Three good games from Darko justifies Kahn era… or something

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And now, a call and response…

 

Look out, world! You doubted the Kahn-O-Matic, now you reap the whirlwind! You all laughed when David Kahn signed Darko Milicic to a $20 million deal. You said there was no way a player with his history of massive failure was worth a four-year investment. But who’s laughing now, huh?

(Well, we are.  Pretty loudly, actually. But go on.)

Check this out, you Hatorade drinker! Ha! See! It’s like Gatorade, only with Hate! I just made that up!

(Very amusing. What was your point, exactly?)

In the last three games, Darko is averaging 22 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.6 blocks, and 3.6 assists in 36.2 minutes and shooting 59% from the floor! That’s amazing! This proves it. David Kahn was right! And hey, look, he says so, in the Pioneer Press:

“I didn’t take much offense to it because most of the comments were not based on fact,” Kahn said of Milicic’s deal. “I don’t feel Darko’s contract was that far out of line at all. People are looking backward instead of forward — in terms of how we envision his role with us. You have to be resolute when you make decisions, and I’ve felt very strongly about this decision as with others we’ve made.

“Darko is playing better than we anticipated, considering he hasn’t played much in the past two years. I’m very happy for him.

What’cha think about that, hater?

(I think it’s terrific when a player can overcome a massive history of failure to produce on the floor with a team that dared to believe in him. It warms the heart. Tell me, real quick, prior to this little streak he’s on, you know, in the first eleven games?)

Well, um… 5 points, 5 rebounds, 2.36 blocks, 1.36 assists, shooting less than 30% from the floor.

(Right. So he’s had about five good games and three great games. Is that correct?)

Well, yeah, but the latest games are the best. That means he’s improving! He’s progressing! Just like a young talent should!

(Isn’t he 25?)

Well, yeah.

(Okay, we’ll just leave that there. You’re right that those last three games have been awesome. So what are his season averages?)

Ahem… er… well…

(Go on. You can say them.)

9.1 points, 6.2 rebounds,  2.1 assists, 2.9 blocks.

(And how many turnovers?)

2.3 turnovers.

(Wait, so he actually has nearly as many turnovers as blocks?)

Well, yeah.

(Hmm. Okay, the plot thickens. But hey, maybe he’s just not getting minutes. What are his per-36 averages?)

12.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 3.9 blocks. See? 3.9 blocks!

(Again, how many turnovers?)

3.0.

(Okay. Now how many of those numbers for either per-game or per-36 are significantly above his 2010 numbers with the Wolves?)

Blocks!

(And?)

Turnovers.

(Okay, now how many of his per-36 numbers are significantly above his career average?)

Blocks and assists!

(Is that all?)

Yes.

(So what you’re telling me is that he’s pretty much overall this season the same player he’s always been, just that this last spurt gets him back to a regression to the mean, only he’s a better defensive player because of his block totals, right?)

Well, if you want to look at it that way, hater. It’s not all about offense. Defense is why Darko’s there!

(Okay, so what’s Darko’s defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions)?)

106.

(And what was it last year?)

109.

(And what is his career average?)

106.

(So really, his defensive rating is still really bad, it’s just not as bad as it was last year, but worse than his career average.)

That’s one way of looking at it, yeah.

(What’s another?)

You can’t estimate the kind of impact Darko’s having. He’s making this team a better defensive unit!

(What’s the Timberwolves’ defensive efficiency mark?)

108.3.

(Which is?)

Third worst in the league.

(I see.)

Look, you can throw around all the numbers you want, but Darko’s making a difference!

(But wasn’t the whole point of this to show that his numbers were improving and that’s why giving one of the biggest busts in draft history $20 million over 4 years wasn’t a bad idea?)

Well, yeah. But the bigger issue here is that the Wolves are a better team now than they were last year, and that’s in part because of Darko!

(Okay. What’s the Wolves’ record?)

… 4-12.

(And what was it last year?)

1-15.

(So Darko, along with Kevin Love’s awesomeness and Michael Beasleys’ Beasleyness has helped the Wolves in 4 games of their first 16 instead of 1. )

Right!

(Okay, then. Isn’t it more plausible that this little streak he was on has simply been a regression to the mean, only with the same results and some improved shot blocking ability? Isn’t it possible that while Darko could certainly keep up this production and prove himself to be a legit NBA starter and a redeemed asset that we might want to wait just a little while before absolving Kahn of the contract and Darko of being, well, Darko?)

You’re a hater! Darko for most-improved! Kahn for GM of the year!

(I’ll see myself out.)

Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis still not talking off court

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The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.

Jack Maloney of CBSSports.com:

When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”

I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?

Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.

Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)

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Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.

Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful:

Double number retirement fitting for Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.

He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.

He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.

He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.

His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.

Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:

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So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.

Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.

He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24

Warriors will watch Kobe Bryant’s numbers get retired, Lakers might not

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The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.

The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:

“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.

“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”

Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.

But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.

Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.

After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.

In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.