Dear Darko Letter: Pistons Fans Thank You

Jun 25, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; General view of the full first round draft board at the conclusion of the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 25, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; General view of the full first round draft board at the conclusion of the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Dear Darko,

Each spring and summer your name washes over the NBA draft process. Mock drafts evoke your name leaving out Milicic because there is only one Darko. Your name sidles up nicely to the Euro most intriguing and Joe Dumars endures repeated second-guessing. Sadly, your 2003 draft symbolizes the beauty of sports for both die hard fans and prognosticators.

One of the greatest players [LeBron James] of all time was taken just ahead of you. That player has gone on to command not just the NBA, but the sports world at-large. You may never reach his heights on the hardwood, but your place in the greater game of basketball Risk will surely stand the test of time.

An admitted Detroit Piston homer I must confess, after all of these years, I think of your time in red, white and blue with mixed emotions.

I thought you were a home run prospect like many who graded you through the draft process.

It didn’t work out. The human victory cigar was lit and the rest is history.

Or so one might think.

This letter, Darko, is really about how your place in Piston lore should be viewed much brighter and with greater appreciation.

Every championship team has a culture unique to the locker room they inhabit. Many of the Most-Important-Players (MIP’s) have little to do with stat stuffing and more to do with what their on-court absence meant to the play of others.

Scott Hastings provided comic relief for the Bad Boys, Jack Haley the same for Michael’s Bulls. Rick Mahorn provided muscle while Isiah Thomas starred.

You didn’t play. That we can agree on. But, what if the Pistons benefited from drafting you – even if you never contributed to the box score?

What if Detroit had selected Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh?

Would the Pistons have enjoyed the same success in 2004? How might history look different if you never dawned Piston blue? Would Detroit still make six straight trips to the Eastern Conference Finals and experience a near miss in 2005?

The Pistons had a young forward by the name of Tayshaun Prince. Here’s guessing he would have been relegated to the bench had Carmelo Anthony been drafted in your place.

Darko you were on the bench when the Pistons were battling the Pacers. One struggles to imagine Carmelo Anthony chasing down Reggie Miller in the waning moments to block his layup attempt.

Thank you Darko.

If the Pistons had drafted Carmelo the team would have looked different. The stifling defense the fans enjoyed nor the efforts of Mr. Big Shot would have been realized with a ball stopper like Carmelo Anthony.

Thank you Darko.

Your place on the roster ensured that the culture would allow for “Ball don’t Lie” stanzas from one of the biggest personalities [Rasheed Wallace] in recent sports memory. Adding an entitled and me-first draft pick could have proven toxic with Rasheed Wallace.

Thank you Darko.

Pistons fans may rue your drafting by the team, but informed fans can see the bigger picture. Stockpiling talent hasn’t always worked in the NBA (see 2004 Lakers).

Culture, fit, and sequence of player acquisition mean something even if the John Hollingers of the world scoff. Rasheed Wallace was acquired when the culture was set, leadership established and he just had to play. Had he been there, at the beginning, it might not have been a fit.

Carmelo Anthony coming to Auburn Hills could have put Ben Wallace in a mental health facility after watching porous defense, if you could call it defense, was displayed by the former Orangeman.

The Pistons needed Tayshaun Prince, at that time in history, to assume the starting role. His understated personality allowed others to breathe and flourish. Chauncey Billups could lead, without fear of ownership deference to Anthony, and Richard Hamilton’s endless motion could be capitalized on.

And, those who thought the Pistons should have drafted Dwayne Wade seem to forget how seamless Billups and Hamilton played and complemented each other.

Chris Bosh—would he have realistically seen the court with the Wallace twins anchoring the team? Larry Brown’s mantra, “Play the right way” would have been tough to realize with ball-stopping draft picks.

The list can go on and on.

You were the perfect (non) fit of the 2003 NBA draft and maybe in history. Anyone else would have negatively impacted the development of existing players and changed the culture drastically.

History is a funny thing in sports. The Pistons had a run many franchises would dream of yet every draft season you [Darko] are brought up as a massive failure.

Take pride Darko. Pistons fans do each and every time they think of the 04’ banner swaying back and forth in Auburn Hills. This author isn’t so sure that would be the case had one Carmelo Anthony been drafted number two to the Pistons.

Until next spring!

P.S. Those fuming that the Pistons “missed” out on a small forward in free agency might want to read this letter. The prospect of hiding Stanley Johnson behind a $60 million dollar Demarre Carroll sounds like a nightmare (insert Orlando Summer League highlights and quotes from Larry Bird). #ThingsInSportsHappen4Areason

P.P.S. Joe Dumars your letter on our breakup and reconciliation (hopefully) coming soon to PistonPowered.

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