Milicic may have finally found right fit with Celtics

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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 CSNNE.com 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."

Paul George takes to Twitter to explain moving truck

Paul George takes to Twitter to explain moving truck

The internet went crazy on Friday when a fan posted an image of what appeared to be moving trucks outside of Paul George’s house.

While the Pacers star could eventually be on the move this summer via trade, he took to Twitter to explain why the trucks don't necessarily mean he's moving right now. 

The Celtics held trade talks for George on during the NBA Draft, but could not complete a deal.

MORE: 

According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Cavaliers, Pacers and Nuggets have reportedly discussed a three-way deal that would send Paul George to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.

The deal is similar to the one Brian Scalabrine proposed during draft night that involved the Celtics, Cavaliers and Pacers.

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

BOSTON – With his new head coach Brad Stevens and Boston Celtics ownership and front office officials surrounding him, Jayson Tatum’s mind seemed to be somewhere else briefly.

He looked ahead, way, way ahead to the other end of the Celtics’ practice court where there were banners, lots of banners, raised high above all else in the gym.

This wasn’t just a passing glance, either.

TATUM SPEAKS

It was clear that the newest Celtic was in deep thought as he stared at the 17 banners and the one left blank, a steady reminder of what this franchise is about, past and present.

Yes, it’s a lot to soak in for anyone let alone a 19-year-old kid whose career with the Celtics can be timed on a stopwatch.

But the soft-spoken 6-foot-9 forward has been here long enough to understand that success around here is about more than playing well; it’s playing to win a championship.

And that in many ways separates Tatum from his teenage brethren who made up the majority of Thursday night’s NBA draft which included an NBA-record 17 players taken in the first round who like Tatum, were just one year removed from high school.

All come into the NBA with lots to learn, as well as goals and aspirations for this upcoming NBA season.

During an interview with CSN on Friday, I asked Tatum about what in his mind would make for a successful season.

And his answer initially was to ask me a question, “Individual or team?”

So I replied, either one.

“To get back to where they were last year and get over that hump,” he said. “Championships, chasing that number 18, that would be the ultimate success for me.”

That served as a reminder as to why despite having a handful of players under consideration at No. 3, the Celtics did the right thing in selecting Tatum.

His words may seem like the politically correct response, but take a look at the kid’s basketball resume and you’ll quickly see he is indeed about winning and doing so in whatever way possible.

After missing his first eight games at Duke with a foot injury, Tatum gradually improved as the season progressed and wound up on the all-rookie team as well as being named to the All-ACC third team.

Once the Blue Devils got to the ACC Tournament, Tatum became a different, better, more dominant player.

Indeed, Tatum led the Blue Devils to their first ACC championship since 2011 and did so in historic fashion as the Blue Devils became the first ACC school to win the conference tournament with four wins in four days.

Late in the title game against Notre Dame, Tatum put together a sequence of plays that speaks to why the Celtics were seriously considering taking him with the number one overall pick had they not been able to trade it for the No. 3 and a future first-round pick.

With the scored tied at 65, Tatum made a free throw that put Duke ahead.

Moments later, he blocked a shot and finished off the play with a lay-up that gave Duke a three-point lead.

After a Notre Dame basket, Tatum connected with a teammate for a 3-pointer that pushed Duke’s lead to four points with around a minute to play.

And then there was the 3-point play Tatum converted after getting fouled on a dunk which secured a 76-69 Duke win over the Fighting Irish.

Free throws. Blocks. Getting out in transition. Passing.

When his team needed him most, he gave whatever was required at that moment which is one of the intangibles that makes Boston feel good about his future.

“He does whatever he has to do to help you win,” said an NBA scout who said he has seen Tatum play “at least a dozen times.”

He added, “Like all of these kids coming into the league now, he has some things he has to get better at, get more consistent with. But he makes winning plays, whether it’s for himself or others. He’s a lot more unselfish a player than he’s given credit for being.”

And he’s 19 years old, which is both a blessing and a burden when you’re an NBA team executive charged with committing at least two years and millions of dollars into a young man.

Part of the process when making a draft choice, especially when it’s one of the top picks, is character evaluation.

Of the players at or near the top of the draft board, multiple league executives contacted by CSNNE.com in the past couple of weeks said this was an area where Tatum stood out in comparison to all of the top prospects.

“He’s the kind of young man you’d love whether he was a basketball player or not,” one Western Conference executive told CSNNE.com. “If you’re ranking guys on character alone in this draft, he’s your number one pick.”

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, acknowledged the challenge of differentiating between miscues made by a teenager as being problems of concern going forward, or whether that’s a teenager making the kind of bad/questionable decisions most teens make.

“It’s dangerous to play too much into a 19-year-old kid’s behavior,” Ainge told CSN’s A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper on Friday. “But I think that, with all the things we do, from physical, emotional, mental, character, work ethic and their skills … it’s just really hard at 19. You hate to just be labeled what you are at 18.”

But in regards to Tatum specifically, Ainge added, “Jayson is a high character guy. We know he will get better because of his character and his work ethic.”

Said Tatum: “It’s a great feeling. Being part of a great organization like the Celtics; think of all the great players of the past and you can follow in their footsteps.”

And in doing so, blaze a trail of his own in the pursuit of Banner 18.