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More praise for Darko

It's not just the writers who think Darko will take a big step this year. More importantly, his coach and teammates are also building him up right now:

"I can only judge on what I have seen, but he has been aggressive the whole time," coach Flip Saunders said. "He goes after guys. He blocks shots. He's been one of our better guys playing pick-and-roll defense, jumping out and helping. He dives on the floor.

"I mean, he doesn't show any tendencies of a guy you would call soft. He battles."

Rasheed Wallace agrees:

"With Darko, it's just about him knowing these guys and getting acclimated to playing in the league.

"I am telling you, when he gets a chance to play major minutes, he's going to be a hell of a player."

Somewhere along the line fans in Detroit (and the rest of the league) made the unconscious transition from being eager to see Darko play to simply writing him off as a bust -- despite the fact that he's still only 20 years old and has played very few significant minutes.

He made the most of his two starts at the end of last season, and he'll surprise a lot of people this year with how well (and how quickly) he fills up a box score. Mark my words.

Bench players looking good [Detroit News]