Milicic heads to Pistons as second pick in draftPosted: Thursday June 26, 2003 9:28 PM
Updated: Thursday June 26, 2003 11:35 PM
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- There's one major difference between Darko Milicic and the players drafted just before and after him, other than his nationality.
Milicic will not have to turn around the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons selected the 7-foot, 245-pounder from Serbia and Montenegro second overall in the NBA draft on Thursday -- the highest a European has ever been taken. Milicic was selected one pick after Cleveland took high school phenom LeBron James and a spot before Denver chose Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony.
"Darko Milicic is not going to have to come here and be the savior," said Joe Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations. "LeBron is going to have to be the savior in Cleveland, there's no getting around that. Carmelo is going to be expected to carry a huge load.
"We're going to push (Milicic) to be the best he can be. But, he's not going to be judged on whether he carried us this year. We think that's an excellent situation for him and for us."
The 18-year-old Milicic, who has played professionally in Europe since he was 14, said it has always been his dream to play in the NBA.
"I'm really excited," he said. "It's a pleasure to be the second pick in the NBA."
The Pistons took Carlos Delfino of Argentina with the 25th overall pick in the first round. The 6-foot-6, 230-pounder may fill Detroit's need for a reserve shooting guard next season, or the Pistons could choose to allow him to continue playing in Italy while keeping his rights.
"It's kind of open right now," Dumars said.
In order for Delfino to play in the NBA right away, the Pistons would have to pay his team $350,000 while he would have to give up about $650,000 to terminate his contract.
Delfino said he wants to play for the Pistons next season, but added: "The problem is the buyout."
In the second round, with the 58th -- and final -- pick of the draft, Detroit chose 7-foot center Andreas Gliniadakis of Greece.
Detroit desperately needs a power forward or center -- like Milicic -- to score next to Ben Wallace, who became an All-Star by just defending and rebounding.
The Pistons have won 100 regular-season games the past two years, and last season, they earned top seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But they were swept by New Jersey in the conference finals in part because of a lack of scoring options.
Detroit landed the No. 2 pick from Memphis in the draft lottery thanks to a trade in 1997 for Otis Thorpe.
"If you go back to any championship-contending team, they can point to something along the way where they caught a huge break," said Dumars, who helped the Pistons win NBA titles in 1989 and 1990.
"For the ball to come up No. 2 for us on lottery night was an incredible break. You've got to have that if you're going to take the next steps."
Now, Detroit coach Larry Brown said it's important for the franchise to takes advantage of its good fortune.
"Any time you get the second pick in the draft, it's crucial that you get a player that is going to be a fixture, and a contributor and hopefully a star," Detroit coach Larry Brown said.
Utah coach Rick Majerus, who watched Milicic play during a basketball clinic last summer in Serbia and Montenegro, said he is a fan of Milicic and his game.
"He reminds me a lot of (Sacramento star) Chris Webber, but he's more skilled than Chris was at the same age (at Michigan)," Majerus said.
"I love Darko's work ethic. We watched him play for five straight hours and then he played for more than another hour because he just loves the game. He's done a great job with his body by going from 220 pounds to 245 pounds in only one year."
Some have compared Milicic to Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, but Donn Nelson, the Mavericks' president of basketball operations doesn't think it's a good comparison.
"We saw Dirk as a multi-position player, but I think Darko is a pure (power forward)," Nelson said. "Darko doesn't shoot it from as far as Dirk does, but Darko is more dominant in the paint. Dirk is more of finesse player while Darko is more of a power guy.
"Obviously, we think the world of Dirk. But I would be very surprised if Darko was not a success in this league."
Some believe Delfino plays like Emanuel Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs -- another player from Argentina.
"I think that's a fair comparison," said John Hammond, Detroit's vice president of basketball operations.
"I think this guy is extremely tough. He's a fighter."