I want to begin this post by pointing out that I also write for HowlinTwolf.com, a similar site to Celtics Town that covers the Timberwolves. I bring this up because, for the past few years, I’ve had the misfortune of watching Darko on a consistent basis. So trust me when I say that I’m a bit of a Darko aficionado, for better or worse.
One of the many, many overused plot devices in popular television is to play with the concept of The Seven Stages of Grief. This is the idea that everybody goes through a formulaic process of dealing with tragedy or sadness, and since the concepts of “Grief” and “Sadness” are so closely related to the concept of “Darko Milicic,” this feels like an appropriate metaphor. So here goes:
Stage #1. Shock and Despair
The first stage of Darko Milicic occurs when you first hear that your team has signed him. “How could this happen to us?!” “Is he SERIOUSLY the best player available?” “HAHAHAHA look at his bleached blond tips from back in the day haha” are all commonly uttered phrases. Twitter fills with outrage and snark. Fans of teams that have previously had him (such as Detroit and Orlando) begin tweeting their condolences to fans of his new team, as well as gleeful stories about his awfulness. General doom and despair run rampant.
Stage #2. Justification
This is the stage that many Celtics fans are in at the moment. During this stage, phrases like “You can never have too many 7-footers!” and “It’s not like he will get any playing time anyway” are tossed around. This stage may seem harmless, but in reality, it may be the most dangerous because it leads to…
Stage #3. False Hope
This stage is when reports begin to trickle in that Darko is “unlike any other player!” or “extremely motivated this time!” or “performing very well in workouts!” Some trainer will undoubtedly tell reporters excitedly that he has “never worked with a player like Darko before.” It is ESSENTIAL that the reader is not fooled by these reports. They mean nothing, except that the trainer really enjoys being on the national news. Worse, they raise the reader’s hopes, leading to an inevitable crash. But before the crash comes…
Stage #4. Genuine Excitement
This is both the most fun and the most brief of the stages. It occurs when the fan sees Darko during warmups and realizes “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, DARKO IS ENORMOUS.” Because, let’s be honest, holy mother of God, Darko is enormous. He is comfortably taller than 7’0, and his arms look like a normal person’s arms holding most of a hockey stick. He LOOKS like he could be a European NBA superstar, and seeing him in person can make even the most cynical of basketball fans a little hopeful.
Stage #5. Realization
This is the crashing sensation mentioned earlier, and it occurs when Darko enters the game for the first time and flubs an easy entry pass out of bounds, or when he misses his first defensive rotation and fouls the opposing player not hard enough to prevent an and-one opportunity, or when the team runs an entire 10-second play before Darko waddles his lazy ass up the court. It’s at this point that you realize exactly why Darko hasn’t succeeded in the NBA, despite physical gifts that you or I would literally kill a person to have. The reason is simple: at some point, maybe since the beginning, Darko stopped enjoying basketball. But hey, if teams are willing to pay you $20 million for four years (KAAAAAAAAAAAHN!) just to be tall and sit smirking on the bench with an ugly pedo-mustache, I mean, wouldn’t you do it too? Thought so.
Stage #6. Resignation and Irony
This stage sounds fun, but it’s not. This is the stage that many Celtics fans think will be the final stage for Darko in Boston. “He won’t be very good,” they say, “but neither was Scal or Stiemsma. Those guys became ironic icons. He’ll be fine.”
True, true. Just one thing:
Scal and Stiemsma weren’t just popular in Boston because they were white and C’s fans seem to have a strange affinity with white players who aren’t really very good. They were popular because they both worked extremely hard and they were both engaged in every game, whether they played or not. Darko will do neither of those things. He will, in fact, blatantly and seemingly intentionally not do them. He will consistently slack off and he will consistently be disengaged. Which leads us to our last stage.
Stage #7. Player Hatred
If you haven’t guessed, this is where I sit firmly entrenched on Darko. I clarify “player” hatred because I’m sure, if I sat down and talked to him,
I’d be firmly convinced that he is crazy and he plans to murder me Darko is a very nice human being. I wouldn’t know. But as a player, I can’t stand him. I celebrated immoderately when Darko was amnestied by the Wolves, and I remain in mourning that I have to spend another season cheering for a team that employs him. Worse: the Celtics are my main team. I cheer for the Wolves because of proximity; I cheer for the C’s because I was raised to do so. And now, whenever Darko is in the game, I have to hope he does well.
With Darko, hope is such a dangerous thing.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.