Sunday, November 29, 2009

Darko Milicic made up his mind about Europe

DENVER -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, from the star-studded 2003 draft class, are talking about where they might play next season in the NBA after they can become free agents.

Another high pick from that draft is talking about playing overseas.

Sparingly-used New York big man Darko Milicic, the second overall pick after James and ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Bosh and Wade, told FanHouse on Friday he will consider playing next season in Europe.

Listening to Milicic, it sounds like he's already made up his mind.

"The NBA for me is not the way that I want to be,'' said Milicic, averaging 2.0 points and 8.9 minutes while having been benched for eight of the Knicks' 16 games, before not playing in his team's 128-125 loss to Denver at the Pepsi Center. "Looking forward, the stuff that I'm looking for is for me to play and for to me enjoy playing. I think right now the only spot for me is Europe.

"Because growing up and playing basketball, I needed the ball in my hands. I used to create for myself and I used to create for others. I used to play a lot. That's the kind of stuff I'm looking for. And for me to get that in the NBA right now, I don't think so. And I've got to be real.''

"I'm not crying about it. Basketball is just a game. And stuff happens. If I wasn't the second pick, who knows what would have happened?"

- Darko Milicic , 24, becomes a free agent this summer after making $7.54 million in the final year of his contract. The Serbian, who is regarded as one of the biggest busts in hoops history, then will take a hard look at the possibility of playing overseas after seven erratic NBA seasons.

"I'm not blaming other people,'' Milicic, who has career averages of 5.4 points and 4.0 rebounds, said of his struggles. "I'm not crying about it. Basketball is just a game. And stuff happens. If I wasn't the second pick, who knows what would have happened? If I was some other pick, you could look back and say what would have happened.

"It's past. It's behind me. I'm going to decide after this year what I'm going to do, stay here or go back to Europe and play. I will decide after this season is over ... I'll go home and clear my mind ... I'll talk to the people that I care about and people who care about me.''

While Milicic said he's not throwing blame around, he nevertheless had some for the Detroit Pistons, the team that took him No. 2 ahead of Anthony, Bosh and Wade.

Milicic, drafted less than a week after his 18th birthday, barely played in his 2 ½ Detroit seasons. The Pistons were a veteran team that won an NBA title and lost in the Finals during Milicic's two full seasons there.

"I never understand why people are still talking about me as the second pick,'' Milicic said. "But I never got a chance to play. Why take me as the second pick if you're not going to play me for three years? They never let me get a chance. I still don't get it ... I never asked to be the second pick. I just wanted to play basketball.''

Milicic did do a bit of that when he averaged 8.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in 2006-07 for Orlando, which led to Memphis signing him to a three-year deal worth about $21 million. But the seven-footer didn't show much more development.

Milicic averaged 7.2 points and 6.1 rebounds for the Grizzlies in 2007-08. But his playing time was cut last season, and last June he was shipped to New York.

There were hopes Milicic could live up in New York to some of the hype from his teenage years. Now, though, he's little more than an expiring contract as the Knicks clear cap space for the big 2010 summer of free agency.

"I've had enough bad experiences,'' Milicic said. "It's (coach Mike D'Antoni's) decision not to play me ... It's his team and he's the coach. He's a good coach. But I'm still here and I'm here to help.''

Millicic acknowledges "going to the games and practices, it's bothering me'' not playing. But he's determined not to create any problems.

Despite his limited minutes, Knicks guard Nate Robinson said Milicic has shown no signs of slacking off.

"He does well,'' Robinson said. "He works hard and does everything (D'Antoni) asks him to do. He's just waiting until whenever his number is called. Just waiting patiently.''

Milicic's patience with the NBA, though, is running out.

"The NBA has a lot of good players,'' said Milicic, who didn't pinpoint any certain European country but said he won't play in Serbia. "It has a lot of good big guys and I'm going to be the second guy or the third guy and (one to) play defense. To refresh my career and try to become a better player, it might be Europe ... I don't care about money no more. I don't care where I'm at.

"I'll talk to the people and the team and (express) what I want. If they don't want me, then don't take me ... I don't care what team and what city and this or that. Can a team play around me? Can I create for other people? Can I create for myself? Can I play this many minutes?''

One thing is for sure. Milicic won't be talking to the Knicks next summer about returning.

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