Just a few of months ago, you couldn't find anyone in the press saying something positive about Darko. Now, everyone loves him. Excerpt from today's article in USA Today:
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Darko Milicic hasn't gotten enough playing time during the last two seasons to even earn a varsity letter. But each year, when the NBA trading deadline approaches, Detroit Pistons players parade to Joe Dumars to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid — such as trade the multitalented 7-0 center, who rarely got on court under former coach Larry Brown.
"They keep telling me not to give up on him and that he can really play," says Dumars, president of basketball operations for the Pistons. "I just smile because they're preaching to the choir."
The rest of the league could be about to see what Detroit sees as Milicic enters his third season — his first away from the hard-to-please Brown, his first under the more favorable eye of new coach Flip Saunders.
Darko has to feel like he's on top of the world. He was nothing but the Human Victory Cigar under Larry Brown, but Flip Saunders is actually excited about using him:
"I'm not comparing him to Kevin (Garnett), but he is a lot like Kevin when we had him when he was younger," says Saunders, who coached Garnett for 10 seasons in Minnesota before being fired last season. "If you sat up in the stands and watched Kevin run, you thought he was 6-5 or 6-6. Darko is like that."
Milicic, who is left-handed, also has a nice shooting touch and an assortment of inside moves. He prefers to play facing the basket but also is effective with his back to it.
"I'm both excited and surprised," Saunders says. "It's going to be a long process for Darko because he is still only 20 years old and there are a lot of things he still has to go through to get where he wants to be. But you can see why he was drafted where he was drafted.
"We're going to use him because I think he can help us win."
I'm just hoping that everyone stays realistic and doesn't expect the world. A realistic best-case scenario involves Darko becoming a valuable reserve, playing 15-20 minutes a game tops, scoring about 7 points a game with 4-5 boards and a block. I still think his upside is Dirk Nowitski, but that probably won't happen for a few more years.
Pistons say Milicic's time is coming [USATODAY.com]