Under differentcircumstances, Darko Milicic would be preparing to fill the Ben Wallace--sizedvoid in the Pistons' frontcourt. But Milicic is not interested in what mighthave been. "I don't want to talk about Detroit," he says of the teamthat took him in the 2003 draft. "That's over."
The 7-footMilicic is more loquacious about his prospects with the Magic, who acquired himfrom Detroit last February. "I feel like I'm here to play, not to sit onthe bench," he says. Indeed, in 30 games in Orlando, he got more minutes(627) than he did in his entire 2 1/2-year career in the Motor City, and heaveraged a solid 7.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. The Magic went 17--13with Milicic in the fold, 10--2 when he scored in double figures.
This seasonexpect Milicic, 21, to push his long stint as human seat warmer further intothe recesses of his memory. Over the summer he added 15 pounds of muscle (he'sup to 275) and was impressive playing for Serbia at the world championships.(He averaged 16.2 points, 9.2 boards and a tournament-leading 2.8 blocks.)"His body has improved," says new Magic assistant John Kuester, who waswith the Pistons during Milicic's rookie year. "He looks healthy, and helooks strong." Milicic vows to use that bulk to complement Orlando's forceof nature down low, Dwight Howard. "I think Dwight can be the best playerin the league," says Milicic, "and I'm just happy to be next tohim."
The Pistons visitthe TD Waterhouse Centre on Dec. 8. Then Milicic's old teammates will get achance to see just how happy--and productive--he is.
ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 36--46(10th in East)
Points scored:94.9 (22nd in NBA)
Points allowed:96.0 (13th)
(second seasonwith the Magic)
3.8 2.3 76.5
J.J. REDICK (R)*
(R) ROOKIE (COLLEGE STATS)
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Magic
They finished ona 16--6 run, and I think that's meaningful. You'll see them continue to growthis season around their promising young nucleus. They'll be better even ifGrant Hill doesn't play a single game, because they still have Hedo Turkoglu onthe wing.... Dwight Howard is the best young big man in the league. He remindsme a lot of David Robinson with his size and athleticism, though Howard mightbe more agile. He's already good at turning and facing and taking it strong tothe hole, but can he develop moves like the drop-step hook? He also has tobecome a better shooter, especially facing up from 15 feet and in.... JameerNelson overcomes his lack of size with a big heart; he's earned the respect ofhis teammates. He's become a pretty good three-point shooter--a 6-foot guardneeds to be able to hit that shot to keep the defense honest.... J.J. Redickwas a great player at Duke but he'll struggle unless he steps up his defenseand gets quicker and stronger. I see him developing as a shooting specialist,along the lines of Steve Kerr.
Last seasonDwight Howard became the youngest player to have a 20-point, 20-rebound game(19 years, 342 days) and the youngest to reach 1,000 career rebounds (19 years,356 days).
FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
With 1,022 rebounds last season, Howard was the only player to reach quadrupledigits.