Milicic to do 'whatever it takes' to help Celts . . . and rehab his reputation


Milicic to do 'whatever it takes' to help Celts . . . and rehab his reputation

WALTHAM As Darko Milicic saunters on to the practice court, he doesn't have the swagger of a guy who was the No. 2 overall pick in a superstar-rich 2003 draft class. He's not the kid who couldn't beat out a couple of past-their-prime journeymen in Dale Davis or Elden Campbell, either.

All the things of the past that seemed to weigh Milicic down, appear to have dissipated -- for now, at least.

Reliving the past doesn't do Milicic any good. Living in the past? That's even worse.

"I'm done trying to prove I'm the No. 2 pick and that expletive stuff," Milicic told "This year, it's all about Celtics, to show that I am a team player. It's not about me. It's about us as a team.

Milicic added: "I'll do whatever it takes, whatever I need to do to help this team. So now, if I have to go kill someone on the court, I'll kill someone on the court."

Uh, just grab a few rebounds, maybe block a shot or two and defend.

Basketball homicide not required.

"Whatever needs to be done for the team to be better," Milicic added, "I'll do it."

As he stands towering over a reporter, Milic's growth physically is apparent.

A skinny teenager when he came into the NBA after being selected by the Detroit Pistons, Milicic isn't pushed around quite as easily.

Today, he's a 275-pound 7-footer who isn't afraid to deliver a foul.

During the 2010-11 season, Milicic averaged 3.32 personal fouls while appearing in 69 games. Only five players in the NBA that season had a higher fouls-per-game average while appearing in as many games.

His growth maturity-wise, remains a mystery.

It has been an issue with every team he has played for, including the Minnesota Timberwolves, who waived him via the league's amnesty rule this past summer.

The move was made to free up salary cap space to pursue other free agents. Salary cap space or not, getting rid of Milicic was a priority for Minnesota once the season ended.

"At the end of the year, Rick Adelman, Minnesota's head coach gives me a report of what he thinks of each player," Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor told Twin Cities Business magazine. "He tells me it's the same one he gave David Kahn, Minnesota's GM and that David knows he is giving it to me. Then he goes through the list. He says, 'This is the first one I want gone' - that was (underachieving veteran center) Darko."

Even before that, discontent with Milicic was apparent.

He hasnt done anything to really give you a lot of faith that hes going to go out and do the job, Adelman said of Milicic in March. Hes gotten himself out of shape. He hasnt been as driven as youd like so when a situation like this happens, its time for someone to have their opportunity and get back in there."

Milicic's fall from grace was unexpected considering how he played in 2010-11 season. He appeared in 69 games (all starts) and averaged a career-high 8.8 points to go with 2.03 blocks, which ranked fifth in the NBA.

An injury early in the 2011-12 season sidelined him. From there, things only got worse.
His playing time went from little to non-exist.

After starting the first 18 games, Milicic appeared in just 11 more games all season.

"I was trying to find answers," Milicic said. "Nikola Pekovic, he started playing well. I wasn't asking about starting. I wanted to ask about why I wasn't playing at all. I hear a lot of this and that . . . I was like, 'If you guys going to fool around and make excuses' . . . we kind of separated from each other."

So the eventual parting was one in which both sides clearly felt was necessary.

"We didn't have good communication," Milicic said. "That's what happens."

And so there lies another chapter in the book on Milicic that doesn't have a happy ending.
Which raises the question: Why should anyone think things will be different here in Boston?

For starters, Milicic doesn't have nearly as bright a spotlight on him now as he has had with previous teams.

Just as interest in him has waned off significantly, so have expectations. Teams see him now as a 27-year-old NBA veteran who, with the right team, might be able to contribute.

At least, that's what Boston is hoping for.

"He has size," said coach Doc Rivers. "He has skill in a lot of areas. I think he can help us."

And if it doesn't work out, it's a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum, which is a small price to pay for the potential benefits of having Milicic on the roster.

Regardless of whether he plays a prominent role off the bench or is limited to spot duty, Mililic should benefit from the time he spends playing with and practicing against Kevin Garnett.

"That's going to be good," Milicic said. "It's good when you have somebody pushing you to your limit. Those guys have experience playing in the finals, going deep into the playoffs. That's what they have in mind. They don't think about losing; they think about winning a championship, especially this year. All these guys are getting old now. They're looking forward to winning one or two more championships. I'm here now to help them, whatever it takes."