Wednesday, June 26
Updated: Friday, June 28, 2:11 PM ET
Jones begins night of surprises
By Andy Katz
NEW YORK -- Kareem Rush was angry, flat out disgusted when he sat down for an ESPN television interview after learning he had been bumped by the Indiana Pacers at No. 14 in favor of Oregon's Freddie Jones.
Rush eventually fell to the Toronto Raptors at No. 20, a team he didn't work out for prior to the draft.
"I thought I was going to Indiana,'' said Rush, hours before he would later be traded to the Lakers in a late-night deal. "I'm mad."
And stunned that it was Jones who went to Indiana instead of him. But, Rush wasn't alone in feeling slighted in the Garden. So was every other first-round hopeful in attendance at the NBA draft Wednesday night.
Jones was the surprise pick of the night, and not just that he went in the first round. He was a possible first-round pick at the beginning of the draft process, but a shoulder injury and uninspiring play at the Chicago pre-draft camp in early June dropped his draft status. The majority of NBA teams had cooled on Jones over the past three weeks -- except Indiana.
The Pacers privately coveted Jones and considered a number of offers to move down in the draft. But Indiana pulled off a rare draft-night move by staying at No. 14 and simply taking the player it wanted at that position, even though no one had Jones projected so high in the draft. Toronto could have selected Chris Jefferies at No. 20 instead of Rush, but ended up swapping picks with the Lakers (in addition to trading Tracy Murray and Lindsey Hunter).
"When I went to work out with the Pacers, Freddie Jones wasn't even there and he was supposed to be," Stanford's Casey Jacobsen said. "Did he just not show up."
No, he was injured and later rescheduled.
The Pacers started to warm to Jones over the past few days and weren't dismayed by his shoulder injury. They said his stock didn't plummet in Chicago in their eyes because they understood he was playing hurt. In fact, Jones was their top target, not Rush, in their search for another athletic, scoring wing to play behind Reggie Miller.
Jones, however, wasn't the only longshot to make it into the first round. Notre Dame forward Ryan Humphrey was considered a borderline first-round pick at best, but his strong rebounding and his overall work ethic at the Chicago pre-draft camp obviously intrigued Orlando for him to be requested at No. 19. The Magic traded with Utah for Humphrey's rights later Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga point guard Dan Dickau was discussed as high as No. 13 to Milwaukee, but the dominoes Jones caused at No. 14 pushed Dickau to No. 28 Sacramento. Dickau was sent packing to Atlanta in a trade, allowing the Hawks to get the first-round level point that they coveted and taking a guaranteed salary off the Kings' loaded roster.
Connecticut's Caron Butler ironically said prior to the draft that he saw himself as this year's Paul Pierce -- a sleeper who could drop further than he should based on his talent. Pierce went No. 10 to Boston in the 1998 draft and became an all star. Butler went No. 10 to Miami, about as far as he could fall in the lottery. He said despite losing roughly $2 million over three years with is freefall from No. 6 in most draft projections to Miami, that it was the perfect fit playing for Pat Riley and on a team that was ready-made for him to come in and contribute.
A surprise? Not to Butler. But maybe to those who consider him the best player in the draft and the favorite to be the 2002-03 rookie of the year.
Butler didn't get to Washington at No. 11, and if he had then he probably wouldn't have lasted to 12. The Wizards were the surprise team in this draft, doing an about face from last year. Washington went with a high school senior in Kwame Brown at No. 1 last season. Brown turned out to be a non-factor in his rookie season. The Wizards weren't about to go young and inexperienced again.
Washington made the first move of the draft, trading Courtney Alexander to New Orleans for the No. 17 pick. And they took at No. 11 and No. 17 two of the arguably more experienced players in the draft. The Wizards got the two players who played the final game in college and two of the better leaders in the draft.
Indiana's Jared Jeffries might only be a sophomore, but in his second season he was the Big Ten's most valuable player and led the Hoosiers to the national title game. He's a ready-made forward who could score facing or with his back to the basket. The Wizards then pulled off the second biggest shocker next to Jones when they selected Maryland's Juan Dixon at No. 17. Dixon wasn't even invited to the draft, but chose to sit in the stands and take his chances.
Dixon said he couldn't have asked for a better situation, to stay close to home -- he has never left the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area to play a home game -- and to learn from Michael Jordan. But he's not some wide-eyed high school senior.
Few players, maybe outside of Duke's Jay Williams, have as much big-game experience as Dixon. He was the Final Four most outstanding player after leading the Terps to their first national title -- over Jeffries and the Hoosiers. He's the best on-the-ball defender in the draft and clearly was one of the hardest working players. He might not have been a true point in college, but he has said he can run a team. He'll be asked to do so in the NBA.
The night ended with two more surprises, these for lack of action by Memphis and the L.A. Clippers in the first round. The expectations were for the Grizzlies and Jerry West to make a trade, but it didn't happen, and the apparent plan is to keep No. 4 Drew Gooden. Stromile Swift could be on the move, but no blockbuster deals came down Wednesday.
The Clippers were the most pursued team prior to the draft with teams like Memphis, Cleveland and Portland trying to get their No. 8 and/or No. 12 picks. The Clippers made the Elton Brand-Tyson Chandler trade with Chicago last year to shock the draft. They were quiet Wednesday. But how long will that last?
Drafting two power forwards in Chris Wilcox and Melvin Ely didn't make sense, especially with Brand on the roster. Either Brand won't get re-signed or Wilcox is on the move to the Cavs for a potential Andre Miller mega deal. Taking Wilcox because he has trade value could foreshadow a trade to come. But the Clippers inaction was a surprise, one of many on draft night.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Katz covers the NBA draft for ESPN.com and ESPN.
|Caron Butler hopes to follow the same route to NBA stardom as Paul Pierce as a No. 10 pick||