Friday, October 14, 2005

The Pistons' Newest Big Man Is An Old Face

The Pistons have a new player in camp, one who should provide a nice jolt off the bench -- a guy who can grab some rebounds, block and/or bother some shots, and make a nifty pass or two.

That new player is Darko Milicic, and if he does what I think he might do, the Pistons should be right where they want to be in June, and belong: in the NBA Finals.

Darko is a different player, it seems, under new coach Flip Saunders. If he can do the following on most nights, what a terrific thing it would be:

*15 minutes, 8 points, 3 blocks, 7 rebounds*

Darko's confidence is obviously improved

That's certainly do-able, and that doesn't include the shots his 7-foot + frame alters, nor the assists he might get, or at the very least, the scoring opportunities he might create with his fine passing.

It's like a new acquisition in the off-season for president Joe Dumars: tentative, frustrated Darko dealt for a reinvigorated, confident version.

What has also been impressive about Darko -- he's already achieved "first-name only" status in this town -- is his continuing to take the high road when it comes to discussing his two seasons under coach Larry Brown.

"Larry Brown is a great coach," is what Darko usually says when asked about the difference between LB and Flip. He's only 20, but he doesn't take the bait when reporters try to get him to bad-mouth Brown, especially now that Saunders is playing him in the first quarter.

That's an amazing, refreshing change of pace for a young man who was shackled to the end of the bench for 162 regular season games and about 50 playoff games in two seasons. It all earned him the cute yet humiliating nickname, "The Human Victory Cigar," which is typically reserved for low-round draft choices or journeymen veterans, not someone drafted in the top three overall.

Darko Milicic is the new big man in Detroit, and it didn't cost Dumars a thing to get him, unless you count the dollars it took to snare Flip Saunders as his coach. Really, it was a two-for-one: Brown for Saunders and Darko.

Dumars rooks the league again.

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