Darko Milicic's European team has sued his agent, seeking at least US$10 million in damages for encouraging the Detroit Pistons' draft pick to pursue an NBA career.
In the lawsuit, Hemofarm Vrsac claims agent Marc Cornstein and Pinnacle Management Corp interfered with Milicic's European contract. Milicic has played for Hemofarm since 2000, and the club says it has him under contract through 2009.
"Despite their knowledge of Milicic's contract with Hemofarm [Cornstein and Pinnacle] began advertising Milicic to NBA teams and the public at large as a player available to be selected in the 2003 NBA draft," according to the lawsuit filed Friday in New York.
Natasha Cornstein, the wife and spokeswoman of Milicic's agent, said Monday evening they had not seen the lawsuit.
"We're shocked by this development," Cornstein said. "We have worked tirelessly with Hemofarm and the Pistons to reach an amicable solution ..."
Hemofarm says it trained Milicic in its youth basketball program, paid for the player's room and board, and arranged employment for his mother at pharmaceutical company Hemofarm Group, which sponsors the team. It claims Pinnacle ignored those investments in Milicic.
"Hemofarm has attempted to negotiate with Pinnacle and clear the way for Darko to start his NBA career," Robert Lanza, one of the lawyers representing Hemofarm, said in a statement. "But Pinnacle refused to join in a good faith effort toward a resolution."
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 US$350,000 toward buying out a contract. Under the pay scale for rookies, Milicic could earn about US$11 million over three years in the NBA.
The 18-year-old center from Serbia and Montenegro was the No. 2 overall pick in last month's NBA draft.