BOSTON- Boston Celtics team President Danny Ainge never feels like his team has enough size and for good reason. The last few seasons Boston has been seriously undermanned at center due to injuries at the end of the year to guys like Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace, Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, Greg Stiemsma, and Chris Wilcox. The fact is if a player suited up at center for the Boston Celtics the past few years, there is a good chance by the end of the year that the player was banged up. The fact is the Celtics need depth at the position due to their physical style of play and that is why to should come as no surprise to anyone that Ainge has signed former draft bust Darko Milicic.
The Milicic signing on the surface does not seem like a big one right now. Milicic is currently fourth on the Celtics center depth chart behind Kevin Garnett, Chris Wilcox, and Jason Collins. However, this move as recent Celtics history has shown us could be huge move for Boston that pays huge dividends. Depth in the NBA can be the difference between winning a playoff series and losing one as Boston has painfully found out that last few seasons.
Anyone thinking I am nuts or waiting for a punch line to a joke due to Milicic’s history needs to answer me one question honestly. The question is simply did anyone believe that a rookie journeyman center last season that spent time overseas in places I never heard of and then on a D-League team that I did not know existed would come off the bench and make an impact with a Celtics team that went to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals? The honest answer is no to that question as Greg Stiemsma would make the Celtics rotation by the end of the season thanks in part to solid defensive play and a lot of injuries.
The fact is Milicic is still only 27 years old and has a lot of potential in his seven foot frame. Milicic was drafted number two overall in that studded 2003 NBA draft class for a reason. Milicic can run the floor well for a big man, has a desire to play defense, a soft touch around the basket, and once again is a seven footer. The scouts are not wrong in drooling over his skills.
The problem for Milicic is that he has never tapped into one tenth of his natural talent. The reasons Milicic has not done this are plenty. The first problem for Darko has been coaching. The coaching he has had has been awful at best. Milicic even had a bad hand felt to him while playing for a hall of fame coach. Milicic’s stay in the Detroit Pistons organization was awful for his development. The great Larry Brown may be a great coach and teacher at times, but his quest was for another title and not developing the young Milicic for the future. Brown knew his shelf life in Detroit would be up sooner than later (like everywhere Brown coaches) and he felt that he needed to strike for an NBA title while the iron was hot for his veteran team and that meant no minutes for the rookie. The veteran locker room of guys like Rasheed Wallace and even Ben Wallace did not go out of their way to help the young Serbian center as they were looking to keep their own jobs.
Milicic would bounce around to terrible teams with a lack of coaching or veteran talent like the Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, the “Zeke” Thomas led New York Knicks, and of course the abysmal Minnesota Timberwolves. There should be little shock that Milicic did not become a stud.
The reason Milicic chose Boston is he knows the Celtics have great coaching and a chance to win. Darko wants to be a great defender and to learn from KG and Doc Rivers is just what his career needs in order to get on track. If any team of coaches can tap into Darko’s immense defensive potential and keep him from committing the dumb foul, it is Rivers and his staff. If Rivers and KG can make a guy like Stiemsma with half the natural talent of Milicic look like a solid option at center, then what could they do for a guy as naturally gifted as Milicic? For God’s sakes Rivers and KG made Ryan Hollins a stomach able option last year they could do no worse with Milicic.
Milicic will also get the benefit of practicing with KG every day. Milicic will learn the Boston defense and the little nuances form the master. KG will be screaming in his ear and pushing him harder than Milicic has ever been pushed. One cannot help , but get better at the game in this kind of environment if they put any effort in at all to the craft.
The bottom line is Darko Millicic is a Boston Celtic. Milicic is right now the fourth center with time to grow and learn. However, with KG and Wilcox’s injury history the safe bet is Darko will get his chance to shine in Boston. The only question is can he finally take the step that he needs to be a legit NBA center? We will get our answers soon enough. Remember Go Green Or Go Home!!!!!!