Don't look so shocked. You knew this was coming.
You had to know this was coming, right?

I know, I know. It's too easy, right? Too obvious.

For that reason, I tried to talk myself out of Darko and into somebody else. I nearly chose Mike "The Amityville Scorer" James, except that James and Lindsey Hunter provided a great change-of-pace guard combination off the bench for the 2003-04 Pistons. Their defense was so destructive in short bursts that Rasheed Wallace nicknamed them "The Pit Bulls."

No, Mike James had his uses. He did.

Let's be honest with ourselves, shall we? There wasn't a less deserving NBA champ on that Pistons squad than Darko Milicic.

Darko will always be remembered for getting selected with the second overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, when he was infamously chosen ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. But why stop there? Because it gets worse. Here are some other players chosen after Darko: Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, David West, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard, Mo Williams, Kyle Korver.

All better than Darko, right?

There were even some decent roleplayers that came after him, like Nick Collison, Luke Ridnour, Boris Diaw, Travis Outlaw, Jason Kapono, Steve Blake, Zaza Pachulia. Hell, you could argue that Matt freaking Bonner has had a better NBA career than Darko. After all, Bonner currently has 22.9 career Win Shares. Darko has 6.9.

So forget whiffing on 'Melo, Bosh and D-Wade. It's like the Pistons could have randomly selected almost any other player in that draft class and ended up better off. But no. They selected Darko.

Darko, who became known far and wide as the Human Victory Cigar. Darko, whose life spawned a cult classic basketball blog. Darko, who despite being the second-worst second overall draft pick in NBA history (next to Sam Bowie) has somehow earned (and I use that term loosely) almost $40 million in salary and recently signed a contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves that will pay him another $20 million over the next four years. Like my old college roommate might say: Fuck me.

The Pistons got lucky, and they screwed their luck in the wrong hole without the benefit of any lubrication. Do you know how they even had the second pick in the draft that year? Because championship-caliber teams don't get lottery picks very often. It came to them courtesy of a 1997 trade with the then-Vancouver Grizzlies (who got Otis Thorp in return). And the Pistons knew how lucky they were. They did.

Said president of basketball operations Joe Dumars: "If you go back to any championship-contending team, they can point to something along the way where they caught a huge break. For the ball to come up No. 2 for us on lottery night was an incredible break. You've got to have that if you're going to take the next steps."

Said then-coach Larry Brown: "Any time you get the second pick in the draft, it's crucial that you get a player that is going to be a fixture, and a contributor and hopefully a star."

The funny thing about that last statement is that it came from Larry Brown, a coach who everybody knew had a reputation for neglecting (at best) or abusing (at worst) his rookies. Brown loves savvy vets who know the score. He hates raw players who need their hands held.

And see, Dumars either knew that or should have. So why would he pick the rawest of the raw players available? Detroit fans can thank Will Robinson for that.

Robinson was Dumars' assistant and the oldest scout in the NBA. At the time, his resume included the following: "He has been inducted into 24 Halls of Fame. He has coached the likes of Doug Collins and Spencer Haywood. He was the first African-American head coach in the history of NCAA Division I basketball."

Of Robinson, Dumars said: "Let me tell you something about Will Robinson. He's seen it all. You can't fool Will Robinson. Nothing gets by him."

Really, Joe? Really? 'Cause let's look at some of the things Mr. Robinson had to say about Darko:

"That's the type of kid you want to coach. If I was coaching him, we'd go to the moon."

"He's going to own the game. Own the game. We're going to have to build a new arena. The only thing that could destroy a kid like that is a woman."

"I've seen a lot of kids come through here in my day," Robinson says. "And none of them have ever played like that. That kid's going to be a star. He's a 7-footer that plays like a point guard. That kid's something special."
So Dumars' most trusted advisor had history's biggest, wettest, sloppiest man-crush on Darko? Well then, I guess Joe's decision makes a little more sense then. Although even Dumars realized that Darko wasn't exactly superstar-ready.

Said Dumars: "Darko Milicic is not going to have to come here and be the savior. LeBron is going to have to be the savior in Cleveland, there's no getting around that. Carmelo is going to be expected to carry a huge load. We're going to push [Milicic] to be the best he can be. But, he's not going to be judged on whether he carried us this year. We think that's an excellent situation for him and for us."

Well, that's good, because Darko didn't carry anything except his teammates' bags. During his rookie year, Darko appeared in 34 games and logged only 159 total minutes...which equates to less than 3.5 48-minute games. There were only three games that season in which Darko saw 10 or more minutes. His season-high in minutes played was 12.

Conversely, he had seven games in which he played only one minute, another five games of two minutes, three games of three minutes, four games of four minutes and three games of five minutes. So in 22 of his 34 games, Darko played five minutes or less.

The second overall pick in a draft that featured LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh! Sweet baby Jebus!

The thing is, the Pistons weren't the only ones who thought Darko was going to be a player. Utah coach Rick Majerus said: "He reminds me a lot of (Sacramento star) Chris Webber, but he's more skilled than Chris was at the same age (at Michigan). I love Darko's work ethic. We watched him play for five straight hours and then he played for more than another hour because he just loves the game. He's done a great job with his body by going from 220 pounds to 245 pounds in only one year."

I bet C-Webb was pissed. And I'm not even touching that last sentence.

Donn Nelson, the Mavericks' president of basketball operations, addressed comparisons between Darko and Dirk Nowitzki: "We saw Dirk as a multi-position player, but I think Darko is a pure (power forward). Darko doesn't shoot it from as far as Dirk does, but Darko is more dominant in the paint. Dirk is more of finesse player while Darko is more of a power guy. Obviously, we think the world of Dirk. But I would be very surprised if Darko was not a success in this league."

I hope Nelson has gotten over his shock by now.

Man, during his rookie campaign, Darko could have been the guest of honor at an ass convention considering how many NBA-related jokes he was made the butt of. But even as 'Bron, 'Melo and Wade were having strong rookie seasons, the Pistons stubbornly refused to admit they'd made a mistake. Dumars repeatedly insisted that Darko would be a huge part of the team's future...even as Brown struggled to remember the kid's name. "Derrick...? Durkel...? It's definitely a D-word. Oh, right, it's Dcoughcoughcough! That's it. I said it."

Darko's season-high in points was 6. His season-high in rebounds was also 6. His season-high in assists was 2 (he had only 7 total assists on the season). Darko averaged 1.4 PPG and 1.3 RPG. However, his worst stat was his shooting percentage, a dismal 26.2 percent. Wait, I thought he was dominant in the paint? His PER was 6.1. He also finished the season with -0.2 Win Shares, proving that he actually subtracted wins from an NBA champ.

Want some playoff numbers? Of course you do. During Detroit's run for the rings, Darko logged a total of 14 minutes in eight games, giving the Pistons 0.1 PPG, 0.4 RPG and 0.1 APG. His totals in those categories were 1, 3, and 1 respectively.

Want some advanced playoff stats? Of course you do. Darko's postseason PER was -14.8. That's right: -14.8. How does that even happen? Was he scoring for the other team? Tying his teammates' shoelaces together? Spiking their Gatorade with laxitives and human urine? Punching Larry Brown in the face? (No, that's just what he wanted to do.) His True Shooting Percentage was .087 and his Effective Field Goal Percentage was .000. He had -0.2 Offensive Win Shares, 0.0 Defensive Win Shares, and (obviously) a total of -0.2 Win Shares. So, again, he subtracted wins from the Pistons while they were winning a title.

And in case you were wondering: Yes, he was the only player on the team with negative Win Shares in the playoffs. Mind you, Chauncey Billups -- the clear-cut team leader and Finals MVP -- made $5 million in salary that season. Darko made $3.6 million.

Wait. I'm not done yet.

Darko appeared in exactly three Finals games, playing a total of five minutes. In those three games, he scored zero total points, dished out zero total assists, blocked zero total shots and grabbed 2 total rebounds while going 0-for-2 from the field and 0-for-2 from the line. He had Game Scores of -0.4, 0.0 and -0.8. That 0.0 represented his only non-negative Game Score in his eight playoff games.

And I'm still not done.

He was put in for what was described as a "token" appearance in the Pistons' Game 5 blowout of the Lakers. During that title-clinching game, Darko played 2 minutes, finishing with 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 turnover...and 1 broken hand. Oh yes he did. The injury required surgury and sidelined him for eight weeks. So in the process of winning his first and only championship, Darko not only earned a spot among the all-time great Human Victory Cigars, but he also made the Basketbawful Dumb Injury Hall of Shame.

The only thing missing was him slipping on a banana peel and falling face first into a cream pie.

Things never really got any better for Darko after that. When Brown finally quit (as he always does), the Pistons brought in Flip Saunders, who had a rep for developing young players (such as Kevin Garnett). But nothing changed: Darko averaged 5.6 MPG under Saunders before getting shipped to Orlando for Kelvin Cato and a 2007 first round draft pick (Rodney Stuckey).

Darko was somewhat better for the Magic, but not much. However, he did give them this classic moment: A mid-game nipple rub:

Shockingly, the Magic still let him walk when his rookie contract expired. Even more shockingly, on July 12, 2007 -- the very first day of free agency mind you -- the Memphis Grizzlies (the franchise whose pick allowed the Pistons to get Darko in the first place) signed Milicic to a three-year, $21 million contract. What I want to know is: Who were they bidding against?! Oh, right. Nobody.

During his time with the Griz, Darko struggled with injury problems (first an Achilles tendon injury and then a a broken knuckle on his right hand) and crappy play. He would start and then get benched, start and then get benched, rinse and repeate. Darko couldn't even stay out of his team's doghouse during the offseason. As Basketbawful reader Mladen reminded me, after a 68–67 overtime loss to Greece in the EuroBasket 2007, went apeshit on the officials, threatening to "come back and f*** their mothers to all of them." Here's the video:

FIBA fined him $14,000 for the freakshow, while Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace and head coach Marc Iavaroni had to wag their fingers at him to the press.

Said Wallace: "We're very displeased with Darko's actions and comments. It's an emotional situation playing in national competition, particularly with Serbia, because they take pride in having good teams. But Darko has to be in control of his emotions."

Yeah, right. Darko had his emotions so under control that he treated the Grizzlies to this classic moment: A Hulk Hogan-style jersey rip:

Despite that genuinely awesome Hulk-out, it soon became obvious, even to the Grizzlies, that Darko was never going to get any better...

...so they traded him to the Knicks for Quentin Richardson and cash. And don't blame Isiah Thomas for this one. Donnie Walsh brokered the Darko deal.

Said Walsh: "When building a team, it is invaluable to have a skilled big man such as Darko. He is the type of player with strong high-post play that will complement Eddy Curry's low-post game. He will thrive in Coach D'Antoni's system."

I seriously hope Donnie was drunk or high when he said that shit. I mean, compliment Eddy Curry's game? Thrive in D'Antoni's system? It's like Walsh had been replaced by an alien who had never before seen this "earth basketball."

D'Antoni was just as delusional: "I am very excited about the possibilities with Darko. He has great size and the skills to really help us. He can run the floor really well, shoot and has a load of talent."

He has a load alright. So much so that D'Antoni played Darko only eight times for an average of 8.9 MPG. Darko got so frustrated about the situation, he vowed to leave the United States as soon as the season was over:

"Whatever happens, I'm going back [to Europe] next year. It's 100-percent certain. I have to be real and not lie. I'm not going to get it done in the NBA. I'm not going to get another opportunity and there's nothing wrong with going back to Europe. I don't want to create a bad atmosphere here, but it's not working in the NBA. I don't give a f*** about the money. I just want to enjoy the basketball. I'd like to have the ball in my hands and have an offense run through me. I'm not just a defensive player."
An offense run through Darko? That's a Basketbawful dream come true!

On February 17, 2010, in an effort to get him the hell out of New York before he went postal or something, the Knicks traded Darko (and cash) to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Brian Cardinal's corpse (and soon-to-expire contract). In 24 games with the T-Wolves, Darko averaged 8.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 1.4 BPG...which apparently was all it took for Minny to ship 20-10-50 guy Al Jefferson to Utah and sign Darko to a four-year $20 million contract. Again, this deal happened on the very first day of free agency. And the Timberpoops were bidding against exactly...nobody.

The bottom line: We have four more years of Darko jokes!

So...did the Pistons waste the pick they used to get Darko? Everybody thinks so. Even Darko himself:

They did! No, they did waste a pick, you know. Why did they take me? Who knows if I really had a chance to play like these players that play like Dwyane Wade or Carmelo, those guys are incredible players. So for me, being a second pick, I don't get why they didn't play me at all and, secondly, they did waste, you know? Why did they take me? You should take someone that they really think was gonna play right away because just taking someone to sit on the bench, you waste a pick and you waste the guy's time. You wasted my time for three years not playing so you f**k up a player and you f**k up yourself, and I just didn't get it. So I just didn't get it. I guess they thought they were gonna be champions forever. I don't know.
Now that's one seriously bitter dude.

But he has a ring.

Update! Bonus video: Courtesy of Basketbawful reader jim, here's the instant-classic "Manna from Heaven" interview with David Kahn, where Chris Webber bristles when Kahn tries to compare his career to Darko's.

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Blogger AnacondaHL said...
ITT a compiled recap of all the previous Serbian/Detroit commenters reading this blog with their anecdotal evidence of why Darko at 2 in 2003 was really just completely stupid.

Blogger jim said...
'bawful, you can't forget the interview with david kahn about darko.


manna from heaven. manna from heaven.

Anonymous Mladen said...
Here, compliments of a Serbian commenter:


I actually can't believe this wasn't included in the original post. It happened at the 2007 Eurobasket, after a tough loss from Greece. I literally wanted to punch him in the face for embarrassing our country like that.

Blogger Unknown said...
Damn. Like all sports fans, I was hoping for an upset. But there's no shaking it, Darko was the crudyest wheel in the Detroit machine.

Blogger chris said...
Matt McHale: Technical Writer, PLEASE call Darko's agent now. You might get a lucrative gig riding the bench at the Staples Center for the Other Los Angeles Team, or an even better gig in the Association!

CAPTCHA: "Yantioni." One of the only words that rhymes with "D'antoni."

Blogger Basketbawful said...
jim and Mladen -- Post updated, credit to you.

Anonymous Axel Foley said...
In all fairness I think you should post up this video.


It will be the only positive part in the post and actually makes two of the worst draft busts of all time look good. It was also an april fools joke which is why you see MJ in the beginning.

Blogger Unknown said...
What can be said about Darko that wasn't summed up by Chris Webber to David Kahn: "Good luck."

For tomorrow's entry, please include this line from Wikipedia: He had "a school weightlifting record with a 309-pound clean-and-jerk." Wiki's a dirty quote machine. Someone needs to change the name of the clean-and-jerk. It just sounds backwards.

Anonymous KMack said...
"Darko, who despite being the second-worst second overall draft pick in NBA history (next to Sam Bowie) "

I mean, I know the guy was drafted before Jordan, obviously a huge mistake in retrospect, but Bowie still played 10 years and averaged 11 pt/7.5 rb/2 ast/1.7 blk/ 0.5 stl. And though he missed like 40% of his possible games due to injury, Darko has missed about 35% of his possible games due to just plain sucking. Darko is way, way, way out ahead as the worst second pick in NBA history.

Blogger Michael Hsu said...
Hey Monday's/Tuesday's Worst is going to be Bawful's own alma mater. The man that dunked on his head and now he can get revenge!


Blogger Unknown said...
I don't have a Youtube link, but I clearly remember this additional Darko humilation. After the Heat won in '05, Dwayne Wade was going on at a press conference about how proud he was to be the "first of my draft class" to get a ring. Oh no, thought us Pistons fans darkly -- Darko got one first.

And yeah, it had to be Darko. Mike James was really good for Detroit that year.

I used to feel bad for Darko -- not his fault he was drafted so high. And he wasn't just bad, he looked so amazingly uncomfortable and out of place on the court during his stint with the Pistons -- like no other NBA player I've ever seen.

But then, as these videos showed, it turned he was, well, not the kind of guy who should elicit much sympathy.

And think of what Detroit would have done, at least in that 2003-08 period, if they had used the #2 pick on Bosh, Wade, or even a number of the other players the original post mentions. It would have been a frickin' dynasty.

Anonymous aunles said...
in retrospect, we could all laugh about the pistons' pick of the 2003 draft. but i remember at that time most people consider darko to be a legit prospect. in fact, i dont remember a single pundit blasted dumars for choosing darko over melo or wade or bosh that year. ( i could be wrong, though)
perhaps sitting on the bench for too long crushed his confidence to the point that he even believed that his selection as no.2 was a mistake.
oh, and sam bowie is NOT the worst no.2 pick (how about stromile swift?)

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"I literally wanted to punch him in the face for embarrassing our country like that."

Yeah, I totally get what you mean! I felt the same way! Your impeccable reputation was smeared by that barbaric outburst!

A player being pissed at the referees is a far worse blemish than a few acts of genocide.

Anonymous Brian B said...
I know this is a bit late but I had to share it. Ron Artest is going to speak to children about... mental health.

Oh yes. I'm totally serious about that.


Anonymous kazam92 said...
The bothersome thing is Darko has some skills...but damn what a waste.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
A player being pissed at the referees is a far worse blemish than a few acts of genocide.

Oh, smart. Very smart.

Anonymous Mladen said...
@Anonymous (the troll):
If you're Croatian, or a Muslim from Bosnia, I'll let it slide, 'cause you've been brainwashed since childhood. If you're not from the Balkans, then you shouldn't talk about things you don't know shit about. That's all I'll say.

Anonymous Josh said...
I'm going to guess the next entry in this series rhymes with "Sven Robinson".

Blogger Jacob I. McMillan said...
In "The Book Of Basketball" Bill Simmons claims that if Detroit had selected Carmelo Anthony instead of Darko, they wouldn't have won that championship. His reasoning has something to do with Melo clashing with Larry Brown when he played on the Olympic team and possible chemistry problems with Tayshaun Prince. He says it was one of the rare cases where making the wrong decision actually created the better result.

I'm not saying I agree. But they did win it all that year.

Anonymous kazam92 said...

Seriously Shaq's affinity for burning bridges isn't even funny. I cant wait for a 41 yr old Shaq mocking Pierce's facial hair and Ray Allen's 3 point shooting

Anonymous Ignarus said...
I forgot that Kahn said Darko was the best passing big man "that I've seen."

Man, those guy are sooo F-ed.

Blogger Unknown said...

Oh yeah, he was considered a top prospect for sure. And also in Joe Dumar's defense, the Pistons obvious need was a good big man to go with Ben Wallace: drafting Wade would have created a logjam with Rip or maybe Chauncey; Tayshaun was looking good at SF (and I'm still not sure Carmelo would have been a good fit for Detroit).

So it was probably always going to be either Bosh or Darko. What saved Detroit for a few years was getting Rasheed Wallace in a great deal to fill that big man spot. But what if Detroit had drafted Bosh and had gotten 'Sheed? Pistons fans wonder, especially after the failure to repeat.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
@Mladen (the genocide supporter)
I'm actually not from the "Balkans". Who has the more objestive outlook on things: you, the savage, or other neutral observers? You and your ilk should really stop talking trash about things YOU have been brainwashed (or even worse, a part of).
Just lover your gaze, blush a little and hope there is no karma or justice in the world.

Anonymous stat not STAT said...
It's a little harsh to put the 18 year-old rookie version of a player in this spot. Maybe he should have done more as the no.2 overall pick, even on a championship club. Maybe a backend rotation player at least, grabbing boards and playing some defense. But this seems more like a knock on how his career turned out than what he was or should have been that season. It's inconsistent with the selections of Rice or Richmond, who were chosen for their performances and behavior for a specific season. Darko had the two Wallaces, Elden Campbell (who played very stout defense on Shaq in the finals), Okur and Corliss in front of him and to top it off, Larry Brown was his coach. He basically redshirted his rookie year.

Darko's still a mystery to me. I want to see him play in scrimmages. I wouldn't be surprised if he was really good. I've seen footage of him knocking down jumper after jumper in practice and then in games, he's more liable to airball one. It's not like guys are running at him in games either. He's wide open, from a range he's hit non-stop in practice and he just can't make it.

Another thing about him was that he was supposed to be nasty on the court. That was one of the most praised things about him, that he wasn't a "soft euro," that he threw elbows and dunked with a grimace. He also has a face that can produce a great snarl. He was billed as a combination of Euro skill and Serbian gangster toughness but he couldn't be a softer, more stooped player in games. He's literally stooped and almost won't make eye contact. The nastiness is legit, evidenced by his infamously crazy tirade against that international referee but like his skills, he can't carry it into games.

I wouldn't be surprised though if he does well in the triangle. While ridiculed statistically as Yinka Dare passing wise when compared to Webber, he's actually a very good passer. He's even a better passer from the pinch post than Love because he can turn and look over the defense unlike Love.

I always wanted to see what could happen if a coach decided to have Darko take 20 outside shots in a game, results be damned. Just have him take them and maybe he'll start making a few and who knows, settle down and get comfortable on a NBA stage. I've always wondered what would happen from thereon. At the very least, he would have had a near max contract waiting for him from Kahn.

Anonymous Mladen said...

That's kind of along the lines of what I was thinking. I'm actually afraid that any of the talented players Detroit could have picked over Darko that year would have languished under Larry Brown. Come to think of it, maybe Darko "took the bullet" for his classmates.


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Anonymous AK Dave said...
Darko and Kwame Brown should be roommates.

It would be like "Perfect Strangers," only a little less gay.

Blogger Unknown said...
I think Bosh would have played. If I could turn the clock back, my only fear is that had Detroit drafted Bosh, they wouldn't have felt the need to trade for Rasheed Wallace.

And yeah, Darko supposedly always looked good in practices -- or at least so the Detroit media told us. But again, I have been watching the NBA for decades, and I've never seen anyone look as uncomfortable and out of place on the court as Darko did, at least while in Detroit.

And again, I would feel more sympathy for him if he hadn't taken so many opportunities over the years to show himself as a pretty big jerk.

Anonymous TransINSANO said...
Wow, I can't wait to see who Bawful writes about for the 04-05 Spurs, almost half the roster they had that season were arguably undeserving.

Check out these playoff "contributions" (in this order - G, MP, PTS, TRB, AST):

Beno Udrih 21 6.7 3.6 0.6 1.1
Glenn Robinson 13 8.7 3.8 1.6 0.1
Rasho Nesterovic 15 7.6 0.7 1.7 0.1
Devin Brown 12 5.0 1.8 0.6 0.3
Tony Massenburg 9 3.1 0.3 1.2 0.0

The only one of them that played at all in game 7 of the Finals was Devin Brown... for a 1 trillion. The following guys didn't get any playoff burn, if they were even allowed anywhere near the Spurs' facilities at that point. Here are their regular season stats:

Sean Marks 23 10.6 3.3 2.4 0.3
Dion Glover 7 9.7 3.6 1.6 0.6
Mike Wilks 48 5.8 1.7 0.5 0.7
Linton Johnson 2 7.5 0.0 1.5 0.0

I think Linton Johnson's per game regular season stat line is special by itself:

2 0 7.5 0.0 1.0 .000 0.0 0.5 .000 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.5 1.5 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.5 0.5 0.0

Wow. Anyway, whichever of these guys actually got rings should have to give them to Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili, who deserve extra for this championship.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I think Darko would have lived up to all the hype given some decent game time. I think he had the skill