With 16 games left in the regular season, it is about that time when we start to wonder who might be making their last few appearances in a Wolves uniform. Brad Miller has confirmed that he will retire following the season, opting to focus his efforts toward hunting rather than basketball. It’s been a good run for Miller, best known for his role with the Sacramento Kings back in the C-Webb/Vlade/Bibby/Baby-Hedo/Peja years, and most people around the league expected this year to be his farewell tour.
With Miller and his $5.1 million dollar salary coming off the books, the Wolves will gain some much needed cap relief. According to our calculations, Minnesota will have $55.3 million dollars tied to guaranteed contracts next year. The new CBA left this year’s salary cap consistent to the 2010-11 season ($58 million), and early indications are the 2012-13 cap will fall in the same neighborhood.
The Pups did not extend qualifying offers to Michael Beasley ($8.2 MM) or Anthony Randolph ($4.0 MM), but hold control over both players rights due to their status as restricted free agents. The Wolves will likely wait to see the kind of interest each player draws in free agency before a) offering them a contract b) matching an offer sheet the player signs with another club or c) allowing them to leave via free agency.
So, with all of that said, will Darko be back next year? The center has played 59 minutes in the entire month of March, and head coach Rick Adelman recently had this to say about him:
“He hasn’t done anything to really give you a lot of faith that he’s going to go out and do the job. He’s gotten himself out of shape. He hasn’t been as driven as you’d like so when a situation like this happens, it’s time for someone to have their opportunity and get back in there.”
Flip Saunders (the former Wolves, Pistons, and Wizards head coach) added a few thoughts during his weekly appearance on Dan Barreiro’s radio program (100.3 KFAN, Minneapolis):
“The talent that Darko has, if he was totally engaged, he’d be making about $15 million a year instead of $5.. He’s extremely talented.. One of the better players I’ve ever had as far as defensively and pick-and-roll defense, being able to jump out and get back to his own guy. He is long, he can shoot the ball.. He has a lot of the tools.. A lot of times God doesn’t give you the whole package, he only gives you certain pieces of it.“
Using the one time amnesty exemption on Darko would give GM David Kahn and the Wolves an additional $5.2 million in 2012-13 and $5.7 million in 2013-14 to play with, so the time could be right to make a move. Clearly, Darko’s inability to get off the bench in late season games while Pek isn’t even with the team is a bit troubling. It would be more troubling if the Wolves continue to stick with a guy that by all appearances (and accounts) has already given up on the season.