File this under blips on the radar or offseason footnotes, but the Timberwolves used their amnesty clause on the little-used often-disappointing Darko Milicic. Darko had one year and a team option remaining on his deal, yet the Timberwolves thought that it would be better to pay him to play elsewhere or sit at home than to have him continue to take up a roster spot. Aside from his inconsistent play and poor body language, the move was made to free up cap space so they could make offers to Nic Batum and other players that could actually benefit the team.
There isn’t much to say on Darko, really. We all know his story before he got here. We remember the Manna from Heaven remark by David Kahn. And our final memory of Darko will be him at the end of his bench in warm-up gear while any and everyone moved ahead of him in the center rotation.
This isn’t to say that Darko didn’t have his moments that made us wonder if he was suddenly getting it, but then would remind us in the next instance that he was just the same Darko. For once in his career he was given a legitimately fair chance to succeed and he couldn’t make the most of it. Sure, he made plays here and there on defense, but he was the model for offensive inefficiency due in part due to his one-dimensional post-game (Dribble-Dribble-Lefty Jump Hook!).
For a starting center, Darko wasn’t overpaid (35th overall highest paid center in 2011). The Timberwolves paid him fairly for that role, but he could never play into that role and soon became an expensive 3rd stringer.
Did he want it badly enough? Maybe, but we’ll never really know. Maybe his confidence was irreparably damaged. Maybe his spirit was too broken. Maybe the player that has been so heavily scrutinized since he was a teenager just couldn’t get himself excited for the game anymore. Ultimately, we don’t know why Darko has never been able to get over the proverbial “hump”.
The weird thing is that, even though he was done with the NBA when he got to Minnesota, he wants to continue his NBA career. Well, if it’s for the money that’s not so weird, but it means that we’ll probably see him again. Part of me does wonder what it would be like to be on the other side of one of those 20-10 games from him…
The Darko story I’ll never forget is during the training camp preceding the 2010-’11 season when the team was running drills and Darko couldn’t finish a conditioning drill and Michael Beasley rallied the team to finish it with him while telling him that they had his back. If I had to pick one story that epitomizes Darko for me, that’s the one. Even more so when he knocked the ball through the other team’s basket on a jump ball.
Derek can also be found on Twitter: @DerekJamesNBA