Thursday, July 01, 2010

"Darko" Days for Twin Cities

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - I've spent nearly two decades around professional sports, and have seen many general managers come and go.

Running a franchise in any sport shouldn't be your goal if job security is the top priority. Nine times out of 10, you're being hired to be fired. How one gets to the brink of unemployment differs in each situation, but more often than not it's ego that sets personnel people adrift.

Minnesota's David Kahn is the latest big mahoff in basketball who has flashed the arrogance that could quickly turn him into the kind of statistic who visits the local FedEx Office to update the resume.

Reports surfaced Thursday that Kahn's Timberwolves have made a verbal agreement with free agent center Darko Milicic on a four-year, $20 million deal.

That's the same Milicic who has been a bust with Detroit, Orlando, Memphis and New York after being selected No. 2 overall by the Pistons in the 2003 NBA Draft, a disastrous choice since the Serbian was sandwiched between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, while All-Stars Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Chris Kaman went with the subsequent three choices after 'Melo.

In fact, Milicic was so bad in the NBA he had all but given up on his own future and was set on returning to Europe when the 'Wolves swung a deal at last year's trade deadline to acquire him.

A week later, Milicic was in Minnesota's starting lineup and flashed some of the skills that made him a prospect back in his halcyon days overseas. The 25- year-old, 7-footer managed to average 11 points and 5 rebounds during March and April, and that was enough to convince Kahn that he was the answer in the pivot.

It was fool's gold, and the classic trap for a narcissist who believes in himself a little too much.

Larry Brown and Joe Dumars couldn't get Darko Milicic to play. Neither could Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith or Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh, but Kahn would have you believe that he and his unproven second-year coach, Kurt Rambis, have the key to unlock the enigma that is Darko.

They are so confident that they gave their center a fairly fat check despite bidding against only themselves. Meanwhile, their backup plan was a four-year, $13 million dollar deal with their 2008 second round-pick, a mediocre Montenegrin prospect by the name of Nikola Pekovic.

With those two moves, Kahn spent $33 million, didn't improve his team and used up virtually all the cap space he had, with real contributors like Rudy Gay and David Lee set for visits in the next few days.

Now the only opportunity the Wolves have to land a player like Gay or Lee will be in a sign-and-trade deal with a player most regard as damaged goods, Al Jefferson, as bait.

No worries. I'm sure Kahn has just enough ego to believe he can pull that off too.

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