Updated: March 14, 2006, 9:55 AM ET

Orlando primed for growth

INDIANAPOLIS -- He collapsed the rim. He even gave out a yell.

When Darko Milicic sent down an authoritative dunk against the physical big men of Indiana here Monday night, it was a small but good sign. More assertive play would be a good development for an Orlando Magic team that is itself a work in progress.

Clearly, the 20-year-old, 7-footer still needs work. The former Pistons reserve often screws up the rotation on defense. He needs to learn the proper technique on playing the screen-and-roll . . . and not just shrug his shoulders when it doesn't work. He's not aggressive by nature; he's going to need to learn to be that way.

The Orlando newcomers Milicic and point guard Carlos Arroyo were coming off a winning weekend of play off the bench, submitting strong performances in wins over the Cavaliers and Warriors. These are two who could figure, two years from now, into a rebuilt Magic team that's a serious contender.

One building block knows how to block. Milicic had five in a 97-83 loss here against the Pacers. But he's getting these blocks in part because nobody respects him yet. Guards take it right at him, forward, centers, you name it. He's very long. What I like is how he blocks the shot and keeps it in play. In his last five games coming into Indy, Milicic averaged 21.6 mpg, posting 7.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 1.6 bpg.

With Arroyo, who averaged 14.6 ppg, four apg in 26.4 mpg over his last five games coming into Indy, I think the coaching staff of the Magic have answered their point guard questions. They're comfortable with Jameer Nelson starting and bringing Arroyo off the bench. I like what Carlos brings to the table. He's certainly not just the throw-in with the Pistons' deal; he has had immediate impact, and his toughness and aggressive nature were something the Magic needed.

With Milicic, the Magic are using this season as a learning phase. They want to see improvement, and want to see him pick up the defensive philosophy, improving from game to game. He certainly would benefit by playing for the Magic in the summer league.

It's not easy to judge whether he's a valid overall 2 pick in the draft. Maybe he's not an All-Star, but he could become a great bench player who has a long NBA career. He's a guy who can easily give you 10 points, 7-8 rebounds and some blocks. He likes to play on the fringes, he can pass and has good hands. Toni Kukoc is a name people have asked me about when sizing up Darko. Toni came in very skilled and it took him some time to adapt to the NBA. We'll see with Milicic.

This is a team on the rise. Their main blocks are Dwight Howard, Nelson and Milicic. They've got a good vet in Hedo Turkoglu. Keyon Dooling gives them good D off the bench.

They need to find a consistent two guard. They've got DeShawn Stevenson, but apparently he's going to need some surgery in the offseason, and I don't know how he fits in the plans -- they see him more as a defensive player than as an offensive threat.

Unfortunately, the Magic's immediate future (next year) lies in the health of Grant Hill. If he does play, how does he play? I've seen him play some games this year when he definitely shouldn't have -- you could see the severe pain on his face.

When Hill's contract comes off the cap in two years, they'll be a huge player in the market. They can find some veteran players who want to fit in and play with a Dwight Howard.

A lot of players as they get older, they consider quality of life issues. So, if it comes down to say, Minnesota and Orlando, everything's equal, Orlando will be helped by the prospect of a new arena. January and February in the warm sun makes family life better. Current Celtics coach Doc Rivers told me that was a factor when he once chose San Antonio.

You laugh, but those kind of fringe benefits are things agents and accountants bring up to their clients. Not to mention no state income tax in Florida. It could end up giving the Magic an edge down the road.

Will Perdue is a former NBA player and a radio broadcaster for ESPN and the Orlando Magic.

Talk back to the Daily Dime gang

Dimes Past: March 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-12 | 13

New Kid On The Block
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images
Darko Milicic looms over Pacers guard Jamaal Tinsley, with Dwight Howard also ready to pounce. The Pacers improved to 32-29.

Point No. 8: The Other Stuff

Roy (Encino, CA): John, does it just KILL you that Kobe Bryant is now universally regarded as the best player on the planet? You clearly hate the guy and even downplay the fact that he's at the top of your own efficiency rankings. It must eat you up inside that he's playing this well, huh?

John Hollinger: Not really. On the court he's been absolutely brilliant, perhaps the best payer in the entire league (although Wade's PER is higher). When I said a week ago I couldn't endorse him for MVP, it was because of the other stuff, because it reallly affects their bottom line. To wit, nobody wants to play with him, which is why players weren't exactly flocking to accept LA's midlevel exception this summer. That's the one argument I can see for somebody like Nash vs. somebody like Kobe -- everybody wants to be Nash's teammate, and nobody wants to be Kobe's, and that impacts the quality of personnel their teams can acquire.

Steve Sodon (San Diego): Why was Jason Richardson not invited to try out for the USA basketball team and why does no one seem to care about the snub? He can shoot the three better then Redd and Johnson, plus he's more athletic. Also, using your amazing skills of statistical analysis, who do you think is the most overrated player in the league?

John Hollinger: For those who haven't been following Golden State lately, Richardson has had that team on his back for the past month. While a lot of those guys have been openly mailing it in, he's been playing his guts out -- like when he singlehandedly beat Miami the other night. So yes, I was a little surprised to see him omitted, especially since he can really stroke it.

As far as the league's most overrated player, my first instinct is to say Antoine Walker, but so many other people have called him overrated that I'm not sure he's overrated anymore, if you catch my drift. Anybody the Knicks have acquired in the past 24 months would also be a good candidate.

Read the full John Hollinger chat Insider

NBA Intelligence Report

Riley Might Use Shaq-Zo Combo
Shaquille O'Neal didn't talk with reporters Monday for the second consecutive day, yet he remained the topic of the day. There were questions about his 4 1/2 -minute appearance alongside Alonzo Mourning on Sunday in the Heat's 98-92 victory over Cleveland, which marked the season debut of the centers playing together. There were questions about O'Neal playing only 2 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter. And there were questions about the possibility of O'Neal being on the bench in the future during much of the fourth quarter. The last scenario, Riley said, is highly unlikely. -- Palm Beach Post

Allen Wants Hill Back As Sonics' Coach
As the Seattle SuperSonics undertake the final quarter of their season while playing their best, most consistent basketball, star guard Ray Allen said on Monday that he thinks the team should extend the tenure of coach Bob Hill. ... "What we are doing is great -- because of him," Allen said. "He is putting players in position to do their job and be successful. These (centers) coming out and doing what they do, they wouldn't be doing it if Hill wasn't here. He incites passion with these guys. He keeps lines of communication open. He gets on you, and at the same time he will reward you positively. Those are the types of things you want from a coach. And I think if you ask each and every one of these guys, they like playing for him." -- Tacoma News Tribune

Read the entire Intelligence Report Insider

Motion: Granger's Range
Pacers rookie Danny Granger scored 21 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in a win over the Magic.

Pacers Win

Grim And Bear It

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
Steve Francis is not thrilled about losing to Denver. The ex-Magic man had six points in 24 minutes.

Extreme Behavior

Monday's Best
Chris Kaman, Clippers center: Sometimes, up, sometimes down. That's Kaman. His 24 points and 23 rebounds in the 95-87 win over Minnesota definitely qualifies as an "up" for the big man from Central Michigan.


Monday's Worst
Quentin Richardson, Knicks guard: He missed all eight of his shots in the loss to Denver. Having a sprained thumb couldn't have helped. Getting dealt from winning Phoenix to league doormat must hurt even more now.


Quote of the Day
"We're just not a good defensive team."
-- Knicks guard Stephon Marbury, after his team lost to the Nuggets, 108-96. (His coach Larry Brown concurs, lamenting the lack of forced turnovers and blocked shots, and not getting the loose balls)

-- Andrew Ayres

See how all 90 who played stacked up
The current NBA Playoff matchups

Later Comes Sooner Than Anyone Ever Wants

Jon (Columbus, Ohio): When all the players that are injured for the Cavs right now come back, do you think they stand a chance in the playoffs?

Bill Walton: Cleveland is in an enviable position having the future on its roster. While the present is better than it used to be, how long will LeBron remain staisfied listening to the demands for patience. His success in the NBA has very little to do with himself. It's like when Wooden told me 38 years ago, "You're ultimate level of success will be about the people and players around you."

With the limitations of some of LeBron's teammates he's often out there by himself. It was nice to get Flip Murray, though. Cleveland has made small steps to make it a more positive situation, but the question is still whether LeBron can do it himself. But every team in the East besides Detroit and Miami has issues. New Jersey with basically four players, no star power in Indiana, Washington's inconsistency, no one playing at Iverson's pace in Philly and the mystery of Milwaukee.

You could make the case Cleveland is the fourth-best in the East -- it might not be enough. Only the championship will make LeBron happy and I want to see a smile on his face. While he's just getting started and has the world ahead of him, this is such a tough league that you never know what's going to happen and you better get it done sooner because later comes a lot quicker than anyone ever wants.

Read the full Bill Walton chat Insider

Elias Says

Kevin Garnett has had at least 10 rebounds in each of his last 20 games, the longest streak of his career. Garnett had 10 or more rebounds in 19 consecutive games three previous times. No NBA player has had a 20-game streak of that kind since Tim Duncan had at least 10 rebounds in 27 consecutive games in the 2003-04 season.

However, Garnett would need to play nearly six years to tie the record for such a streak: Wilt Chamberlain had 467 consecutive 10-rebound games from 1963-68.

• Elias Sports Bureau | More Elias Insider

The Telfair Story

Film documentaries on sports usually come off sappy, with no center, without soul.

And even though the endings are often predictable, the core is what sells us on the product.

The product in "Through the Fire" is a young prodigy from Coney Island in New York

One that is the younger cousin of Stephon Marbury. One that Steph warned me about when Bassy was in fifth grade. One that, before his senior year in high school, I was quoted in Beckett Basketball as saying I'd select him over LeBron if he came out the same year.

One that I was certain -- as certain as Kanye is about himself -- was going to be the second coming of Isiah Thomas. If not better.

What "Fire" does is (1) make me look like I knew what I was talking about at the time; and (2) make me look like a damn fool.

In 2003, Sebastian Telfair was the best point guard in the country not already in the NBA.

His imitation of life is the post-told version of Darcy Frey's "The Last Shot" and Spike Lee's "He Got Game." The reason Hock was able to put a camera on Telfair and predict he was going to have a Tribeca Film Festival winner was that he'd seen the story play out before in Stephon Marbury's life. And although Lee and Frey both fictionalized Steph's last year in high school, Hock's guess that Sebastian's was going to be more dramatic was easy because Bassy had already done in the first three years things his big cousin had never done.

Read the full Scoop Jackson story


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