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06-05-2003, 11:06 AM
Bell, Nelson among impressive points
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Thursday, June 5
Updated: June 5
11:26 AM ET


CHICAGO -- We've been saying for months that 2003 was the year of the point guard, and on Wednesday several point prospects in the Chicago pre-draft camp showed us why.

The crop of point guards here might be the best ever, despite a eight major no-shows -- T. J. Ford, Kirk Hinrich, Luke Ridnour, Reece Gaines, Leandrinho Barbosa, Marcus Banks, Chris Thomas and Zoran Planinic.

Boston College guard Troy Bell can rebound as well as score.

Big East player of the Year and second team All-American Troy Bell led the way Wednesday, scoring 17 points, handing out seven assists and registering a tournament-high four steals in 20 minutes. His play drew rave reviews from the crowd. Last week, Bell told Insider in Detroit during an individual workout with the Pistons that he was going to prove to scouts he was a real point guard.

"I know scouts aren't watching me to see if I can score," Bell said then. "I think I've proven that in college. I'm better off averaging eight assists per game than 20 points per game. I'll tell you what, I'm going to be looking for my teammates." I caught up with him in the hotel after the game, and Bell was all smiles. "What did I tell you?" Bell said with a grin. "I told my teammates I'd give them some love."

He did, and he found a way to let loose a game-high 13 shots as well. That's what NBA teams like even more -- a guy who can score and find his teammates. With Bell's superior strength, good perimeter shooting and size for a point guard (he officially measured 6-foot-2 in Chicago), he could turn into a first-round sleeper if he continues to play well.

Bell wasn't the only point guard who played well. Jameer Nelson of St. Joseph's had 13 points, seven assists and no turnovers. But scouts still feel he'd be better off going back to school. "I think he has the chance to be a much higher pick next year," one assistant GM told Insider. "The point guard field is as crowded as it's ever been. He has the potential to sneak into the first round this year, but next year he'd be a lock." Nelson's measurements won't help him either. He measured 5-foot-11 without shoes and 6-feet with.

Slovenian point guard Alexander Vujacic also played well, finishing with seven assists. He measured in at 6-7 with shoes and showed a flair for zipping the ball around the court. His assist total would have been closer to 12, but his teammates missed several wide open finishes. Like Bell, Vujacic, who's also a scorer in Europe, is trying to prove to scouts he's a real point, even at 6-7. "I want to come out and prove that I'm a team player. I love the assist, and I'm trying to show that, because I know many people here don't know me. ... Maybe the last day I'll also show them I can shoot too."

He doesn't need to worry. Scouts noticed his jumper in the early morning drills. "He can play himself into the mid first round if he continues to play like that," one scout said. "He's 19, runs the floor well and seems to have a great feel. Everyone's in the market for a 6-7 point guard who can shoot."

Hawaii's Carl English also generated a buzz. At 6-5, he has great size and seemed comfortable running the point when he got the chance. He ended with 13 points and three assists. "He's intriguing," one Western Conference coach told Insider. "He's got a nice NBA body, he's pretty quick, and he's a good shooter. I think he'll really help himself here."

Alabama's Mo Williams (6-2, 189) didn't shoot the ball that well, but he played aggressively and ended with five assists and only one turnover. Oklahoma's Hollis Price (6-0, 165) had six assists and two turnovers.

Other's didn't fare as well. Arizona's Jason Gardner (5-11, 194) had five turnovers to his five assists. Washington State's Marcus Moore (6-5, 208) got the chance to play the point but finished with just one assist and four turnovers. He also missed all four of his 3-point attempts. Jermaine Boyette (6-2, 185), one of the stars of the Portsmouth camp, proved he can still score, but is he a point? Boyette finished with 17 points but only one assist. And St. John's Marcus Hatten had a so-so debut, with four assists and three turnovers.

No one hurt themselves more than Moore however. "He messed up big time," an Eastern Conference scout said. "Everyone wanted to love him, but he just seemed to be forcing everything. That's not how you prove that you're an NBA point guard. He can still redeem himself, but he'll only do it by getting his teammates involved."

Around the camp

Luke Walton continues to quietly impress NBA scouts.

Speaking of assists, Arizona's Luke Walton (6-9, 235) re-ignited the love affair scouts had with him last year by doing everything well on Wednesday. His nine assists were a camp high. He made both his attempts from beyond the 3-point arc and finished with the best stat line of the day: 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, seven boards, nine assists, one steal and no turnovers.

"That's why I love him," one assistant GM told Insider. "We get enamored with the great athletes and the highlight-type of stuff, but Walton knows how to play the game better than anyone here."

We said earlier this week that Memphis big man Chris Massie (6-8, 260) looked like he had a great chance of bringing home the blue-collar award. He got off to a great start Wednesday, scoring 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting and pulling down 14 boards (including seven offensive). The bad news is that me measured just 6-foot-6 without shoes.

Tim Grover's A.T.T.A.C.K. Athletics had three guys in the camp, and all of them played very well Wednesday. Ball State's Theron Smith (6-8, 235) had the best game of the three, scoring 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He hit both his 3-pointers and did a great job of sticking to the perimeter game. He was a power forward in college, but he showed Wednesday he's working on becoming a small forward. Portsmouth MVP Jerome Beasley (6-10, 237) also played well, scoring 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting and grabbing five rebounds. And Marquette's Robert Jackson (6-9, 254) ended with 12 points and nine boards.

"The kids from A.T.T.A.C.K. and IMG (in Florida) always have a big advantage," one NBA GM said. "They're just in better shape, and their game seems a little sharper. It's a little like taking the Princeton Review before taking a college entrance exam. It helps you get up to speed."

BYU's Travis Hansen (6-6, 200) dropped in another solid performance. He finished with 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting, hit both of his 3s and grabbed five rebounds.

"I'm not sure where he gets drafted, exactly," one scout said. "But there are five or six guys here who'll stick in the league for 8 to 10 years. He'll be one of them."

Utah's Britton Johnsen is trying to prove he still can play this game.

Speaking of Utah's finest, Britton Johnsen (6-11, 212) turned a few heads with his athletic play on the wing. Johnsen, a former McDonald's All-American, had a tough senior season at Utah. He broke his hand, then came down with mononucleosis toward the end of the season, causing him to fall off the radar screen. While he didn't shoot the ball particularly well, he stunned a few scouts with his ability to put the ball on the floor and zip past defenders. He had 10 points and four rebounds in 19 minutes.

Several scouts claimed the two-year mission Johnsen served for the Mormon church sapped much of his potential. Johnsen was allowed to play basketball just one day a week during his mission. Johnsen bristled at that notion.

"I just don't know how they can say that," Johnsen said. "I'm a much better player than I was before my mission. People remember me because I played well in the Final Four my freshman year, but I averaged just six points per game. I've just had a few tough breaks, as far as injuries goes last year. I don't think it had anything to do with that."

High school big man James Lang (6-9, 316) surprised a lot of people with his 15-point, six-rebound performance. Lang knocked around a few people in the paint and hit 7-of-8 free throws. However, his measurements killed him. There's no way, at that size (he's 6-8 without shoes), he can play center in the pros.

Two years ago Kentucky's Keith Bogans (6-5, 213) had a nightmare experience in Chicago. Obviously the two additional years at Kentucky have helped his game. He scored 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting Wednesday.

"His game has really matured," one NBA scout told Insider. "I like him a lot better now than I did two years ago."

Unfortunately, not everyone in Chicago had their best game Wednesday. They generally fell into two categories: the guys who shot too much and the guys who didn't shoot enough. In the "too much" group: Tennessee's Ron Slay (6-7, 236) went 1-for-9 from the field; Indiana's Jeff Newton (6-9, 199) went 1-for-10; Oklahoma's Ebi Ere (6-5, 210) went 4-for-12 and New Mexico's Ruben Douglas (6-5, 193) went 2-for-8. In the "too little" group: Creighton's Kyle Korver (6-8, 211) took just three shots. He did hand out five assists, but it was clear he was trying to be a team player. That's suicide at the these tournaments. Penn's Ugonna Onyekwe (6-8, 228) went 0-for-3; Ohio's Brandon Hunter (6-8, 266) went 1-for-4; LSU's Ronald Dupree (6-5, 200) went 0-for-3; and Auburn's Marquis Daniels (6-7, 198) went 1-for-4.

Malick Badiane's agent, Frank Capatano, called claiming Badiane didn't have a workout scheduled on Tuesday as reported in Insider. According to Capatano, Badiane was there to do a private workout with only his trainer at 1 p.m. Capatano has no idea how Insider and five other NBA teams all got word Badiane was working out there.

Around the league

The Grizzlies are trying to move up in the draft to get their hands on French two guard Mickael Pietrus, a league source told Insider on Wednesday. They feel he'll be off the board when they pick at No. 13. Chicago has been looking hard at Pietrus, and the Grizzlies know they either have to trade with the Bulls or get ahead of them to have a chance. What might get it done? How about Shane Battier, Ryan Humphrey and the No. 13 pick for Marcus Fizer and the No. 7?

The Pacers claim that they're not shopping Al Harrington, but they're going to have to do something to thin out their small forwards if they expect to get Jonathan Bender more time at the three. Cleveland knows it has to move either Ricky Davis or Dajuan Wagner to make room for LeBron James. Here's a deal that makes sense for both teams: Davis to the Pacers for Harrington. Harrington has a huge upside and the ability to play the three and the four. Davis would give the Pacers another lethal scoring option behind Jermaine O'Neal. With Reggie Miller on the decline, they are going to have to replace him sometime. Unless they feel Fred Jones is the ultimate answer at the three, they're not going to get any better value for Harrington. Because of base year compensation issues, the deal couldn't happen until July 21.

The Washington Post ran a story today about Jerry Stackhouse's future with the Wizards. Stackhouse is trying to secure an new contract with the team, but with the whole organization in flux right now things aren't going as smoothly as he'd like. The team already has rid itself of Michael Jordan and Doug Collins ... will Stackhouse (a Jordan guy) be next?

"I'm committed to be in Washington, if they want to extend me or whatever they feel they need to do," Stackhouse told the Washington Post. "I'm willing to do whatever. Right now I'm in the middle of the road." The story implies Stackhouse might opt out of his deal (he has until July 1 to tell the Wizards) if he doesn't get a new contract. That's not going to happen. With the free-agent market very tight, Stackhouse will struggle to get a contract for more than the $6.6 million he'll make next season in Washington. If the two sides can't work out a deal (it doesn't look good), look for the Wizards to try to move him. Portland, Minnesota and San Antonio are all possible destinations for Stack.