Darko was taken 2nd overall by the Pistons in a draft that will probably go down as one of the best of all time. You can take a wild guess and say it wasn’t one of the best draft classes because of him. The 7-foot center from Serbia was able to win an NBA title with the Pistons with contributing the least to the team.
A huge problem with Darko was his lack of motivation to be a great NBA player and recently he had an interview with Serbian news website B92, where he talks about mistakes he made in the NBA. Here are the most interesting part of the interview, provided by Reddit user Tyrone_Lue.
On being drafted and playing for the Detroit Pistons
I’d do a lot of things differently now. It’s true that I ended up on a team that was trying to win a ring, which rarely happens to a #2 pick, but in the end, we’re all looking for alibis. I could say i didn’t get a proper chance. However, that’s simply an alibi; it’s up to a young player to prove himself, work hard and wait for his chance. My approach was completely different, as a #2 pick coming from Europe I thought I was sent by God. So I got into fights, got drunk before practices, spiting everyone, while in the end, I was spiting myself.
I had issues with everyone, and that was caused by me playing just for myself. My goal wasn’t to silence the critics, it was to silence my ego. Tonight I want to feed my ego, so I’ll play a great game against Duncan or Gasol. Tomorrow, we have a totally irrelevant game against a center that’s 10 times weaker so I’ll put up another great game and become a consistent player because that’s what they want from me. But I simply couldn’t, I wasn’t ready or willing to put in the work…
So yeah, I was the problem. That initial dissatisfaction probably led to me starting to hate and not enjoy playing. There were some situations where I’ve already scored 20 points, but in my head I’m thinking: “When will this game finally end, come on, let’s pack it up and go home.” I just had to feed my ego, I couldn’t care less what’s going to happen the following week. My whole approach since coming to the US was just wrong. I could say I was too young back then, but I chose to go there myself and I obviously wasn’t prepared for what the league would require from me.
On trades to Orlando and Memphis
I really enjoyed it there since Day 1. Physically I was fresh since I haven’t really played for 3 years. Unfortunately, the coach just didn’t see me and Dwight playing together although I thought it could easily work out. He’d stuff the paint, I’d be a threat from outside, it would’ve been great. I had some nice games in a year and a half there, so I was expecting some nice offers. No offers came though, since everyone was thinking I had mental issues and was a risk. That’s where I got disappointed even more. The only thing I told my manager was I’ll go anywhere but Memphis, just don’t send me to Memphis.
Of course I went to Memphis, where I went through 2 years of classic depression. I was just crossing the dates off the calendar because I couldn’t function anymore. Physically you’re there, but mentally you aren’t. Whatever you do, there’s no chance of being successful. It was really hard. Mentally, I was completely worn out. Everyone has bad periods in their careers, but it was harder for me since my whole experience was negative and that wasn’t what I expected.
If you want to play in the NBA, you need to be consistent. You can bring 15 points and 10 rebounds to the table, but you have to bring it every day. I was playing when I felt like it, otherwise it was tough to find any motivation.
On NY and Minnesota days
After that I went to New York, where I continued doing stupid stuff. The coach finally got fed up, so I was doing pushups and situps during games and drinking milshakes in the gym. So I decided to go back to Europe, I was young enough and could still get back on track. However, NY wanted to trade me to Minnesota. I met with David Kahn and told him: “Don’t trade for me for the love of God, I don’t want to play in the NBA anymore, I’ll ruin your team. I’ll fuck up the team chemistry, do not trade for me. When it’s not working it’s not working.” He told me to join them for 2 weeks, and if I’m not feeling it I’m free to leave. My first year there actually went great.
My experience in the NBA was a catastrophe because I’m a born winner, I don’t like losing even in card games. That’s the Darko that came to the US, but after Detroit I spent time on teams that were classic gangs going from city to city and losing games, and sadly you kinda get used to that. Minny wasn’t bad, but we were dead last in the standings. Other than a couple of good games, there’s nothing positive in that. The coach eventually got fired and Rick Adelman came. I wasn’t a part of the big picture anymore; I was starting at first but after the first minor injury I fell out of the rotation.
About Boston Celtics
I don’t even want to talk about Boston. I didn’t want to go there and I told my manager what’s going to happen. The people in the US are obsessed with stats as a nation. They simply look at the stats and that’s it, although I think they have the full right to do so. The guy looks at my stats and sees me as a role player who’s happy to get his chance, but that’s not who I am. I run away from that; for my whole life I’m going to be the #2 pick who didn’t live up to the expectations, but I am what I am. I’m different from other busts, they wanted to but they couldn’t, and I could when I wanted to. That’s the issue in my head, but no one wants to dig deeply into it. They just look at the stats and tell me I’ve done nothing.
On his NBA experience as a whole
Only my wife knows how many times I’ve wanted to pack my things and go home. Playing in the NBA is a dream come true for majority of basketball players, and everyone should strive to achieve that. But if you can’t get used to the atmosphere you’re living in, you’ll have a bad time, both as a person and as a player. The lifestyle didn’t suit me at all, I’m a very social guy and I like to hang out. There’s none of that in the US, it’s simply go to work and go home. See you at the practice, see you in the plane, see you in the bus, see you at the gym and that’s it. You live game by game, hotel by hotel.
On Nikola Jokić
I’ve been friends with his brother, Nemanja, for a long time. We played together for some time, and one summer I asked him to come with me to the US. He accepted, which was great for me since I was lonely there, but in the end he ruined me (laughs). Yeah, it’s all his fault. It was great, we had a lot of free time since I wasn’t tired from playing and we were constantly throwing parties, with me in the leading role. They’re a great family, and it’s all coming back through Nikola. I think he actually learnt from the mistakes of his brothers, and is now a complete opposite. As far as I’ve heard he’s only interested in basketball, which is great.
I hear Nikola being compared to Vlade Divac, and i kinda understand that since Divac is our legend. But I don’t buy it; if i remember correctly Divac scored around 11 ppg, while Jokić can get over 25 if he continues like this. He has a much softer hand and is better in finding solutions in the traffic. Divac was a traditional center, while this guy is hitting floaters and doing things small forwards usually do. For me, Nikola is more like Dirk Nowitzki.
On Serbian NT, Bjelica, Marjanović, Teodosić…
(…) We have Bjelica, who’s not having an outstanding season, but is a really talented and skilled guy. Then there’s Marjanović who’s going through a similar situation as me. I don’t understand it, it looks like he’s paying off my debts in Detroit. I mean, he’s on a team with no real ambition who paid 20 mil. for him and isn’t giving him playing time although he played well when he got the chance. It must be some kind of an anti-Serbian conspiracy.
Teodosić could easily become what Jokić is, but he could also easily become Bjelica or Marjanović. I don’t think he’s physically fit for the NBA. He’s an incredible playmaker, his passing is impressive and he sees what no one else does. He also has a great shot and punishes defenders from the 3PT line. Then again, NBA playmakers are beasts (*literally “dragons”). I’ve seen it time and again, players of Teo’s constitution simply get bullied in the post by other playmakers; that’s why guys like Westbrook are beasts. Mentally he’s ready to play anywhere he wants, but he doesn’t have the physical tools.
I’ve gained 90 pounds since I stopped playing, I’m at 350 right now. I’m working at my farm and enjoying that kind of production. I take walks through my fields and watch the process, which makes me really happy. I’m still pretty inexperienced at this so I like to learn, seek guidance, go to seminars. I’ve created my own peace of mind and I’m enjoying it. There’s always problems like in any other field of work, but I’d rather do this than build skyscrapers in the city because I’d end up shooting myself. I think this is the most positive story of them all, food production and food in general is the future in every sense.