Holy Crap, People
It took less than 19 minutes of floor time, but Darko Milicic showed on Sunday exactly what he can be for the Boston Celtics this season. In a game that saw the Celtics put forth a balanced box score -- six players scored in double figures -- Milicic stood out through terrific defense, a focus on rebounding, and an overall court presence that opened things up for his teammates, as Boston ran past Armani Milano, 105-75.
Milicic scored just two points, but hauled in a team-high nine rebounds to go along with a team-high four blocked shots, showing considerable strides on the defensive side of the ball, compared to Boston's first preseason outing in a 97-91 loss to Fenerbahce on Friday. On Sunday, with the team defense clamping down, Milicic thrived, sliding to the appropriate spots well before Milano could get to the rim in a position to score the ball.
Playing in the second and fourth quarters, Milicic seemed to embrace his hefty 7-foot frame on Sunday, utilizing his considerable size in every area he was able to find success. He used it to block shots, to reach rebounds ahead of the opposition, and he used it on the high post -- the spot on the floor the Celtics have stuck him at most through two preseason games. C's head coach Doc Rivers understands that he has a capable passer in Milicic, which is why he's so willing to line him up at either one of the elbows, where he receives an entry pass and allows the action to develop around him. A quick kickout pass can lead to an open look for a teammate, or allow Milic to re-position himself to set a bulky screen to free up one of Boston's perimeter players.
If you are a fan of the blogs, then you know the routine. First one blogger says something, then a couple more, and a few weeks later everyone in the whole blogosphere is saying it. Several weeks to a few months thereafter, it seeps into the local and national media. Long story short, nobody knows a team like bloggers do, and the media simply doesn't have the resources to keep up with every granular detail that us in the blogosphere find so fascinating.
With every rule there is an exception, and in this case the exception comes with the white-hot microscope that continues to follow the Dark Lord around.
What is interesting here is that this comes only a few days after some of us crazy Celtics fans had decided to cease the hemming and hawing with number 99, and get on with it. The Darko Bandwagon was born. I never really expected much media attention, much less national media attention focused on Milicic until the December-January timeframe at the earliest. Shows how much I know. Also shows that the media takes this Darko shit seriously, and, perhaps, after contributing more than their fair share to the "Darko is a Bust" coverage, are now looking for any ways to make amends.
Amen to that, if true.
In any event, here is more from that ESPN artice that I still read with mouth agape.
Screen setting was the quietest part of Milicic's production on Sunday. Boston's equipped with a versatile collection of offensive players, all of which can benefit from having an open lane or open floor space to create their offense. Consider the 5:06mark of the second quarter, when Jason Terry simply ducked behind Milicic's frame to open up enough space to fire off a 3-pointer, or the 4:24 mark when Courtney Lee charged to the basket on the left side only once his man was shaken by a Milicic screen.
Through two preseason games, Darko's role is taking shape, like bread being kneaded before it enters the oven. He's been active, he's shown a commitment to the Celtics' system, and, perhaps most importantly, he seems to be embracing being part of a team. Boston's bench was nothing but supportive when he came up short on an alley-oop attempt in the second quarter, and he brought his teammates to their feet a few minutes later when he posted on the left block, spun, and nearly completed an up-and-under layup as he got fouled.
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