April 24, 2007
Darko should be bigger part of the Magic's offense
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Unleash Darko.
You heard me.
It is time for Magic Coach Brian Hill to take the shackles off and free Darko Milicic.
Wait a minute, did I really just write that, or have my typing fingers been possessed by the same gremlins that invade Dwight Howard's head every time he steps to the free-throw line?
Don't commit me to the home of deranged sports writers just yet. And, please, hear me out before you turn to Jerry Greene's column. In the wake of Orlando's 98-90 Game 2 playoff loss to the Detroit Pistons, this is important to the Magic's future.
This might sound strange, but the Magic desperately need to keep Darko happy. If this team is going to get to the next level, Darko will be a major part of the reason it gets there.
"I don't think I've been used quite right this year," Darko said again in his thick Serbian accent before Monday's loss.
Translation: Darko is tired of being the punch line that the Pistons' fans have made him out to be in this series.
Hasn't Darko been minimized long enough?
He spent two years rotting on the bench in Detroit after being chosen No. 2 in the 2003 draft. He was such a nonfactor that there is a team photograph in the press room of The Palace showing the Pistons after they won their last NBA title three years ago. Coach Larry Brown is in the picture. All of the players -- Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, etc. -- are in the picture. All of the players, that is, except one: Darko.
He is nowhere to be found in the photograph. Sure, he got a championship ring for being on the Pistons' roster, but he keeps the ring stashed in a box back home in Orlando. He's never worn it.
"I appreciate the ring, and my teammates played great that season, but I don't feel like I was part of that championship," Darko says. "I would like to help my own team win a championship someday."
Maybe that team is the Magic -- if they are smart enough to keep him interested and use him effectively. He should be a major part of the Magic's offense instead of just a garbage man. The kid can shoot. He can pass. He has a nice touch around the basket. And he has that one skill that absolutely is unteachable: He is tall.
The Magic are down 2-0 in this series. It's time for Coach Hill to let down his hair, loosen up and see what some of this young talent can do. By the way, has anybody seen J.J. Redick? Is he still on the team? Did he make the trip?
Oh, wait a minute, there he is leaving the locker room Monday night after failing to play for the second consecutive game. Hey, J.J., are you frustrated you haven't logged a single minute in the playoffs?
"I've figured out over the course of the season that there's no rhyme or reason to anything," J.J. answers. "I have no expectations going into the game. That way, I can deal with it mentally."
Sounds frustrated to me. How about you?
Darko, on the other hand, is getting in the game and playing extensively, but why not start him? The kid has had confidence issues in the past, so wouldn't it behoove the Magic to send him a message just to let him know he's one of their key guys? Not only that, but run some plays for him, let him take some jump shots.
That's exactly what the Magic did in the fourth quarter Monday and you know how Darko responded? He hit five of six shots in the quarter for 10 points.
Question: Why is point guard Jameer Nelson (3-of-12) taking more shots than Darko and Dwight Howard?
"I'm happy to be a part of this team," says Darko, who has made 10 of 15 shots in this series. "I just wish they would use me more."
Game 3 is Thursday night.
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