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Darko does Disney: a Magic fan’s perspective

[A note from Ian: Matt and I had a conversation in early January that centered upon whether or not Darko Milicic would a) achieve any level of success as a Piston, and b) ever be a productive player anywhere if given the opportunity. The first question became moot with the trade of Darko and Carlos Arroyo to the Orlando Magic in February, but the second question remains unanswered. Matt and I recognize that, like us, many fans are still following Darko’s development closely, and so, to get our Darko fix, we’ve called upon Todd Sikorski, the purveyor of Believing in Magic (regarded by folks that matter as the best Orlando Magic blog on the Internet), to give us a status report on our favorite Serbian 7-footer. Enjoy.]

Darko Milicic in his new Orlando Magic uniIt has been brought to my attention from the grand people involved with Detroit Bad Boys that a bunch of Pistons’ fans are wondering about the progress of former Pistons’ bench warmer and #1 pick Darko Milicic with his new team, the Orlando Magic.

Since I cover the Magic for the MVN sports site, I’d thought I’d give those interested a heads up on what Milicic is up to, especially considering he will be seeing his former teammates this week when the Magic play the Pistons on Friday.

First off, I have to admit before the Magic obtained Milicic and Carlos Arroyo for Kelvin Cato, I didn’t know much about the 7-footer from Montenegro. In fact, I probably was more familiar with another Darko -- Donnie Darko, the title figure from the cult movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal -- than Milicic.

Not knowing much about Milicic’s game probably had to do with his former Pistons’ coaches playing him as often as an Eminem single gets played on a Christian radio station. (That’s also why it is great to hear that the Detroit fans still have an interest in Milicic.)

For the record, here were Milicic’s stats while in Detroit.

Rookie Year (2003-2004 Season)
Games Played-34, Minutes Played-4.7mpg, Scoring Average-1.4ppg, Rebounding Average-1.3rpg

Second Year (2004-2005 Season)
Games Played-37, Minutes Played-6.9mpg, Scoring Average-1.8ppg, Rebounding Average-1.2rpg

Third Year (2005-2006 Season Before Trade)
Games Played-25, Minutes Played-5.6mpg, Scoring Average-1.5ppg, Rebounding Average-1.1rpg

Looking at those numbers, there isn’t much to indicate if Milicic could play for Detroit’s Marygrove College let alone the Pistons. Still, it’s obvious the 20-year old Milicic has talent since he was drafted in the first round in 2003.

That’s why it’s good to report that Darko has finally shown some of that talent during his short stay with the Magic so far. In fact, in the twenty-plus games he’s played for the Magic, he has played so well that it looks like the Magic will build a team around him and impressive second-year men Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson.

Darko’s stats for the 21 games he’s played in so far are as follows:

Games Played-21, Minutes Played-21.5mpg, Scoring Average-7.8ppg, Rebounding Average-4.6rpg

Orlando\'s Darko Milicic shootsBesides his main stats, Milicic has impressed in other areas also. He’s shooting 54% from the floor and has averaged 2.4 blocks a game.

All this is more impressive looking at how much he’s improved in just the 21 games. His first games with the Magic were notable mostly for his defensive play. He grabbed an impressive 10 rebounds against the Phoenix Suns and he also blocked five shots twice, against Indiana and Utah, in his early games.

However, it hasn’t been until recently that Darko’s offensive skills have been on display. Not including the Magic’s last game against Dallas, Milicic has averaged over 12 points and 5 rebounds a game while averaging over 25 minutes in his past five games. Even more impressive is his 58% shooting from the floor in those games. Not surprisingly, the Magic won four of those five games.

Sure, Milicic isn’t perfect and still has a lot to learn. His offensive game is limited right now and there have been games where he looks lost at certain times. Still, the Magic players and coaches seem to be behind him. Proof of his newfound popularity is he is now one of the first to come off the bench in a game as opposed to his being the last in his Detroit years.

Best of all, he is now becoming this writer’s favorite Darko and he doesn’t have to wear a Halloween skeleton costume to do it. (A Donnie Darko reference, for those who don’t know.)

So, Detroit Milicic fans, check out your favorite son when the Magic play the Pistons this week, and also check out Carlos Arroyo, who has been just as impressive off the bench for the Magic. Just a question though, how has Kelvin Cato worked out for you?

[Thanks again to Todd -- be sure to check out Believing in Magic for future Darko and Arroyo updates, as well as the latest scuttlebutt on one of the NBA's most promising frontcourts. ]