Wednesday , Jul , 11 , 2007 Oly Sandor

The Human Victory Cigar Lights Up, Darko Milicic Signs With Memphis Grizzlies

Darko Milicic, the much-maligned center, may get the last laugh on his doubters … The Serbian inked a three year deal with the Grizzlies … Milicic joins a young Memphis team that appears to be on the rise … Click here for news and analysis …

ESPN Insider Chad Ford reports that Memphis has signed Darko Milicic:

Free-agent center Darko Milicic agreed in principle to a three-year contract with the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, the player’s agent Marc Cornstein told Insider Chad Ford.

Cornstein refused to disclose the amount of the deal, but the starting salary is believed to be for substantially more than the $5.3 million mid-level exception.

"We are extremely excited for this new opportunity," Cornstein said. "Darko’s going to a team that really wants him. He’s going to a young team with an exciting bright future much like his own. We’re very excited Darko gets to learn from coach Marc Iavaroni. We believe he’s one of the best big men coaches in the game. And we couldn’t be happier that he has found a new home where he’s appreciated."

Milicic was recently waived by the Orlando Magic to clear the cap room necessary to sign Rashard Lewis.

"Memphis has really pursued Darko since the moment he became an unrestricted free agent last week," Cornstein said. "And I’m grateful for the opportunity they’ll be providing for Darko at this stage of his career."

Milicic was the second pick in the 2003 NBA draft. He was taken ahead of All-Stars like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade and was widely regarded as a draft bust heading into his third season.

Milicic was traded to the Magic in February of 2006 and began to turn around his career. He averaged eight points and 5.5 rebounds in 23 minutes per game for the Magic last season. But he upped his averaged 12.3 points per game in the playoffs this year.

Magic general manager Otis Smith said that the team’s top priority in the offseason was signing Milicic, but he reversed course after it became clear that signing Lewis would take all of their cap room.

Milicic should address the Grizzlies’ biggest offseason need — adding a center to play with Pau Gasol. His game appears to complement Iavaroni’s up-tempo system.

My Quick Take: Somewhere, The Human Victory Cigar is lighting up a victory cigar. Darko Milicic, the controversial second pick in the 2003 draft, has signed a three year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. The dollar amount wasn’t released, but I believe the Serbian will earn 7-8 million dollars per season.

Memphis signed Milicic to play center. They believe his rebounding and shot blocking will help Pau Gasol down low. But he can also step out on the perimeter and knock down the open shot.

Some will question if Milicic can produce as a starter. After all, he has spent most of his career chained to the bench. However, Milicic showed signs during the regular season and had a great playoff against Detroit.

I like the direction Memphis is taking. Gasol and Milicic will play down low. Mike Conley, Mike Miller, and Rudy Gay will roam the perimeter. And Iavaroni is a good young coach, who will grow with this youthful group.

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