Darko Milicic: "We think we can win the title this year"
Darko Milicic: That’s definitely true, I agree. I didn’t have any playing time in Detroit, which changed when I arrived in Orlando. I feel really nice, you know, night in, night out coming to games knowing that you’re going to play. You’re not coming to the game thinking whether you’re going to play or not. Everything that’s expected of you is to be focused and ready to play when asked. That’s the best part of being here in Orlando.
How do you like it as a part of the Magic?
DM: I really like playing with the guys here. We have a young, talented team here which didn’t make the playoffs last season. This year, everybody expects a great deal from us, including ourselves. It’s really interesting being a part of this team right now.
How is this mix of youth and experience on Orlando’s roster working out so far?
DM: It is really great! Tony Battie and Grant Hill are the older statesmen who are trying to keep us young kids at bay. They’ve been through so much in this league that they can really help and push us when there’s need both on and off the floor. They can calm us, which we need sometimes, having such great expectations and all. They know that there are a lot of ups and downs throughout the season, but that it is important to know that our talent level is high and what our ultimate goal is for this season and how to reach it.
If Dwight Howard continues to play like this, he will be in the narrow circle of MVP candidates for this regular season. If elected, he would be the youngest NBA MVP ever. Do you think Dwight can do this?
DM: Absolutely, he is a terrific player! He deserves every bit of that award. He starts every single game with unbelievable focus and determination. He gives it all on the floor.
How do you two function as the so-called Twin Towers of Orlando Magic?
DM: I’m enjoying the time we spend together on the court. His style of game fits me very well. We get along outside of the court, too. He’s a really cool guy. Winning the games helps in all that a lot. It feels really good to relax and unwind a bit after the games.
The Eastern Conference being what it is right now, and your team playing well against the likes of Utah and Seattle from the Western Conference, do you think it is a realistic goal for your team to win the Eastern Conference and perhaps even get into the race for the NBA championship?
DM: We really try to think positive all the time. We think we can win the title this year. That’s how we prepare and get into every game we play, both on the road and at home. We think that we’re the best, and I think that this type of thinking is very good for a team like we are right now. We expect all the best, but we’ll see how it all will pan out in the end.
When you think of Orlando, can you imagine yourself staying here for long term?
DM: I’d like that, yes. I think we have enough talent to become a really good team. However, I’m really not thinking about what’s going to happen over summer. That’s just too far to think about right now. I would sincerely like to stay and play here for a long time, and I hope something like that can pan out in the summer. It would really be very interesting to stay in Orlando for the long term.
How important for you it is to sign this big contract over the summer?
DM: It’s just too far to think about right now. However, considering how great it is to be a part of this team, sometimes a player needs to balance his options; sometimes the money is not really the first priority when it comes to what I want to accomplish as a basketball player…
Can you compare the coaching styles of Larry Brown, Flip Saunders and Brian Hill?
DM: I’m not so sure that I’m competent enough to talk about basketball coaches. Larry Brown came to Detroit when the Pistons had a championship caliber team, while Brian Hill inherited a young team that needed a lot of teaching and improving. We’re just kids who need experience and Coach Hill seems to know how to make us all better as individual players and as a team. I’m glad that I have a chance to work with him.
Is there more trust between you and your team’s management now in Orlando comparing to the years you spent in Detroit?
DM: No, I think that the level of professionalism in both organizations is the same. The one thing I didn’t understand in Detroit is that Joe Dumars, as Detroit’s GM, didn’t want to influence the coaching decisions of Larry Brown and Flip Saunders. I just can’t buy that story that the GM is telling me that, if it is up to him, I would get more minutes, but since Flip is the coach, it’s his decision that I was benched almost all the time. Regarding Orlando, you probably know that I was offered a new four-year contract which I liked and I wanted to sign, but the very last day before the signing, they withdrew the contract. That’s all business, I know. For me, just one more reason to focus only on this year and strictly on basketball issues and leave this business side of it all aside.
A lot of American and international NBA players still feel the consequences of dedicating most of their summers to playing for their national teams at World Championships in Japan. How do you feel after leading the Serbian National Team to the Round of 16 last September?
DM: Realistically, the playing conditions in Japan were tough. Humidity was really bad over there. Of course, I haven’t played the NBA playoffs last season, and after two and a half months of resting, it was really great to play for the Serbian National Team. The other thing is that I honestly enjoy playing for the National Team, which is definitely not just a cliché. It’s just different from playing for your club here in the NBA or anywhere else.
by Nebojsa Petrovacki / December 6, 2006