Posted on: July 7, 2010 2:01 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 2:12 pm

In Defense of Darko

Darko Milicic is a Timberwolf!

It's a relatively minor signing in the grand scheme of things but still definitely getting its fair share of attention, most of which is negative. I don't necessarily fault all of that. After all, while his fellow draft classmen are currently seeking max contracts it's simply amazing that Darko is still in the NBA. I also don't blame the national talking pieces for not watching a lot of T-Wolves basketball last year. Who, outside of the diehard, really could stand to?  Had the critics, or anyone for that matter, cared to pay attention they would have seen Darko playing regularly and playing well.

Darko had been all but written off in New York...and Memphis...and Orlando...and Detroit. At first glance, he appears to be right up there with Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi as all-time busts. Dig a little deeper, look at the facts and the real picture starts to look a little different. The guy came over to the United States at the age of 18. He went to a championship caliber team and tried to earn playing time from a coach in Larry Brown who is well-known for being entirely disinterested in developing young talent. He's actually admitted since then that he never gave Darko a chance. Then factor in that while Darko was riding the bench behind Rasheed and Ben Wallace, LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh and Wade were being allowed to shine as the new faces of their franchise. There's really no telling what this sort of environment did to stunt Darko's growth as a player and a person. It certainly didn't help his rep that Detroit basically threw him under the bus in an effort to clear themselves of the crime of passing on Carmelo, Bosh and Wade.  

In the end, it's not Darko's fault that Detroit took him second in the deepest draft in NBA history. It's not his fault that Larry Brown, Joe Dumars and company had no interest in developing his game. Yet the brunt of everything is on him. He now has the opportunity to prove everyone wrong and I personally am glad he has that opportunity with the Wolves.  

Here is what we know about Darko from his time in Minnesota last season. Most notably, he has a high basketball IQ. He understands both the defensive and offensive sides of the game and that's something you can't measure in a box score. He is a tremendous passer for a 7 footer and runs the floor extremely well given his size. His strong defensive capabilities stood out on a Timberwolves team starving for such qualities. Finally, despite his long and winding road, he's only 25 years old. He could very well just now be turning into the player they thought he would become way back when.  

Above all, a lot is being made of his contract. The full length sum is for 20 million over 4 years, although only around 15 million and 3 years of that is guaranteed. Perhaps, some people are simply naive as to the scale of NBA contracts or maybe they just don't think he's worth that much. I disagree. Below is a list of true centers in the league who are not on their rookie contracts and how much they are scheduled to make next season.  

Pau Gasol 17.8 mil
Yao Ming 17.6
Dwight Howard 16.5
Andrew Bynum 13.8
Erick Dampier 13.2
Samuel Dalembert 12.2
Tyson Chandler 11.7
Emeka Okafor 11.5
Chris Kaman 11.3
Nene 11.3
Eddy Curry 11.2
Andrew Bogut 11.0
Mehmet Okur 9.4
Andres Biedrins 9.0
Marcus Camby 8.4
Andreas Bargnani 8.0
Joel Pryzbilla 7.4
Nazr Muhammed 6.8
Desagna Diop 6.4
Marcin Gortat 6.3
Nenad Kristic 5.8
Reggie Evans 5.0
Darko Milicic approximately 4-5 million

Kendrick Perkins 4.3
Zaza Pachulia 4.3

So maybe you don't like the idea of Darko getting in the range of 5 million a season but in that event you probably don't like the scale of NBA salaries in the first place. The truth is that if you are in the vicinity of 7 feel tall and can play decent basketball you're worth a lot of money. My point here isn't to say Darko was a homerun signing or certainly not that he deserves more. I mean only to convey that everyone should calm down because in the distorted world of professional sports, Darko did more than enough to prove himself worthy of the very modest contract he got.

Category: NBA
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com