It’s a mere seven days before training camp, and the Celtics roster for the 2012-13 season is still taking shape. On Thursday, the club signed former lottery pick Darko Milicic and then announced hours later that Keyon Dooling would retire.
The Celtics have been in search for one more quality defensive center and found a match with the 7-foot Milicic, who has been much maligned throughout his career since the Pistons chose him second overall in the 2003 draft — ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.
Milicic has never developed into a star but he has emerged as a solid defender and tough guy in the paint. The Celtics will be his sixth team in nine seasons — and, amazingly, Milicic is only 27.
“I do think he brings something to the table that can really help this team,” said Marc Cornstein, Milicic’s agent. “I think, conversely, the Celtics can really help him as well.”
Milicic was waived by the Timberwolves through the amnesty clause so the club could clear salary cap space to offer Portland’s Nicolas Batum a contract that was eventually matched. They used the money to sign former Celtic center Greg Stiemsma.
Milicic was considering overseas options before the Celtics offered a guaranteed deal.
He spent the last 20 games of the 2011-12 season in Minnesota coach Rick Adelman’s doghouse. Adelman questioned Milicic’s desire, which has been his biggest issue. He averaged 4.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks in 29 games last season, compared with 8.8, 5.2, and 2.0 in 69 games the previous season.
The Celtics are looking for Milicic to merely rebound, defend, and allow Kevin Garnett to spend some time at power forward. They also signed burly center Jason Collins to a one-year deal along with Chris Wilcox, who missed most of last season after surgery to repair an enlarged aorta.
Meanwhile, Dooling informed the Celtics of his plans to retire and the club is now left without a primary backup point guard to Rajon Rondo. Dooling had also emerged as Rondo’s mentor.
“Keyon has decided that he has given the NBA 12 good years and that it’s time to pursue other interests and spend more time with his family,” Dooling’s representative, Kenge Stevenson, said in a statement.
The Celtics wanted Dooling to return because of his steadiness and veteran presence. Now they are seeking a replacement just a week before training camp.
“We’ll miss Keyon’s spirit and energy, both on and off the court,” said Celtics president Danny Ainge said in a statement.
Point guards on the free agent market include Derek Fisher, Jonny Flynn, Mike Bibby, and Carlos Arroyo.