing nothing until 2012? Does Sharp really think that Delfino will sit there quietly and watch his butt accumulate pine blisters for another entire season without becoming dispirited?

Since coming to Orlando and getting a genuine chance to play, Darko has demonstrated a dogged work ethic, and that has clearly served him well. How does Drew Sharp explain the performance with the Magic? If given half a chance, Darko would have done the same in Detroit. What the heck is it that this Free Press guy wanted Darko to do??

Sharpie will get a chance to see Darko's indifference and lackadaisical work ethic this coming Friday when the Pistons visit the TD Waterhouse Centre.


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