Darko Milicic: "Now it's up to me"
Lately, you have given some very harsh statements regarding the situation you had in Detroit. How did you feel right before being traded last month?
Darko Milicic: I don’t know what to say. It was bad, really bad. It was literally a nightmare before I heard that I was traded. That situation really started getting to me mentally this season.
Do you hold any grudges against the Pistons organization?
DM: No, there’s no point in that. But I am disappointed with numerous promises they made – especially before the start of this regular season. I think that I didn’t quite shine during the preseason, but I think I played solid basketball and that I deserved to get some kind of chance at the beginning of the regular season. They basically turned the lights off me after the preseason. No explanation, no nothing…
Isn’t it logical not to play the first two years on a team that went to the NBA Finals twice in a row, especially considering that the two coaches you had in Detroit played a rotation of seven, eight guys at most?
DM: I really don’t want to think about that anymore. That is a past tense for me. I start from the beginning here in Orlando. I just need to get into playing shape as soon as I can and not worry about Detroit anymore.
For the first time in your NBA career, you are playing significant minutes in the fourth quarter. Is that a completely new experience for you?
DM: Yes, it is. It feels so good. It is such a great feeling when you understand that the coach believes in you and that he is giving you a chance to play in the clutch minutes down the stretch. Now it’s up to me. It will take me some time to get back in the shape I once was. Two and a half years of not playing took their toll. My basketball feeling has simply being lost by me not playing. But it’s up to me to get it back with hard work and playing as well as possible.
Do you think it was bad for your career to be drafted by Pistons in 2003?
DM: That’s a tough question. I never got to play in Detroit. I came to the NBA to play… On the other hand, I was extremely happy to be on a team with such great teammates. Every single guy on the team – Joe Dumars, the coaching staff that worked with me – everybody was just great…
What specifically did you lose by not playing in Detroit?
DM: I lost the feeling you can get only by playing. On the other side, I had a precious opportunity to play and practice with all those great players in Detroit. But you lose that orientation on the court – when you should pass, when you should take the shot… As soon as I get that decision process in order, everything is going to be just fine.
Did you already move out completely from Detroit?
DM: Yes! That’s a good thing about NBA, since your new team organizes the move very efficiently. I sold both my houses in Detroit, and I don’t want to leave a single thing that I own over there. I sold all cars other than one Mercedes coupe.
How does life in Orlando look like so far?
DM: It’s OK. Weather sure beats Detroit, but it is a smaller place. Not too much to do on off days. I currently rent a two-bedroom apartment. I will see what will I do after the end of the season.
How was your first conversation with Brian Hill in Orlando?
DM: It was nothing spectacular. He promised me a chance to play, and he said that everything else is up to me. I took it seriously, and I will try to help us win as many games as we can until the end of the season.
Playing on a losing NBA team is also a novelty for you. How does it feel?
DM: It is different than in Detroit, that’s for sure. But we’re young. We sure have potential to be good. We just need to work hard, to be patient. And one day, who knows? We might be a very good team.
What is the atmosphere like, considering the poor results this season for the Magic?
DM: We try to maintain a positive attitude. That is also a little strange for me, coming from Detroit where we practically won every game this season. I think that in two years or so, if we work hard, we can be a very good team.
Where do you think you have most room for improvement in your individual game?
DM: Nothing in particular, really. I just need to work hard. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised about my conditioning, considering that I didn’t play for such a long time. I didn’t get tired in those games where I played 20-25 minutes. It’s up to the coach to determine what, where and how much I’m going to play.
You've had some very erratic shots from mid-range. Did that surprise you?
DM: Yes, very. During practice, I hit a vast majority of those shots, and it seems that those are the things that I lost by not playing. Everything is different in a competitive game compared to the shots you take while practicing.
DM: I talked to Peja when we played in Indianapolis recently. He told me he was very happy with his new situation. He tells me that he’s happy with the organization and that they have great team chemistry in the Pacers. Regarding Vlade, I was very disappointed when I found out that he is staying at the same L.A. hotel where we stayed when we played the Clippers a week ago. We didn’t meet then, but he is one of those guys that were just cut to make it in the NBA. I mean, his physique, his shot, his strength, height… I think he will be well off in any NBA team.
Did you talk to Peja about rejoining the Serbia-Montenegro National Team this summer for the World Championships in Japan?
DM: We talked very briefly when we met. I think that every single player that is called to the National Team has to play. We all know what we went through as a nation in the last ten years. Wars and poverty took an horrific toll on our people. I think it’s every player’s responsibility to our country to play for the National Team. On the other hand, I know how hard it is to play throughout the year – especially after such a long NBA season. However, I will play, if invited, every year until the end of my career. I will be there. I think that now, after all these bad results we had in the last couple of years, we need to get all the best players and remake those glorious teams from the not-so-distant past, when we were world champions in 1998 and 2002.
Nebojsa Petrovacki is the editor of Sportska Centrala, a sports news agency from Serbia
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