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."

Highlights: Devin Booker puts up 70 points but Celtics get the win

Highlights: Devin Booker puts up 70 points but Celtics get the win

Highlights from the TD Garden as Devin Booker had a historic performance where he scored 70 points, but it wasn't enough to get the win over the Celtics.

Thomas on Suns: 'We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery'

Thomas on Suns: 'We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery'

BOSTON – Stacking wins on top of wins is the mindset of the Boston Celtics right now, so the players who did speak to the media following Friday’s 130-120 win over Phoenix drove that point home emphatically.

But inside the locker room, it was unusually quiet, the kind of silence you expect following a loss.

Considering how the Celtics’ defense was absolutely thrashed by Devin Booker’s franchise record 70 points, there’s no question at a minimum the Celtics’ pride overall was stung.


And when Suns coach Earl Watson began calling time-outs and having his team commit fouls at the end of the game, there’s no question it rubbed a few Celtics the wrong way.

“I don’t think anybody has ever seen that; continuing to call time-outs, continuing to foul when we are up 15. But I mean, it was obvious what they were trying to do. They were trying to get him (Booker) the most points possible. Hat off to to him (Booker). He played a hell of a game.”

Following the game, Watson defended his late-game decision making.

“Calling time-outs at the end kept the game close,” he said. “It’s basketball; I’m not coming to any arena to be liked. If people don’t like us while we build … so what? Do something about it.”

The Suns (22-51) never came any closer than 10 points, which was the final score margin.

Al Horford acknowledged that there was some aggravation following the game.

“You can be frustrated when somebody is doing that to you,” he said. “It’s not to one guy, it’s to the team so I think we’re probably more aggravated at ourselves, at least personally I feel that way. I probably could have done a little better, maybe done some different things to prevent it. We got to give him credit, 70 points, I don’t care it’s 70, he got 70. It’s impressive.”

But there will be some inside the Celtics locker room and among their fan base, who were bothered by the Suns’ late-game actions which seemed more focused on Booker getting numbers than anything else.

When asked about being disrespected by the Suns’ late-game strategy, Thomas wanted no part of that conversation.

“It is what it is,” Thomas said. “We won the game. We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery.”