Thursday, January 7th, 2010 at 4:33 pm  |  51 responses

Darko Talks about Detroit

Milicic Unplugged.

by Eric Woodyard

Although the Detroit Pistons won the NBA Championship during the ‘03-04 season, the 2003 NBA Draft still haunts them to this day.

With the second pick in the draft, the Pistons selected Serbia’s Darko Milicic passing on elite players such as Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh! Not only did Milicic not play in Detroit, he has been nothing more than a journeyman throughout his six-year career. Playing for the Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies and currently the New York Knicks after his time in the D. His best statistical season came in ‘07-08 when he averaged 8 points and 5.5 rebounds with the Magic.

Not bad, huh? Well, it’s terrible when you put his numbers in perspective — even his draftmates’ worst seasons were leagues better than Darko’s best. On the eve of announcing that he would return overseas after the season, saying “the NBA for me is not the way that I want to be,” I caught up with Darko. He and I sat in the visitor’s locker room at the Palace of Auburn Hills to talk about his time as a Bad Boy.

SLAM: Obviously you’re coming back to the Palace. Are there any hard feelings with the team or anything like that?
Darko Milicic: No. That’s the past. I didn’t play, and they didn’t want me to play, and I don’t understand why they took me with the second pick if they were not gonna plDarko Milicicay me. I didn’t get it but that’s the past and it’s behind me. So that’s it.

SLAM: Is it pretty emotional? Do you feel like you ever have something to prove?
DM: No, it was different for me the first couple of games because I used to be here as a home game and then the first couple of games to come here as the opposite tables, it was kinda different. So it was a different feeling. But right now it’s a different team, and they have a different team, and I already changed like three teams. So for me coming here… I know I used to be here, but it’s nothing like special or anything.

SLAM: Do you ever get mad when people say they wasted a pick when they could’ve got Dwyane Wade or…
DM: They did! No, they did waste a pick, you know. Why did they take me? Who knows if I really had a chance to play like these players that play like Dwyane Wade or Carmelo, those guys are incredible players. So for me, being a second pick, I don’t get why they didn’t play me at all and, secondly, they did waste, you know? Why did they take me? You should take someone that they really think was gonna play right away because just taking someone to sit on the bench, you waste a pick and you waste the guy’s time. You wasted my time for three years not playing so you f**k up a player and you f**k up yourself, and I just didn’t get it. So I just didn’t get it. I guess they thought they were gonna be champions forever. I don’t know.

SLAM: So what was like your favorite memory here? Obviously y’all won a championship here, but do you have any good memories?
DM: Really, I didn’t have any favorite memories of playing here. Like I said, I didn’t have no fun on the court.

SLAM: Was it any one situation?
DM: I cant really remember. Nah. All those times that I did play, I played in the last couple of minutes in the game when they was 20 up or 20 down, so I don’t think that’s any fun for anyone. Not for me, I don’t know for other people, but I got a couple times I got to play in the pre-season but that’s it. In the Miami game, in one game that I got in, I had that dunk but didn’t much come on the court.

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  • http://www.michaelcho.com M Cho

    “Why did they take me?” We’re all still wondering that ourselves, Darko. Kudos for the honesty, but you’re still a bust.

  • d.j.

    at least he has some class and perspective on things ( altho haters will now get on his international referee rampage ) haha… that only made the news because it was summer and in America there int s*it to do or watch on TV than the boring ass baseball so everything was news that summer, ESPN had to find something to report.. i also think he would have been a good 15 and 10 guy if he were selected by a mediocre team in mid to late 1st round because than there would b no pressure and he would get the proper chance to develop.. he will do fine in Europe tho…

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  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    Like Darko regretting the Pistons drafting him and wasting his time, I too regret not picking him as the decade’s biggest bust and wasting my time writing about Kwame.

  • max

    darko seems to be a nice straight up guy that got fukced up by detroit. i sometimes wonder what would have happened to the likes of wade, bosh, anthony etc. if they would have been drafted by detroit? they all had all-stars (except for prince) in front of them… so would they have played, would they have become what they are today?
    of course there are better than darko, but I’m just sayin’…

  • letsmotor

    couldn’t agree more with max. give a guy no playing time and therefore no chance to develop, and how’s he not going to turn out a bust?

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Yep, it’s everyone’s fault but Darko’s. GTFOH.

  • http://fashionsensei.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/jackie-moon.jpg Jackie Moon

    Darko Bitter.

  • Shem

    I have yet to read this article and I don’t plan on but I’m just putting it out there.. does anybody care about what Darko says or does? He doesn’t do anything but sit on the bench and complain, he doesn’t dunk shoot or post and has nothing to look forward to

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Darko has a huge point. I appreciate his honesty. I’m pretty sure he would have been OKAY on a team like San Antonio. I’m not sure how he would have turned out, but man, Detroit sucks.
    Joe Dumars is definitely not the best GM of the decade. He’s overrated.

  • http://www.michaelcho.com M Cho

    Darko’s been given plenty of chances. He got his shot in Orlando and Memphis before the Knicks. If you’re a good player, you’ll find a way to shine. Look at Jermaine O’Neal – an ignored scrub in Portland who made them regret that error when he got to the Pacers.

  • Shaft

    I don’t think its Darko’s fault the Pistons took him at pick 2 – he had no input into that decision. It was the Detroit front office’s fault for misjudging his ability and now their mistake is his burden to bear.

  • DMC14

    I would be hella dirty if i was drafted number 2 and never givin a chance. He’s classier than me.

  • terry

    calling Joe Dumars over rated is just flat out HATING! No team has had more success than the Pistons over the past six years at least. If Darko doesn’t understand what happened to his non career in Detroit I got a suggestion for him, take a good long look in the mirror, if you still can’t figure it out look closer. Playing time starts in practice, it starts with attitude. He never did nothing in the D but pout. Then he had the nerve to go from blaming Detroit to blaming American basketball in general. He should’ve been working on his game instead of excuses. Oh yeah Joe drafted him because he thought he was getting a CENTER.

  • d.j.

    “No team has had more success than the Pistons over the past six years at least.” bahahaha wooow
    umm ill go with the spurs on this one lol

  • Tim

    Still @terry on this subject he really messed up!
    he had a chance to get a superstar and have a potential allstar team but instead he choose to listen to hype over talent

    There line up could of been
    Billups/Rip/Prince/Bosh/Wallace and sheed off the bench

    That team would of probly be a shoe in for the eastern conference finals today.. 7 years later

    Joe Dumars F**ked up

  • nastierthanu

    Tough interview. Cat seems a little bitter. He hasn’t had overwhelming success but man u gotta get over it and ball. Detroit completely dropped the ball on this. We all know that I think that melo billups thing has been working pretty well. Cosign tim

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    How quickly people forget – RASHEED WALLACE was NOT on the Pistons for the beginning of the ’03 season. He was traded to Atlanta for 1 game, then went to Detroit.
    If Darko was playing, Dumars likely never would’ve traded for ‘Sheed. If he’d drafted Wade, Bosh etc, he wouldn’t have.
    (Actually, he might have, but we’ll never know)
    Without Wallace, the Pistons DON’T win the Finals that year, straight up, that’s the truth. Lakers couldn’t match the length and speed of Wallace, as well as his shooting. Malone was 41, and Slava was.. SLAVA!
    Remember: Sheed played D back then, lots of it.

    In closing, yes it’s probably true that Dumars fu*ked up drafting Milicic – but if he’d done anything else, the Pistons would never have been the ’04 champions.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Well said Hursty. We’re talking about a team that dominated the East for the better part of a decade, yet people are saying the GM is overratted because he messed up on this draft pick. Joe D has had the balls to make some risky and bold decisions and it’s come back to haunt him on a couple occaisions, but more often than not, the decisions he’s made have been good ones. Also, no matter who had the #2 pick in that draft, pretty much any team in the league who wanted a forward would have taken either Darko or Melo, Detroit just happened to be the team that screwed up by picking him. Bosh and D-wade weren’t really considered better picks than him. It was really only a debate between Melo and Darko.

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  • spock

    the mistake that Detroit made is selecting Darko, and not making detroit pay everytime He plays against them.

    hey, Can’t stop blaming the team when you are playing for another. And now, what is he doing? he is with the knicks…. they need size upfront and he is not given a lick to play? Then he will go out and blame the coach that he gets “moth-balled” in his last year?

  • vtrobot

    2nd what Terry said. I know that playing in practice isn’t like game action, but you’re still playing against those starter All-stars every day, so shouldn’t that help you develop and improve? It’s not like he was playing zero basketball for 3 years. So anyone who doesn’t start as a rookie isn’t going to become the player that they really could be? GTFOH.

  • http://slamonline.com NUPE

    I appreicate his honesty. He does seem somewhat bitter to me though. They picked him because they thought he had great potential – they didn’t play him because his potential never materialized. I’m not sure if that’s because he didn’t put in the effort to get better or if Detroit just missed judged what he could do. Clearly he was the #2 pick and they gave him a chance to prove he was worth it, and he hasn’t proven it. Every GM makes mistakes where they pick somebody who turns out they shouldn’t have or they get a pick that after the fact is considered a ‘steal’. We’ll see how good of a GM Joe D is during the next draft/free agency round.

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    I don’t like Joe D as a GM, yes he brought in Hamilton/Billups, but then broke them up for a line now with Gordon/Villanuea, He overpaid on these two, who will hurt the team the future, Detroit was winning games over that little run with Defense not offense. Picking Darko makes him not eligble for GM of the decade, and he has ruin the Pistons. Stuckey is a bad pick for me too, because he is a SG, not a point gurard. Darko has a right to be mad, they wasted him, I believe if he went to a team, that allowed him to develop with maybe 5 to 10 minutes a game, make mistakes he could be a 12-8 guy for you with 2 blocks a game. Detroit picked him and didn’t use him, so I blame the Pistons, because just like Kwame with MJ/Wizards, they killed him and he never got a chance to develop. I believe Kwame could have been a decent player with time to develop. Even KG, Kobe, Lebron had time to develop their games. Darko didn’t,plus I like his truthfulness, refreshing.

  • Cant Tell you

    Joe Dumars was the GM the coach is the one who does the rotation so stop hating on Joey the pistons have been dominant the last 8 seasons besides this one and you all know it

  • tavoris

    I really like Darko…seriously. It takes a great deal of humility to call THAT spade a spade.

  • tavoris

    he’s not been all that much of a bust. If he was drafted at 13, his career would have taken a different turn. But, the expectations on the 2nd pick were larger than his skill set could EVER acheive.

  • Freddy

    Darko complains. Pistons complain. Detroit fans complain. Truth is, EVERYONE who is involved in this story (excepted fans) has faults. Darko the first: he didn’t much more than complaining all these years. He became rich at a very young age, but he didn’t develop his game. He did not show the FIRE for the game. I saw him playing: he always showed good skills, but NEVER had that kind of fire…that’s HIS fault. And then there are other’s faults. Dumars fault. Above all, COACH LARRY BROWN fault. They both didn’t do ANYTHING to develop this guy “the right way”. When Milicic came from Europe, he was a Nowitzki-like guy (at the same age, 18): long, fast, with a good range shot. Not much more: not a good rebounder, not a good defender, not a good post player. They tried to make him a center, without good results. They ordered him to stop shooting from outside, to try to play near and back to the basket. He losed his confidence, and then the love for the game (if he ever had it). Without love for the game, there’s no good player. He’ll try to find it in Europe next year, but Europe is not Disneyland Darko! Tskitishvili wasn’t a good player in NBA, and isn’t in Europe, now. He plays, but he’s not a cornerstone in a team, not even in a bad one. So will be for you Darko: maybe a good team will try to take you, but don’t think that you’ll magically find minutes. You have to deserve to play, also in Europe…

  • adam

    look at the old olympic team that larry brown coached…he sat lebron, carmelo and wade prety much the whole tourny..and i think they got bronze…larry brown is a horrible coach for developing players..even if they gave darko 5-8 minutes every game, to be out there that would have been a huge help to his game and his phyce…i think if he was drafted into a situation where he played 20-30 mins a game, every game..he would be a very good player right now…maybe not bron, wade, melo status but i still think he could have been very good

  • Carlos Collins

    Damn !! He kept it real !! Great interview !! I thought he got a raw deal too. They shoulda let the kid play. They were loaded at the time but still. You drafted a cat #2 over all. Let him play some man ! ! Joe D know he wrong for that one.

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  • Anony Mous

    Him sucking is a combined product of him being hyped too much, and Larry Brown only giving him 2 minutes of burn a game. I really doubt that if he would have been played 30 minutes a game he would be a star right now. Even if he was a serviceable player that got his 30 minutes a game, he would be overshadowed by those picked behind him. The draft was more than James, Anthony, Wade and Bosh… People seem to forget this… Kaman should be an allstar, Josh Howard was one, TJ Ford probably would have been one if he didn’t have that huge injury, etc. When you are the 2nd pick in one of the best drafts ever and don’t make an allstar team, you will be hated on. Don’t blame anyone else but yourself there champ. If you were any good and put the work in, Larry Brown would realize. All I remember from Darko in the D was him airballing a 3… Clearly not how to impress coach. The dyed hair didn’t help either.

  • Justinmack

    Easy to do this interview and maintain some relivance when Detroit is on an 11 game losing streak.

    Go Pistons!

  • http://Slam Steve

    Freddy, darko was good at age 14 in europe playing against grown ass men that young that’s y the pistons took . Didn’t matter who detroit took , they weren’t gonna get any playing time . Larry brown doesn’t like foreigners and rookies so he was SOL

  • http://hoopshype.com dre

    Freddy = only comment from someone that knows basketball. cosign %100.
    Larry Brown is notorious 4 not playing young players

  • http://hoopshype.com dre

    ps darko was supposed to be the first gallinari or bargnani. imagine if those two were forced to play in the post. bottom line is darko came in the league when the euro movement was taking off for a coach that didn’t utilize his skill-set. had he played for mike d’antoni or don nelson his career would’ve been different. most ppl dont know dirk was the same and was ONE bad game away from being benched as a rookie big man with a j but couldn’t find his stroke. Every successful pic is given the opportunity to make mistakes, that’s how they learn. the fact and the matter is that we will never know what darko could’ve been and neither will he, and that’s because he was never given the opportunity. for that, he has the right to be bitter

  • Partizan Belgrade

    I come from Serbia and i have pretty good insight about Darko`s life and his basketball skills. First of all he`s not a very clever guy, and i think you already noticed that. When he was selected and signed that contract with Pistons, he was only 18 years old. His agent was not very good one. Every basketball mind in Serbia in that time was telling Darko to stay in the country and try to develop his skills, that he was too young for NBA and they were right. Europe basketball is not very atractive, but i assure you it`s very competitive. If Darko had played a little bit of competitive basketball in that age of his life, maybe he would have a chance to be a good NBA player. Not one player should be compared to Nowitzki, because he is one in a bilion. Darko`s comparison with Dirk, even in 2003. to me was foolish. Darko never had the skills to be like Dirk. I know it`s easy now to say that, but i have watched him when he was playing in Serbia, and i knew, and most people knew that he was to young for that kind of change. Different country, different way of life and different basketball. He didn`t know the language, he didn`t know to drive, he didn`t knew anything, he was just a kid lost in country full of people that expect too much from him. It`s fair that you call him a bust, but it`s also fair to give a guy a break. He listened wrong people in wrong time, and that cost him a good career. I don`t know how his career in Europe would turn out, but i`m not a optimist. I`m sorry for my english, and mistakes i made writting this comment. Greetings from Serbia, land of the basketball.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    Darko was top 20 talent, not top 2. I have no idea why the Pistons drafted him, i have no idea why no NBA team will let him play. When he has been given a chance, he has shown he can produce. I hope someday he will show you all he is far from a bust, and is more a victim of circumstance than anything else. Darko works hard when he plays, that is why i dont consider him a bust. Kwame, Tim Thomas, Glenn Robinson, and Olowakandi were all lazy. At least Darko tries, he just hasnt got any chance to show what he can do yet.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    Btw, Larry Brown was a big Darko fan and is probably 50% of the reason the Pistons drafted him (Dumars being the other 50%). The funny thing is, Brown has learned NOTHING from this. He still hasnt realized taking unproven young Euros and sitting them on the bench is a bad idea. The proof? He just drafted a guy i like to call the Darker Darko aka Alexis Ajinca and is giving him the exact same treatment. The only difference is Alexis wasnt a lottery pick, a top 5 pick at that, so nobody is really paying attention to it.

  • estoniandude

    GO back to Europe, if you get playing time there keep playing, if not you should change youre proffession.

  • span

    It was a terrible pick, but it isn’t the Pistons fault that he is a fraud! If he deserved playing time he would have gotten it. He’s all show and no go. He shouldn’t have spent his summers out on the boat in Lake Huron getting wasted. f++K that guy…he’s lazy and has a LOW basketball IQ. Pistons should have traded his but so we could’ve resigned Memo Okur.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/san-dova-speak-easy/ San Dova

    All of the comments are interesting, and most of them have really good points, so I’ll offer my two cents.
    Franchises many times can determine the course that players are set on. That’s why some of us draft geeks cringe when the Clippers or any historically horrible teams select studs, because the culture might not be sufficient in developing a great player and winner. Detroit was not one of those places, but the Pistons failed to allow Darko to be better. They said the right things, traded away Mehmet Okur to build up room for him, but didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt.
    What’s really a shame is that the D-League wasn’t what it is now when Darko was much younger, because he could’ve been groomed better. He actually was developing nicely in Orlando alongside Dwight Howard, but got traded away. Had he stayed, I think Darko would be seen in a better light. Even when he was given the minutes with Memphis, he was improving, but he needed a big man coach to be held accountable for his on-court play.
    Darko, I think, has taken accountability with for his play and has acknowledged with honesty that he’s not the superstar he was thought to become–all he wanted (and needed) was someone to give him some consistent encouragement and skill development in order to play better (money in and of itself doesn’t none of those things).

  • Frenzal

    All hail the human victory cigar as soon as darko came in the game was ova

  • Kent Kanada

    Was he good? not really. Did the Pistons make him any better? not really.

    Good for him to go to Europe, good for him and good for this league. We don’t need him…we get rookie chumps every year :)

  • Gary Madden

    I can tell you exactly why Darko didnt play. It was a June day I belive in 2004 when when I was taking my daughter to the the Big Mall (as we call it) something crossings. As we drove from Flint I was listening to the parade festivities of our world champs on the radio. It was fun an exciting to listen too. 5 minutes upon being there my daughter screamed “dad there is Darko” as I looked up there he was with a couple of tall youngsters. I approached Darko to ask for an autograph for her as she was shy. even though it appeared he didnt speak english well my signing and his response was unmistakable. And yes he had a cast on one of his wrists. But after walking away feeling pissed and rejected something hit me. There have been thousands of great players that never won a championship nor had a parade to honor their team and everyone of them were rookies at one time and some on a championship team, the commentator on the radio said all Piston players were in attendance except Darko whom had surgery recently on his wrist. Well this is the moral of the story for me , Darko was tall he had skills but there is no way in the world to predict what goes on between them ears. Yes Darko was a waste but as I can now see Darko was about Darko. If we had it his way We would’ve forgone our championship to groom darko and then maybe if he had won a championship by hisself we could watch the one man parade down Woodward Avenue.

  • Omer Akagun

    we must all see this..every team wants to pick a 7’2 center whose name is in the list of all NBA teams from 1 to 10 that year..remember that time all teams from 1 to 5 had Darko in their top 3 choices..The press has to share some part of responsibility ,ESPN and all other sources as they were the ones who made Darko a GOD..if l were the GM l would pick him too.Darko has very bad work ethics and he never points the finger at himself ..how many teams he had changed and still he is a no name ..l think HE IS THE LIAR

  • Gary Madden

    One more very key point ya’all are forgetting during the period that potential deaft choices were being made Mello would not work out for Detroit because he wanted to instantly start!

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    at least he had the class to wait until now to speak about it and not making it an issue while he was being benched in detroit.

  • lawrence terry

    If you can ball you can ball jermaine Oneal didnt play alot behind rasheed an he had some allstar seasons you didnt play because you cant ball Darko if u could You would be balling know

  • Moe S

    Darko has to look at himself. He was a lazy bum. How in the hell do you practice every day against Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace both in their prime and not become a better player. On top of that you have Larry Brown as your coach, who’s known for developing young talent, and still blame everybody but yourself. Tayshaun Prince came to a load Piston Roster and by his second yr was a starter, so Darko could’ve made a contribution. Plain and simple Darko didn’t want to work to earn playing time, he just wanted it handed to him. I agree that the pistons should have never drafted him in the first place though. Chris Bosh should’ve been in a Piston uniform.