Friday, September 7, 2007

Darko Act I

Memphis, meet Darko Milicic.

You might have missed his initial press conference this summer. You probably wish you would have missed this story too.

Darko Milicic, the Grizzlies top free agent acquisition and 7 foot Serbian center provided his Memphis fanbase with quite the opening act.

Darko Act I featured a profanity laced tirade directed towards the refs after Serbia lost to Greece. It was, of course, in Serbian. It was not only directed at the refs, but also their families. It was nasty, viscous, appalling, inappropriate, and whatever other negative descriptor that comes to your mind. I'm leaving it up to the reader to find the translation for themselves. Google.

Naturally, Chris Wallace didn’t like what he read. I don’t like reading what he said. No sensible person would approve of what he said.

That's why it is embarrassing to admit that when I first saw the youtube clip of Darko's outburst, I was smiling and enjoying myself. Sure, that was mostly because I do not speak Serbian and had not yet read the translation. But still. My first thoughts was that if we didn't catch lightning in a bottle, we might have caught venom in a vile. And isn't that what we have always wanted next to Pau?

This isn’t the same Darko I remember. Admittedly, I did not see Darko play much in Orlando, being restricted only to the few Grizzlies games he made an appearance in. Still, this isn’t the same Darko I remember sitting on the end of the Pistons bench wearing a bandaid on his ear. This Darko is big. This Darko is mean. This Darko is pissed.

Wait. I need to remember what he actually let himself say to a bunch of reporters after a heartbreaking overtime loss.
It probably can't be stressed enough that he needs to control his emotions better. He was unprofessional. Right or wrong, we expect players to play hard during the game while pushing their emotional level to the brink without going over, then after the game, be calm, professional and display role model type sportsmanship. When players do go over the edge, whether during or after the game, we then frown upon it to varying degrees. This situation isn't any different.

But screw it. I’m a homer and I don't want what looked like a great offseason tainted right now.

I want this to be a glimpse into a mean Darko who will be the teams enforcer that we’ve always wanted next to Pau (minus the vulgar content about the refs and their families of course). Someone that won't let the Mavs tip out a missed free throw in the closing minutes of a playoff game. Someone that makes opposing guards think twice before driving the lane. Someone that won't stand for Mike Miller to be elbowed in the throat (provided they aren't on the bench and it is a crucial playoff game).

Darko's low rumblings during his initial press conference reminded many Griz fans of Drago from Rocky IV. I'm not sure how this latest incident changes that comparison. Maybe a juvenile Drago.

Darko Act I: Young Drago gets mad

(Aside…Ever since Darko's press conference this summer I have had the idea that Darko would make a perfect pro wrestler. He is already known by a single name (I doubt most casual fans know his last name). He is big. He is mean. And he apparently gives pro wrestling quality backstage interviews after getting screwed by the refs. Maybe him and Pacman could be a tag-team.)

Update: Slam Online has a take on the subject.
Update 2: The always-entertaining Bethlehem Shoals weighs in.
Update 3: FIBA fines Darko $13,770.
Update 4: Chris Sheridan with a hilarious comment:

Speaking of the Serbs, by the way, we invite those not easily offended to seek out a full translation of Darko Milicic's rant against FIBA referees last week. Let's just say the rant is so vicious, we will no longer be accepting nominations for this year's version of the Tim Duncan I Hate FIBA award. In fact, we'll go so far as to say Darko's rant will set the standard for ref-bashing for decades to come. Yes, it was that bad.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Sean Deveney interviews Marc Iavaroni

You can check out the whole interview on Yahoo! Sports. Here's a brief snippet:

SN: I want to talk about your point guards. You are young at the position. And Damon Stoudamire is 34. What level of discomfort does that give you?

MI: We'll have to see. Younger players, you have to be patient. We'll help them, but we want them to make tough decisions under fire. We are not going to spoon-feed these guys.

SN: Are you approaching the point guard spot as an open competition?

MI: I think I have to. To have credibility, I have to tell them what we see as their strengths and how we are going to use them and let them go out and play.

SN: One of the negative things that has hung over the team is whether
Pau Gasol has asked for a trade. Have you been able to address that head-on?

MI: Yeah, after my press conference, I was on a plane within 48 hours to go meet with him. It was well worth it. I listened to him, he listened to me. We came out of it knowing we would have very good communication.

I thought it was a good "cover all bases" interview from Sean Deveney (admittedly not one of my favorite sports writers) that touched on some key issues without delving too deeply into any hot-button topics. A nice introduction of Coach Iavaroni to the fans....even if his name is misspelled in the headline.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Navarro to miss 1st round of European Championships

From Yahoo! Sports:

Spain will be without shooting guard Juan Carlos Navarro for the first round of the European basketball championships because of a muscle tear in his right leg.

"This is really a setback, having really worked hard over the past month," said Navarro, who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA. "But I'm not worried. We've got enough players to replace me."

Navarro will miss Spain's Group A opener against Portugal, as well as matches against Latvia and Croatia.

On Sunday, Toronto Raptors guard Jorge Garbajosa was cleared to play with Spain after recovering from leg and ankle injuries.

Before Grizzlies fans get worried about another injury affecting a season in light of Pau Gasol injury in the semifinal of the World Championships last summer, this injury seems to be minor and he should be 100% healthy by training camp.

In other news, Mike Miller played well for Team USA in helping them to resounding victory in the FIBA Americas tournament. However, it seems likely that Miller will not be part of the Olympic team next summer, as other "bigger name" players will be healthy at that time. That's unfortunate, since Miller provided the one thing that other American teams had lacked in recent international competition: outside shooting. If replaced with Dwyane Wade, the team will be left with Michael Redd as its lone "designated shooter". That could allow teams to once again collapse on the lane and force the Americans to have other, less capable players fire from the perimeter. Time will tell if this potential switch will come back to haunt USA Basketball.

Is Miller worth it?

I agree with PMI about Miller being overpaid. 9 million a year is too much for player that's inconsistent, unreliable, chokes in the playoffs, and basicallly doesn't know how to step up his game when needed.

from Lincoln Mark LT on the Memphis Grizzlies Message Board

When I read comments like this I wonder what people are thinking.

Mike Miller was just selected for the USA basketball team that qualified for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He was one of 12 players selected from the entire country to be on that team. Not only that but he was the lowest paid player on a veteran's contract on the team. Was he the best player on the team? No, he was probably closer to 12th than 10th but he was still good enough to be selected. After all he did finish up with the 7th highest scoring average on the team despite playing the 2nd fewest minutes.

Not bad for an overpaid, inconsistent, unreliable, chokes in the playoffs player who doesn't step up his game when needed.

What is sad is that these comments are being made by one of the people who should be most enthusiastic for Mike. He was acquired for Drew Gooden and Gordan Giricek after all and neither of those players will ever be selected for the USA national team backup squad much less the national team. Of course Giricek isn't a USA citizen but if he was he wouldn't be selected anyway.

Miller has given Memphis everything he has for the team. He throws his body after loose balls, he plays 3 positions when asked and never complains. He plays hurt. He has one of the sweetest outside shots in the game.

He isn't the type of player that creates his own shot but he is the type who will punish a team for not giving him respect. Most importantly he is a Memphis Grizzly. He's one of us. He deserves better from the fans.