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."