Wolves use their amnesty provision on Milicic
MINNEAPOLIS – In a move that had been forecasted for weeks, the Timberwolves announced Thursday that they waived center Darko Milicic, designating him as their amnesty player.
Milicic, who spent two and a half seasons with Minnesota, averaged 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 2011-12 and lost his starting job to Nikola Pekovic in February. He played in just 29 games and was plagued with injuries. Overall with the Timberwolves, he averaged 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds.
By applying the amnesty clause to Milicic, the Timberwolves prevent the remaining $7 million of his contract from counting against their salary cap. Milicic was signed through 2013-14 and was set to earn $5.2 million next season; only $1.8 million of his 2013-14 salary was guaranteed. With that sum subtracted from their salary cap, the Timberwolves now have more cap space to sign players like Brandon Roy, Alexey Shved and Nicolas Batum, but they may still need to move the contracts of Martell Webster and Brad Miller before any deals can be made. The team already has agreements in place with Roy and Shved and is reportedly trying to free up money to make Batum, a restricted free agent with the Portland Trail Blazers, a large contract offer.
After being let go by the Timberwolves, Milicic will be on waivers for 48 hours, and teams with cap space will be able to bid on him, starting at a sum of approximately $2 million. If teams were to bid, the Timberwolves would have to pay Milicic only the difference between the winning bid and Milicic's salary. If no teams bid, which is likely, he will become an unrestricted free agent.
This release marks a precipitous decline in Milicic's career after he was picked second overall -- behind LeBron James but ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade -- by Detroit in the 2003 NBA draft. Milicic was a reserve for the Pistons and didn't earn his first starting job until 2007-08 in Memphis, when he averaged 7.2 points. The 7-foot, 275-pound Serbian never lived up to high standards that greeted him in the league, but when Minnesota acquired him in 2010, it was to high praise. He started 18 of the 24 games he played with the team in the spring of 2010 and all 69 games in which he played in 2010-11.
Although Milicic was never dominant in his first season and a half in Minnesota, he really struggled to fit into coach Rick Adelman's system in 2011-12. As Milicic had trouble scoring early in the season, the two differed about the center's role, with Milicic claiming that Adelman saw him only as a defensive player.
Adelman, however, disagreed.
"One of our biggest things we do is we tell our first guy down the court to run the court and get post-up position," Adelman said in January. "If you get the ball, score."
"There's less opportunities because of things we have changed, but we still would like to see him get the ball inside and try to be effective, to go for his opportunities. But we certainly want him to be a factor at the defensive end."
Adelman also criticized Milicic for his unwillingness to stay in shape and maintain his conditioning throughout the year, and that likely affected his waning role as the season ended. Even after the team suffered an onslaught of injuries, Adelman put Milicic in a game just once after Ricky Rubio's March 9 ACL tear, the point at which the team's struggles began in earnest. During the times when both he and Pekovic were injured, the team used forwards Anthony Randolph, Anthony Tolliver and Derrick Williams to cover minutes in a less traditional rotation.
Losing Milicic shouldn't alter the Timberwolves' rotation much for next season; Pekovic is recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs in his right ankle in May and is on pace to return as the team's starting center.
Milicic represents the second former No. 2 pick whom the Timberwolves have let go this offseason. The team declined to extend a qualifying offer to Michael Beasley, the second pick in the 2008 draft, on June 30. Of the three former second picks on the team's roster last season, only Derrick Williams remains.
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