Few veterans chosen by Charlotte

Updated: June 23, 2004, 4:49 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Don't get too attached to the 19 players the Charlotte Bobcats picked in the NBA expansion draft: The team expects less than half of them to make it to the first training camp.

The Bobcats stocked their roster with a mix of young players Tuesday night short on name recognition, but rich in potential.

Jason Kapono of Cleveland, Gerald Wallace of Sacramento, Tamar Slay of New Jersey and Jamal Sampson could all make the team. Too bad the 500 or so fans who turned out for the selection show had never heard of them.

"What we want is players who need an opportunity to show they can play. Players talk all the time, they want PT -- playing time -- and they want to know their role. We can guarantee both," general manager and coach Bernie Bickerstaff said.

Nine of the selections are restricted free agents, meaning they automatically become unrestricted free agents and can negotiate with every NBA team except the ones that left them unprotected.

That's bad news for the handful of fans in the crowd of 500 who cheered the selection of Marcus Fizer of Chicago.

But Jahidi White of Phoenix and Wallace -- the only other players to draw any sort of fan response -- should show up in Bobcats orange this fall. The Suns gave Charlotte $3 million and a future first-round pick to take White. The six-year veteran will have the highest salary of any Bobcats player, $5.88 million.

Although some players might be reluctant to join an expansion team, Kapono was not.

Kapono, who Bickerstaff picked despite "incentive offers" from Cleveland not to choose him, was thrilled to be coming to Charlotte.

"I am really excited to be joining a new franchise where everybody is going to start on the same level and everyone will have the same chance," he told The Associated Press by telephone from California. "The only thing I am anxious about is the three-hour plane ride to Charlotte because I can't wait to get there."

White, Fizer, Wallace of Sacramento and Predrag Drobnjak of the Los Angeles Clippers were the most experienced players among the Bobcats' selections from the other 29 NBA franchises.

The Bobcats also selected Utah guard Aleksandar Pavlovic, who will be dealt to Cleveland for a future first-round draft pick. Pavlovic will give the Cavs a shooter to replace Kapono, who was one of just four guards chosen by the Bobcats.

A big name will be added in Thursday night's NBA draft when the Bobcats select either Emeka Okafor or high school phenom Dwight Howard.

Charlotte traded the No. 4 pick to the Clippers to move up and make a run at Okafor.

Other selections were Indiana center Primoz Brezec, Boston forward Brandon Hunter, Memphis forward Theron Smith and Orlando forward Zaza Pachulia.

The Bobcats turned around Wednesday and sent Pachulia to the Milwaukee Bucks for a second-round pick in Thursday's draft. Pachulia, who is 6-foot-11 and was selected by Orlando as the 42nd pick in the 2003 draft, averaged 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds last season for the Magic.

"We think this young man is the sleeper of this selection," Bickerstaff said of Smith, who appeared in 20 games for Memphis last season and averaged 2.2 points.

Each NBA team could protect up to eight players, but had to make at least one player available if they couldn't make eight available.

The restricted free agents selected by the Bobcats included Seattle guard Richie Frahm, Miami center Loren Woods, forward Slay, Nuggets guard Jeff Trepagnier, Washington forward Lonnie Baxter, Golden State guard J.R. Bremer, Fizer, New Orleans guard Maurice Carter and Portland swingman Desmond Ferguson.

One glaring omission from the expansion draft was a point guard, which Bickerstaff said he'd try to get through free agency.

"We must find a point guard," Bickerstaff said. "We would look for a veteran point guard to mentor the younger guys, but it is the young guys' game. A veteran will be here to give us respect with the referees and professionalism in the locker room."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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