Wednesday, June 27
Updated: June 28, 3:23 AM ET
Starting over ... or starting to take shape?
By Andy Katz
NEW YORK -- The 2001 NBA draft reinforced the division in the NBA between the haves and have-nots with moves made by the Vancouver Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks.
Both franchises made definitive statements, ones that clearly suggest each is starting over and willing to take their lumps over the next two seasons. Both just might be back in 2002, vying for the rights to draft 7-foot-6 Chinese center Yao Ming or Duke junior-to-be point guard Jason Williams 1-2 in the draft.
Until then, fans in both cities -- and Memphis -- need to be patient. The Grizzlies are arriving down South from Vancouver with a new look. Gone is their best player -- Shareef-Abdur Rahim -- who went to Atlanta. In return, the Grizzlies had the Hawks draft Spanish forward Pau Gasol, who still intends to break the final year of his contract to play in the NBA next season. The Grizzlies then drafted Duke senior Shane Battier with the sixth pick, adding an instant statesman to their roster and an immediate hit in a college basketball-crazed city where he's well known.
"I think the people of Memphis are really excited about having a team," Battier said. "It's very exciting to be part of a rebuilding process. It's exciting to have a fresh start. I want to get out and identify with the city and start shaking hands."
Battier will make the odd switch from being a constant winner at Duke to going to one of the most hapless franchises in the NBA.
"You have to have perspective and know that you're going to a situation like that that will take some time," Battier said. "You've got to have the willingness every single day and deal with it. But when we achieve success, like we hope we will, it will be that much sweeter."
Gasol said he would work with FC Barcelona to negotiate a buyout of his final year. Gasol owes Barcelona $2.5 million for the final year, but the Grizzlies can only pay an NBA-maximum $350,000. Gasol had originally said he would be willing to pay the rest, but hopes Barcelona is willing to negotiate.
"I hope my team in Barcelona and me can arrive in an agreement and make my buyout not so much money," Gasol said. "It's a lot of money.
"I can't imagine that I would be the third pick. I want to become a great player and that's why I'm here. The Grizzlies talked to me and I know this will be a great thing for me."
The decision to implode the team upon landing in Memphis isn't over. Point guard Mike Bibby was sent to Sacramento in a late trade Wednesday with Jason Williams being delivered in return.
All of which means that Battier could end up playing some shooting guard, Gasol small forward and Stromile Swift power forward next to Bryant Reeves in a monster-sized lineup in a pinch.
The Grizzlies also got point guard Brevin Knight and forward Lorenzen Wright in the trade with the Hawks, which made it easier to move Bibby and made a frontcourt roster change a possibility. Drafting Clemson point/shooting guard Will Solomon in the second round gives the Grizzlies insurance in the backcourt.
Meanwhile, the Bulls' draft means Chicago is light years away from getting close to the Michael Jordan-era. It also means that general manager Jerry Krause and coach Tim Floyd have accepted the fact that they must start over. Elton Brand got the Bulls closer to the first pick in the draft than the playoffs in two seasons and there was no reason why they couldn't start over again.
Drafting Eddy Curry and then trading Brand to the Clippers for Tyson Chandler is as dramatic a move for the Bulls as anything they have done under Krause. Two high school players had never gone in the same lottery, let alone to one team on the same night.
"It's very unique," Chandler said. "Hopefully we'll capitalize on this and we'll be a positive influence on each other."
Chandler and Curry were matched against each other in a few high school events, but they play different positions. Chandler is a small forward, even though he's a 7-footer. He handles the ball, faces the basket and doesn't like to go inside. Curry is definitely a low-post presence and is an immovable target inside. The hope is Curry and Chandler would be the cornerstone of the franchise with Marcus Fizer and point Jamal Crawford.
"I think we'll compliment each other," Chandler said. "He's a big powerful player and I'm finesse. He's a big guy in the middle and I'll be able to draw defenders off him. I wasn't expecting this, but I think it will be the best situation. We can grow together and work together. I think it's a great opportunity for both of us."
Curry wanted to stay in Chicago if he wasn't chosen No. 1. He's not worried about being in the Windy City, where there are likely to be a number of distractions.
"There's no pressure," Curry said. "I was there and have been through it all in Chicago (as a fan). I know what it's like to see them win and I want to be part of bringing them back to that status. I think I can play right away and I don't think they would have chosen me if they didn't think that."
Curry and Chandler are just two of the four high school seniors taken in the top 10, with top pick Kwame Brown going to Washington and Cleveland taking DeSagana Diop at No. 8.
"This group will be one of the success stories," Curry said. "But we definitely have a lot to prove and prove we belong here."
While the Bulls and Grizzlies were beginning again, the Clippers were clearly making a statement that they don't expect to be in the lottery again. Getting a veteran like Brand means they are interested in actually getting into the playoffs. Similar moves of trying to go with a veteran instead of dealing with the youth brigade were made in Golden State and Houston.
The Warriors picks of Michigan State sophomore Jason Richardson and Notre Dame junior Troy Murphy are actually veterans in this draft. Both players have competed at an elite level against NBA-caliber talent when they participated in a game against the Olympians in September. Both should be able to contribute right away.
And the Rockets' move to trade away all three first-round picks for Seton Hall freshman Eddie Griffin, who can contribute right away, should give the Rockets the scoring forward they were looking for in this draft. Orlando's decision to go with an experienced center in North Carolina's Brendan Haywood and an athletic big man in DePaul sophomore Steven Hunter followed a similar path.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
|Kwame Brown was the center of attention Wednesday night.|
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