Milicic signs three-year, $11M deal

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Darko Milicic plays like Toni Kukoc. Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown would prefer him to play more like Bill Russell.

There's a problem: Milicic doesn't know who Russell is.

"I keep reminding him, 'He blocked every shot and grabbed every
rebound,'" Brown said with a smile.

Milicic, the No. 2 overall pick in June's NBA draft, signed a
three-year contract worth about $11 million with the Pistons on
Friday. The 7-foot, 245-pound Milicic, from Serbia and Montenegro,
has played professionally in Europe since he was 14.

He settled a contract buyout with his Serbian team this month.

The club, Hemofarm Vrsac, claimed it had Milicic under contract through 2009 and filed a lawsuit in New York against Milicic's agent, Marc Cornstein. The club demanded at least $10 million.

"They just wanted to get the most they could get," Cornstein
said. "That's capitalism, and that's just the way the system is
set up now."

The Pistons earned the top seeding in the Eastern Conference
playoffs last season and lost to New Jersey in the East finals. But
Detroit desperately needs size and scoring up front alongside Ben
Wallace, who became an All-Star with defense and rebounding.

The Pistons had Memphis' lottery pick in the draft thanks to a
1997 trade for Otis Thorpe.

"It's a very good day for us to get this young man locked up,"
Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said. "It's
been quite a roller coaster this summer to get to this day, but it
was well worth it. We feel that Darko has a great future here and
that he is very fortunate to be coming into this situation.

"This kid is not really known around these parts that well. But
as time goes on, and we're patient with him and don't throw him out
there right away expecting the world from him, he's going to be

The Pistons already are bracing for second-guessing next season
because they expect some to wonder why Milicic isn't prominent in
box scores and on highlights with fellow rookies LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets.

James and Anthony are expected to start right away for poor
teams and will be given the opportunity to score, and play through
mistakes. Milicic will come off the bench, and he might not play
more than 15 minutes because he is on a deep team.

"He's going to benefit from being in this situation," Brown said. "He will have veterans around him who will challenge him every day. People might yell for him to be out there, but he has to earn the right to play."