Nielsen on NBA: Full court press, Nov. 22

November 22, 2012, 7:27 PM

Since he was drafted in 2003, Darko Milicic’s career has been a punchline but there’s more to his story than many people realize.

Drafted second overall by a veteran-laden Pistons team that was coming off an Eastern Conference Championship, he rarely played in his two seasons in Motown. The Serbian centre earned the nickname, the Human Victory Cigar.

(For those wondering, legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach used to light a cigar at the end of games once his team was comfortably ahead back when sporting arenas were smoke-filled cauldrons of humanity. Hence, Milicic would only enter a game when the Pistons were up or down by a large margin.)

It didn’t help Milicic’s case that the Pistons drafted him ahead of a trio of superstars (Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) in a loaded draft class.

Over the years, stops in Orlando and Minnesota followed, and Milicic finally ended up in Boston just before the season began.

On Monday news began to spread that Milicic was leaving the Celtics to be with his ailing mother in Serbia. Upset about his playing time, Milicic may be walking away from the Celtics.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers addressed the situation in an understanding manner in a radio interview on Tuesday.

“It’s up to him right now,” Rivers said on WEEI. “He has some family issues, more his mom. Not playing, and being in another country, and the NBA hasn’t gone exactly great for him over his career. So, it’s a lot of reasons for him to want to leave. And I understand that, and I told him that. So, I pretty much left it up to him. He has my blessing either way.”

While Milicic is just 27, many fail to realize he left home at the age of 13 to begin his professional career and help a family which was struggling to survive in war-torn Serbia.

“(I lived) by myself,” Milicic told “I was making money then playing basketball, I signed a contract when I was 13. It’s easy (to support yourself) because we go through a lot of (stuff) as young guys back home, so we are by 13 already grown. You can go by yourself. It wasn’t hard for me. During the bombings we went through a lot of (stuff). For me, it was good to play basketball. I didn’t think about (being on my own) because it was just two hours from home.”

It now appears as if it is time for Milicic to close the travel circle as he once left home to support his family and now he goes home to do the same.

Gobble, Gobble Part I:

The Jeopardy challenge:

A couple of weeks ago, Heat forward and Duke graduate Shane Battier claimed he could beat any NBA player on Jeopardy and that seems to have riled up other former Blue Devils.

“I don’t know if he could beat Duke players,” Milwuakee Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy told Fox Sports. “He probably could beat everybody else. I don’t think he could beat me. … I think what he meant to say is (Battier) can beat any player in the NBA besides any who went to Duke. I think Grant (Hill, also a Duke alum) could give him a run for his money.”

Battier responded with a challenge.

“Michael knows better,” Battier said. “I’m a little disappointed in him saying that. … I’m ready any time, any place. Tell Dunleavy, tell Grant Hill, you know where to find me. Home or away, I don’t care.”

No word yet on how Jeremy Lin feels about the Jeopary challenge. I imagine the Harvard alumn would give the Dukies a run for the money.

Gobble, Gobble Part II:


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