Dan Feldman

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Chauncey Billups literally had to teach Darko Milicic how to shower

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Darko Milicic – drafted between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane – is one of the biggest busts in NBA history.

An 18-year-old Darko clearly wasn’t ready to join the Pistons, who got the No. 2 pick in 2003 due to a trade years prior and were already thinking championship by the time they drafted him. That’s a big “what if?” of Darko’s career: What if he were drafted by a bad team better-suited to developing him?

But it would have taken a lot for any team to acclimate Darko to the NBA.

Sam Borden of ESPN:

By the time scouts started coming around, Darko saw the NBA as a way out — of financial insecurity, of persistent tumult, of Serbia — more than any kind of childhood fantasy coming true. He liked the game enough. Everyone he met was rooting for him to go. It was all right there in front of him. And who hasn’t walked through a door simply because it was open?

The problem is that wasn’t the narrative we expect from foreign basketball players. We expect them to love the NBA, to have grown up watching it on choppy internet streams or satellite television, to cherish its players and aspire to its trappings. When Yao Ming came to the NBA from China, he made no secret of his longtime adoration of Arvydas Sabonis and Hakeem Olajuwon; more recently, Kristaps Porzingis, a Latvian, made it clear that Dirk Nowitzki was his inspiration, and everyone nodded.

So, as soon as Darko began to get some attention in the U.S., the expected questions began: “Who was your idol? Who did you love to watch?

Kevin Garnett, Darko answered. He told everyone that Garnett, a tall power forward with a wingspan wider than a school bus, was his muse. He told local television stations he liked Garnett. He told USA Today he liked Garnett. He told ESPN he liked Garnett.

Except he had barely seen Garnett play. “I just sort of found him and decided he’s the one,” Darko says now. “It seemed like the player I was supposed to like.”

Darko would go home to shower after practices or games instead of staying in the locker room to clean up; he didn’t realize that in America, the players all showered together.

“So I had to teach Darko,” says Chauncey Billups, who played in Detroit from 2002-08, “like, no, when we’re done playing, when we’re done practicing, you put your towel on and you go get in the shower. That’s what we do here.”

There was wall punching. There was also drinking, and Darko began showing up to practice still tipsy after an overnight bender. “I just wouldn’t sleep,” he says.

It didn’t get much better from there – Darko burning through the Magic, Grizzlies, Knicks, Timberwolves and Celtics before retiring.

How has Darko coped with his failed (failed?) career? I highly suggest reading Borden’s article in full for a compelling accounting of the tale.

Report: Free agent Gerald Henderson could miss entire season after hip surgery

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Gerald Henderson looked like one of the top free agents available.

This could explain why.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype:

That’s a bummer for Henderson, who at least got a $9 million payout from the 76ers last season. At 29, he could have trouble regaining the athleticism necessary to be effective.

When healthy, Henderson is a solid wing. He’s a willingly physical defender and capable 3-point shooter.

But it’ll be a long road before a team commits a roster spot to him.

Allen Iverson suspended by Big3

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Allen Iverson skipped a Big3 game without notice. He apologized to Ice Cube and others, including his fans.

But the former 76ers star will still pay the price.

Adi Joseph of USA Today:

BIG3 commissioner Roger Mason Jr. announced during Wednesday’s weekly teleconference that Iverson was suspended for one week, meaning he will not be in attendance for the regular season’s penultimate weekend in Lexington, Ky.

I don’t know who impressed me more – Joseph for listening to that teleconference or Iverson for getting suspended by a 3-on-3 league for washed players.

Bulls will apparently wear red uniforms at home (photos)

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The Bulls released their new Nike jerseys, which are unremarkably similar to their old jerseys.

But Chicago is breaking tradition.

NBA teams have typically worn white uniforms at home, color uniforms on the road. But the league’s new uniform code allows the home team to wear either color.

The Bulls are apparently taking advantage:

The Bulls can wear red in Chicago as much as they want. But they’ll still need to contrast with the home team’s choice while travelling. If most teams stick with the traditional home whites, the Bulls could be stuck wearing red in a large majority of games.

If they’re not showcasing their white jersey nearly as often, what will that mean for jersey sales?

Michael Jordan takes Kobe Bryant over LeBron James in all-time rankings

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In 2013, Michael Jordan picked Kobe Bryant over LeBron James: “Five beats one every time I look at it.”

LeBron has since reached five more NBA Finals and won two more titles.

So, Jordan has updated his stance – though only slightly.

Jordan, via Bay Area HQ:

Would I rank LeBron over Kobe in terms of best of all-time? No. There’s something about five that beats three. Now he may be better than that, but Kobe won five championships. LeBron won three.

“Count the ringz” is such a lazy argument. Nobody thinks seven-time champion Robert Horry is better than LeBron and Kobe. Titles matter and should matter, but they’re only one factor of many.

I’d rank LeBron well ahead of Kobe on their total body of work, even considering Kobe’s championship advantage. LeBron has been the best player in the league for nearly a decade. Kobe held the title for, maybe, a few years. Like Kobe, LeBron has consistently led his teams deep into the playoffs. Context matters.

It’s also unsurprising Jordan would rank the player who built his whole game as a Jordan tribute and is retired with a legacy securely below Jordan’s over the player with at least a chance of surpassing Jordan.