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Milicic '99-percent certain' he'll sign with Detroit

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro -- Darko Milicic has left for
the United States, determined to sign with the Detroit Pistons
despite a lawsuit contending he is under contract to his European
team.

The 18-year-old 7-foot forward was the No. 2 selection in the
NBA draft in June behind LeBron James of Cleveland.

Milicic said in the Dnevnik daily on Thursday he is "99-percent
certain'' he will sign with the Pistons despite last month's suit
in New York by his team against his agent. The club is demanding at
least $10 million in punitive damages.

The Pistons said they will not proceed with negotiations until
the situation with Milicic's former team is resolved.

"He needs to take care of that stuff before we can move
forward,'' Pistons spokesman Kevin Grigg said Thursday.

Milicic's club, Hemofarm Vrsac, says agent Marc Cornstein and
Pinnacle Management Corp. interfered with the player's European
contract. Milicic has played for Hemofarm in Serbia since 2000, and
the club says he is under contract through 2009.

By signing with the Pistons, Milicic hopes "to end this mess
that has emerged around my dream to play in the NBA.''

"The problems are about to be solved and now I want to
concentrate on my NBA season,'' Milicic said before leaving Vrsac
for Detroit this week.

NBA teams are not prevented from drafting players under contract
to foreign teams, but league rules stipulate an NBA team can pay no
more than $350,000 toward buying out a contract. Under the pay
scale for rookies, Milicic would earn about $11 million over three
years in the NBA.

Last month, Milicic angered Serbia-Montenegro basketball
officials for refusing to play for the national team at next
month's European Championships. The team, formerly known as
Yugoslavia, is defending the title.