Updated: Feb. 22, 2007, 9:57 PM ET

Life begins at 20

The Orlando Magic have their man. They, like more than a few organizations, had long been interested by the possibility of getting ahold of Darko Milicic and seeing what he can do.

The Magic now have a pair of intriguing 20-year-olds in the frontcourt. If Dwight Howard ends up being the next Tim Duncan as some predict, then the Magic won't necessarily need big-time numbers from their center position.

So even if Milicic turns out to just be a decent player, it will be a good acquisition for the Magic. If he puts up anywhere from 8-12 points per game and the same amount of rebounds per night, it will help. The team did not get what it expected coming into the year from Kelvin Cato and Mario Kasun. Tony Battie has done a good job in the center role, but the Magic probably would like to use him off the bench.

We don't know what to expect right away from Milicic. I haven't seen anything skill-wise to offer any comparisons to, say, a young Dirk Nowitzki. But the Pistons have seen him in practice, and have been impressed.

In doing more than a dozen of his games for ESPN, here's two things I've noticed.

• I've never seen the kid smile.

• I've never seen him put himself through a hard workout before a game, never seen him go toe-to-toe, working out with a coach. I've always been a little surprised by that. You will usually see the bench guys getting in their workout before the game. Could be a European thing.

This is a no-lose for Orlando. And Detroit got what it needed out of the deal -- salary cap room to use for its veteran players.

A change of scenery can help. Phil Jackson had me pegged as a rebounder and defender in Chicago, but when I went to San Antonio, Bob Hill and Gregg Popovich didn't have those limited expectations. They proposed that I could do more than I did before.

It was a breath of fresh air.

I think that's how Milicic can view this move. He's going to have every chance to succeed in Orlando. The coaches will do whatever it takes to help him thrive in the system.


Hollinger: Pistons miss the point

The Pistons already have the league's best record and a playoff-tested starting five, but do they really want to depend so heavily on Lindsey Hunter's surgically repaired ankle when he was a marginal player to begin with?

That's why it's so important for Joe Dumars to come up with a replacement for Carlos Arroyo before the Feb. 23 trade deadline. Fortunately for him, a few names are out there. Far and away the most alluring for him is Mike James, a free-agent-to-be for the Raptors whose play off the bench helped spark Detroit's title run two years ago. However, he may cost a pretty penny since the Raptors wouldn't mind re-signing him over the summer.

(And speaking of former Pistons, you have to think Dumars is kicking himself right now for not re-signing Chucky Atkins last month while he had the chance.)

If he can't talk the Raptors out of James, then Dumars may have to set his sights quite a bit lower, choosing among several flawed candidates.

See the full John Hollinger column Insider


Ford: Good trade for both sides

For the Pistons, believe it or not, this trade is all about the future. Pistons owner Bill Davidson isn't James Dolan. He has not authorized Joe Dumars to exceed the luxury tax threshold in payroll. With Ben Wallace hitting restricted free agency this summer and Chauncey Billups looking for a contract extension, Dumars needed a way of clearing some money off the cap.

This deal clears $9.2 million off Detroit's payroll next year. With Ben Wallace figuring to earn a starting salary of about $10 million per year, the Pistons have found a way to re-sign him without incurring the luxury tax.

They also found a way to replace Darko for the long term with the Magic's No. 1 pick in either 2007 or 2008.

Whoever the Pistons select is probably looking at a two-year stint on the practice team, but at least the Pistons get to reset the clock, given that Darko was approaching free agency. Furthermore, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the next draft pick. Rasheed and Ben Wallace are both 31. They cannot play big minutes forever.

The deal is equally interesting for the Magic. Darko is a calculated risk. But the Magic have little to lose at this point. And it's easy to see the upside, still.

Had Darko stayed in Serbia the past two years and continued to produce the numbers that he produced when he was 17 years old, he likely would've been the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft. The hype around him would only have grown, assuming a normal progression. So the Magic ended up trading a lottery-protected pick for a guy who likely would have gone No. 1.

See the full Chad Ford column Insider

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Dimes Past: February 9 | 10 | 11-12 | 13 | 14 | 15


Stars Shine In Double OT Game

Brian Babineau/Getty Images
LeBron James, keeping his eye on fellow All-Star Paul Pierce, had 43 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his fourth triple-double of the season. The Cavaliers overcame Pierce's 50-point performance to beat the Celtics 113-109 in double OT.


Elias Says
jo

Paul Pierce scored 50 points in the Celtics' double-overtime loss to Cleveland. Pierce became the third player to score at least 50 points in a game for the Celtics in Boston, and the first to do it in a losing effort. Larry Bird (twice) and Kevin McHale did it in home victories.

• Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias Insider



NBA Intelligence Report
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Barkley: I Love Oklahoma
Charles Barkley sent some love to Oklahoma, but wasn't backing down from his recent claims that Oklahoma is a "vast wasteland" while appearing Wednesday night on "The Late Show with David Letterman." When asked by Letterman about the controversy with Oklahoma, Barkley explained he was interviewing Hornets star Chris Paul and started out asking if he had chickens in his backyard. Those comments, he admitted, might have angered some Oklahomans. "They are so sensitive," Barkley told Letterman. "Come on now," Barkley continued, "I'm black -- when I was growing up, you heard 'We have to grow up and move to Oklahoma.' Come on now." -- The Oklahoman

Read the entire Intelligence Report on ESPN Insider Insider


Motion: Mavs In Lead
After Dallas won and San Antonio lost, the Mavs own the West's best mark.

The West's Best



Hawks Win In LA

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Kobe Bryant finished with 39 points, but the Hawks took the game, 114-110. The Lakers dropped to .500 with the loss.


Extreme Behavior
okur

Wednesday's Best
Allen Iverson, Sixers guard: Anytime the champs tumble, credit must be given. AI went for 43 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for a 103-100 win over San Antonio.

jo

Wednesday's Worst
Gilbert Arenas, Wizards guard In finishing a full 16 points below his 28.6 ppg scoring average, the Commish's pick for Houston made but 4-of-22 field goal attempts. That kind of average won't even get you a job as Nationals backup catcher.

jo

Quote of the Day
"It's a great time just to get away for a little while and give my shoulder and my ribs time to heal."

-- Hornets rookie Chris Paul, who hurt his shoulder Wednesday in 102-86 win over the Blazers.

-- Andrew Ayres

See how all 250 who played stacked up



Knicks Not The Very Worst
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Just in time for the All-Star break, Larry Brown got a reprieve from his misery.

The most dysfunctional team in the Eastern Conference (we were ready to call them the worst team in the league, except they beat the Raptors at the same time the Bobcats were losing to the Nets, keeping New York in 29th place) finally snapped its 10-game losing streak Wednesday night on a late jumper by Jamal Crawford that gave New York a 98-96 victory over Toronto.

Never did a team need a boost as badly as Brown and the Knicks, who have become the local laughingstock in a town with no shortage of underachieving pro teams.

See the full Chris Sheridan blog Insider



Fifty Deals
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Since the Vince Carter blockbuster of December 2004, there have been exactly 50 trades, including the biggest trade in NBA history.

With only eight days left before the trade deadline, one way to get perspective on the significance of this week's swaps -- and all the trade talk -- is to look back at the deals of the past 14 months.

So we're breaking down the details on the last 50 NBA trades and declaring a winner and a loser for each.

Wizards acquired Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins from the Los Angeles Lakers for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit.

Winner: Wizards. Butler has eased Gilbert Arenas' scoring burden in Washington, which inked him to a contract extension. Brown has been his usual disappointing self for the Lakers, whose coach used a synonym for the word "cat" when speaking to Brown earlier this season.

See full Chris Sheridan column Insider



Shots From Courtside
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• An international NBA All-Star team (Yao, Tim Duncan, Dirk, Nash, Manu, Kirilenko, Pau, Tony Parker) would beat our American NBA stars.

• But the Pistons would beat the international NBA stars.

• After watching Andrew Bynum stand up to Shaq and abuse Eddy Curry a few weeks ago, Bynum may become a beast in a few years.

Sam Cassell is one of the most underrated, underappreciated players in the last 30 years. All he does is win. And whine, but hey, that's Sammy.

See Chris Broussard's weblog Insider

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