Will Darko ever live up to the hype?
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On the Spot
By John Schuhmann

You could call them question marks. Or maybe X-factors. Call them whatever you want. These guys have something to prove this season. NBA.com gives you 10 players (in alphabetical order) who will be under the microscope in 2006-07. For various reasons, all eyes are on them.

Next up is Darko Milicic.

On the Spot Index

Darko Milicic, F-C, Magic

With Dwyane Wade and LeBron James arguably the two best players in the league right now and with Carmelo Anthony having a strong summer, the pressure increases on Darko Milicic to validate his No. 2 selection in the 2003 Draft. He certainly showed signs of life after last February's trade to Orlando and in this summer's World Championships.

With Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson coming into their own as well, the future is bright for the Magic, but they need Darko to become much more than just a role player. The time has come to prove that he's no longer the comic relief of the 2003 draft class.

What the Papers Say

"Sentenced to the pine in Detroit and mentally beaten, Milicic wowed the NBA with his 30-game rebirth with the Magic last season, playing behind veteran Tony Battie.

"But when Milicic reported to training camp, motivated and muscled up, fresh off an impressive FIBA World Championship run, he found himself on the second team again ...

"Do the Magic try to sign him to an extension now at perhaps a relatively reduced rate? Or do they let Milicic prove himself and likely increase his value this summer to near-maximum salary status?

"The Magic are leaning toward waiting it out, figuring if Milcic is good enough to earn big money then they have a player at best or an asset at worst."
-- Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel

"Although talented teammate Darko Milicic has shown only flashes of what he can do, Battie has seen the whole package in practice daily.

"He wants to see star forward Dwight Howard, 20, and Milicic, 21, blossom together on the front line.

"'I don't know exactly what the plan here is, but that's a pretty nice combination those two, power and finesse, right and lefty. They could play and grow together for 10 years or more,' Battie said. 'I'd have no problem being a backup for both of them.'"
-- Tim Povtak, Orlando Sentinel

What the Blogs Say

"Darko is a twenty-two year-old seven footer whose shot-blocking could soon become the stuff of jazzy narco-ballads. He’s coming off a delightful run at the Worlds, where a storied Serbian program looked to him for late-game assurance. And the older he gets, the more we’re seeing that “mean streak in the post” that was his surname in June 2003."
-- Free Darko via SLAM Online