Despite an impressive preseason, Darko Milicic has been incredibly inconsistent so far this season. As a result, Flip Saunders is giving serious thought to giving Dale Davis some of Darko's minutes:
"I think the way we're going to use Darko and Dale now will depend on who we play and what we need," he said. "If we need more of an inside, physical presence defensively (as they did Saturday), that's when I am going to play Dale. Now, with that spot, it's going to depend on matchups."
Milicic had been the fourth big man in the rotation in every situation. He didn't play Saturday.
"I tell players that they dictate how much they play by how well they play," Saunders said. "In practice, Dale has been beating people up, and the other guy who's been playing well is Maxey (rookie Jason Maxiell). Every time Max gets into a game he's played well."
Not so much for Milicic. He had a dreadful five-minute stretch Friday, managing two turnovers, two missed free throws and two goaltending violations, one offensive and one defensive, when he reached through the bottom of the rim to block a shot.
Milicic also put up little resistance in the lane, as the Knicks got three layups and outscored the Pistons by five while he played.
When Rasheed Wallace got into foul trouble late in the second quarter, Saunders summoned Davis instead of Milicic. The Pistons rallied from a four-point deficit to the tie the score in the final two minutes of the half, and Davis forced two missed layups.
The fact of the matter is that Darko isn't helping the team when he's out on the floor right now. There's statistical evidence to back that up -- his -51 +/- is second worst on the team to Carlos Delfino (-55) -- and there's anecdotal evidence:
Milicic started the second quarter in New Jersey on Wednesday with the Pistons ahead by seven. Five minutes later, they trailed by a point. Eight of the Nets' points in that span came on putbacks or dunks on which Milicic was late to help.
Davis, meanwhile, is -6 +/- for the year, but take that with a grain of salt, as he's only played 13 minutes this year, and the Pistons have scored more points than they've given up in two of his three appearances so far.
Personally, I wish the Pistons would just force the issue and go sink-or-swim with Darko, but it's just so freaking hard to find minutes for him. Ben Wallace is Ben Wallace, and Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace have been the most productive duo in the league so far. From what I've seen, Darko plays much better when he's on the court with Rasheed and the starting backcourt (big surprise, eh?), but the majority of his time has been with the rest of the reserves. Unfortunately, I think it will take an injury to one of those three before Darko is really given a chance to prove himself, and that's obviously not something anyone wants to see right now.