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OutletPass
06-07-2003, 12:25 PM
The ultimate out-of-nowhere story
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Saturday, June 7
Updated: June 7
12:35 PM ET


CHICAGO -- The giant is out of the bag.


Sleeping Giant

Until last December, when Insider Chad Ford heard the tale of a mysterious big-man discovered in Siberia and stashed in Varese, Italy, to develop, few people in the NBA had even heard of Pavel Podkolzine. But between Ford's story then and his visit to Italy for a first-hand look last month, Podkolzine went from anonymous to the top of the charts.

Two hundred NBA scouts and GMs crammed into the Gold Coast Multiplex on Friday to watch 7-foot-4, 300 pound Siberian center Pavel Podkolzine.'s first workout. The obscure 18-year-old big man whom no one had heard of six months ago went from the ultimate sleeper to a top-10 lock in slightly more than 40 minutes. "Holy sh--!" one NBA GM told Insider. "He's amazing."

"I don't believe what I just saw," another GM told Insider. "That's the most potent combination of size, strength and agility I've seen since Shaq." "I was a skeptic when I read all the reports about him on Insider," another GM began. "I love the international kids, but I thought things were getting out of hand with Pavel. I'm converted now. That's one amazing prospect right there."

"What does Yao Ming do that he doesn't?" another GM said. "Yao's feel for the game at this point is much better, but from a physical standpoint, he's more explosive."


Podkolzine

Podkolzine aced his first test in the NBA. He shot the ball extremely well, threw coach Billy Bayno around in the post like a rag doll and ran the floor like a guard. Almost everyone in attendance quickly drew comparisons between Pavel and a young, agile Arvydas Sabonis. "People in the NBA don't remember Sabonis when he was young," one international scout said. "They only remember the slow version. Pavel seems to have all of those same skills at the enormous size. If he develops a real feel for the game, you will see him dominate the NBA for 15 years."

For those of you still skeptical about the big fella's NBA potential consider this. Of the 20 or so team executives I talked to after the workout, none of them projected Podkolzine to last past No. 10.

" If I'm Carmelo Anthony, I'm sweating right now. Based on potential, he's right up there with LeBron and Darko. "
An NBA GM, on Podkolzine
Some think he'll go much higher.

"He'll go anywhere from four to seven," one GM said. "He won't get past six," said another.

Indeed, after the workout, the Denver Nuggets were among the plethora of teams calling Pavel's agent, Justin Zanick, trying to schedule a private workout. Ironicaly, Carmelo met Podkolzine in the hotel lobby when Podkolzine checked in. Carmelo looked up (way up) and just said, "Damn!"

Zanick, a new NBA agent who used to work for super-agent Mark Bartelstien, also went from obscurity to one of the most powerful agents in this year's draft overnight. After the workout, he couldn't talk for two minutes without being interrupted by a team trying to arrange to see Podkolzine again.

Most won't get the chance. The buzz is so high on Podkolzine right now, Zanick is thinking of shutting down his workouts. Podkolzine will take the NBA physical today, then begin a tour of lottery teams interested in him. Whether he actually works out during those visits remains to be seen.

He'll be in Memphis on Tuesday. Milwaukee the next day, New York on Thursday, Miami either Friday or next Saturday, and in L.A. to meet with the Clippers on June 15. The Nuggets, Raptors and Bulls also will get visits.


At 7-foot-4, Podkolzin has size and mobility, but he lacks game experience. Of course, everyone is taking this workout with a grain of salt. It revealed nothing about court IQ, the ability to be physical with stronger, more athletic players, or game-time savvy. Podkolzine played a total of 120 minutes last year in Varese. That's three full games. In other words, everyone understands he's a project -- a guy a couple years away from having a big impact in the league. But with those type of physical skills, it appears teams are willing to take the risk.

With his buyout taken care of, and concerns about his ankle dispelled, Podkolzine has a great chance of being the second international player taken in the draft. With Darko Milicic, France's Mickael Pietrus (Bulls GM John Paxson just flew over to France to get a second look) and Poland's Maciej Lampe also generating a lot of buzz, it appears a record four international players will be selected in the lottery.

Podkolzine is surprised at all of the attention. "I can't believe how many people came to see me?" he said. "I thought, like, 10 people will be in this gym. I don't even play this year." Pavel claims he got nervous when the stampede of NBA scouts flooded into the gym. It didn't show on the court. "I wanted to go and shake everyone's hand," he said. "But there is too many. Many, many people came. I just hope I was worth the time."

After the workout, Podkolzine's attention turnsed to food and shopping. He skipped his usual pizza for some more American-style fare. "I'm not Italian anymore," he says with a big grin. "Now I'm American."
After lunch, he was anxious to hit Niketown, hoping to find some Michael Jordan wear. It's impossible to find that stuff in Italy, and even the store manager isn't sure they make things big enough for a 7-foot-4 kid. After some serious searching, they finally find some gear big enough. Size? XXXXXL.

Everywhere he goes, people flock to him. He takes the time to stop and talk to each person. The smile didn't leave his face all day. Even off the court he seems shocked with all of the attention. For all of his special qualities on the court, Pavel's best attributes may be off it. He's kind, warm and humble. He has no idea who he is or what he could become.

"He is a gift from God," adviser and former coach Gianni Chipparo said after the workout. "Pavel is a great kid. He works hard, and he just wants to get better. He has the chance to be very special on the court. Off the court? He's already arrived."

So, where will Podkolzine go?

Pavel Podkolzine isn't likely to bump LeBron James or Darko Milicic out of the top two spots in the draft, but after that it's almost a toss-up. Here's a breakdown of the teams considering drafting him:

3. Denver Nuggets: Carmelo who? GM Kiki Vandeweghe is intrigued. Would Denver swap the No. 3 pick with Toronto (who really wants 'Melo) for the No. 4 and a couple of future first-rounders?

4. Toronto Raptors: They need a big man in the worst way. Chris Kaman worked out for them earlier in the week, and it went well. But Kaman doesn't have the upside Podkolzine does. Can GM Glen Grunwald wait for the 18-year-old to develop?

5. Miami Heat: Pat Riley looked like he was in love Friday. With 'Zo moving on, they can use the help in the paint. But does Pat have the patience to wait on Pavel. History says no.

6. Los Angeles Clippers: Their scout, Fabricio Besnati, helped discover Pavel. He's been begging GM Elgin Baylor to draft him ever since. Now that Elgin has seen what the buzz is all about, will he pull the trigger? They have to replace Michael Olowokandi someday.

7. Chicago Bulls: If Jerry Krause was still around, he'd be burning up the phone lines to get this kid. However, it looks like GM John Paxson is looking for someone to help the Bulls right now.

8. Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks have scouted him well and will take him if he falls this far. However, no one in the organization believes he'll be on the board for them now.

9. New York Knicks: Podkolzine is no Frederic Weis. Team president Scott Layden said he was impressed, but like the Bucks, he's pretty sure Pavel will be gone. Can he move up and get him?

13. Memphis Grizzlies: Team representatives looked forlorn Friday. They were seriously considering him at No. 13, but now they know he'll be taken long before that. Could they sneak up to No. 4 by offering the Raptors Stromile Swift and the No. 13 pick?

23. Portland Trail Blazers: Despite picking so low, they have their eye on Podkolzine, too. Would the Raptors take Rasheed Wallace in exchange for Antonio Davis, Hakeem Olajuwon's expiring contract and the rights to Pavel?

Chicago JK
06-07-2003, 01:47 PM
thanks. I saw him shooting on ESPN last night. He is definately big and seems to have some muscle definition on him. It looks like he definately caught scouts attention.