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thebac
11-14-2003, 11:52 AM
NBA Insider..Nov 14:2004 draft notes, Telfair overrated? T-Mac: Doc fired? Arenas


NBA Draft: Looking for the next LeBron

With the NBA season now in full swing, NBA scouts and personnel directors are already shifting their focus to the 2004 draft.

Their challenge? Finding the next LeBron James, Darko Milicic and Carmelo Anthony.

This year, scouts claim that a high school senior, several young international big men and two college standouts (one an incoming freshman) will likely compete for the honor.

While injuries, a strong season and the late discovery of an international sleeper can certainly change this group, the dozen or so NBA scouts and GMs Insider talked to all were in agreement on which prospects had a shot at the No. 1 pick.

There isn't a clear cut No. 1 this year. None of the players listed below will have the marketing impact or media hype of James. But each of them, with patience and a few breaks down the road, has the potential to be an NBA superstar.

I believe it's way too early to start ranking players. With a full season ahead, and with the young age of all but one of the players, there are just too many factors yet to be resolved. For that reason, this time, we're listing the players in alphabetical order.


A breakout season at Duke could make Lou Deng the No. 1 pick.

Luol Deng, SF, Duke
6-8, 220 (College Freshman)
The skinny: Deng's already drawn comparisons to Grant Hill for his versatility, athleticism and basketball IQ. Deng, a native of the Sudan, has a 7-foot wing span and is an off-the-charts athlete. He's an above average passer, shot blocker and rebounder for his size. While scouts wish he had a better perimeter shot, especially from 3-point range, he does just about everything else well. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is already touting him as one of the best players in the country and plans to start him right away. If he has a Carmelo Anthony-like season, and ends it with an NCAA Championship, expect the Deng-Anthony comparisons to put him in contention for the No. 1 pick.

Dwight Howard, PF, S.W. Atlanta Christian
(Georgia) 6-10, 230, 19.3 ppg, 15.3 rpg (High School Senior)
The skinny: Right now Howard is the consensus No. 1 player in the draft this year. The good news is that scouts think Howard is one of the most well-rounded big men to come up in the last couple of years. The bad news is that he reminds many scouts of Kwame Brown. Howard has athleticism, a soft shooting touch, strong ball handling skills and the ability to play multiple positions on the floor. However, he lacks the toughness and strength to compete in the NBA right away. Teams say he's a safer bet than Kwame because of his work ethic and his competitiveness on the floor, but others wonder just how long it will take for him to develop. If the consensus is three or more years, he'll start slipping.

Emeka Okafor, PF, UConn
6-9, 240, 15.9 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 4.7 bpg (College Junior)
The skinny: Okafor is the best big man in college hoops. He's a tenacious rebounder, shot blocker and defender and has drawn comparisons from some scouts to Alonzo Mourning. His defense is still ahead of his offensive game at this point, but last season he really made progress on his back-to-the-basket moves. Scouts love his intelligence and his work ethic. He's a coach's dream. The only real question teams have are about his size. If he were a few inches taller, he'd be the consensus No. 1 pick. But at 6-9, he'll have to make the transition to power forward in the pros. Okafor has two years of college eligibility left, but most scouts believe that he will declare for the draft this year.

Kosta Perovic, PF/C, Partizan (Serbia)
7-2, 240, (19-years-old)
The skinny: Perovic is a long, lean shot blocker with good shooting range. Currently he's playing behind former Nets first-round pick Nenad Krstic. However, Perovic got an early season break when Krstic went down with an injury, and scouts claim that he's excellent. He's still very thin to play in the league right now, but he's the right height and is very skilled.

Pavel Podkolzine, C, Metis Varese (Italy)
7-5, 300, (19-years-old)
The skinny: Podkolzine took the NBA by storm last spring when he put on a jaw dropping workout in Chicago while GMs were attending the NBA pre-draft camp. A pituitary condition discovered by NBA doctors convinced Pavel to pull out of the draft and take care of the problem before making himself available. Podkolzine's agent, Justin Zanick, told Insider that the problem has been treated with medication and that Pavel's hormone levels are back to normal. Podkolzine has good agility and a soft shooting touch for someone his size. He's still very, very raw, but another season playing in Varese should make him a better prospect than he was last season.

Predrag Samardzski, C, Partizan (Serbia)
7-1, 260, (17-years-old)
The skinny: Samardzski is the dark horse to grab the No. 1 pick. Currently, he's playing for Partizan's junior team and hasn't been scouted heavily by NBA GMs. However, the few who have caught a glimpse agree that he's the most talented prospect in Europe. The native of Macedonia does it all. He has polished moves in the paint and can step out and hit the 3. He's also got a wide frame, which will help his development in the pros. He may be another year or two away, but now that he's hired Darko Milicic's agent, Marc Cornstein, don't be surprised if he decides to come out this year. He's got the potential to be a superstar.

Tiago Splitter, PF, Tau Vitoria (Spain)
7-0, 240 (18-years-old)
The skinny: The native of Brazil had his coming out party against the Team USA in the Olympic Qualifying tournament. Splitter had just six points and three rebounds, but he didn't look out of place guarding the likes of Tim Duncan and Elton Brand. Splitter would go on to have several great games in the tournament, all in front of a large contingent of NBA scouts and GMs. Like Darko Milicic, Splitter is very physical on both ends of the floor. He plays with an intensity that has scouts drooling. He's got a pretty solid body and does a better job than average with his back to the basket. He doesn't have the perimeter skills of a Nowitzki, but he can shoot the ball and put it on the floor.

Draft Notes: Telfair, foriegn players

-ESPN may be televising his games, but NBA scouts are stumbling over themselves to get off the Sebastian Telfair bandwagon.
Telfair has a big marketing machine behind him, but at just 6-feet tall, teams feel like he's heavily overestimating his chances in the NBA.

One scout claimed that Telfair was "all flash, very little substance." Another called him a "circus midget."

Telfair has committed to Louisville, and most scouts agree he'll need at least two to three years there before even thinking about the draft.

"You have to be very, very special to make the leap from high school to the pros if you're under 6-10," one scout said. "Telfair plays with a flair that gets fans excited, but rarely does anything for scouts. Everyone hopes he makes the right decision and goes to college. He doesn't want to end up like Lenny Cooke."


-Dwight Howard may be the American high school buzz player, but look out for Russian sensation Ivan Chiriaev. Insider first reported on Chiriaev in July and since then he's gone from an unknown into one of the early buzz players in the draft.

For those of you who missed the report in July, Chiriaev is playing high school ball in Ontario, Canada, and several international scouts who saw him play this summer claim he's the closest thing to Dirk Nowitzki since Dirk himself.

Chiriaev is a legit 7-footer with handles like a point guard. He's a top-notch athlete with great quickness for his size. He's one of those players who many scouts feel could be a four or five position player in the pros.

"He's for real," one NBA scout told Insider a few weeks ago. "Everyone was praying for weeks that the cat wouldn't get out of the bag, but it has."

While scouts claim that's it's still to early to project where he could go in the draft, one scout says he's a lock for the lottery.

"The only real question with him is the competition he plays against," the scout said. "Canadian high school basketball isn't a hot bed for talent. But once he gets into private workouts and teams see what he can do for his size, I'd be shocked if he wasn't a top-five pick. He'll be a project, but his upside it tremendous."


-Another buzz name to watch is Australian big man Andrew Bogut. Bogut won MVP honors at the 2003 FIBA Junior World Championships in Greece in July. He averaged 26.3 points, 17.0 rebounds 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocked shots per game while shooting 61 percent from the field.
Bogut will be a freshman at the University of Utah this season and many scouts expect him to be one and done. Bogut turned down millions from a team in Croatia to play in the U.S. But with all of the attention, and with all of his skills, scouts expect him to make the leap to the NBA next season if he can duplicate what he did in Greece.

Bogut is another sharp shooter who runs the floor well and is a solid rebounder and shot blocker. He needs to get stronger physically, but most scouts think his frame is big enough to add on the extra muscle.

Around the League: T-mac & Doc


-Is Tracy McGrady trying to get Doc Rivers fired? That's the word from two league sources close to Magic players who claim that McGrady no longer gets along with Rivers and wants a change.

Tracy McGrady
Shooting Guard
Orlando Magic
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
8 23.3 5.9 5.5 .380 .843



While no one is claiming that McGrady has asked for Rivers to be fired (he doesn't want to fall into the same trap Penny Hardaway did in Orlando), if you listen closely to McGrady's comments in the media, you'll be able to pick up on his distaste for Rivers. Last week McGrady complained that he and the rest of the team were unprepared to play against zone defenses. His comments about wanting to call it quits and his dispassionate play at the start of the season were also meant to convey to management that he could no longer handle the status quo.

On Thursday, McGrady stepped up the rhetoric a bit, claiming it was time for a change.

"When you're not winning, changes have to be made," McGrady told Florida Today. "I don't see a light right now; really, I can't even see the end of the tunnel."

"Who knows what's going to happen? I'll leave that up to the management," McGrady said. "Right now, I just want to go out and compete with these guys. This is who we are. These are the coaches we have to play under and these are our players. Whatever happens, it's not up to me. It's up to management if they want to make changes. I'm out of it. I'm a player."

Rivers said he's willing to take the fall for the team. "It should be, it really should be," Rivers said when asked if his job security was in question. "Someone is going to take the blame, obviously. And if we keep losing, it'll be me, the players or management. It could be anybody. That's just the way business is and the way sports are. I understood that when I got into this. But I believe that we'll turn this around."

COO John Weisbrod claimed on Thursday that he hasn't considered firing Rivers or Gabriel . . yet.

"I'm not speaking along those lines or thinking along those lines," Weisbrod said. "I know it's the unavoidable question because it happens to be on everyone's lips and that's the culture of sports. That's the way everyone thinks when a team gets in these circumstances. But now I'm focused on joining hands with Gabe and Doc and trying to fight out of this."

"Anytime you are 1-7, you need something to change," Weisbrod said. "I'm hopeful that, despite how discouraging things may seem now, we can rejuvenate ourselves and get over the slump."

If things continue, Weisbrod will have no choice but to make a move. It will be one that probably works for both McGrady and Rivers. McGrady is frustrated with how the team has developed. He wants to win and there's a feeling in Orlando that the team has tuned Rivers out. Rivers has eyed several other high-profile jobs the past few summers. He has never wanted to quit on the Magic, however. If they let him go, he'll be free to grab another job. (The Hawks' and Knicks' jobs could become available right away if Rivers is fired.)

However, it's a no-win situation for Gabriel. Who is he going to replace Rivers with? The only high-profile coaching candidate out there is George Karl, and most don't believe he'd be a good fit. It's doubtful that an assistant coach is going to do any better than Rivers. If Rivers gets hired somewhere else, turns a team around and the Magic continue to struggle, Gabriel may be the next go.

Is Arenas approaching boiling point?

The question is not whether Gilbert Arenas can play point guard for the Washington Wizards. His 10 assists against the Mavericks in the third game of the season followed by another 10 assists against the Sixers less than a week later prove that he can.

Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .

Nor should the question be whether Arenas can score in this league. His 20 point per game average on 46 percent shooting with 14 triples in seven games proves that he can.

Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .

And the question is not whether Arenas has the ability and drive to turn his second-round draft status into all-star credentials in the future. His triple-double and the Wizards' improvement in the standings prove that.

Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .

The question concerning Arenas is whether the 6-foot-3 player who just signed a six-year, $64 million contract can do all of these things without blowing himself up first.

Gilbert Arenas
Point Guard
Washington Wizards
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
7 20.0 5.0 6.4 .463 .765



As Tom Knott wrote in the Washington Times: "All kinds of talented players in the NBA fail to maximize their abilities because of this or that character flaw, whether it is sloppy work habits, a problem with alcohol or the hemp plant, or seven children by six women. Arenas came into the NBA looking to mock the skeptics after slipping to the second round of the 2001 draft. He already has achieved that after being selected the NBA's Most Improved Player last season, only his second in the league. His next adjustment is between his ears."

"He's exciting," said Lamar Odom in the Miami Herald. "He makes some moves out there and when you're on defense, you're like, 'Whoa.' There aren't too many players like that in the league. He's got that bip-bop [dribble], real quick, you don't know which way he's going. He can drive left, right, finish over the rim, shoots threes. You have to attack him defensively. He's a tough, young player."

He's also "combustible" as Wizard owner Abe Pollin likes to put it. Last year, he battled continually with Antawn Jamison for control of the Golden State Warriors and drove coach Eric Musselman crazy.

This year, in the same seven games that he's used to boost his credentials statistically and in the standings, he's taunted and belittled an already beaten opponent as his team defeated the Raptors, 86-60; taken the game the very next night against the Cavaliers and launched it into the stands in protest and got benched by his coach for it; and then, the very next game, chased another player into the locker room trying to exact vengeance for a bloody lip earlier in the game.

"I didn't care about getting the call," Arenas said in the Washington Post. "I wanted to get him back. . . . Was it dirty? Yeah, it was dirty. But we all play dirty sometimes. I tripped him early in the game and I guess he got me back."

How about that for another triple-double.

"I don't know whether the kid is a kook or some sort of savant," said Michael Wilbon in the Post. "But he can indeed play and he knows it . . . as long as he keeps it simmering but short of boiling, [he's] something we could come to love."

But that's the problem, isn't it. Love and hate. Doctor Gilbert and Mr. Arenas. Not that every player has a bad side or that every player sometimes gets out of line. But that can this particular player be as good as he can be without having to be as bad as he can be.

Can he carry a team on his back without that chip on his shoulder?

Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .

"That's because the 6-3 Washington Wizard is as dramatic as he is spectacular," writes Israel Gutierrez in the Miami Herald. "He's a potential triple-double threat as well as a threat to team chemistry."

T-Wolves owner Taylor teed off

When Glen Taylor talks, the Timberwolves listen.

"They've got some excuses for injuries and stuff like that there," Taylor said in the Minnesota Star Tribune. "But I would say, looking at the teams we've played . . . we should be 6-2 or 7-1. So, we've lost some games that we certainly could win, so now we've got to come back and win some games that probably we're not favored to win, and if they can do that then, it will all even out. But they can't lose these games that are winnable, and especially at home."

That's because Taylor owns the Timberwolves and he didn't shell out millions upon millions of dollars to re-sign Kevin Garnett and then millions upon millions to acquire Sam Cassell, Latrell Sprewell and Michael Olowokandi and, in the near future, millions upon millions in luxury-tax fines on top of it all to watch his team lose.

And he doesn't want to hear any more whining about injuries to Wally Szczerbiak or Troy Hudson after Tuesday's loss to the Seattle Sonics.

"Well, up until two or three minutes left in the game, we had it in hand," Taylor said. "It was one of those things that we gave it to the other team; they didn't necessarily win it. It's one thing to give them credit, but to turn the ball over, not to get off good shots, miss your free throws: It isn't one thing; it was a combination of about four or five things.

"They [the Sonics] didn't have Ray Allen, so we can't be saying that . . . you know, we're a better team than they are. I mean, if they were a better team and we lost like this, I could feel better about it, but without a doubt we're a better team, and they had a good star of theirs missing, too. So you can't just use excuses; you've got to outplay the other team."

Changes coming in Orlando?

This is either a vote of confidence for Orlando Magic head coach Doc Rivers and general manager John Gabriel, or the beginnings of their eulogy.

"I'm not speaking along those lines or thinking along those lines," COO John Weisbrod said of the possibility of making a change in Florida Today. "I know it's the unavoidable question because it happens to be on everyone's lips and that's the culture of sports. That's the way everyone thinks when a team gets in these circumstances. But now I'm focused on joining hands with Gabe and Doc and trying to fight out of this."

The Magic have now lost seven games in a row and are about to begin a five-game road trip and not even their star player seems able to help the team nor its employees.

"When you're not winning, changes have to be made," Tracy McGrady is quoted in the same article. "I don't see a light right now; really, I can't even see the end of the tunnel."

Not even Rivers would deny his job was in jeopardy.

"It should be, it really should be," Rivers said. "Someone is going to take the blame, obviously. And if we keep losing, it'll be me, the players or management. It could be anybody. That's just the way business is and the way sports are. I understood that when I got into this. But I believe that we'll turn this around."

But with several injuries, eight new players as it is and the youngest team in franchise history, that is easier said than done.

"Who knows what's going to happen? I'll leave that up to the management," said McGrady. "Right now, I just want to go out and compete with these guys. This is who we are. These are the coaches we have to play under and these are our players. Whatever happens, it's not up to me. It's up to management if they want to make changes.

"I'm out of it. I'm a player."

I guess we could write that on the tombstone.

Peep Show
By Terry Brown
NBA Insider
Friday, November 14
Updated: November 14
10:43 AM ET




Miami Heat: There's one thing wrong with Eddie Jones hitting all those 3-pointers lately. "I think my mid-range game is suffering," he said in the Palm Beach Post. "I've always been a really good mid-range shooter, and that's what I'm more upset with, that 18-foot shot. But my three-point shot is pretty consistent right now. And also the fact that I'm attacking I think it opens so much more for me offensively." Jones is shooting a career-best 43 percent from long range while shooting only 42 percent overall.

Dallas Mavericks: Head coach Don Nelson isn't liking the spotlight of national television quite as much anymore. "You can't swear as much because they got you miked on the bench," Nelson said in the Dallas Morning News. "But I get just as many technical fouls for not swearing as I do for swearing. I got one last game for saying 'three seconds.' I'm hoping **** Motta will make a comeback and take that record back away from me -- most technical fouls for a career as coach." Actually, Motta still holds the record for technical fouls at 398 but Nelson holds the record for ejections with 64.

Indiana Pacers: If Jermaine O'Neal makes a shot, then clap. I he misses, then boo. He just wanted to get that all straight. "If I offended anybody by the comments I made about us not wanting to be booed and that we shouldn't be booed, I totally apologize," O'Neal said in the Indianapolis Star. "This city knows what they mean not only to me, but this organization and this team. When I put on my jersey, I'm proud to say I'm playing for this city. It wasn't a personal thing." O'Neal had made a previous comment that if booing fans thought they could do better, he could find a uniform for them.



New York Knicks: On second thought . . . "I ain't ready yet," Antonio McDyess said in the N.Y. Post about reports that he would play as early as tonight. "I don't even know how that came up." And what else could coach Don Chaney say but: "It's his call, but we have to allow him to get into it. He doesn't have a good grasp of the plays. It would be totally unfair to him, whether he's healthy or not."

Portland Trail Blazers: Maurice Cheeks knew it was a dangerous job when he took it, but it just got a little bit safer after the team extended his contract through the 2006 season. "It feels better to have security, no question about it," said Cheeks in the Oregonian. "But I figure, whether I had it or not, I'm going to go out and coach this team to the best of my ability. Maybe we don't end up being as good as I hope, and then they don't keep me or they don't exercise my option, and then I go someplace else. At some point, I always figured I would get another job. But it's always better to have security under your belt."

thebac
11-14-2003, 11:56 AM
Interesting to see the Wolves owner starting to lose patience.

Anyone watch HS ball and seen Telfair? Is he really all hype or what?

Also, they should just go ahead and fire Rivers, why drag it on for so long?

Arenas has proven me wrong so far, I thought he might just be a one-hit wonder.

The bit on Nellie is funny. I didn't know he gets ejected so much. Who's Number 2?

Max Power
11-14-2003, 08:23 PM
Thanks for posting the insider.