Sunday, September 16, 2007

Darko's Summer in Turmoil

Darko Milicic has had the type of summer movies are made of this year. Disaster movies like Earthquake, The Towering Inferno or The Poseidon Adventure.

First he began the summer as a restricted free agent who's agent was suggesting Darko was worth $10 million a year. Then Orlando relinquished his rights choosing to sign Rashard Lewis instead. This led to rather hostile discussions between Darko's agent and the Magic which eliminated any chance Darko would return to Orlando in any manner other than an opponents uniform.

Darko accepted Memphis' offer of $6.5 million a year instead. This became a little uncomfortable when it was released that Darko had possibly implied that Pau Gasol, Memphis' resident big man, may be less than physical in his approach to the game. This was most likely misinterpreted and more directed at Spain than Memphis but it left a sour taste in people's mouths.

While this was going on Darko was preparing to play for his home country of Serbia in the FIBA European Championships. Serbia is a relative newcomer to European basketball. Originally a part of Yugoslavia and then combining with Montenegro this was to be the first European championship where Serbia competed as an individual country. Darko felt immense pressure to perform at the highest level for his country.

And perform he did. Darko was second in scoring (14.7 ppg), first in rebounding (9.7 per game) and first in blocked shots (3.3 per game). While shooting a disappointing 41% from the field a major reason for that was the 2-13 shooting performance against Russia. Darko did shoot over 50% for the rest of the tournament. His free throw shooting left much to be desired however.

Unfortunately Darko was also first in fines at the tournament after an expletive laced commentary about the referees following a close loss to Greece.

Serbia failed to win a single game in the competition but lost all three games by a combined 15 points. Russia, the eventual champion, beat Serbia by 10. Greece, the 4th place team, won by a single point in the highly controversial game. Israel beat the deflated Serbian team by a mere four points that was probably more of a hangover from the Greece game than anything else.

So what did we see from Darko's international experience this summer? We found that Darko won't sit around and accept things. We discovered that Darko is capable of rebounding and scoring on the international stage and as a player is ready to mature his game on the bigger stages. We also saw quite graphically that Darko isn't mature yet and still has troubles with maintaining his emotions.

Most encouraging was his rebounding, a major weakness of the Grizzlies in previous seasons. Darko was among the best rebounders in the tournament averaging 9.3 a game. To put it in perspective that was more than Dirk Nowitzki (8.6 per game), Pau Gasol (7.0 per game) and Andrei Kirilenko (8.6 per game). His weaknesses were maintaining his composure and free throw shooting (52.6%). Throw in the physical way he played and there is a lot more to be excited about than some originally thought.

Now if he can co-exist with Pau and Hakim Warrick in the paint, things could be very good for the Grizzlies this season.


Spartacus said...

Apparently Chip stopped watching movies 30 years ago. Well, other than Harry Potter, of course.

ChipC3 said...

The 70's were the best disaster movies! Are you trying to tell me that you actuall liked Poseidon more than the Poseidon Adventure???

Knots said...

I can now wear my "Free Darko" t-shirt to Griz games without any irony at all.