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Magic man?

Orlando close to deal for former No. 2 pick Milicic

Posted: Wednesday February 15, 2006 3:43PM; Updated: Wednesday February 15, 2006 6:00PM
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In more than two seasons as an NBA player, Detroit's Darko Milicic has yet to average more than seven minutes a game.
In more than two seasons as an NBA player, Detroit's Darko Milicic has yet to average more than seven minutes a game.
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Darko Milicic might soon be getting a much-needed change of scenery.

The Pistons have discussed a trade that would send the seldom-used Milicic, a 7-foot center and the No. 2 overall selection in the 2003 draft, to the Magic, according to a league source. The deal would also include Pistons backup point guard Carlos Arroyo and would net in return Orlando backup center Kelvin Cato and a future first-round draft pick.

As of Wednesday the deal stood about a 50-50 chance of going through, according to the source. The hangup appears to be over the protection afforded the first-round draft pick Orlando would convey to Detroit. The Magic reportedly want to include lottery protection up to a certain point for their '06 pick. If so, the Pistons would get Orlando's pick in '07.

Even if the trade falls through, it appears Milicic's days in Detroit are numbered. The Pistons clearly are listening to offers for the one-time phenom. Milicic has barely played since being drafted one spot behind LeBron James -- and ahead of the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. He was supposed to be a bigger contributor this season under new coach Flip Saunders but was unable to parlay early playing time into results. As of Wednesday he is averaging just 1.5 points and 1.1 rebounds in 24 games.

Still, the Pistons' willingness to deal Milicic appears to be in large part for financial reasons. With Ben Wallace a free agent this summer, and Chauncey Billups eligible to sign an extension the following season, the Pistons are seeking to free up cash and avoid the luxury tax. Cato is in the final year of his contract, meaning the Pistons could let him go at season's end.

While Milicic, a.k.a. The Human Victory Cigar, has become something of a joke around the league for his garbage time appearances, he actually could be a decent gamble for a team with little to lose, like the Magic. After all, the NBA has a dearth of big men. Milicic, for all his faults, is still just 20 years old. It's quite possible the Pistons are only willing to give him up because Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess are entrenched in the frontcourt. One might also argue that Milicic's progress -- and perhaps confidence -- was affected by former coach Larry Brown's tough-love approach and that all he needs is a new environment.

The Magic apparently think so. They just have to decide now if it's worth a few more spots in this year's draft to find out.