Darko altering T-Wolves history of Eurotrash
Given his oft-maligned, well-traveled seven-plus years in the NBA, the pro-name of "Darko" is sadly apt when illustrating the career of the Timberwolves' starting center. Just chop off the "o" and that namely describes the career path for the former No. 2 overall draft pick.
But that is, apparently, the Milicic of old. With visibly renewed confidence and aggressiveness, Darko's stat line of the past two weeks reads: 16.5 points per game, 8.3 rebounds, 4 blocks and 57 percent shooting. His 2.94 blocks per game over the course of this young season leads the NBA.
But Milicic is doing more than just putting up impressive numbers to close out November.
Hoop heads were collectively scratched and NBA analysts were prone to howl when the 'Wolves signed the 7-foot Serbian to a four-million contract extension (with $16 million guaranteed) in the offseason. Prior to an inconsistent, 24-game audition with Minnesota to close out last season, Darko's NBA body of work was pinned to: being picked ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in the 2003 draft; creating a "Free Darko" movement during his bench ride with the Pistons; shifting about four clubs before being traded to Minnesota; and serving as a strange, cautionary tale in a basketball era that has seen the foreign-born stud become an NBA fixture.
And given that the 'Wolves historic failures in bringing foreign talent to Minneapolis are akin to the team's oft-sorry draft fortunes: the Milicic move portended a disaster. The organization's May hire of international guru Tony Ronzone to their vacated assistant GM post may eventually alter their ugly foreign-born personnel track record, but it could be years before we can truly dissect his influence. So before looking ahead to what Ronzone may improve in future dates, let us first look back at the damage done.
Since the Timberwolves were born in the 1989-90 season of yore, the team has had just four
All-Stars in its oft-problematic history: Kevin Garnett (10 appearances), Tom Gugliotta (one), Wally Szczerbiak (one), and Sam Cassell (one). During this time, the NBA All-Star game has had 17 All-Star appearances from players born outside of the United States. True: a wealth of these guys came into the league prior to the 'Wolves existence and/or were never a possibility of being acquired by the organization, but the number still evidences a complete dearth of foreign talent here.
Want more? The 'Wolves, of course, offer only one Western Conference final appearance in their previous 21-years. During this time, 32 of the 42 teams in the NBA finals sported a foreign-born player on their roster. Since 1998, only four Finals' teams (the 2000 Lakers, 2006 Heat, and both the 2008 & 2010 Celtics) have lacked a foreign-born baller. Let us take a gander at the suspect Timberwolves' draft and roster history with players born outside of the United States:
Wolves foreign-born draft picks
Luc Longley - 1991
Rasho Nesterovic -1998
Igor Rakocevic - 2000
Ndudi Ebi - 2003
Loukas Mavrokefalidis - 2006
Nikola Pekovic - 2008
Henk Norel - 2009
Ricky Rubio -2009
Hamady Ndiaye - 2010
Paulao Prestes - 2010
Wolves foreign-born rostered (some seasons are partial)
Longley - 1991-'94
Gundars Vetra - 1992-'93
Andres Guibert - 1993 -'95
Shane Heal - 1996
Stojko Vrankovic - 1996-'97
Nesterovic - 1999-'03
Felipe Lopez - 2001-'02
Rakocevic - 2002-'03
Ebi - 2003-'05
Michael Olowokandi - 2002-'06
Marko Jaric - 2005-'08
Nathan Jawai - 2009-'10
Oleksiy Pecherov - 2009-'10
Sasha Pavlovic - 2009-'10
Darko Milicic - 2010-2011
Nikola Pekovic - 2011
Sure, these dudes come from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels, some never played in the T.C., some are American-raised, and some have yet to have opportunity to fail -- but all fit the foreign-born criteria, and there's little if any debate that we're lacking in superlatives here.
The 'Wolves may be a mere 4-13 and losers of four straight, but really, we're looking for Progress here, not Playoffs. And standing beside Michael Beasley and Kevin Love in the 'Wolves solid frontcourt is the surging Milicic, who's righting a host of both personal and organizational wrongs in his sudden ascent.
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