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Why Darko didn't work out

Darko Milicic is hoping for a buyout from

Darko Milicic is hoping for a buyout from the Knicks. Photo Credit: Newsday/Jason DeCrow

Darko Milicic may have achieved something this season: he is no longer alone at the top of the list of NBA draft busts. At least Milicic was never sent to the D-League, which is where Hasheem Thabeet (also a No. 2 pick) is headed.

Darko appears to be headed back to Europe, which is where he seems to want to be anyway. He barely had a chance to redeem himself this season with the Knicks, but Mike D'Antoni today made it sound like it was a mutual effort.

"What can I say, obviously I just didn't feel like that was the direction we needed to go," D'Antoni said. "Just the fire and desire wasn't there. It might have been me, but I just didn't get a good feeling from it."

Milicic told Newsday subscriber (and closet Fixer) Marc Berman earlier in the season that he felt it didn't matter what he did in practice because D'Antoni wasn't going to give him minutes. Milicic said he could play like Michael Jordan in practice and it still wouldn't make a difference.

Asked if Darko ever had a Jordanesque practice, D'Antoni replied, "Oh yeah. Michael's what, about 59?"

Clearly D'Antoni wanted to say more on the subject, but forced himself to hold back. There's no question the Knicks needed his size and ability to block shots. They acquired him on draft night for Quentin Richardson to do exactly that. D'Antoni spoke very optimistically about Milicic's game in training camp and thought he could fit well into how the Knicks wanted to play. But then the results just weren't there and in a short time Milicic was completely out of the picture.

"A coach looks and if I think he can help, then I'm going to play him," D'Antoni said. "If I think he's not helping then I'm not. So if you're saying you had a lot of practices and you dominate and I don't play you, I find that hard to believe. You might be thinking you're dominating and I think you're not. OK, I can understand that. But I don't know a coach yet that doesn't watch practice and games and the guy's out there busting his hump and playing well and you go, 'I'm not playing him.' I don't know why we would do that because we wanted this to work. So it was a judgement call at a certain point. Right or wrong, I just didn't think it was going to work out. I don't know how else to put it."

* * *

* - Jonathan Bender was excused from the team so he could fly home to Louisiana for a family situation.

* - D'Antoni is really impressed with Bill Walker, who was part of the Nate Robinson trade with the Celtics. Walker is from West Virginia and D'Antoni is aware of his background as a high school star with O.J. Mayo and then his collegiate career with Michael Beasley at Kansas State. Walker was a lottery pick until he injured his knee in a predraft workout in June 2008. He wound up a second-round pick (Wizards, flipped to Boston) and spent a lot of time in the D-League.

Walker has had three knee injuries in his young career. Both knees have undergone surgeries, which is a major red flag. But the 6-5 guard is still showing great explosiveness despite the injury history. The Knicks are hoping they might have a diamond in the rough here in Walker, who would be in his junior season if he had stayed in college. Expect him to continue to see minutes off the bench.

* - The Knicks had tentatively planned to visit the White House and meet President Obama -- a pick-up game buddy of Chris Duhon -- but it sounds like those plans have been scrapped. A handful of players still might get an opportunity to meet Obama, but there won't be anything official. Probably better for the Knicks to wait until they're over .500 before they seek that kind of an audience.


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