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07-21-2006, 11:03 AM
How Coach K's initial message misses mark

By Chris Sheridan
ESPN Insider

LAS VEGAS -- It didn't take long for Mike Krzyzewski to screw up royally in his new job as coach of Team USA. He did it before day one was even in the books.

Rather than tell the team its job is to win the World Championship on the night of Sept. 3, Coach K gave the players exactly the kind of misguided advice they didn't need to hear.

"We have to go out there and be dominant for 56 quarters -- every quarter of every game we play. That's our mission," Gilbert Arenas told me following Team USA's first practice Wednesday.

"Who on earth told you that?" I asked.

"Coach Mike," Arenas replied.

Well, Coach Mike or Coach K, or whatever you want to call him, is dead wrong, and Insider is not afraid to say so. This isn't 1992 anymore. This isn't about playing like the original Dream Team, for which Coach K was an assistant under Chuck Daly. And this should not be about restoring American dominance following three losses at the 2002 World Championship and three more losses at the 2004 Olympics.

This should be about having the U.S. team playing at its peak when the games really count, and that won't happen until the single-elimination stage of the World Championship arrives at the end of August with the Round of 16, then the quarterfinals, the semifinals and the gold-medal game -- the only four games that will really matter. Sure, it'd be nice to beat Senegal by 107 in the opening round, but nobody back home will care all that much about that if, when the games really mean something, France or Spain is one or two points better.

You know what would have been a better message, Coach K? How about this: "I don't care if you lose, and I don't want you losing your confidence if you do lose. I want you playing at your peak seven weeks from now. I want us at our best when this mission finally gets serious."

You can't be dominant if you're not even superior, and right now there's a team in Argentina that has first dibs on worldwide rights to being the best. Manu Ginobili and Co. earned that distinction fair and square in Athens, and they get to keep it until somebody knocks them off their perch.

You want to see dominant, Coach K? Go back and look at a tape of the third quarter of the Argentina-U.S. semifinal in Athens when the Argentines back-picked and back-doored the Americans into submission. That's what you're going to be up against next month, and if you infect your players with the wrong mind-set, it's going to happen again.

Better yet, Coach K, have someone from USA Basketball bring you a tape of the gold-medal game from the Tournament of the Americas in Puerto Rico in 2003, when the U.S. actually did perform like the original Dream Team and crushed Argentina with a stunning display of dazzling dunks in rapid succession at the end of the first half to turn that game into a rout. Those players were so sick of hearing assistant coach Gregg Popovich tell them how good Argentina was, they poured it on extra heavy just to shut him up.

The U.S. team Larry Brown took to Athens in 2004 talked early on about being dominant, too, but when the Americans got trounced by Italy on the way to the Olympics and by Puerto Rico in their opener, they were finished mentally. First-round losses shouldn't do that to any team, because first-round losses do not knock you out of international tournaments. The elimination games don't happen until the Round of 16, and the job in the opening round is simply to win enough games to advance to the elimination round.

But is anybody in USA Basketball explaining that simple reality to the players?

Four years ago at the World Championship, the team then known as Yugoslavia was in such disarray during the opening round in Indianapolis, Serbian journalists were actually shouting down the coach as he walked off the floor. But by the time that tournament ended a couple weeks later, Yugoslavia was the champion after an overtime victory over Argentina. Sure, Vlade Divac and his teammates looked terrible in the opening round -- even worse than the Americans would look two years later when they lost to Puerto Rico and Lithuania in Athens. But they hit their peak when it mattered, and no one back in Belgrade cared at all about the first round by the time the tournament ended.

During this past NBA season, I asked Ginobili how Argentina could have looked so bad in its quarterfinal victory over Greece at the Olympics before playing so cohesively in the semifinals against the U.S. and the gold-medal game against Italy.

"Well, every team has one bad game in every tournament, and we had ours that night but were fortunate enough to win. Our team has been through enough of those tournaments to know there's going to be a letdown somewhere along the way," Ginobili said.

Memo to Coach K: Steal Manu's words of wisdom and pass them along to your team.

This whole focus on restoring U.S. dominance is so misguided, it's actually mind-boggling. It ain't 1992 anymore, Coach K, and opposing players aren't going to be asking your players for autographs after humbly being beaten into submission. The best of the rest of the world have already proved they can stand up to the U.S., and when the rest of the basketball world hears that you want to dominate 56 quarters, they're going to laugh.

They see a U.S. program that's gone 11-6 over the past four years and is showing up with another roster bereft of America's best big men and shooters. Think they're scared of being dominated? Fat chance. They're thinking about how they're going to try to pick you apart.

This should be about one thing, Coach K: winning the gold in Japan and earning an automatic berth into the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. That's the prize here, and it's your job to keep the players' eyes on it. What happens if your team is not dominant in a preliminary-round game against Slovenia or Italy? What if they actually lose? You want that loss to get into their heads like the loss to Puerto Rico did two years ago?

If you set the bar too high, your chances of failure increase. And if you're telling them they need to dominate 56 quarters, Coach K, you're setting them up to fail.

Speaking as an American here, do us all a favor and stop trying to turn back the clock to the Age of Barcelona. Go tell your team the truth, that their only job is to continually get better as the gold-medal game in Japan draws near.

We can talk about dominance 26 months from now when y'all get back from Beijing. Until then, let's just worry about winning. And if the path to winning includes a loss along the way, let's not create a collective mind-set among the players that makes such a loss so mentally devastating.

Just tell them to do what the Miami Heat did: Tell 'em to win their final four games, and stage one of their mission will be an unqualified success. That's the message they needed to hear on day one.

Chris Sheridan, a national NBA reporter for the past decade, covers the league for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.

Why the world won't be dominated

posted: Thursday, July 20, 2006 | Print Entry

LAS VEGAS -- Awoke this morning to a couple hundred e-mails on my column in which I took coach Mike Krzyzewski to task for telling his Team USA players their goal is to dominate every quarter of every game they play.

A good 90 percent of the e-mailers were of the belief that I've lost my mind, and a good percentage -- even a few Tar Heels fans -- also took the time to point out that Coach K has won more NCAA championships than me.

And while that is true, I can at least retort that I've seen a whole lot more international basketball than Coach K has (I've covered every single game Team USA has played with NBA players since 1996), so I know that of which I speak. And I'll repeat the point I made Wednesday: This team's job is not to dominate every quarter of every game it plays. Its job is to win the World Championship in Japan.

Trust me when I tell you the Americans are going to have a bad game along the way, and believe me when I tell you the way they react to that bad game will have a huge impact on how they fare in the tournament. Pau Gasol's Spanish team dominated every quarter of every game they played in the opening round of the Athens Olympics, but that didn't matter one iota when they got to the quarterfinals and lost to the United States by staying in a zone too long and letting Stephon Marbury beat them from outside. Spain ended up finishing seventh, not much of a reward for being the most dominant team in the tournament when it didn't really matter.

The object here is to win the most important games, not to dominate. And I'll repeat: The sooner Coach K gets that message across, the better off this team will be.

Quite a few e-mailers also predicted the U.S. team will trounce everyone in the World Championship, to which I'll steal a line from Gregg Popovich and ask: Have you people been living in a phone booth for the past six years?

As Coach K told the team, if these games were being played under NBA rules with NBA refs in NBA arenas, the United States would wax everybody. But that's not the case here, and the challenge will be to beat these other teams at their game. And as anybody who has spent any time around international basketball knows, it's not the same game. The rules are different, the court is different, even the ball is different (it's slightly smaller than an NBA ball).

Here's a little international basketball quiz, and don't be ashamed if you get the answer wrong. So far during this training camp, I've asked the question of Joe Johnson, Bruce Bowen, Dwight Howard and Gilbert Arenas, and they all answered incorrectly. The question is: How do you call a timeout in an international basketball game? The answer is below.

Bowen, by the way, was taken aback by comments made by Spurs teammate Manu Ginobili of Argentina, which won gold at the 2004 Olympics. "He said they're basically going to be able to do whatever the want to do," Bowen said. "That was surprising to me, but if that's how they feel, they also better know that it isn't easy to defend championships, because when you're on the top, everyone goes after you."

Bowen likely will get the assignment of defending Ginobili if the Americans face Argentina, but Bowen said there's a misperception that he knows all of Ginobili's tendencies inside and out from defending him in practice every day. In reality, Bowen hasn't defended Ginobili during the Spurs' practices since 2004-05. Last season, they were almost always on the same squad during practice, Bowen said.

A few other notes:

• Carmelo Anthony declined to guarantee a gold medal as he did two years ago prior to the Olympics, a comment that circulated quickly around the world and was taken as a sign of disrespect by players from other countries.

• Chris Bosh became the first player to snatch a ball off the rim during a scrimmage. Under international rules, players can grab the ball while it is still in the cylinder -- a play that would be called goaltending under NBA rules.

• Elton Brand on the mind-set of the typical American fan when it comes to understanding how competitive international basketball has become: "They don't get it."

• Dwyane Wade on seeking redemption for the bronze-medal performance in Athens: "Coach K doesn't want us to redeem ourselves, but the guys that were there have that inside us."

Quiz answer: If you are a player, you cannot call a timeout in international basketball. Only a coach can.

07-21-2006, 11:04 AM
ESPN.com's Intelligence Report: July 21


Editor's note: ESPN.com is waking up early in the morning and aggregating news from papers around the country to bring you the latest NBA talk.


Atlanta Hawks | All Hawks sitelines

Johnson Enjoying Team USA Workouts
Hawks captain Joe Johnson didn't have to continue his annual ritual of criss-crossing the country in search of the most challenging summer pick-up basketball games. He had an invitation this year, along with 23 other players, to the U.S. national team's training camp in preparation for next month's World Championships in Japan. "This is the best run for an NBA player anywhere on the planet," an animated Johnson said after practice wrapped up Thursday morning at Cox Pavilion on the campus of UNLV. "Look at these guys we've got in the gym. Where else can you go and have LeBron [James] and Dwyane [Wade] on one side and Carmelo [Anthony] and Chauncey [Billups] on the other? It doesn't get any better than this. And you know how much I love to play ball, so this is paradise for me." -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Shorthanded Hawks Short Of Offense
Playing without their top two scorers, the Hawks' squad at the Rocky Mountain Revue lost 77-56 to the Utah Jazz on Thursday night. Forward Marvin Williams missed the game with a left hip pointer, and guard Salim Stoudamire was out with a mild right elbow sprain. Anthony Grundy led the Hawks (2-3) with 11 points. Rookie Shelden Williams added 10 points and nine rebounds. "We came in without our top two guys tonight and could never get on track," said Hawks summer-league coach Larry Drew. "This is one we'll put behind us, and we'll look to finish strong and get back to the .500 mark tomorrow against Philadelphia." -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Boston Celtics | All Celtics sitelines

Celtics Still Searching For Right Deal
Things had calmed considerably by yesterday on the Celtics' pursuit of a high-quality veteran. It would take just one phone call to spark the embers into a full conflagration, but it seems as though many of the principals were taking a step back to survey the scene -- and maybe take a day or two with the family after playoffs, draft preparation and summer leagues. The C's would still like to get something done, but of late they're waiting for the market to come around to their way of thinking. Also, if the price isn't right, they wouldn't be heartbroken to go to training camp and see what they have with the addition of some dishing point guards and a healthier Wally Szczerbiak and Al Jefferson. -- Boston Herald

Charlotte Bobcats | All Bobcats sitelines

Bobcats Making Roster Moves
Looks like Brevin Knight might be back with the Charlotte Bobcats after all. "We're more inclined to keep Brevin," coach-general manager Bernie Bickerstaff said Thursday. "It would be hard for us to find a better point guard than him" for what teams would offer in trade. "This is a place where he can finish his career with a nice salary. Brevin wants to be here." ... Knight will make about $4.4 million next season, but Bickerstaff says that's a reasonable price to know the team is well covered at the point. Bickerstaff is finishing up roster moves before taking time off. Veteran power forward Othella Harrington signed Wednesday, and Bickerstaff is working to complete negotiations with free agent Bernard Robinson and second-round pick Ryan Hollins. -- Charlotte Observer

Chicago Bulls | All Bulls sitelines

Versatile Roster Presents Skiles With Challenge
With preseason camp expected to be the most competitive in years, Bulls head coach Scott Skiles faces an enviable but difficult situation. Not only does Skiles have to find the right combinations on the court, he has to develop positive team chemistry at the same time. "We want to maintain versatility, but it will be a challenge for me. There's no doubt about it," Skiles said. "A lot of (game planning) will sort itself out when the guys come together, but some of it may not. Some of it may be difficult decisions that I have to make." -- Daily Southtown

Bulls Ship Out Smith, Clear Spot For Griffin
As expected, the Bulls traded J.R. Smith to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. The Bulls are getting point guard Howard Eisley from Denver as well as two second-round draft picks in 2007. The Bulls plan to waive Eisley, a 12-year veteran. Once Eisley clears waivers in a week, the Bulls can sign free-agent swingman Adrian Griffin to a three-year deal. -- Chicago Tribune

Cleveland Cavaliers | All Cavs sitelines

James Strives For Golden Experience
The previous Olympics that resulted in a bronze medal for Team USA is a place LeBron James no longer wants to visit. He plans to do everything possible to produce a winning result in Beijing. "No one wants us to look at it like that, but for me and the guys that were on the last Olympic team, this is unfinished business," James said. "We have to regain our crown. It's about our pride, especially when you're representing your country. We have to set the example and prove to ourselves that we're still the best basketball players in the world." And James and many of the other players who played on the last Olympic team -- Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony -- set the standard on the first day of training camp. -- Cleveland Plain Dealer

Cavs, Gooden's Agent Resume Negotiations
Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry and the agent for starting power forward Drew Gooden resumed contract negotiations on Thursday. Ferry and Calvin Andrews met in downtown Cleveland, hoping to bridge the gap that has developed between Gooden's worth to the team and his perceived value to other NBA clubs. A Cavaliers spokesman said no details about the negotiations were available because they were taking place away from Quicken Loans Arena, but added there was not a press conference scheduled to announce any signings. Andrews was unavailable for comment. -- Medina Gazette

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Miami Heat | All Heat sitelines

With A Title To Defend, Riley Won't Retire
Pat Riley has every reason to retire, this time for good. Nobody would blame him if he did -- if he decided to enjoy the view from the mountaintop in perpetuity rather than start the climb all over again. Everyone would understand. His would be a heroic farewell. Perfectly timed. Storybook stuff. He won't do it. He'll be back. Just like Alonzo Mourning, who finally got his championship ring but discovered he wants more. Just like Gary Payton, who satisfied his career's hunger in the same way but found he isn't full yet. They couldn't walk away from something as good as what the Heat has going, and Riley won't, either. -- Miami Herald

Milwaukee Bucks | All Bucks sitelines

New Jersey Nets | All Nets sitelines

Boone Has Surgery, To Miss 4-6 Months
The Nets suffered a major blow yesterday when they learned they could be without the services of first-round pick Josh Boone through late January. The 6-10 power forward/center out of UConn had surgery Wednesday to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and his recovery is expected to take between four and six months, team president Rod Thorn said on a conference call with reporters yesterday. ... The 23rd pick in last month's draft, Boone will be in a sling for two weeks after which he'll begin the rehab process. The team is not sure exactly when Boone suffered the injury but Thorn said it was easy to see something was bothering him in his final summer league game. -- Newark Star-Ledger

Robinson Glad To Be Back
Rod Thorn expects him in for his physical today. Provided Cliff Robinson passes, he'll sign a two-year deal. The second year is partially guaranteed. Robinson, suspended during the playoffs for failing a drug test, was a vital part of the Nets' success last season. But he wasn't sure they wanted him back after what happened. "I knew that they were happy with how I played," Robinson said in a phone interview. "But the way everything ended up, I didn't know. I was definitely going to do what I could to get back." That meant taking a $1 million pay cut after the Nets declined his $2.5 million option. -- Bergen Record

New York Knicks | All Knicks sitelines

Larry's Peachy To Knicks' Herb
Knicks assistant coach Herb Williams stuck up for his former boss yesterday, saying Larry Brown was not to blame for the Knicks' 23-59 record last season. While Knicks brass believes Brown violated his contract by not giving it his best, Williams said injuries were an underrated cause of Team Titanic's demise. ... "I never want to second-guess Larry," Williams told The Post. "He has been in the league too long. No way I'd ever second-guess him. I'm not going to put blame on him. It falls on everybody." -- New York Post

'Earl The Pearl' Still Gem Of Guy To His Fans
Earl Monroe was here at the invitation of the Baltimore City Health Department, to encourage screening and treatment for an enlarged prostate, something that he has. It may be news to anyone under 40, but Monroe didn't have to remind a packed conference room that the NBA once played here. "It's unfortunate," Monroe said of the lost legacy of the Bullets, "because the NBA in Baltimore was such a great thing." Monroe came to Baltimore in 1967 and spent four memorable seasons here. One of the game's first great stylists, he was an innovator on and off the court who energized a troubled franchise but left on acrimonious terms. -- Baltimore Sun

Orlando Magic | All Magic sitelines

Arroyo, NBA Reach Out
Orlando Magic guard and former FIU standout Carlos Arroyo, who was born in Puerto Rico, was in San Juan this week to visit a grade school while taking part in the NBA's global ''Basketball Without Borders'' camp. Arroyo helped inaugurate a renovated basketball court with fellow countrymen Jose ''Piculin'' Ortiz, formerly of the Utah Jazz, and Daniel Santiago, who played for the Milwaukee Bucks before moving to Europe. The NBA camp started Tuesday for dozens of teens from all over the world. They are learning about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention while learning the sport from the pros. ''The kids have the motivation to learn and to listen,'' Arroyo said. "We're definitely very pleased with what we have seen.'' -- Miami Herald

Philadelphia 76ers | All 76ers sitelines

Salmons Trade To Raptors Not Official
This is the story that was supposed to say the 76ers had completed their agreed-upon sign-and-trade deal to send restricted free-agent John Salmons to the Toronto Raptors. All that had to happen to clear the way was for Raptors guard Andre Barrett to clear waivers, creating a roster spot. At that point, Salmons - accepting a 5-year contract worth $23 million - would be sent to the Raptors, with the Sixers receiving a $2 million trade exception good for a calendar year, plus a second-round draft choice. Barrett cleared waivers at 6 o'clock last night. After that... Nothing, other than this from Sixers president and general manager Billy King, in an e-mail response: "At this time, there is no trade to announce." He would not elaborate. -- Philadelphia Daily News

Toronto Raptors | All Raptors sitelines

Raptors, Salmons Deal In Limbo
The trade that would have added backup guard John Salmons to the Raptors is in danger. Word around the NBA yesterday was that serious snags had developed in the transaction with the Philadelphia 76ers. It's unclear whether Salmons, a free agent, had second thoughts about joining the Raptors for a five-year, $23 million (all figures U.S.) contract or whether Toronto is working on a larger trade and needed the salary cap room or roster spot. What is clear is that Toronto is nowhere close to announcing the sign-and-trade deal -- Salmons for a second-round draft pick and a $2 million salary cap trade exception. It was supposed to be finalized last night, when former Raptor Andre Barrett cleared waivers. -- Toronto Star

Three Signings Imminent
Spanish forward Jorge Garbajosa is on the verge of signing a three-year deal worth about $12 million with the Raptors. The announcement could come as soon as today. Garbajosa is with the Spanish national team preparing for the world championship next month. Also, as expected, the Raptors are believed to have come to a verbal agreement with 2005 second-round pick Uros Slokar, a Slovenian forward. Slokar told a Slovenian news outlet yesterday he will sign with the Raptors. After Pape Sow injured his neck at summer league and underwent surgery, the Raptors began negotiating with Slokar. Swingman P.J. Tucker, the team's second-round pick this year, also is expected to sign with the Raptors before training camp. -- Toronto Sun

Washington Wizards | All Wizards sitelines

Arenas, Jamison Bask In USA Talent Show
The pinch-yourself moment came early Thursday morning, at one of the strip's newest and most luxurious hotels. Antawn Jamison phoned Gilbert Arenas's suite and asked his teammate on the U.S. men's national basketball team to join him for breakfast. ... After devouring a plate of eggs, turkey bacon, turkey sausage and a cup of Gatorade, Jamison looked around the breakfast table. He was not in Washington anymore. "Instead of Brendan Haywood and Jared Jeffries, you're eating with LeBron [James] and Shawn Marion," Jamison said. And Dwyane Wade, Chauncey Billups and Bruce Bowen, all of whom have won NBA championships. "I can't believe it," Arenas said, tugging on his No. 21 USA Basketball jersey after practice Thursday afternoon. "I get to go home with this. Even if they don't let me go home with it, I'm going to take it. For me and Antawn, this is big." -- Washington Post

Pollin: Gilbert Not Interested In Opting Out
Wizards owner Abe Pollin said yesterday he will do everything in his power to keep Gilbert Arenas with Washington, less than a month after the two-time All-Star said he would consider opting out of his contract in 2008 if he thinks the team is not progressing toward a championship. "I talked to Gilbert and he's not interested in opting out -- I've talked to him personally," Pollin said. "He wants to win a championship. I said, 'Gilbert, what do you think I want to do? I want to win a championship, and that's why I'm doing everything I can to win a championship. And I won't stop doing it until we win one.' "And," Pollin continued, "we are going to win a championship. Maybe not this year, but we are going to win one soon. That is our goal." -- Washington Times

Songaila Hopes To Fill Gaps on Offense, Defense
The Washington Wizards officially introduced their newest player, forward Darius Songaila, at a news conference yesterday at Verizon Center, and he already has a fan in owner Abe Pollin. "We needed a big guy, a tough guy who can rebound, shoot and make free throws," Pollin said. "We can score a lot of points and he can help us do that, but we also have to play some defense and this guy can do that too. He's a good player." Songaila, who has been assigned uniform No. 9, was courted by several teams but chose Washington because the Wizards offered a five-year contract worth around $21 million and because the team is suited to his skills. -- Washington Post


Dallas Mavericks | All Mavericks sitelines

Forwards Out To Prove Themselves This Summer
Rawle Marshall and Josh Powell are feeling the pressure. And they don't mind one bit. Fresh off whirlwind rookie seasons, the former undrafted free-agent forwards have begun the early stages of Year Two on the summer league team and are uncertain whether their careers with the Mavericks will continue. Both have nonguaranteed contracts for the upcoming season. They aren't counting on last season being an inside track at sticking with the defending Western Conference champions. "I've got a year under my belt and I'm trying to work on areas of my game," Marshall said Thursday night after the Mavs beat San Antonio 90-81 at the Rocky Mountain Revue. -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Denver Nuggets | All Nuggets sitelines

Nene Makes Six-Year, $60 Million Contract Official
Nene left instructions. He did not want to be bothered on his Brazilian honeymoon about contract details. Then it was agreed stateside he would get a six-year, $60 million deal. Suffice to say, Nene did not mind being bothered about that. "My heart is good," Nene said of hearing July 2 about terms being reached. "Had I had a weak heart, I would have definitely died." Nene was alive and well when he showed up Thursday at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets restricted free agent forward/center signed his big deal and wore a big smile while calling it a "great day." It has been a pretty good month for Nene. Not only did he get really rich, he was married July 1 to Brazilian Meleana Antuanes, whom he met seven months ago when she served as his personal trainer. -- Rocky Mountain News

Road To Title? A.I. The Way
Coach George Karl declares himself an admirer of Iverson and believes he could nurture a good relationship with the feisty point guard. Player personnel director Mark Warkentien said Iverson's scoring ability is almost unmatched in hoops. Bret Bearup, confidant of Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke, believes Iverson is one of the league's few players capable of seizing control of a playoff game by himself. So it's not a question of whether the Nuggets should or would make a big play for Iverson, subject of the hottest trade rumors in the league. It's only a question of if Denver can get the deal done. -- Denver Post

Elson A Spur, Smith Trade Official, Diawara On The Way
For three seasons, backup center Francisco Elson dutifully served as an affordable insurance policy. On Thursday, the Nuggets decided his updated premiums were just a tad too high. The Nuggets once again are sans Francisco after declining to match the two-year, $6 million offer sheet Elson signed last week with the San Antonio Spurs. ... The Nuggets finalized a trade with the Chicago Bulls for 20-year-old guard J.R. Smith. In exchange, Denver sent veteran guard Howard Eisley and two second-round draft picks in 2007 to Chicago. Eisley has a nonguaranteed contract and will be waived. ... the Nuggets are expected to sign swingman Yakhouba Diawara to a two-year, $1.1 million contract. Diawara, who averaged 11.8 points for Denver's summer league team, said he expects to sign with the Nuggets sometime next week. "I'm just waiting for my agent to contact me," he said after working out at the Pepsi Center. -- Rocky Mountain News

Golden State Warriors | All Warriors sitelines

Houston Rockets | All Rockets sitelines

Rockets Expect To Give Lucas 3-Year Contract
Having reached out thousands of miles to put some size in their backcourt with Vassilis Spanoulis from Greece earlier this week, the Rockets will be staying close to home to add a small guard to their roster. John Lucas III, who played 13 games for the team last season, likely will be signed to a three-year contract by early next week. "We like him. We've had preliminary talks, and we'll just try to get together on the terms," said Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson. -- Houston Chronicle

Los Angeles Clippers | All Clippers sitelines

Los Angeles Lakers | All Lakers sitelines

Memphis Grizzlies | All Grizzlies sitelines

Minnesota Timberwolves | All Wolves sitelines

Wolves Let Banks Go To Phoenix
In a perfect world, the Timberwolves would have started next season with Mike James as the starter at point guard and Marcus Banks as the talented understudy. One out of two will have to do. With Banks signing a five-year, $21 million deal Thursday to back up Steve Nash for the Phoenix Suns, Wolves General Manager Jim Stack said he wishes Banks well even as he wishes Banks would stay. "We felt that Marcus could come along, that he had all sorts of potential," Stack said. "[But] we felt he needed to grow in some areas -- not that he couldn't. But we felt we couldn't get left holding the bag. Mike James, we all felt, was more ready to play that spot. -- Minneapolis Star Tribune

New Orleans Hornets | All Hornets sitelines

Chandler Centered On Reaching Potential
Training camp is three months away, but it can't come soon enough for 7-foot-1 center Tyson Chandler. He has a new playbook to learn, new teammates to meet and new objectives to achieve. After five seasons with the Chicago Bulls, Chandler can't wait to get a fresh start with the Hornets, who obtained him in a trade earlier this month in exchange for veteran forward P.J. Brown and second-year guard J.R. Smith. ... "I've been working on everything, starting with free throws, since the season ended," Chandler said. "I've been shooting 100 shots a day, correcting a little hitch that I had developed. I've been getting up mid-range jump shots. It's like I went back to the lab and started all over again." -- New Orleans Times-Picayune

Hornets Seek N.O. Opener
With a nudge from Hornets owner George Shinn, the NBA is exploring the possibility of having the team play its first home game of the 2006-07 season at New Orleans Arena. Shinn said Thursday that he has been working with the league for several weeks and is pushing for the game to be played at the Arena, where the Hornets sold out two of three games in March. "We're trying to get it accomplished, and it's something I want to do for the city," Shinn said. "I think it would be great, and I'm definitely working with the league to have our opening night in New Orleans." -- New Orleans Times-Picayune

Former Farmer Feels Right At Home
The outskirts of Oklahoma City made Tyson Chandler think of his youth. "I grew up on a farm with pigs, cows, horses, chickens," said Chandler, born in Hanford, Calif., about 30 miles south of Fresno. "I milked the cows, fed the cows, fed the pigs and chickens. We had some crops, too." In the eyes of Hornets general manager Jeff Bower, now is the perfect time for a 7-foot-1, 235-pound former farmer to join the roster. And the Hornets fully intend to milk Chandler for all he's worth. They earned that right, having inherited Chandler's existing contract that will pay him $54 million the next five years. -- The Oklahoman

Phoenix Suns | All Suns sitelines

Banks A Surprise Catch
The agent thought his client was nuts, but Michael Higgins phoned the Suns anyway. He had a talented free-agent point guard on his hands - one willing to sacrifice a possible starting gig for a chance to learn from Steve Nash. ... David Griffin phoned Suns coach and General Manager Mike D'Antoni and told him about Banks' interest. "He would come and be a backup?" D'Antoni asked. When Griffin replied yes, D'Antoni's wish became clear. "Do it," he said. "Get it done right away." Griffin relayed these details Thursday after a news conference introduced the sturdy 6-foot-2 Banks into the Suns family, a group trying to come up with the final pieces of a championship puzzle. The two sides had agreed this week on a five-year contract worth about $21 million. -- Arizona Republic

Suns Done Shopping
Marcus Banks is the new backup point guard. Sean Marks will sign a minimum contract next week when he returns from an NBA charities program in Puerto Rico. And that, according to managing partner Robert Sarver, is just about it for the Suns' summer shopping. The $3.6 million trade exception will likely go unused and be allowed to lapse on Aug. 21. The approximately $1.6 million that remains of the mid-level exception, after Banks was given $3.6 million Thursday, may well be tucked away for a rainy day. ... "I think this pretty much takes care of it," Sarver said after welcoming Banks at a press conference at US Airways Center. "My hat's off to our basketball staff for having the patience to be comfortable with the core we have. You see a lot of other teams doing a lot of things, but if you look at our top seven or eight players, they are pretty good -- plus we get Amar้ (Stoudemire) back. -- East Valley Tribune

Bergeaud Backs Captain Diaw To Shine
France coach Claude Bergeaud is convinced that being given the captaincy will allow Boris Diaw to develop as a player. The 24-year-old Phoenix Suns forward was officially named skipper on Thursday ahead of the Strasbourg tournament where Les Bleus will face Senegal, Lithuania and China as part of their preparation for the FIBA World Championship in Japan. Diaw, who has 56 caps with France, succeeds Antoine Rigaudeau who retired from basketball after helping his country win bronze at last year's Eurobasket in Serbia & Montenegro. "I have chosen Boris because of his sporting and human qualities," explained Bergeaud during a press conference in Strasbourg's Rhenus arena. "He is a real leader and knows how to gather people around one sole goal. He is also a good link between the experienced players and the younger ones." -- FIBA.com

Portland Trail Blazers | All Blazers sitelines

Sacramento Kings | All Kings sitelines

Arena Deal: Late-Night Talks Nail Down Details
It has taken six years of false starts, recriminations and damaged political careers to come up with a financing plan to build a new arena for the Sacramento Kings. But in the end, the deal hinged on a single, do-or-die round of late-night talks. Negotiators for the city and county of Sacramento, and for the Kings, announced in a briefing Thursday at The Bee that they had struck a deal to build an 18,000-seat arena with an estimated price tag of between $470 million and $542 million. Move-in date: 2010. -- Sacramento Bee

San Antonio Spurs | All Spurs sitelines

Spurs Add Another Center
After trading Rasho Nesterovic, watching Nazr Mohammed take more money -- and, presumably, more minutes -- from Detroit and a thanks-but-no-thanks from Alonzo Mourning, the Spurs filled their remaining lineup hole when Denver declined to match a two-year, $6 million offer to Francisco Elson. Elson, 30, is the second center in as many days to join the Spurs. New York said Wednesday it wasn't keeping Jackie Butler, who received a three-year, $7 million contract from the Spurs. The Spurs hope Elson and Butler, 21, can give them production at center at less than half the combined $12.5 million Mohammed and Nesterovic will make next season. -- San Antonio Express-News

Seattle SuperSonics | All Sonics sitelines

Behind The Scenes With New Owner
It's clear that the man in front of the Sonics' new ownership group is very different from the one who was behind the old one. Bennett may stand 6 feet 6, but that doesn't mean he likes standing out. "You see more of his shadow than you do his direct profile," said David Lopez, president of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., a nonprofit foundation of which Bennett is chairman of the board. That shadow looms large, and not just because Bennett's office sits on the 31st floor of the Oklahoma Tower. While Seattle is just now learning Bennett's name, just about everyone in Oklahoma City knows it. So what does his hometown say to a city whose NBA team is about to be placed in Bennett's hands? "Don't judge him until you get to know him," said Roy Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. "Don't judge him by what you. -- Seattle Times

Sonics' New Owners Sensitive To Backlash
Three days into his new life as a professional basketball team owner, Clay Bennett already feels misunderstood, mistrusted and, to a degree, mistreated. Other owners of professional sports teams might ask, what took so long? Speaking during a news conference at the Cowboy Hall of Fame and later in his office in downtown's tony Oklahoma Tower, Bennett said he hoped he would get a better shake from Seattle's media and fans who seem to think moving trucks are idling in a Queen Anne parking lot. "I must say I was disappointed (in the Seattle reaction)," the Sonics' and Storm's new majority owner said. "We're serious business people. What we say is what we mean. I would have hoped for a little more accommodation of our true intentions." -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Sonics Solutions In Sight If Stomachs Stay Strong
Three days after the no-fat, all-foam news conference announcing the sale to buyers from Oklahoma City, it's way too soon to know any answers. The odds for success are longer than Mouhamed Saer. And, despite their pleadings, there is no telling the intentions of the new ownership. Or as sports-savvy Eastside real estate developer Bob Wallace put it Thursday: "Wonderful as this new group seems to be, their hearts are somewhere else." While the column Wednesday emptied the forward torpedo tubes on the outgoing Sonics ownership, Mayor Greg Nickels and the Seattle City Council should not escape collateral damage. -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Utah Jazz | All Jazz sitelines

Collins Officially Is Back With Jazz
Unrestricted free agent Jarron Collins made it official Thursday. One week after agreeing in principle to a new contract, he came to Utah and signed on for another tour of duty with the Jazz. Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but The Salt Lake Tribune learned that Collins' three-year deal is worth just over $7 million. He earned $1.7 million last season. Vice president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor called Collins "a true competitor who is passionate about basketball. He's a professional, on and off the court." -- Salt Lake Tribune

Jazz Hope Nice Guys Finish 1st
Rafael Araujo was so glad to return to Utah, in fact, that he passed up a chance to be on his Brazilian national team for the World Championships next month. That team began practicing yesterday, but Araujo was concentrating on his chance with the Jazz and on learning in the Rocky Mountain Revue. "I decided to stay around here  work out more on my game and try to improve my condition to make sure than when training camp comes I (am) 100 percent for the coach," he said Thursday night after showing in the Jazz's fifth of six scheduled Revue games that he has been paying attention and learning. -- Deseret Morning News

Jazz Hope Nice Guys Finish 1st
You already assumed the Jazz's Andrei Kirilenko was a good guy, right? The contagious smile, the loopy hairstyle, the ebullient game. Guess what. You were right. He is a good guy, at least if The Sporting News has any say in the matter. He was recently named the NBA's No. 1 "Good Guy" by the magazine. That makes Utah -- a bastion of nice -- home to the nicest, most thoughtful, all-around peachiest guy in the NBA. Maybe this would be a good time to hit him up for a loan. Kirilenko isn't the first Jazz player to be named the league's top good guy. Karl Malone was a Good Guy award winner for his help with abused and underprivileged kids. Jeff Hornacek was included on the list of NBA runner-up Good Guys in 1999, in part due to his fund-raising efforts on behalf of Primary Children's Medical Center. All those prejudices about selfish, egotistical athletes? They're only sometimes accurate. The rest of the time, players are just ordinary people with extraordinary jobs. In many cases they're making other lives better. -- Deseret Morning News

Rookie Millsap shows penchant for rebounds
He wasn't the tallest or the heaviest kid on the team, but he had a knack for jumping over or going under or running through bigger players to get a rebound. Not much has changed in the last three years - except Paul Millsap is an inch taller and 20 pounds heavier. These days, he's on the Jazz's Rocky Mountain Revue roster with - again - players who outsize him. "It's hard at times, but I've been able to adjust, you know, when you have good players and good coaches around you, you adjust to the game quickly," Millsap said. And therein lies the argument for holding onto Millsap, according to the Jazz coaching staff. The guys who can rebound, I don't know if it matters how tall they are, how big they are," assistant coach Scott Layden said. "You know our coach Jerry Sloan was a great rebounder . . . He was a guard. Well, he was obviously big for a guard. I don't know if he was a great jumper but he had a will to go after the ball." -- Salt Lake Tribune

Team USA

Oden Gains Look At Big Time
Greg Oden was the only college basketball player invited to take part in USA Basketball's training camp in preparation for the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan next month. The two-time consensus USA Today high school basketball player of the year initially turned down the opportunity to rub elbows with the likes of Team USA stars Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. While the move might have seemed cocky, it was actually quite the opposite. "I honestly felt that I wasn't there yet," Oden, 18, said. "I got to be there mentally and physically, and I'm not there yet." -- Denver Post

U.S. Team Goes Back To School For Basics
They study charts, watch informational videos and have special guest lectures. There are guidelines established about proper behavior, how to treat their teammates and how to share. Only then do the basketballs come out. Indeed, USA Basketball's Renaissance has the feel of elementary school during the two-week training camp that started at UNLV. Elementary school is basic and needed, and so is what Team USA is going through after badly losing its international edge. Coach Mike Krzyzewski called this week's exercises "historic,'' not because of their grandeur, but because of their originality. Following the Dream Team's smashing debut in 1992, it was always assumed NBA stars would simply report for duty and win the gold. However, the Americans haven't claimed the World Championship since 1994 and limped to a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics. -- Akron Beacon-Journal

Oden Gaining Experience Despite Being Injured
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said it's critical for Greg Oden, added to the roster a week ago, to see firsthand how things are done. "This young man is part of the future of USA Basketball," Colangelo said. "It was important to bring Greg in and expose him to the program. It's a great training ground for him to see how everyone competes." Coach Mike Krzyzewski also stressed the importance of having Oden in camp. "It's huge, because we can't look at this as a team. We have to look at it as a program. It's fluid. It's constantly ongoing. If he's not ready for the (2008) Olympics, he could be our starting center at the 2010 world championships. He's going to be with us for a long time." -- Las Vegas Review-Journal

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07-21-2006, 11:05 AM
2007 Draft Stock Watch

posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Chad Ford

It's been less than three weeks since the NBA draft, and we already have our first stock watch.

That's because NBA scouts were out in force in Indianapolis last week checking out the Nike All-America camp.

In years past, scouts were there to get a leg up on a number of potential preps-to-pros prospects. Now they're there to watch the Nike counselors do their thing.

Each year Nike invites a couple dozen of the top college players in the country to come to the camp to act as counselors. In addition to their roles as assistant coaches during the games, the players go through their own sets of drills and play scrimmages against each other at night.

It's a treasure trove for NBA scouts -- the chance to see the best players in college basketball go head-to-head against each other.

Insider spoke to several scouts who were in the gym. Based on their evaluations, we've made our first tweaks to our 2007 Top 100.

While there was plenty of talent there, here are 10 kids who caught their collective eye:

Al Horford, PF, Florida: Scouts are raving about Horford's combination of size, strength, athleticism and energy. One scout even stuck his toe in holy water by claiming that Horford was the closest thing he's seen to Karl Malone.

We've got him ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the country, so there isn't much room to go up.

Julian Wright, F, Kansas: Wright's body looked a little thicker and he showed off his myriad talents (athleticism, shot-blocking, rebounding, ballhandling and passing).

But scouts are still troubled by his lack of a reliable jump shot. Everyone we spoke with has him projected as a lottery pick, but his shooting woes could put a lid on how high he can go in the draft.

Jeff Green, SF, Georgetown: Green has been a red-hot name over the last few months. Scouts now see him as a potential Boris Diaw type -- long and athletic, with a powerful body and the ability to score or play point forward in the NBA.

He didn't disappoint in Indianapolis, with scouts saying he looked good in just about every drill. His so-so jump shot seems to be the only thing holding him back. Everyone we spoke with had him penciled into the late lottery.

Roy Hibbert, C, Georgetown: Green's teammate generated significant buzz by getting on a diet. Hibbert has apparently lost around 20 pounds. The result was that he looked more mobile and athletic, which should bode really well for him on draft night.

No one is ready to say that he's explosive athletically, but he at least showed that when he gets in good shape, he has a chance to keep up.

Several scouts mentioned him as a potential lottery candidate. Right now we have him in the mid-first round.

Corey Brewer, SG, Florida: Brewer didn't fare as well as some of the other players here, in part because a camp like this isn't really going to show off his skills. Brewer is a long, active defender who is all over the court and scores in a variety of ways.

He wowed people in the NCAA Tournament, but in Indy there was heavy focus on his on-again, off-again jumper, rail-thin body and shaky ballhandling.

Jermareo Davidson, PF, Alabama: While Hibbert got attention for losing weight, Davidson got attention for putting some on. Scouts said he was noticeably thicker in Indianapolis.

"His body looks a lot better," one scout said. "He's a four in the pros, and I always worried that he just wasn't going to be strong enough to play down there. From what I've seen so far this summer, he's made huge strides to improve his body. That will pay off big in the draft."

While scouts emphasized that Davidson still needs another 10 or so pounds of muscle, they were impressed with what looks like a blossoming perimeter game.

We had Davidson ranked in the early second round, but we're moving him up into the late first round based on feedback from scouts.

Glen Davis, PF, LSU: "Big Baby" is another guy who's benefited from a combination of diet and training. Davis weighed as much as 330 or 340 pounds during the Final Four. But his gut is disappearing rapidly -- he was down to 290 in Indianapolis last week.

Scouts were gushing about his trimmed-down frame and the quickness and explosiveness he's exhibiting as a result.

One scout said, "He's got all the tools to be a devastating low-post scorer in the NBA. If he can stay in the 280-to-290 range, he's going to get a lot of attention from scouts this year. He's as skilled a big man as you'll find in college basketball. The only thing holding him back was the weight."

Davis is vowing to get down to 280 by the start of the season. If he can keep off the weight, his draft stock will shoot through the roof this year.

Sean Williams, PF, Boston College: With Craig Smith ready to bash bodies in the NBA, Williams will take over in the paint for BC. Scouts have always been in love with his size, athleticism and shot-blocking ability, but they commented this week that his offensive game has also taken some important strides.

If he blossoms in his bigger role this year, he'll be a hot name.

D.J. White, PF, Indiana: If White can stay healthy, and if he measures anywhere close to the 6-9 he's listed at (scouts believe he's much closer to 6-7), he's going to get major play from NBA scouts.

White has hit the weight room and his body is looking stronger than ever. He is a big-time rebounder and excellent defender with the ability to score both inside and out. His long wingspan and added strength should help him make up for his lack of size.

If he has a big year and measures out well, he's first-round material.

A.J. Price, PG, Connecticut: Many scouts believe Price might be one of the two or three best point guards in the country. Now all he has to do is prove it.

Price suffered a brain hemorrhage as a freshman in October 2004, causing him to miss the entire 2004-05 season. He was suspended for the entire 2005-06 season for trying to sell stolen laptops (teammate Marcus Williams received a one-semester suspension for his role in the attempted laptop sale).

At the camp, scouts said his body looked great, but they were split on how well he played in the camp. Some said they were really impressed, others said he looked rusty.

Given the weak crop of point guards in next year's draft, if Price can establish himself early, he should soar up the charts.