The Pistons have won their last two games by a combined 53 points, which allowed Darko Milicic to get a few more minutes than usual. Unfortunately, in 14 minutes he managed all of four points (2-4 shooting) and two rebounds, adding one block and an assist. Clearly, those numbers leave a bit to be desired, and Flip Saunders isn't happy with the continued trend of unimpressive play.
On Friday, Milicic was noticeably passive, particularly on the defensive end. He drew the ire of the coaching staff when he failed to go after a loose ball that had hit off his hands.
"Sometimes, in this league, it's about being mentally tough," Saunders said.
"Things aren't always going to go as you want them to go. What you have to do is battle through those times. Darko is no different that anybody else."
Milicic, before the game against Charlotte, said everything was fine.
When asked if he was still glad to be a Piston, he said yes. When asked if anything was bothering him, he said, "No, I am fine."
About his sluggish performance on Friday, he said, "I was cold. Coming in the fourth quarter, I have to warm up."
Saunders wasn't buying that excuse.
"Everybody is different," he said. "I know when I was 20 it didn't take me long to warm up. The bottom line is, being a professional athlete your job is to play when you go on the floor. Whether you have to jog or stretch or whatever, you have to be prepared to play when you step on that floor. That's not just for him but for everybody."
This whole "coming in cold" argument is pretty lame coming from a professional athlete. Can you imagine a guy like Darvin Ham using that excuse? Darko has obvious talent when he's working hard, but unfortunately he's missing that "flip a switch" mentality that makes guys like Ham, Maurice Evans, Jon Barry -- heck, Vinnie Johnson! -- so valuable. Hopefully the Pistons will continue being patient with him -- after all, he is only 20 years old, right?
"He's only 20 years old but sooner or later age isn't going to be an excuse," Saunders said.
If we're not there already, we're fast-approaching the point where age can't be considered a valid excuse. Of the top seven players drafted in 2005, four were either 20 years old or younger, and all of them have been more productive than Darko this year.
Sooner or later, the Pistons will need to commit a lot of minutes to Darko, even if it doesn't look like he immediately deserves them, because I just don't think this kid is going to improve without more playing timeIn two-plus seasons, he's tallied just 522 minutes. LeBron James, on the other hand, has tallied well over 7,000.. But honestly, with the Pistons trying to win as many games as possible to make sure Game 7 of the NBA Finals is played at the Palace, having such a talented but raw player is a luxury the team may not be able to afford. As such, trading him this year while he still has the allure of youth on his side may be the best thing for all parties involved. It kills me to say that, because I truly believe this kid will be an impact player in this league, but it'll be a complete waste if he suffers through yet another 200-minute season.
Passive Milicic earns more time on bench [Detroit News]