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MFFL
06-23-2001, 08:45 PM
MIKE WISE
New York Times
June 24, 2001


The Young and the Little-Known in the N.B.A.

On Tuesday afternoon in a Manhattan hotel ballroom, at least three teenagers will march in at the appointed time to fulfill an obligation. They will not bus tables, take orders or show off their work at a science fair. Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry will answer questions the day before they become N.B.A. millionaires.

Twenty-seven years after Moses Malone caused a ruckus by jumping straight from high school to the N.B.A, 4 of the top 10 picks in Wednesday's draft are expected to come from American high schools.

Brown, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound power forward at Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga., has a good chance of becoming the first high school player selected No. 1. Like Chandler, a rangy 7-footer from Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif., and the 6-11 Curry from Thornwood High in Illinois, Brown is a symbol of the 2001 draft: a promising big man whom most of the world has never seen play.

"Each draft is significantly different, but the youth and immaturity of these guys makes it much tougher to deliver a finite opinion about this group of players," said Golden State General Manager Garry St. Jean, whose team will pick fifth Wednesday at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. "You just don't know what you're getting right now and who that player will become down the road.

"Look at Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. Those guys are great players now. But no one knew they were going to be as good as they are. No one could have forecast that."

Just as no one could have forecast some of the more disturbing draft stories involving high school athletes. Korleone Young, drafted in 1998 by Detroit, played in three N.B.A. games before he was out of the league. Leon Smith, taken by San Antonio in the first round in 1999 and traded to Dallas, never played a game after attempting suicide less than six months after he was drafted.

While Marty Blake, the N.B.A.'s director of scouting, is referring to the 2001 draft as one of the deepest in memory "especially for centers, which come along about every 20.5 years," Blake, the 74-year-old draftnik, said several team executives wonder if their picks will not be second-guessed within a few years.

The thinking is that with so many unproven talents among the top 15 players, executives are bound to make long-term mistakes because they have no idea how good many of the teenagers selected in the first round will become.

"I'm kind of glad I don't have to pick near the top," said Donnie Walsh, president of the Indiana Pacers. "I don't need those headaches. You take Jason Richardson over a high school kid, and if the kid surpasses him in talent over a couple of years, you look bad. And if you draft one of the high school kids and he doesn't develop, you look even more foolish."

Chris Ekstand, the author of the annual N.B.A. draft media guide and a league consultant, said: "Editors will want report cards after this draft: which teams won and which teams lost. That's such a knee-jerk reaction. More than any other year, you won't know for four for five years who did well in this draft."

Referring to Shane Battier, the Duke all-American, he added: "Battier could be the third-best player on a lot of N.B.A. teams right now. But do you want to be the guy who passed up on that special player taken after him?"

Brown is not a consensus No. 1 pick, but if the Washington Wizards decide to keep their top selection, he seems almost a cinch. Battier will most likely be the first college senior taken. The Atlanta Hawks have intimated that they are interested in Battier at No. 3.

But as an oft-watched college star and a known commodity, he is in the minority.

Arizona's Loren Woods, Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas and Michael Wright have a chance to equal Duke's 1999 feat: four players from the same school taken in the first round.

But equaling the accomplishment of Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon, William Avery and Corey Maggette the Duke players plucked in 1999's first round will be tough. That is especially so because Wright is projected more as a second-round pick, and many teams are backing off taking Woods among the first 20 because so many capable power forwards and centers are available.

Who won't be there? Yao Ming, the 7-5 Chinese center, did not apply for early entry. Yet because his 22nd birthday is in 2002, in accordance with N.B.A. draft guidelines, there is nothing the Chinese government can do to stop him from being chosen next year. Whether the Chinese allow Yao to take his rightful place among the world's greatest players is another story.

But there is DeSagana Diop, a 7-1, 315-pound 18-year-old from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., via Senegal. Diop appears to be Shaquille O'Neal in training, a monstrous frame complemented by raw potential.

Therein lies the rub of these increasingly younger and unproven drafts: by the time Diop is skilled and mature enough to move O'Neal out of the paint, O'Neal may be retired.

Lottery teams that need impact players immediately have to settle for potential. Meanwhile, playoff teams like Orlando, Charlotte and Toronto, which have the 14th, 15th and 16th selections, can gamble on players who can play immediately in their rotations.

There is no Michael Jordan or Patrick Ewing to turn the franchise around in the first three picks anymore.


Uncharitable View

The N.B.A. and the Orlando Magic are feuding over a measly $15,000.

For the past several weeks, the Magic has refused to pay a league- imposed fine after the Magic gave $50,000 to Grant Hill's favorite charity this year.

This spring, Hill was named the winner of the Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award named after the team owner and given annually to a Magic player who is recognized for outstanding community involvement. Hill designated that the money go to Seniors First in Orlando, which is involved with meals, housing and support services for the elderly.

The Magic was notified by the N.B.A. on June 4 that the donation was viewed as circumvention of the league's salary cap rules. The fine was due June 15 but has gone unpaid because the team president, Bob Vander Weide, has decided to fight it.

"We have no intention of paying this," Vander Weide told The Orlando Sentinel last week. "And the league should know that."

The players never see any of the money because it goes directly to their chosen charities. Hill's award was the sixth time $50,000 was distributed in the name of a Magic player by the franchise.

It is one thing to put your foot down, as the league has, on the Maloof brothers for taking the families of the Sacramento Kings to Las Vegas, or on the Mavericks for flying Gary Trent to Hawaii for a little summer recruitment.

In Hill's case, the league's thinking is that money donated by a franchise in a player's name could prove to be detrimental in the long run, especially with teams coming up with new and creative ways to induce players to sign.

"In this case, it is clearly a violation of salary cap rules," Russ Granik, the N.B.A. deputy commissioner, said. "But we recognize the rule doesn't necessarily serve the right purpose. We're going to look at some way to deal with this in going forward that makes sense for everybody."

Perhaps the Magic should just pay the fine and rename the award the Rich and Helen DeVos N.B.A. Bureaucracy Award, given annually to lawyers with too much time on their hands.


Blazers Found Wanting

Who ever imagined that a team with a 15-point fourth-quarter lead in Game 7 on the Lakers nearly a year ago would have such trouble finding a coach? Are the sideline elite afraid of the mercurial Rasheed Wallace and his frustrated Portland teammates, or just uninterested?

"It's not Rasheed," one prominent Western Conference coach said on condition of anonymity. "It's the expectations. It's almost a no-win job. As much as talent as you've got, Scottie Pippen and Steve Smith are getting older, you're supposed to win big right away and you've got to make all those young guys who can play happy right away.

"If you've got a good job already, it's not worth any amount of money Paul Allen will pay."

Flip Saunders stayed in Minnesota after being interviewed in Portland. John Lucas took the Cleveland job. John Thompson and now the Philadelphia assistant Maurice Cheeks are in the mix.

The Knicks refuse to give Jeff Van Gundy permission to speak to the Trail Blazers. You wonder if Van Gundy, who has privately intimated that he will coach nowhere but New York next season, is really interested in bumping up his annual take from the Knicks.

Furthermore, you wonder if Larry Brown is truly interested in leaving Philadelphia. If Cheeks is being interviewed, Brown is probably staying with the 76ers; Cheeks was thought to be one of the few candidates in line for the job.

LonestarROB
06-23-2001, 08:55 PM
Do you really need to say "posted link-free for Flying Tiger" on all the threads? lol i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif

Flying Tiger
06-23-2001, 09:06 PM
C'mon Rob...it's an ego boost.

Flying Tiger
06-23-2001, 09:07 PM
Oh yeah...and for the record I would like to state that I think Eddy Curry will be something REALLY special in the future. I just have a feeling.

LonestarROB
06-23-2001, 09:10 PM
I feel the same way about Diop. I wish the Mavs could somehow get him. i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif

Flying Tiger
06-23-2001, 09:15 PM
With the Mavs bright future and Money Bags Cuban as the owner...I don't know why everyone isn't fighting to come here. Expecially the young ones. I think Diop and Curry should both pull a Kobe and refuse to play for anyone but the Mavs. Not really...I thought that was the most classless thing I've ever seen. But think about the new twin (or quadrupal) towers possibility.

MFFL
06-24-2001, 08:55 AM
Another great NBA article: posted link-free for Flying Tiger!
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Tim Cowlishaw
NBA has created monster, but it's not Shaq
06/24/2001

Accept my apology for the tardiness of this essay. It has taken me a week to recover, and even now the brain refuses to accept what might have been an hallucination.

It was last Friday night. A Tulsa motel room. A grainy television picture. That much I recall.

With six minutes to play in the third quarter of the last NBA Finals game, it happened. Shaquille O'Neal was called for traveling.

I didn't get the official's name, but I'm sure he'll enjoy working USBL games next year.

Order was restored shortly thereafter as O'Neal, as ordained, was allowed to shuffle his massive feet and turn and bury his massive shoulder into Dikembe Mutombo's midsection en route to a massive slam dunk.

The NBA, as we have come to know and loathe it, was back in form.

Please don't misunderstand. I do not dislike basketball. As a kid, I would have watched a Celtics game over anything the NFL or Major League Baseball had to offer.

One recent evening I watched the entire second half of a Lakers-Blazers playoff game on NBA.com. It was great.

It was also from 1977.

The players were far less muscular, not as athletic as today's. But they ran up and down the floor and they played basketball, and the physical contact wasn't even comparable to what is permitted in the 21st century.

There was no 3-point line, yet the scoring was higher than it is today. A lesson could be learned there, but NBA officials will never understand that the 3-point line slows the game and reduces scoring.

Remove it, and the premium is on running. The proof is in the old videotapes. Keep it, and the emphasis will always be to walk the ball up the floor and work the ball inside out to try to get a low-percentage 3-point shot.

And don't misunderstand my feelings about O'Neal, either. He is simply playing the game that David Stern has created. O'Neal is the best player in the league. He will win five or six championship rings before he settles into retirement either as a full-time rapper or as the 51st state.

Everyone gets to travel in today's NBA. The superstars just get that extra half-step if needed. But when I hear broadcasters or read one heralded national columnist suggest that because he is so much broader and larger than Wilt Chamberlain, O'Neal would have dominated Wilt 40 years ago, I have to laugh.

First, it's impossible to make physical comparisons about athletes who played 40 years apart. If Chamberlain had gone to college in the '90s and had the same kind of strength training as O'Neal, he would be larger than he was in 1962.

Second, if we are simply transporting O'Neal and his game through time to deposit him in the '60s, the only record he will set is for 15 traveling violations per game.

I can't put an exact date on when taking two full steps and changing pivot feet became acceptable in the NBA. If you are a post-up player, three steps is OK. Ask any diehard Knicks fan about the number of steps Hakeem Olajuwon took before burying New York with the key shot in the 1994 Finals.

But I do recall one of those "NBA action it's fantastic" ads from a decade ago that featured Detroit's Isiah Thomas driving to the basket, throwing the ball in the air to get around his defender and then catching it himself before shooting.

Sorry. That's traveling.

So is virtually every move Sacramento's Jason Williams makes, but, hey, they get attention on SportsCenter, so who cares?

Those who foster NBA conspiracy theories about the glamour teams and players always reaching the Finals are misguided. Stern and league officials don't sit around their offices, committing criminal acts and fixing games.

They don't have to. Basketball is more superstar driven by its nature than the other major team sports. Two players can make all the difference in the world. That's not true in football, in baseball (even when Pedro is pitching) or hockey (count Dominik's Stanley Cup rings).

And by letting those superstars bend the rules to shape their needs (Charging on Magic? Jordan pushing off? Are you serious?), there's really no stopping them.

It's not basketball they are playing any more, but didn't NBC and the NBA prove with their halftime shows of U2 and Sugar Ray and Weakest Link productions, that basketball isn't really the issue, anyway?

Flying Tiger
06-24-2001, 01:10 PM
...that sould like my granddaddy.
Nice article...I agree that the NBA doesn't strictly follow the rule book, but I also agree that it's the game we loathe. If the officials went back to calling games like they used to I don't think I would enjoy it as much.

Mavinator
06-24-2001, 01:26 PM
Tim Cowlishaw is an idiot. NBA games aren't called that poorly...