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  1. #1
    ...AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR... inagra's Avatar
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    Peter Schrager / FOXSports.com
    Posted: 11 hours ago

    There have been a fair share of busts over the past few years. Akili Smith, Brien Taylor, Season Two of Lost you name it. We, as Americans, tend to consistently buy into incredible hype machines and fall for rotten apples hook, line, and sinker. Yes, for every Michael Vick, there's a Joey Harrington. For every Roy Oswalt, there's a Todd Van Poppel. For every incredibly talented band like Hanson, there's a Click Five. Ryan Leaf once graced the cover of ESPN The Magazine. Tony Mandarich has twice graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers even grabbed a TV Guide cover.

    Busts come and busts go. It is part of the new age of American media. Marketing, the Internet, and West Coast offenses are all partly to blame.

    Busts come and busts go. It is part of the new age of American media. Marketing, the Internet, and West Coast offenses are all partly to blame.

    No league seems to have more "busts" than the NBA. It seems as though each draft class has two or three lottery picks that just never pan out. Check out the 1986 NBA Draft. Chris Washburn, William Bedford, Kenny Walker, Brad Sellers. Vomiting yet? I'll stop.

    Over the years, we've seen Michael Olokowandi, Alek Radojevic, Kwame Brown, and Nikoloz Tskitishvili receive brand new logo-covered caps from David Stern on draft night.

    But there's one guy out there I refuse to label a bust. I won't do it.

    Back in the summer of 2003, I had heard the rumors. A certain guy on a certain website, who's name might have certainly rhymed with Fad Chord, said he'd be the next great big man. A friend who was into the European sports scene and techno music told me he had the skills of Dirk Nowitzki and the flash of Latrell Sprewell. By June, I had bought into the hype.

    So had Joe Dumars.

    Well, fast forward to 2005, and it's Year 3 of "The Darko Age." Over the past two seasons with the Detroit Pistons, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft has won an NBA championship ring; broken his hand; shot countless balls off the side of the backboard; been arrested for an expired driver's license; been caught Jet Skiing like a wildman; and been spotted getting his hair dyed with blond streaks.

    This was supposed to be the year. The year that we'd forget about Wade, Bosh, and Anthony. The year that Darko flourished. Larry Brown, our boy's version of "The Man," was gone. He'd no longer be held down. The training wheels were off, the cage door opened, and the wings exposed. Darko Milicic was supposed to be ready to fly.

    And yet, here we are, a month into the NBA season, and nothing has changed. Darko's still sporting traces of blond, still on the bench, and still buried on the depth chart. His numbers? Nine games, 19 total points, 15 total rebounds. Chris Bosh can put that stat line together on any given night.

    But, I'm not giving up on Darko. I've invested too much time, too much faith, too much hope in one day being considered an expert overseas NBA scout to do that now. Luckily, I'm not alone. The brains over at FreeDarko.com are with me on this quest. Rather, I'm with them. They are a clever bunch, and their mission is simple: Free Darko. Free him from what? Well, we'll let them explain.


    exchanged emails last week with Bethlehem Shoals, one of the minds behind FreeDarko.com. What came out of it was a modern masterpiece a cultural mosaic. The interview rivals the Barbara Walters-Tom Cruise sit-down, the Michael Irvin-Keyshawn Johnson tell-all, and the epic spill-the-guts piece with Dustin Diamond during the E! True Hollywood Story on "Saved By the Bell". I tossed on my Martin Bashir English accent and got down and dirty on the truth behind "FreeDarko:"

    Peter Schrager: What is the history behind FreeDarko.com?

    FreeDarko's Bethlehem Shoals: The message board in our long-running fantasy league was FreeDarko in the embryo. People wrote thousand-word posts that were basically columns in the miniature (if the papers of 19th-century Russia had had sports pages). At some point, we decided we might as well take the thing public, since we were all expending so much effort on it.

    PS: What exactly are you freeing Darko from?

    Shoals: Solitude. Adversity. The burden of history. The endless mockery of a thousand under-informed miscreants. Chad Ford's watchful gaze. Sure, we'd like to see him freed in a basketball sense, for the good of the league. But there's also a spiritual, almost political, dimension to our mission.

    PS: How old are you guys?

    Shoals: We're all in our mid- to late-twenties and range in occupation from dead-end grad student to city politico. None of us Pistons fans or otherwise Detroit-affiliated. We've got some new writers coming on soon who we only know through the blogosphere; God knows how old they are in real life or what they do.

    PS: Can we expect some follow-up sites, such as a FreeYaroslovKorolev.com, or FreeBorisDiaw.com?

    Shoals: Our three finalists for a name were FreeDarko, FreeZarko, and SkitaTime. I was personally in favor of the third but in retrospect, Darko was the only real option. Not only is he the symbol of it all -- he's the only one anyone cares about. No one wants a "Free Zarko" t-shirt, no matter how wild Zarko's hairdo is?

    PS: Was Larry Brown the reason why we never saw much of Darko in years 1-2?

    Shoals: Hard to say. Though I do know that if LB hadn't held our man down, there wouldn't be the same aura of mystery surrounding him today. He's the Pharaoh to Darko's Moses.

    PS: What can we expect from Darko in 2005-06?

    Shoals: Hopefully he won't be completely freed, or else we'll be out one incredibly catchy name. But if he can't be one of those "valuable bench contributors down the stretch," we're looking at a Slavic version of Kwame Brown. And then, my friend, freeing Darko might be a dark, personal matter best left to the man himself.


    In closing, Darko Milicic is NOT a bust. He's an international man of mystery, a modern-day James Bond. Will he ever average 20 and 10? Probably not. But will he captivate and thrill the hearts of millions? Of course. Hasn't he already?

    And in the end, isn't that all that really matters?
    _____________________________


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  2. #2
    Veteran ABDENOUR POWER's Avatar
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    Darko's a legend.

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