MINNEAPOLIS It was April 12, and the Timberwolves were set to face the Clippers for their final matchup of the season. Reporters gathered around Vinny Del Negro in the bowels of the Target Center before the game as he explained his plan to defeat a losing team that had beaten his playoff-bound squad three times already.
It was all talk of Kevin Love, Kevin Love, Kevin Love, the Timberwolves lone threat, it seemed, in the season's final days. But then a Clippers reporter posed another question:
"What are you going to do to shut down Darko Milicic?"
Eye contact was quickly made. Facial muscles twitched as the question hung in the air. And Del Negro, as smooth as his slicked-back hair, handled it perfectly, answering the question with a fluid and pointed reference to another tall, Eastern European center: Nikola Pekovic.
By April, Milicic had not consistently started for two months. He hadn't played more than one minute in a game since March 5. He was emotionless on the bench, rar...