03-26-2003, 01:35 PM
Ok..I'm back...been gone for a week...so ESPN INSIDER resumes

NBA bracing for another high school invasion
by Chad Ford
After seeing Kwame Brown flounder, Tyson Chandler stumble, Eddy Curry look lost and DeSagana Diop languish on the bench, NBA teams seemed to be finally getting their fill of drafting high school seniors. Only one high school player, Amare Stoudemire, made the cut in 2003. Several GMs said the days of drafting herds of 18 year olds fresh off their high school proms was over. Sure, every year there would be a rare phenom like Stoudemire. But generally, the flood gates were closed again. Only the most elite could find a way past them. Scratch all that.

Stoudemire's dominant rookie season, combined with the improved play of Chandler and Curry and the coming of the most hyped high school prospect ever, LeBron James, has blown open the blast doors again.
Super LeBron is playing Moses. He's parting the sea of NBA scouts and naysayers. Several lesser prospects, including Kendrick Perkins, James Lang, Travis Outlaw and Charlie Villanueva are trying to sneak in on his coat tails. The McDonald's All-American game goes down tonight in LeBron's backyard (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET) and, as usual, the crowd will be infested by NBA types hoping to rob the cradle. While everyone seems to agree in theory that players are better off with a few years of college under their belts, no one, in practice, is willing to card these kids at the door.

Even the players themselves think too many high school kids are heading straight to the pros. "Guys hurt themselves by going in too early, but it's everyone's own decision," Stoudemire told Insider at this year's All-Star Game. Isn't that a little hypocritical considering that Stoudemire was about six months removed from doing just that? "I was in a totally different situation," Stoudemire replied. "I knew that my work ethic would get me throught the rough spots. I just won't be denied. The league is hard work man. But I'm all about hard work."

It shows. Stoudemire's rookie season has drawn comparisons to Kevin Garnett's. But lest we get caught up in the hype, don't forget that Stoudemire is the exception, not the rule. "He was one of the few kids that was physically ready to play in the NBA when he was drafted," one Eastern Conference GM said. "He was a little older (20 by the start of the season), had a superior work ethic and just played with a confidence that few rookies, high school or pro, posses. Guys like that don't come along very often."

What awaits the rest of the high school phenoms not named LeBron? Just ask the Bulls' Chandler. Chandler knows a thing or two about being a high school phenom. "60 Minutes" did a story on him when he was in eighth grade. That might be about when Chandler stopped going to class. Unlike LeBron, Chandler was never a dominant basketball player. However, at 7-foot-1, his potential was through the roof. People talked him up so much, Chandler, who went No. 2 in the 2001 draft behind Brown, was sure it wouldn't take long for him to dominate in the NBA.

He was wrong. "It's been rough, man," Chandler told Insider. From adjusting to the speed, strength and basketball savvy of NBA veterans to figuring out the triangle offense, Chandler has struggled to live up to the high expectations. "LeBron's in for a rude awakening," Chandler said. "All that stuff that you get away with in high school, they take that away from you in the NBA. Your best stuff. Teams figure that out, and then they won't let you do your thing. I'm constantly trying to add stuff, but right now a lot of it is forced."

While Chandler says he and Curry may be the poster children for why David Stern wants an age limit, he still believes it should be an individual decision. "What I did wasn't right for everyone," Chandler said, "but it was right for me. It's probably right for LeBron. It isn't right for everyone. " Of course, no one has much room to talk. With only one exception, the most highly thought of straight-to-high-school players have been dominant. Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady are now being mentioned as a legitimate MVP candidates. The Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal is right behind him. Rashard Lewis just cashed in last summer. And Chandler, Curry, Al Harrington and Jonathan Bender are all starting to break out.

In fact, of the high school players who've been drafted in the first round, only one, Leon Smith, has been a total bust. If you're projected as a lottery pick by just about everyone, you have to love those odds.
Of course, it doesn't hurt to wait either. Syracuse super frosh Carmelo Anthony also flirted with going pro last season. Had he done so, he would have been a late lottery or mid-first-round pick. Instead, he got valuable experience at Syracuse this season and is now projected at a top-three pick in the draft.

Still, as Anthony noted last year, it's hard to resist the NBA's siren call. "It's real hard not to think about it and we all have different opinions. Everyone thinks about it and the money is right there. For me, I want to play in college for at least a year," Anthony said. He admits that he has been influenced by the struggles of his predecessors. "I want to play. I can't imagine having to just watch so many games. Why not wait a year or two before going to the NBA? You get to play, have fun and get better. But if people want to go, if they need money, nobody should stop them." Nobody is.

LeBron still the one

The media has a tendency to always rate the mysterious ahead of the known. Now that most people in the free world believe that high school phenom LeBron James is a hybrid of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Jason Kidd, it's time to move on to bigger and better things, right?
Suggestions in the media over the last few weeks that scenarios exist where Yugoslavian big man Darko Milicic or Syracuse freshman Carmelo Anthony leap ahead of LeBron are laughable, according to numerous team executives.

LeBron is still No. 1
"He's a once in a decade talent," one GM said. "Teams always say that you draft the best talent, you don't draft for position. It doesn't always work out that way, but in this case it will. No one in their right mind would pass on him. He's about as sure a thing as you can get in the NBA draft." Another team executive said that talent isn't the only consideration. "How many people are going to pick up the phone and buy season tickets when the team announces that they've drafted Darko Milicic? This is a business and LeBron is very good business."

He's also an awesome basketball player. Scouts have been watching him play at the McDonald's All-Amercian practices the last few days. The practices offer scouts a rare glimpse at a side of LeBron few of them have seen. While everyone has seen him dominate in games, teams have been barred from his practices. "His work habits are extraordinary," one scout said. "He practices as hard as he plays. He's leaving the rest of these kids, all of whom are All-Americans, in the dust. It's not even close. He was the first person on the court for practice. Unbelievable." "You can see a lot of his skills watching the games," another scout said. "But seeing what he does here is so important. The game itself is meaningless. It's how he responds to coaching, how he fits in with teammates, how hard he plays. Those are the things we're looking for. Right now I'd say he's passed with flying colors."

Scouts say that James has absolutely abused another highly thought of prospect, Charlie Villanueva, in practice the last few days. "He's on another level," said Kendrick Perkins, another high school star thinking of declaring for the NBA draft. "I think it's good for us, though. It takes the pressure off." Scouts say that James should be able to make an impact immediately when he comes into the league. He's got a size advantage -- 6-foot-8, 240 pounds -- over most two guards in the league. He's a superior athlete. He has wonderful court vision and already understands how to play the game.

"If he gets on a bad team, he'll score 20 points a night," one scout said. "If he gets on a good team, he'll score 15 and hand out six or seven assists." The only knock scouts can find on him is the lack of a consistent long-range jumper. However, scouts insist that his shooting form is just fine. Lots of practice in the gym should overcome that one small flaw. The other thing that scouts are quickly finding out about LeBron is that he's genuinely a good kid. Despite a flurry of negative reports on LeBron over the last few months, those close to him claim that they've all been overblown.

He had good grades in high school -- a miracle when you consider all of the distractions around him. His teammates love him. He shows rare humility for someone in the spotlight. He always looks to make his teammates better when he's on the court. He never asks for star treatment from coaches or officials. "He's a pro," one scout who has spent some time with LeBron told Insider. "He wants to be the greatest and he's willing to put forth the effort. He won't cause any problems. It's just not an issue. Trust me, we keep trying to look for the chink in his armour. We're still looking."

Scouts tell McDonalds All-Americans to stay in school

Villanueva is struggling to keep up with LeBron. High school star Charlie Villanueva came to the McDonald's All-American game with one major goal in mind. He wanted to shine in front of the gaggle of NBA scouts. Historically, a strong performance in the tournament means that you can write your own ticket to the NBA. It isn't working out that way this year. "I'm a small forward and they have me playing center," Villanueva told the N.Y. Post. "It's frustrating. He gets all the love."

Of course, the "he" Villanueva is referring to is LeBron James. Villanueva, along with a number of other high school prospects, are being showed up by James this weekend. Some aren't happy about it.
"You can't get mad at LeBron," Villanueva said. "He's a cool guy, but other players deserve to get some shine and that hasn't really happened." Villanueva, along with several other top high school prospects, have a lot on the line. With a 20-year-old age limit looming, they'd like to get into the league now, before it's too late. For the players here, skipping the draft this year means waiting until 2005 or 2006 to go to the NBA.

That's led to major speculation among NBA scouts that Villanueva, along with Kendrick Perkins, James Lang, Travis Outlaw, Jackie Butler and Kris Humphries, might forego college and declare for the NBA draft.
Declaring now, according to multiple NBA scouts and personnel guys, would be a major, major mistake.

"They all need to forget about the NBA right now," one NBA assistant GM told Insider. "None of them are even ready. They aren't even close. Not only are all of these guys out of LeBron's league. They're out of Kwame Brown's league too. Let's put this into perspective. Nikoloz Tskitishvili had no business being in the league either this year. He'd go off for 50 against this group. No question." Those are harsh words for All-Americans. But to a man, scouts were unanimous in their assessments. LeBron is the only high school player in the country ready to take on the NBA.

"These kids don't have a clue what it takes to make it," another scout said. "They don't know how to play hard. They're bent over, grabbing their shorts in practice, all out of breath. Didn't they just finish their season? Villanueva can complain all he wants that he's not getting the spotlight. He doesn't deserve it. He needs to go Illinois badly. Travis Outlaw and Jackie Butler need to go to Mississippi State badly. And they need to stay at least two years. They just aren't ready." It looks like top high school prospect Luol Deng will go to Duke Scouts feel that the second-best player in the high school class of 2003 is Luol Deng, a 6-foot-8 swingman from New Jersey. Deng, however, has committed to Duke and scouts believe he'll honor the commitment.

"He's a smart basketball player and a great athlete," one scout said. "He has the ability to play three positions in the pros. He's an excellent ball handler and he just has a good feel for the game. He's kind of in the same boat Carmelo Anthony was in last year. If he declared he'd be a mid first rounder. But a couple of solid years at Duke and he's a lock for the high lottery." Kendrick Perkins, a 6-foot-10, 285 pound, center from Texas is also projected as a first-rounder by some NBA scouts.

"He's got the size and strength that you like in a big man," another scout said. "But he doesn't always play hard, he has a lot of conditioning issues and he isn't a great athlete. He's a big of a ground hog. He's a classic center in that he's comfortable playing with his back to the basket, has soft hands and several low post moves. But he's undersized to play that position in the pros. I think he needs to go to Memphis and figure out how to be a more complete basketball player."

Scouts feel that the other dominant high school big man, James Lang, is more skilled. However, Lang, a 6-foot-10, 310-pound center, has even more serious conditioning issues. He dropped 70 pounds this year just to get down to 310. Scouts consider him a good athlete and love how aggressively he plays the game. He's a solid rebounder and a good shot blocker, but stamina is a major issue. He also is very foul prone.
"I think he'll have weight problems his whole career," one NBA scout said. "I think he has to prove to folks that he can get in great shape and stay in great shape. If he does that at Memphis for a couple of years, he'll be a high prospect."

Outlaw is leaning toward declaring for the draft.
Of all of the high school seniors, Mississippi native Travis Outlaw, seems like the most predisposed to test the draft waters now. Outlaw, a super athletic, 6-foot-9, 210-pound power forward, runs the floor like a guard and is an excellent shot blocker. However, he doesn't have much of a face-the-basket game. Scouts say that Outlaw would have to make the transition to small forward in the pros.

"He has some real physical gifts, but he doesn't know how to play the game," one scout said. "He reminds me a little of Darius Miles. Great athlete, no real offensive game, thin frame and no position. He really hasn't made big improvements over the last few years. I think he really needs some solid coaching. John Calipari can give that to him. In a couple of years, he could be a big time prospect if he improves." If Outlaw does declare as expected, he'll probably end up in the late first round.

Charlie Villanueva, a teammate of Deng, is a rangy 6-foot-10, 215-pound small forward and has the full complement of skills. He has Lamar Odom-like versatility. He can score inside or from the perimeter. He's an excellent ball handler, a solid passer and an above-average athlete.

So what's the knock? Heart. Villanueva has a rep for lollygagging at times. He doesn't play with the type of intensity that scouts demand. His work ethic is somewhat questionable. He doesn't play defense or block shots. Villanueva is planning on attending Illinois next year if he doesn't declare for the draft.

Peep Show

Houston Rockets: There's talk that coach Rudy Tomjanovich, who's battling bladder cancer, may not coach the team the rest of the season, according to the Houston Chronicle. Tomjanovich called a news conference this morning to talk about his condition. "We haven't seen him in like nine days," guard Steve Francis said. "It will be good just to say, 'What's up?' to the captain. We know he's watching all our games, watching our progress, watching what we're doing and how we're doing it. We want to be able to just see him and talk to him." Tomjanovich wanted to return to his team immediately, but doctors have been worried about his stress level and how it might affect his treatment.

New Jersey Nets: Jason Kidd clarified his free-agent criteria for this summer. The Nets don't have to win an NBA championship this year to keep him. "These 12 don't have an impact. The playoffs won't have an impact [on the decision]," Kidd told the N.Y. Post. "It's, 'Do I have a realistic chance of winning a championship?' That's the bottom line. If it goes badly it's something I would have to look at a little closer, but it's not something that's going to be heavily involved in making my decision. I'm hoping that it doesn't go bad."

Los Angeles Lakers: Coach Phil Jackson is thinking about resting Kobe Bryant down the stretch. "I think he wants (to play) 82," Jackson told the L.A. Daily News. "Even if he wants to have 82, there's a way we can work it out. It could be a short-minute game or something. There's some way we can do this to make things work out in a way that benefits him and the situation where he has the least amount of aggravation." So far, Bryant's declined Jackson's offer to take a rest. "I told him it was a tempting proposition, but if he would have came to me three games earlier, I would have said yes. But now, these past three games, my knees been feeling great, haven't had any pain. So, no."

Boston Celtics: The team is really missing Tony Battie. A partially torn meniscus in his right knee just won't get better. "The difficulty is you have a guy in Tony that has a lot of guts that has had a cranky knee," coach Jim O'Brien told the Boston Herald. "And technically he was not supposed to go back-to-back games, and then he played four games in five nights because we need him to play. It takes a lot of guts, and against the Lakers he was really hurting. We saw that after the first quarter. But again he's got to get past this so he can get right for, you know, whoever he can get right for. Certainly this is a very important time of the year for us, and we need to have our starting center. Our medical people will do whatever it takes to get him on the floor."

Utah Jazz: John Stockton turns 41 today. "When I came into the league, for a guard to be 32, that was it. You could expect a downward trend," Stockton told the Salt Lake Tribune. "Any time [you reached] the early 30s, people at least start talking -- 'Hey, we're close [to retirement], we're close, we're close.' " Coach Jerry Sloan thinks Stockton can keep playing if he wants. "They say you have a little bit more understanding the older you get. He certainly has all those things -- he hasn't lost any intelligence," Sloan said. "You can still win a lot of games that way. . . That's the greatness that he has: The way he approaches it, in the locker room, when he steps onto the floor, at practice. That to me is the most unique thing about him, being able to prepare the way he does now, at this age, and not take the game lightly. He's just as excited now about stepping out on the floor as he has ever been."

Los Angeles Clippers: What got into Andre Miller this season? No one's sure. "It hasn't worked as well as he or we anticipated," Baylor told the L.A. Daily News. "He's a better player than he's shown. I still have a lot of confidence in the guy. I think he's going to be the player we expect him to be." While Miller defers questions about his play publicly, privately he feels that selfishness among players playing for contracts kept him from running the team the way he wanted to. "I look at this as a wasted season," Miller said. "A season that expectations weren't met. We didn't take advantage of the opportunity in front of us. I didn't get any better here. I've tried to make people better, be a team player. That's all you can ask. . . The ball isn't as much in my hands as it was in Cleveland. Once I pass the ball up, that's pretty much it. I have to get my assists on the fast break or a drive and a kick, and that hasn't been here. I haven't been able to make plays like I thought I would be able to this year."

Denver Nuggets: Rodney White is finally starting to live up to his 2001 draft hype. Coach Jeff Bzdelik inserted White into the starting lineup at shooting guard last week, and in four games he's shot 51 percent form the field and averaged 14.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 4.3 apg. "I want to thank coach," White told the Rocky Mountain News. "He's been on my butt. He's made me work hard. I feel that because he's on me, he must see something in me that he likes." Bzdelik said White finally earned his playing time. "He needed to develop a consistent work habit," Bzdelik said. "At the time, he was inconsistent in practice. But he has started to develop good work habits. He's heading north."

Memphis Grizzlies: Jerry West is happy with the progress his team ahs made this season. "I've seen progress regardless of what our record (26-44) is right now," West told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "I see people looking cohesive. We look like a committed team. Players are unbelievably unselfish now, playing the way you would hope they'll play all the time. . .Our players appreciate the fact that (Brown's) tough but fair . . . he's done a remarkable job of getting everyone to believe what he's doing is right. The way you win close games is to play together and play smart. Because of our coaching staff we seem to have developed a toughness that maybe wasn't here before."

New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns: Antonio McDyess admits that he made a mistake when he left the Suns for the Nuggets a few years ago. "I blame it on how young and stupid I was," McDyess told the N.Y. Post. "There was a lot of pressure on me. Honestly, I was young and I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't look back to see what we had. I wasn't thinking what we could do and how far we could go. I just made a silly mistake."

Chicago Bulls: What a difference two years make. Now that Tyson Chandler is starting to show signs of life, he's doesn't want to play with the Bulls' summer league team anymore. The good news is that Chandler does have an offseason workout plan. "I want to play with some pros and work on some things against dominant players," Chandler told the Chicago Sun Times. "I don't want to play against free agents and rookies and guys who may not be in the league. If I go out there and average 40, what does it really mean? I'm trying to get together with [Paul] Pierce, Baron [Davis], Lamar [Odom] and probably Elton [Brand] to work out in Los Angeles. I'm also going to come back and work down here in Chicago. I also want to get together with Kevin Garnett. I'll fly out to where he's working out. And Shaquille [O'Neal]."

03-26-2003, 02:35 PM
Thanks for posting OP.

03-26-2003, 03:31 PM
Hey OP, how much does insider cost?

03-26-2003, 03:35 PM
thanks for everything OP!

03-26-2003, 03:46 PM
<< Ok..I'm back...been gone for a week... >>

I thought we were freed of you i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif.

Welcome again, Carnal.

Where have you been? Hope making money or children i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif

(Making the children happy i/expressions/face-icon-small-tongue.gif)

03-26-2003, 05:04 PM
Thanks Outlet.

03-26-2003, 07:28 PM
<< Ok..I'm back...been gone for a week >>

It's good to have you back and posting again.

Thanks for the article, they're always appreciated.

03-26-2003, 11:28 PM
gracias OP! You da' man!

03-27-2003, 01:17 AM
The explanation:
I'm coaching an all star group of 15 and under boys from now thru august; made a visit to my publisher; wrapped up the custody case; washed murph's car; did KG laundry; succesfully explained the &quot;2 game swing&quot; to David; played LRB to a 1 on 1 game to 40345; took control of VGM; and sent detectives after Sturm; played the parts of both Cheech and Chong in &quot;Baghdad-Up in Smoke&quot;; did MFF toenail's; and have been giving kilt deomnstrations to a lucky few.
Not much but it's kept me on the streets...and away from the board.

Oye, Wey !

03-27-2003, 10:43 AM
This thread should be in the Lounge.

(Oye Jijuela, ¿qu&eacute; te dijo el detective que sigui&oacute; a Sturm?)

03-27-2003, 11:02 AM
My toenail's look so pretty too.

We fought over which color to use, but he won the battle. Red it is.