Darko Milicic

And-Ones: Team USA, Darko, G League, NBA 2K

While Team USA’s seventh-place finish at the 2019 World Cup in China wasn’t exactly a catastrophic outcome, given the stateside apathy toward non-Olympic international tournaments, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo admitted to Chris Mannix of SI.com that the result will nag at him for the next year.

“There has not been any disappointment around USA Basketball in a while,” Colangelo said. “This will bother me until the 2020 Olympics.”

Colangelo, who believes that Team USA could still have won this year’s tournament if not for injuries to Kyle Kuzma and Jayson Tatum, said that two or three of the players on the World Cup roster have already earned spots on the 2020 Olympic squad. While Colangelo didn’t name those specific players, Mannix surmises that Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell are good bets.

As for how USA Basketball will fill out the rest of the Olympic roster, Colangelo suggested that star players interested in participating will be considered on an individual basis, though he hinted that he’d look more favorably on those who didn’t withdraw at the last minute this year.

“The disappointment I feel is not from the guys who said they wouldn’t play,” Colangelo said. “It’s those that said they would, and then backed out.”

Let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world…

  • Former No. 2 overall pick Darko Milicic, who hasn’t played basketball professionally since suiting up for the Celtics in the 2012/13 season, is reportedly making a comeback overseas. Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays a report from Basketball Sphere, which indicates that Milicic is joining a team in his hometown of Novi Sad, Serbia, where he’ll primarily focus on mentoring younger players.
  • Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops passes along the G League incentive bonuses for the 2019/20 season, which include a modest $3,000 bonus for earning NBAGL MVP honors.
  • The NBA and NBA 2K developer Take-Two Interactive are expanding their esports partnership, according to ESPN’s Jacob Wolf, who writes that the NBA 2K20 Global Championship will be launched this October. The tournament will run from October to February, with the championship winner taking home $100K.
  • Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights takes a deep dive into NBA salary figures to see if he can determine the average salary for a starter – or a starter-caliber player – in 2019/20.

And-Ones: Rookies, All-Stars, Breakouts

A number rookies appear poised to outperform their draft slot, Mike Schmitz of ESPN Insider writes, including one Dennis Smith Jr. whose impressive summer league performance and prime situation with the Mavs have already been discussed ad nauseam.

The scribe makes compelling cases for five other breakout candidates, however, ranging from Jazz lottery pick Donovan Mitchell to the LakersKyle Kuzma, selected 27th overall. Schmitz cites Mitchell’s length and defensive ability, arguing that the wing will work his way into Utah’s still-relevant rotation.

Schmitz also speculates that Justin Jackson will thrive with the Kings considering that he’s a poised perimeter option that doesn’t need the ball in his hands on offense.

Although the profiles are hidden behind Insider’s paywall, they discuss the upside and various situation’s that these first-year players find themselves. In addition to the abovementioned, John Collins of the Hawks and Nets big man Jarrett Allen are also featured.

There’s more from throughout the NBA:

  • In a comprehensive account of Darko Milicic‘s life after basketball, ESPN’s Sam Borden revealed that Milicic had made up his mind about never playing in the NBA again when he left the Celtics. It was said, at the time, that he was returning to be with his ailing mother.
  • It may be early to speculate about the 2018 NBA All-Star Game but that didn’t stop A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England from stringing together a potential squad. Familiar faces make up the starting lineup but new additions Jimmy Butler and Paul George make the case for qualifying as a reserve ever more difficult for the players in the conference.
  • With a new season comes new opportunity and David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders has pieced together a summary of Pacific Division players that he thinks may be able to take the next step in 2017/18.

LeBron Longs To Play With Wade, ‘Melo, CP3

LeBron James is holding out hope that he can team with Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul for at least one season before they retire, as he told Howard Beck of Bleacher Report. James, 31, and Wade, 34, can hit free agency this summer, but the 30-year-old Paul’s locked in with the Clippers through next season and Anthony, 31, doesn’t have an opt-out in his deal until the summer of 2018.

“I really hope that, before our career is over, we can all play together,” James said to Beck just before the All-Star break last month in comments that Beck kept under wraps until today (Twitter link). “At least one, maybe one or two seasons — me, Melo, D-Wade, CP — we can get a year in. I would actually take a pay cut to do that.”

Each is probably powerful enough to force a trade, with most such chatter surrounding Anthony, who has a no-trade clause that he’s been reluctant to consider waiving. Rumors about a three-team deal involving the Knicks, Celtics and Cavaliers emerged before the trade deadline this year, but it never appeared as though Anthony was close to joining James in Cleveland. Anthony once more reiterated his commitment to the Knicks today, as Marc Berman of the New York Post relays.

“I know the reason why I stuck it out,’’ Anthony said. “People that really understand it know why I’m sticking it out. It’s odd to question my loyalty at this point in time, especially when you showed and I’ve showed time and time again my loyalty to not just the organization, but New York and vice versa.”

Still, commitments change. That was the case with Anthony and the Nuggets, a team ‘Melo believed in strongly enough in 2006 to resist what James admits were veiled overtures meant to convince Anthony to sign a shorter extension that would allow him to become a free agent in 2010, just as James and Wade did, as Beck details. That was the summer that James and Wade teamed up on the Heat while Anthony and Paul remained under contract in Denver and New Orleans, respectively.

Anthony told Beck in January that he was disappointed that the Pistons passed him up with the second overall pick in 2003, saying that he’d been told Detroit would take him. It’s not clear who told Anthony that the Pistons would draft him instead of Darko Milicic, the center the Pistons fatefully selected when the time came. Regardless, the bond between James, Anthony, Wade and Paul is strong, and it’s made an impression on Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski, who’s mentored all of them with the USA Basketball program.

“I think they love one another,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s so damn genuine, and it’s so cool to see. … They have each others’ back, on everything.”

Do you think James, Wade, Anthony and Paul will all play together on an NBA team at some point? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Odds & Ends: Billups, Cavs, Felton

Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida spoke with the ClippersChauncey Billups, who said the Pistons might have won consecutive titles after their surprise victory over the Lakers in 2004, if they had drafted more wisely in the acclaimed 2003 draft, in which they picked second. 

Pistons general manager Joe Dumars famously drafted Darko Milicic with their second pick (LeBron James was number one, obviously), and bypassed future stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Milicic was a bust, and doesn't want to return to the NBA after leaving the Celtics in November of last year.

Despite pushing the Spurs to a game 7 in 2005, and making six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals dating from 2002 to 2008, those early- and mid-2000s Pistons teams never again won the title. Said Billups (Sulia link):

If he had drafted either Melo or Bosh, I think maybe that whole team would still be together. We probably would have more championships down the road. But this is the NBA and things happen. But, of course, I always think about that.’’

Dumars took a risk drafting the Serbian Milicic that year, and that's what every general manager is fretting about right now as we come up on the last four days before the 2013 draft. Here's what else is happening around the league before Thursday's action-packed night.  

Darko Milicic Doesn’t Want To Return To NBA

Darko Milicic told the Serbian website MVP.rs (translation via HoopsHype) that he doesn't envision playing again in the NBA. Milicic left the Celtics in November to take care of his mother, who was ill. The veteran center was reportedly upset with his playing time in Boston, where he saw action in just one game, for five minutes, over the first few weeks of the season. Milicic also told MVP.rs that he has not signed a deal with Red Star, a Serbian team.

Regardless of whether he returns to the NBA, Milicic will be known as one of the all-time draft busts. The Pistons took him second overall in 2003, ahead of future stars like Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Milicic never saw significant playing time in Detroit, but he showed himself as a serviceable NBA center following a trade to the Magic in the middle of his third season. He started the majority of the games for the Grizzlies in 2007/08 and the Timberwolves in 2010/11, but Minnesota wound up using the amnesty clause to get rid of him last summer, with two years left on his contract. Milicic was on a minimum-salary pact with the Celtics when he left the team.

Milicic played parts of 10 seasons in the NBA, with averages of 6.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He succeeded financially, making more than $52MM over the course of his career, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

Celtics Waive Darko Milicic

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.

Darko Milicic Considering Leaving Celtics

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.

Celtics Rumors: Darko, Martin, Cap Situation

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:

  • With three young children here, Darko's decision involves much more than just basketball, writes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. Bulpett adds that if Milicic were to return to Serbia, the Celtics likely wouldn't immediately fill his roster spot unless it was with someone Doc Rivers would use regularly.
  • Rivers will support whatever decision Milicic makes, as he told WEEI during his weekly appearance on the Boston radio station. "He has some family issues, more his [ill] mom, and not playing and being in another country," Rivers said. "The NBA hasn’t exactly gone great for him over his career. So it’s a lot of reasons for him to want to leave. I understand that, and I told him that. I pretty much left it up to him. He has my blessing either way" (link via ESPNBoston.com).
  • The Celtics need more energy from their bench, according to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, who hints that Kenyon Martin could be an option, as we heard yesterday.
  • Also at ESPNBoston.com, Chris Forsberg examines where the Darko situation stands.
  • Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld notes that the Celtics still have their bi-annual exception available, but points out that the team is also about $2MM into the luxury tax. Boston would likely reduce team salary slightly if Darko leaves (I'd assume a buyout would be negotiated). However, like the Bulls and a few other clubs, the Celtics remain hard-capped and are reluctant to use their BAE, reducing their flexibility when it comes to adding another player.

Atlantic Updates: Knicks, Smith, Darko

The latest news from the Atlantic Division on Tuesday evening:

  • Barbara Barker of Newsday tweets that Mike Woodson has not yet decided who will start at shooting guard for the Knicks this season, but that J.R. Smith is not in consideration.
  • Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com adds (via Twitter) that Ronnie Brewer, signed this summer, is a leading candidate for the starting job.
  • Rich Levine of CSNNE.com examines the impact that Darko Milicic could have on the Celtics this season.

Northwest Rumors: Kirilenko, Kahn, Darko, Batum

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.

  • In the same piece, Zgoda says it's likely the Wolves must make the playoffs for GM David Kahn to keep his job. Minnesota has been a lottery team in each of Kahn's three seasons in charge of the front office.
  • Kevin Love told Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer press in July that he was glad the Wolves were rid of what he called "bad blood" in the locker room. Zgoda identifies amnestied center Darko Milicic as the player to whom Love was referring.
  • Blazers small forward Nicolas Batum is ready to live up to the four-year, $46.5MM deal he signed over the summer, as he told Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. "I signed an All-Star-type contract and now it's up to me to play up to that level," Batum said. "I got team goals and personal goals I want to accomplish and becoming an All-Star one day is one of them. I want to be an NBA champion, I want to be a three-point champion. It's all about winning in this league and I'm ready for that next step in my career."