As expected, Darko Milicic has officially left the Celtics to attend to his ill mother in Europe. The Celtics announced today in a press release that they have officially waived Milicic, reducing their roster to 14 players.
"Darko has asked us to release him so he could deal with a personal matter," said Celtics president Danny Ainge. "The whole Celtics family wishes Darko and his family well."
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports first reported on Monday that Darko was considering leaving the Celtics. In addition to wanting to be with his mother, the former second overall pick was also reportedly upset with the lack of playing time he was receiving in Boston.
It's not known whether or not the Celtics and Milicic worked out a buyout, or whether the C's will take the full cap hit for Darko's minimum-salary contract. Either way, Boston should have the financial flexibility to offer another player at least the veteran's minimum. Kenyon Martin has been mentioned as a potential replacement, though multiple reports have suggested it's more likely the team keeps its 15th roster spot open for now.
TUESDAY, 12:35pm: It "doesn't look like" Darko will be coming back to the Celtics, according to coach Doc Rivers (Twitter link via Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe).
MONDAY, 8:05pm: If Milicic leaves the Celtics, the team would be in no rush to fill his roster spot, tweets Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, confirming our earlier suspicions.
1:42pm: The Celtics may soon be without Darko Milicic, as the Serbian big man is "leaning toward" leaving the team for the season to be with his ill mother in Europe, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. According to Wojnarowski, Milicic recently met with coach Doc Rivers, who advised him to take time to make a decision on his family and future.
Milicic, 27, was amnestied by the Timberwolves early in the summer, and weighed his free agent options for much of the offseason before eventually landing in Boston. The Celtics locked him up on a one-year, minimum salary contract.
While Milicic's decision could leave the Celtics with one fewer body in their frontcourt, it wouldn't have a significant impact on the team's rotation, barring injuries. So far, Darko has appeared in just one game for the C's, playing less than five minutes against the Bucks back on November 2nd. Wojnarowski indicates that the seven-footer's frustration with his lack of role in Boston may also play a part in his decision.
If Darko were to leave the Celtics, there's a chance Boston would look into signing Kenyon Martin, according to Wojnarowski. The team considered Martin earlier in the offseason, and some of the C's veterans have been pushing for the club to sign him. However, it's more likely that Boston would simply keep the 15th roster spot open to see who else might become available.
We heard yesterday that Darko Milicic is considering leaving the Celtics to return to Europe to be with his mother, who is ill. It doesn't appear that Darko has made a definitive decision on his future yet, but we have a few notes on the subject, along with some other Celtics links:
The latest news from the Atlantic Division on Tuesday evening:
Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune details the reasons why some of the Timberwolves' free agent acquisitions wound up in Minnesota, including Andrei Kirilenko, who signed with the Wolves in part because of his memories of coach Rick Adelman's old Kings teams. "Those Sacramento teams were some of my favorite teams," the former Jazz forward said. "I like that style. It's more like how we play in Europe." We passed along comments about the makeup of the Nuggets from coach George Karl earlier today, and there's more news out of the Northwest Division.
SEPTEMBER 28TH, 10:16am: The Celtics have officially signed Milicic, according to a team release.
SEPTEMBER 20TH, 10:27am: According to Blakely, Milicic's deal with the Celtics is expected to be a one-year, minimum-salary pact. It will also be guaranteed, giving the C's 14 guaranteed contracts, says Blakely.
9:20am: Two months after being amnestied by the Timberwolves, Darko Milicic will be joining the Celtics, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com (via Twitter). Blakely confirms the news that a Novosti.rs report (English link via Sportando) suggested earlier today.
It appears Milicic will sign with the Celtics on a minimum-salary contract, rather than getting a portion of the team's bi-annual exception. As I mentioned in this morning's post, Milicic is still receiving a salary from the Timberwolves, so while Boston would only be paying him the veteran's minimum, he would be earning much more than that overall.
Milicic, 27, has played in 467 total NBA games with the Pistons, Magic, Grizzlies, Knicks, and Timberwolves since entering the league in 2003. He had one of his worst seasons in Minnesota in 2011/12, averaging just 4.6 PPG and 3.3 RPG while posting a 9.0 PER, his worst mark since 2004/05. Still, while the former second overall pick has never lived up to expectations, his 12.3 PER is respectable for a backup big man not expected to receive huge minutes.
If and when the Celtics finalize their agreement with Milicic, he'll be the 18th player under contract for the team, though only 13 of those deals are fully guaranteed. It appears Milicic will be competing with Dionte Christmas, Jamar Smith, Kris Joseph, and Rob Kurz for one of those final two roster spots, though Darko's size (7'0") and experience should give him an edge.
With the NBA's training camps just around the corner, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers tells Jackie MacMullan of ESPNBoston.com that he can't wait to see his team in the gym to find out if he likes his roster as much on the court as he does on paper. Rivers also discussed a number of the Celtics' summer additions and departures. Here are a few of the highlights from the conversation:
"It's just not right to put it all on Rondo. Ray didn't leave because of Rondo. He left because of Ray. He wanted the ball more. He wanted a bunch of different things. He didn't feel loved. That doesn't make Ray a bad guy.... Sometimes guys just run their course at a place. It's probably best for all of us and for Ray that he moves on."
On adding Courtney Lee:
"I love Courtney Lee. He's a very good player. I know that sounds very simple, but it's true. He does things well. He's a good defender, a great team defender, and he shoots the ball very well. He was second best behind the 3-point line after Ray. I don't think people realize how good a shooter he is. The thing I like the most about him is he's always fit in wherever he's gone. He accepts his role and goes out and plays. That's hard to come by."
On adding Jason Terry:
"Jason is a motivated guy. He's always been that. We needed another player who could score off the dribble, who could play in the pick-and-roll. Rondo could do it, Paul [Pierce] too, and we used Ray a little, but that was one of the things he was unhappy about. He wanted us to do it more, and I just didn't think he was as good at it."
On adding Darko Milicic:
"It didn't cost us much. He has it in him, and if we can get it out of him, then great. If not, well, I'd rather take a chance on a really talented guy."
This week we passed along a couple of updates on Glen Taylor's search for a buyer who would eventually succeed him as majority owner of the Timberwolves. Taylor, who said he won't sell the team to anyone who would move it out of Minnesota, spoke in greater detail about his plans and about the team's rebuilding process to Britt Robson of Twin Cities Business. Taylor told Robson he received "seven serious inquiries" about the team, and while most of them were rejected because they wouldn't guarantee the team wouldn't move, Taylor is confident he'll be able to announce the buyer before the Wolves' first game of the 2012/13 season, on November 2nd. It would be about six years before the new partner assumed the majority stake, Taylor said.
Taylor is also the chair of the league's board of governors, and he opened up to Robson about the new CBA and its effect on the Wolves, as well as other matters. Here are a few of his noteworthy comments:
On the decision-making process and how the team moved on from Darko Milicic:
“Most of the moves [GM] David [Kahn] is making are heavily influenced by what [coach] Rick [Adelman] has asked of us. But when it comes to finances, David will tell Rick no. At the end of the year, Rick gives me a report of what he thinks of each player. He tells me it’s the same one he gave David and that David knows he is giving it to me. Then he goes through the list. He says, ‘This is the first one I want gone’—that was Darko. ‘This is the second one I want gone. This is what I think of this player.’"
Regarding the CBA and its effect on the Wolves:
"The new deal really helps us. As bad as we’ve played and as bad as the economy has been, we were still in the middle of about 22 or 23 teams that were losing money. If we were losing $15 million or $18 million, some others were losing $40 million. [The new revenue-sharing fund] will step up over three years. Next year there is a possibility of $10 million—now, if we do well it will be less. But I would say that between $5 million and $12 million will come to us.”
About GM David Kahn:
"The person who convinced me about Kahn was Donnie Walsh, who was David’s mentor in Indiana and a guy I really like and respect. Donnie told me, ‘I’d take a risk on him. He’s very smart. He doesn’t know all the basketball stuff, but he’ll know how to run your team.’"
On coach Rick Adelman:
"We were going to build slowly with a young coach [Kurt Rambis] and young players. It was a good plan, but there was a misstep. Now we have a seasoned coach who has said ‘This is my last job.’ He is going to push faster because he wants to win sooner. But his [style of communication] is one I understand and can relate to."
A month ago today, we heard that Spanish club Real Madrid was looking into the possibility of signing the recently amnestied Darko Milicic. Now, according to a Novosti.rs report (English link via Sportando), it seems that Milicic has turned down a three-year, $6MM offer to play for Real Madrid. Milicic prefers to play in the NBA, according to the report.
It makes sense that money isn't necessarily Milicic's top priority, since, as an amnesty victim, he's still being paid a sizable salary by the Timberwolves. Darko is reportedly open to signing a minimum-salary contract to remain in the NBA, and according to Novosti.rs, the Celtics appear to be interested in the Serbian big man.
The Celtics could still offer free agents their $1.957MM bi-annual exception, but it seems the team would prefer to hang on to that. If Boston were to sign Milicic, it would almost certainly be for the veteran's minimum. The Celtics are currently carrying 17 players, but four of those contracts are either partially guaranteed or non-guaranteed, meaning there could be a couple roster spots up for grabs.
An unrestricted free agent, Yi Jianlian is reportedly drawing interest overseas -- we heard yesterday that Real Madrid was giving him a look. However, Yi's preference would be to continue his NBA career, says Jon Pastuszek of NiuBBall.com, translating a NetEase report. According to Pastuszek, Lu Yu, one of Yi's representatives, has said that he views Europe as a secondary option for the Chinese big man.
"For now, we’re not considering playing in Spain," said Lu. "I can only say that Yi’s first choice is to return to the NBA."
As Pastuszek points out, Yi's performance in Dallas last year, combined with the strained MCL he suffered during Olympic play, has likely cooled any interest from NBA teams. Based on Yi's reported salary request of two million euros from Real Madrid, it's unlikely the Spanish team could afford him anyway, says Pastuszek.
While reports yesterday suggested that Real Madrid was eyeing both Yi and Darko Milicic, various outlets have suggested today that the chances of signing either player are dwindling. Pastuszek passes along word from French outlet BasketNews that Real Madrid have cut off negotiations with Yi, while HoopsHype translates a Kosarka 24 report that suggests Darko has passed on the team's offer.