Milicic may have finally found right fit with Celtics


Milicic may have finally found right fit with Celtics

No matter where he has played, Darko Milicic can't shake the expectations.

Being drafted with the No. 2 overall pick by Detroit in the star-studded 2003 NBA draft, big things were supposed to be forthcoming from the then-18-year-old Milicic.

It didn't happen.

Never came close to happening, truth be told.

No one will argue over the fact that he has failed to live up to what is expected from a player selected from such a lofty perch, especially when you consider some of the superstar players (Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, even Kirk Hinrich has had a better career than Milicic) chosen after him.

But for most of Milicic's career, it was hard to call him a bust because high draft pick busts play bad. Milicic didn't play much at all, which is an even bigger indictment of his struggles.

Despite his end-of-the-bench status during his early NBA years, the 7-foot center continues to search for basketball bliss in the NBA.

He may have finally found a worthwhile basketball marriage in Boston, which would be a change from his previous basketball unions that had the longevity of a Zsa Zsa Gabor nuptial.

With Milicic and the C's agreeing to a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum that's worth about 1.3 million, he walks into a relatively pressure-free role with a title contender - two things he never had at the same time with any of the five teams he played for previously.

As a rookie in 2004, Milicic was a member of a Detroit Pistons squad that needed just five games to eliminate the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. However it was a nondescript, easily forgotten chapter in Milicic's basketball odyssey because he seldom played.

And when he did get on the court, he was often referred to as the "Human victory cigar," a reference to his playing time only coming about when the Pistons had a game all but won and were simply trying to run out the clock.

So it came as no surprise that Milicic has tried to distance himself from those days, even going so far as to auction off his championship ring last year.

When it came to winning, Milicic's two-plus seasons in Detroit were the best in his career. But with weaker teams came more opportunities to play which is what most young players need.

In Detroit, Milicic averaged 1.6 points, 1.2 rebounds in 5.8 minutes per game with two starts. His numbers following his Detroit years (7.2 points, 5.0 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game with 206 starts) were better, but well short of a high lottery pick with his level of experience.

The more you watched him play, the clearer it became that Milicic was a defensive-minded, shot-blocking role player.

In his nine NBA seasons, he has averaged 1.3 blocks per game. During the 2010-2011 season, he swatted a career-high 2.03 per game which ranked fifth in the NBA.

His shot-blocking prowess was among the reasons Boston was the first team to contact his agent when the Minnesota Timberwolves waived him under the league's amnesty clause in July.

But in Boston, Milicic has yet another opportunity to play with a team that's on track for a long, deep playoff run. And for a change, he has a shot - a legit shot - at being part of that success.

"That was certainly one of the factors that led him to choose Boston," his agent Marc Cornstein told in a phone interview. "He sees an opportunity in Boston where he might be able to contribute."

Winning a role on the floor won't be easy.

Winning over the likes of Kevin Garnett, might be even more daunting.

If this were five or six years ago, Milicic would have no shot. He would have been too young, too immature to handle the intensity that Garnett brings to the floor whether it's practice or a game.

But the experiences he has gone through since being traded away from Detroit, the ups and downs he experienced in later stops in Orlando, Memphis, New York and Minnesota have made him eager to resume his career in a winning environment.

"That's one of the things that attracted both of us to the Celtics situation," Cornstein said. "He has proven himself to be a solid NBA player in recent years. And this opportunity in Boston, is a chance for him to build on that. He's looking forward to it."

Blakely: Blown call didn't cost Celtics the game Saturday vs. Blazers


Blakely: Blown call didn't cost Celtics the game Saturday vs. Blazers

WALTHAM -- You won’t find the Boston Celtics blaming anyone but themselves for Saturday’s 127-123 overtime loss to Portland. 
But they certainly didn’t get any breaks down the stretch from the referees, who made a huge officiating mistake in the final seconds of regulation. 
Following a Celtics miss in the game’s closing seconds, Blazers guard Damian Lillard wound up with the ball but was stripped almost immediately by Marcus Smart, who put the steal back in for a lay-up that would have given Boston a one-point lead with 10.8 seconds to play. 
The ruling on the floor at the time was a foul against Smart. But officials later determined as part of their report on the final two minutes of the game, that the foul against Smart was an incorrect call.
“It just pisses you off, doesn’t it?” Crowder said. “It just pisses you off. I don’t like it.”
Crowder, like a number of players I have spoken to about this particular subject, is not a fan of the league releasing the information. 
And his reasoning, like his NBA brethren, is simple. 
There’s no recourse relative to that particular game if the officials in fact got a call wrong. 
So for their purposes, the transparency that the league is seeking, while just, doesn’t do them a damn bit of good when it comes to what matters most to them. Which is wins and losses. 
“It’s over now. It’s too late to confirm it now,” said Smart who told media following the loss that the steal was clean. “The game is over with. It is what it is; on to the next game now.”
Smart added that having the league confirm the call was wrong is frustrating. 
“They come back and tell you they miss the call, but it’s over now,” Smart said. “We’re on to the next game. It’s like they shouldn’t even said it. But I understand it; they’re trying to take responsibility and show they made a bad call. We appreciate it but at that time as a player it’s frustrating. That possibly could have won us the game.”
But as Smart, coach Brad Stevens and other players asked about it mentioned, Boston made so many mistakes against the Blazers and played so uncharacteristically for long stretches that it would be unfair and just not right to pin the game’s outcome on one bad call late in the game. 
“It happens,” said Stevens who added that he’s never read a two-minute report other than what he has seen published by the media. “There were plenty of things we could have done better.”
He’s right.
That blown call didn’t cost the Boston Celtics the game. 
Their play did. 
The Celtics turned the ball over 21 times that led to 34 points, both season highs. 
They couldn’t contain C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, two of the league’s most explosive guards who combined for 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting.
Boston allowed Myers Leonard to score a season-high 17 points. 
Certainly the bad call against Smart was a factor. 
But it would not have been an issue if the Celtics had done a better job of controlling the things they could have controlled, like defending shooters better, making smarter decisions when it came to passing the ball and maybe most significant, play with a higher, more consistent level of aggression around the rim. 

Bradley, Green and Jackson to miss Celtics' game Tuesday against Wizards

Bradley, Green and Jackson to miss Celtics' game Tuesday against Wizards

WALTHAM -- The team flight to Washington for tomorrow night's game against the Wizards will be a little lighter than the Celtics would like. 
Boston continues to be cautious with Avery Bradley and his right Achilles strain injury. Coach Brad Stevens confirmed that the 6-foot-2 guard won't travel and will sit out for the seventh time in the last eight games. 

Stevens added he didn't anticipate Bradley returning to the court anytime this week, which means he's likely not to return until next week's game against Detroit on Jan. 30. 
Bradley won’t be the only Celtic not making the trip for health-related reasons. Gerald Green and Demetrius Jackson are both not traveling due to sickness. 
However, the Celtics did get a bit of good news on the health front. Jonas Jerebko and Tyler Zeller, both having missed games with sickness, will take the trip to D.C. with the rest of their teammates.