Two days of workouts, one big decision

Andy Katz had inside access as the Bucks worked out and wooed the two players who could be the No. 1 pick.

Originally Published: June 27, 2005
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

MILWAUKEE – The Bucks didn't have to do all this.

They own the No. 1 overall pick, meaning they are the ones in control. They get to decide who plays for them next season.

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Yet, here we are, fresh off a glitzy arena tour, sitting in a Hummer limo, heading to a fancy steak place downtown.

Here we are as the Bucks try to sell the franchise and the city of Milwaukee to two college kids over three days that will decide the future of the franchise.

* * *

The conference room sits above the Cousins Center court in St. Francis, a suburban Milwaukee enclave along the water.

It is here, in this conference room, with the backdrop of a draft board that has every team listed and all potential top picks by position, where the Bucks will decide the future of their franchise.

The Bucks' brass has completed mock drafts, leaving only the team's spot at No. 1 and Atlanta's at No. 2 open. For the Bucks, there are two players that will fill those slots – Utah sophomore center Andrew Bogut, the college basketball player of the year, and North Carolina reserve freshman forward Marvin Williams, who could become the NBA's next phenom.

Which one should the Bucks choose? When the players, first Williams and then Bogut, arrived on consecutive days over Father's Day weekend, each had his own idea.

"I've got more experience than anybody else in the draft," Bogut said. "I've played in the Olympics, won a gold medal for my country in the world junior championships and was the MVP of the tournament. I'm just a competitor. The teams that I play for win basketball games, that's the bottom line."

"I think everyone realizes I'm young and after a few years in the league, there's no telling how good I can be," Williams said. "I feel if they chose me, I'd definitely work out for them."

On his way to meeting Williams for dinner Saturday night at Mo's Steak House, Bucks general manager Larry Harris put the importance of the top pick into perspective.

"This pick puts us back in contention to be back in the playoffs like we were two years ago," Harris said. "It brings back that frenzy to Milwaukee."

On the ride to pick up Williams, Harris explained his process of determining this pick.

"It's a two-man race, and it's not a jump shot that [either player is] going to make [in the workouts] that would determine it. It's the total package," Harris said. "There's been a lot of time and energy put into this pick. It started a few years ago. It didn't just happen on May 24 [the night of the draft lottery, where Milwaukee beat the odds to land the No. 1 pick]."

Harris said scout Scott Roth, director of player personnel Dave Babcock, assistant general manager Dan Kohl and scout Chris Gilmartin would help him make the decision. He added the coaches would have input, but he didn't want to muddy the issue, emphasizing the pick ultimately would rest on his shoulders.

"[The coaches] don't follow college basketball. It's not what they do. They coach games," said Harris, four days before he fired head coach Terry Porter. "We are the organization. Everybody puts in their input, but I have to make the final decision. It's not an ego thing, but I have the responsibility of drafting players. It's a democracy, but at the end of the day it will be me."

Owner and team president, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., will have to rubber-stamp the move, but he entrusts Harris with the call.

* * *

Basically, from the time they beat the odds (with the league's sixth-worst record) to land the No. 1 overall pick, the Bucks crafted a weekend that would rival most free-agent recruitments and dwarf college enticements.

On Saturday, Harris took Williams on a tour of the Bradley Center. Williams, wearing jeans and a white T-shirt, went into the locker room, where he tried on a Bucks jersey emblazoned with his name.

When they walked out to the Bradley Center floor, a video montage was ready and a sign flashed along the video message board by the upper deck that said, "Marvin Williams Welcome to Milwaukee."

Andrew Bogut
Bogut hopes his skills and wardrobe suit the Bucks.

Williams had a scheduled a workout in Atlanta on June 21-22, but his attorney, Jim Tanner, upon seeing the level of the Bucks' recruitment, turned to Babcock and said, "We can cancel it if you want."

Afterward, the marketing team surprised Williams by singing "Happy Birthday" to him a day early. That scene would be repeated later that evening at the restaurant, with Harris leading the Bucks' brass in singing and presenting Williams with a cake.

"It felt exactly like college," Williams said, who added he currently drives a Hummer. "In the arena, people meet me at the arena, take me out to dinner, made me a cake. I had a good time."

Sunday, though, was all business.

Moments before the workout, Williams said, "I have to show them what I can do … all my abilities – perimeter skills, post-up skills – and hopefully they like it."

Coming off their worst season in nine years, the Bucks' No. 1 priority is to re-sign free agent guard Michael Redd. Williams arrived in Milwaukee saying he could be the perfect complement. The Bucks had to see for themselves.

The Bucks put Williams through a strenuous workout, during which Williams became fatigued and had to stop to get stretched.

"There [were] a couple shooting drills I hadn't done," Williams said. "There was countdown to 15, make one, points drop. If you miss, they go up. Got a little bit tired, but I tried to focus and finished up strong."

The Bucks' staff convened in the conference room after the workout to break down Williams' game, character and potential.

Harris: "He showed more skills in his time here than [when] we had seen him 10 or 15 times this season. That's my perception of it."

Babcock: "He's got the talent to be a go-to scorer. Obviously, he wasn't last year, it might not be next year, it might be two years down the road. But he'll be at that level sometime.

Roth: "If you're picking someone that high, you better have leadership qualities and vocal ability to lead others. Right now, [he's] quiet. He's going to have progress in his role as a leader if he becomes a great player."

* * *

Bogut was given similar star treatment Sunday night.

The Bucks picked him up in a Hummer limo and took him to Giovanni's, a lower-key Italian restaurant, where a TV was wheeled in so they could watch Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

When it was Bogut's turn for a tour, he got similar jersey treatment in the locker room but a little different out on the court, where the Bucks darkened the whole arena and had his spotlit jersey draped over two folding chairs. His video montage was easier to see in the dark.

"I don't need the red carpets and all that attention," Bogut, who was dressed smartly in a pin-striped suit, said. "I just like to lay low. That's not me. I would have been happy taking a cab. But I really appreciate the effort they put forward to show me that they, they're really interested. You know if I'm here, I'll be treated very well as a player."

On Monday, Bogut (like Williams the day before) was going through his very first NBA workout. Bogut, though, was more accustomed than Williams to this kind of scrutiny because of his international experience.

Moments before the workout, Bogut said, "I never know what to expect, but I'm just going to take it positively. If I don't make my first couple of shots, just stay with it. It's not like it's the end of the world if I miss my first couple shots, these guys know I can play."

On the court, Bogut dispelled some knocks on his athleticism by dribbling the length of the court without fumbling. He also went through the hour-long workout without a water break.

Bogut is hardly soft, and he plays the post with force and tenacity. He did tire a bit near the end, leading to a few missed free throws, and some doubts afterward.

Bogut: "I just can't hit free throws."
Babcock: "You know what? That's the least of your worries."
Bogut: "No, it's not."
Babcock: "You know why? Because that stuff you'll improve on. Just takes a little work. What do you think the issue is?"
Bogut: "It's mental, man.
Babcock: "No, it's not all mental, it's not all mental."

Soon after that exchange, Senator Kohl approached.

Kohl: "Good job, Andrew."
Bogut: "Thanks, hope you enjoyed the workout.
Kohl: "You're good."
Babcock: "Did a good job, didn't he, Senator?"
Kohl: "You're very good."
Bogut: "Did you close your eyes during my free throws?"
Kohl: "Well, you're going to be 75 percent. Right now, you're 68 or 70. You'll be all right. You did a good job."

An hour later, the Bucks met again in the conference room to discuss what they had seen.

Harris: "Once you saw him in the post, that's where he's naturally gifted. His right and left hand[s] [are] unbelievable."

Roth: The biggest thing he could improve in is his shooting. I think he shot it better two years ago in international ball than he has the last couple of years."

Harris: All he wants to do is play basketball. That's all he cares to do. He'll likely get a nice car and have a home and hopefully have a girlfriend or two in the process, but I'm telling you there's no doubt the guy is going to be an NBA player for a long time."

Bogut went through the normal psychological and physical tests most draft picks go through when they visit teams. He also had to go through an eye test after reports surfaced that he had a degenerative eye disorder. But according to Bogut's agent, David Bauman, and the Bucks, Bogut simply has a rough cornea, a common issue that forces him to wear a special contact lens.

Earlier on Monday, before Bogut went to a Boys and Girls Club in Milwaukee, he made sure the Bucks knew he wanted to play in Milwaukee. At a private breakfast with Kohl, he gave the Bucks' owner a résumé and a promotional packet.

"He can see on paper all of the things that I've accomplished in my life at such a young age," Bogut said. "I'd like to have Milwaukee [be] a part of that, to have some more little slots on that résumé, hopefully NBA playoffs, NBA championship and so on."

How did Kohl leave it as to what Milwaukee might do?

"They're not going to give me a final word, which would be stupid on their part [to do]," Bogut said. "You know, he just said 'You were a great kid, hopefully it works out for you or Marvin, and we'll see what happens June 28.' "

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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