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

Updated: August 8, 2003, 10:17 AM ET
Associated Press

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.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press