Let the bashing begin...
Former first-round pick gains muscle needed to become force in paint.
By JASON SCHNEIDER, The Times-Union
Gone is the gangly, bleached-blonde kid with an outside shot. In his place is a muscular, black-haired man with a surprising post game.
Darko Milicic looks different than the 18-year-old who was drafted second overall in 2003 - after LeBron James and before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Now 21, Milicic also plays differently - he posted up forward/center Dwight Howard during the Orlando Magic's practice Friday at UNF Arena - but he's still coming off the bench.
Magic coach Brian Hill said he plans on starting Tony Battie alongside Howard in the frontcourt and bringing the 7-foot Milicic, who added a much-needed 28 pounds during the offseason, off the bench.
"He'll earn whatever playing time he earns, but I don't see him [starting] right now," Hill said.
But at least Milicic is getting off the bench.
Milicic never averaged more than 6.9 minutes per game for the Detroit Pistons, playing only in blowouts and earning a less than flattering nickname: The Human Victory Cigar. But after being traded to Orlando late last season, Milicic's minutes per game jumped to 20.9.
"His skill level and feel for the game surprised me, and he knows how to play the game," Hill said. "He's an outstanding passer, he's got a soft touch on his jumper. He's just a very skilled player. He was better than I thought he would be [when he was traded]."
Milicic spent the summer with the Serbian national team, practicing, weight training and preparing to be a contributor for an entire season for the first time in his NBA career. He came into Magic camp at 278 pounds with a defined upper body and a willingness to mix it up in the paint.
During an eight-minute scrimmage at the end of Friday's practice, Milicic and Howard matched up against each other. Milicic showed off a small array of post moves, including a baby hook, and he held his position on the defensive end as Howard tried to back him down several times without success.
"I feel much better," Milicic said. "I have a different approach [because] I know I'm going to playing."
Fran Update: A non-Training Camp update, but one we can still classify as Magic news. Fran Vazquez, the Magic's first round Draft choice in 2005, helped lead Winterthur FC Barcelona to an 87-81 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday. Vazquez tied for the team-high with 15 points on 7-of- 11 shooting in 23 minutes of action.
Though he has decided to remain in Europe, the Magic hold the NBA rights to Vazquez indefinitely. Vazquez recently said he felt he wasn't ready for the NBA, but that he might look into coming to the U.S. to play in another year or two.
The 76ers loss to Barcelona marks the first time an NBA team has lost an exhibition game while playing overseas. Chris Webber led the Sixers with 18 points. Former Magic player Mario Kasun, who is playing for Barcelona this year, scored four points with seven boards in 13 minutes of action.