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Chicago JK
06-22-2003, 09:46 AM
These three happy they're pointed to NBA


By Peter May, Globe Staff, 6/22/2003

e'll call them the Boys from Buducnost. There are three of them in this year's NBA draft. Two of them could go in the first round, and one of them could come to Boston. All of them will be happy to leave their current situation. The three are 6-foot-11-inch forward Zarko Cabarkapa; 6-7 forward Aleksandar Pavlovic; and 7-4 center Slavko Vranes. Their team, Buducnost, in the former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, is, to be blunt, a mess. You won't hear any of these three saying they hope they can stay where they are to hone their skills for another year.


''It was bad. Real bad. It's a tough situation, a tough team,'' said agent Marc Cornstein, who represents Vranes and Pavlovic. ''They had a crazy coach. They didn't get paid. Here you have a team with three potential first-round picks in the NBA and they didn't do well at all. That should tell you something.''

Buducnost was 16-6 in the Yugoslavian league, but in the Euroleague, where the competition is much tougher, it was 2-12. Cornstein said his two clients went without pay for several months, but they had no leverage. The team did pay for the apartment in which they lived.

''It's a corrupt and poorly run organization,'' Cornstein said. ''And I'm being diplomatic.''

Agent Bill Duffy represents Cabarkapa, who was a bench-warmer on the Yugoslavian world championship team last fall. He said he had settled ''the pay issue'' with the team, but agreed with Cornstein that the situation is difficult for the players.

''I would say it was extremely volatile, very unstable,'' Duffy said.

Celtics general manager Chris Wallace saw the team play this past spring and called the situation ''chaotic for the whole team.'' He said it was easy to tell how dispirited the players were amid coaching changes and a string of losses.

The team's cash shortage should alleviate one potential headache: agreeing to a buyout, should one be necessary. However, Cornstein said any buyout clauses should be disregarded because the team breached its contract by not paying the players. That very issue is now being discussed regarding Pavlovic's deal, although, Cornstein added, ''It's unfortunate in that we're not always dealing with rational people.'' The most an over-the-cap NBA team can pay in a buyout situation like this is $350,000.

''You could see how three times that amount would appeal to them,'' said Cornstein, referring to Buducnost.

As for the players themselves, the Celtics worked out Pavlovic and liked what they saw, although he didn't always start for Buducnost. They have been unable to get Cabarkapa in; he worked out for Phoenix and then returned home because, according to Duffy, his mother was ill. There were more than a few raised eyebrows about that one; cynics suspected the Suns had cut a deal for him. But late last week, it was learned Cabarkapa was planning to return to the United States for predraft workouts with Milwaukee and New York.

Vranes is more of a project; he saw limited action this season. In the game Wallace saw, Vranes played 93 seconds. He probably will go in the second round. Pavlovic and Cabarkapa appear to be NBA-ready.

In some cases, teams will draft foreign players and encourage them to stay overseas. That way, the salary of the player does not count against the team's cap, although the team maintains his rights. Given what the Buducnost boys have been through, if they do have to go back across the pond, you can only hope for their sake that it's somewhere other than where they were.

Money in Banks? More than a few general managers around the league are convinced the Celtics have made some sort of promise to UNLV's Marcus Banks to select the 6-2 guard at either 16 or 20. The other pick could be for one of the Buducnost boys. But who really knows? ''There's a lot of misinformation coming out of Boston,'' one general manager quipped via e-mail. No more than anywhere else, however. ''I've been reading that we have a deal with Banks, too,'' said Celtics hoop boss Danny Ainge. ''I just love the fact that other people are so concerned with what we're doing.'' Veteran agent Michael Higgins, who also happens to represent Celtics forwards Antoine Walker and Walter McCarty, represents Banks. Higgins, normally a chatty sort, did not respond to two days of phone messages concerning Banks. There also was talk back at the predraft camp in Chicago that the Celtics had zeroed in on Banks and, adding to the drama, Banks ''came down with an injury'' at the time at least one team -- Utah -- was hoping to have him in for a workout. Ainge downplayed his geographical advantage (before coming to Boston, he lived outside Phoenix, and his son is at BYU, which, like UNLV, is in the Mountain West Conference). ''I would think Danny would have a better handle on our conference than a lot of people,'' said UNLV coach Charlie Spoonhour. ''I think what might have hurt Marcus is that a lot of our games start when people back East are going to bed.'' We'll see. The Sonics also are looking at Banks; they draft 12th and 14th and need a point guard. There's also a possibility that Oregon's Luke Ridnour will slide, possibly to where the Celtics will be picking. A week ago, that seemed inconceivable. But that's the way these things go. Remember, Vitaly Potapenko and Todd Fuller went ahead of Kobe Bryant in 1996 . . . There were a couple of major stunners Thursday with the release of the list of players who withdrew from the draft. Usually, players do this because they've been made aware that they either won't get picked very high or won't get selected at all. But how do we explain the decision of the so-called Siberian Sensation, 7-5 Pavel Podkolzine? Two weeks ago, he supposedly had this eye-popping workout (we touched on the ''rigors'' of that workout last Sunday) that had anonymous general managers drooling and comparing him to Shaquille O'Neal and Yao Ming. Orlando's Doc Rivers said he'd take Podkolzine at 15 but didn't expect him to last that long. It's hard to recall when a likely lottery pick withdrew his name from the draft, even one like Podkolzine, who did not have a lengthy playing resume. But everything seemed to slide for Podkolzine when it was reported that he had a thyroid/pituitary condition (alas, memories of Gheorghe Muresan). If he can get that under control, he could be back next year as one of the top picks. Another somewhat surprising withdrawal was that of Russian Viktor Khryapa, whom the Celtics worked out in New Jersey during the NBA Finals. ''There were a number of teams that were interested in him who wanted him to play right away,'' said Khryapa's agent, Marc Fleisher. ''And he didn't have an out. So the whole thing was up in the air. A couple of teams that would have taken him were not his favorites. He got over here late because of visa issues and he didn't have many workouts. But this could be the best thing for him because I think he could be a lottery pick next year.'' Khryapa turns 21 in August. Ainge said, ''I think he made a good move,'' adding that he did not see the 6-9 Russian as a first-rounder. Another Fleisher client, Misan Nikagbatse, also withdrew, but he did so because of an injury that prevented him from working out. We first came across Nikagbatse at the World Championships last summer, when he played for Germany. He's a bull-like 6-5 guard who is learning to play the point in Europe. He could be a real gem next year.

Pass to Athens Both Vlade Divac and Vladimir Radmanovic are said to be skipping this summer's European championships in Sweden. By virtue of winning the Worlds last fall, Yugoslavia already has qualified for the 2004 Athens Olympics, so not having Divac or Radmanovic wouldn't be disastrous. Plus, it would give the coach a chance to look at some of the new Yugos coming through the system like Cabarkapa and Pavlovic. Radmanovic, you may recall, got into it with his coach at the Worlds and rarely played. In the championship game against Argentina, he sat in the stands, adjacent to the media section, still wearing his warmups and uniform . . . As for the US replacing Kobe (shoulder surgery) on its team this summer, don't look for a stud to be named. The US team as constituted, with Tim Duncan leading the way, has more than enough firepower to get through the August qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico, where the top three teams will qualify for Athens. Kobe then would be healthy to play in the Olympics in 2004 . . . The Warriors made a recent trip to France to scout Mickael Pietrus, the French (Pau Orthez) shooting guard who is now seen as a legitimate top 10 pick. Golden State picks 11th, and many feel the Warriors will take a point guard to protect themselves against the loss of Gilbert Arenas in free agency. But there also is talk that the Warriors-Arenas relationship is on the upswing, which may mean the team looks elsewhere in the draft. Still, a point guard at that spot makes the most sense, given that the Warriors are fairly set at the other four positions . . . Ainge may take a last-minute trip to France this week to scout Boris Diaw-Riffiod, who also plays for Pau Orthez. The trip also would allow Ainge an opportunity to see Pietrus. Ainge planned to visit Europe last week, but postponed his trip because of scheduling difficulties. ''There's still a chance I might go to Europe to watch Boris Diaw play this week,'' said Ainge. ''You get all planned and ready to go and then the team wins a game and there's no Game 3 in the championship. So, then you wait for the next series to start. Boris Diaw is a guy I'm planning on going to watch.'' He is projected in some mock drafts as a mid- to late-first-round pick. The general scouting report praises the 6-foot-8-inch forward's athleticism, particularly his quickness. He is said to be an aggressive offensive rebounder. He certainly has athletic genes. His mother, Elisabeth Riffiod, has been called the best center in the history of French women's basketball. His father was a high jump champion in Senegal . . . It's always a bit risky to bring in a coach before you have a general manager. But the Wizards decided having Nets assistant Eddie Jordan on board was more important and signed him to replace Doug Collins. Washington still has no general manager/hoop boss because Wes Unseld is leaving after the draft. The loss of Jordan could really hurt the Nets because he was seen by many to be one of the real engines that drove the New Jersey train. In addition, he is very tight with Jason Kidd . . . The Spurs wrapped up the NBA title a week ago tonight. Lost amid all the Duncan hoopla (well deserved, nonetheless) was the coaching of Gregg Popovich. He continually flustered the Nets with a zone and then allowed Speedy Claxton to finish the deciding game (which he should have done in Game 5, too) instead of the out-of-it Tony Parker. Popovich wasn't named Coach of the Year for no reason. He learned from the likes of Larry Brown and Don Nelson, and his to-the-point style fits well with the non-MTV Spurs. But the Spurs players got a bit of chuckle when Popovich was presented with the Coach of the Year award prior to a playoff game. ''He hated it,'' said Steve Kerr. ''He hated walking out on the floor that night to get the award. Danny [Ferry] and I were joking that maybe he was laying it out a little too thick. You know, he had his head down, he was walking too slow. It was like, `All right, give me the stupid award.' But I hope he enjoys it because he deserved it.'' Added Bruce Bowen, ''It says a lot about the man. He's not a guy who's all about fashion. Or show. Especially fashion.'' . . . The fans in Milwaukee may soon be getting Michael Jordan -- off the court. Let's hope there's not the ridiculous hysteria that greeted Jordan's front-office appointment in Washington. MJ has yet to prove he's even the Brad Sellers of general managers; his decisions in Washington were puzzling at best, and the team could not make the playoffs, even in the Eastern Conference. If Jordan does take over in Milwaukee, that presumably would enable GM Ernie Grunfeld to leave if he so desired. Charlotte is interested in Grunfeld, as are Washington and Portland . . . Best of luck to one of the best: Longtime Cleveland Cavaliers communications director Bob Price is leaving the organization to -- are you ready? -- teach middle school math. Price spent 20 years with the Cavs, which means he saw a lot of the good, bad, and ugly. He's also leaving right as LeBron James is arriving, but he hopes he still has an in with the ticket folks if things turn around. We wish him well.

Mandyahl
06-22-2003, 01:56 PM
As for the US replacing Kobe (shoulder surgery) on its team this summer, don't look for a stud to be named. The US team as constituted, with Tim Duncan leading the way, has more than enough firepower to get through the August qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico, where the top three teams will qualify for Athens. Kobe then would be healthy to play in the Olympics in 2004

just name finley, ok people?

Ummmmm Ok
06-23-2003, 08:52 AM
Another somewhat surprising withdrawal was that of Russian Viktor Khryapa, whom the Celtics worked out in New Jersey during the NBA Finals. ''There were a number of teams that were interested in him who wanted him to play right away,'' said Khryapa's agent, Marc Fleisher. ''And he didn't have an out. So the whole thing was up in the air. A couple of teams that would have taken him were not his favorites. He got over here late because of visa issues and he didn't have many workouts. But this could be the best thing for him because I think he could be a lottery pick next year.'' Khryapa turns 21 in August. Ainge said, ''I think he made a good move,'' adding that he did not see the 6-9 Russian as a first-rounder. Another Fleisher client, Misan Nikagbatse, also withdrew, but he did so because of an injury that prevented him from working out. We first came across Nikagbatse at the World Championships last summer, when he played for Germany. He's a bull-like 6-5 guard who is learning to play the point in Europe. He could be a real gem next year.

WOW, didn't see that coming.