HOUSTON, June 27 (AP)
-- The Houston Rockets traded the three players they chose in the first round of the NBA draft Wednesday night for the rights to Seton Hall forward Eddie Griffin, the Nets' first round pick.
Eddie Griffin had a busy night, going from New Jersey to Houston in a matter of hours.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE Photos
"Usually, you have to go through a lot of pain to get a player like this," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich
said. "The main thing is we got someone special. There are benefits to having three picks, but how many times do you have a chance to get someone special."
The Rockets had three picks in the first round and they took Richard Jefferson of Arizona with the 13th pick, Jason Collins of Stanford at No. 18 and Brandon Armstrong with the 23rd pick.
All three were then shipped to the Nets in exchange for Griffin, a freshman who finished second in the nation in blocked shots and was fifth in rebounding. He was the seventh player taken in the draft.
"This was presented to us and we just couldn't pass it up," Tomjanovich said. "He was out of our reach and suddenly he started to slide and we got him."
The Rockets sought to improve their outside shooting and also to improve their rebounding presence inside. They feel Griffin will offer help in both areas.
"He's so versatile," Tomjanovich said. "He has size, the ability to block shots. He can rebound, shoot with confidence from the outside. And he is 19 years old."
Griffin became the first freshman in Seton Hall history to record double-doubles in his first three games. He set a single-season school record with 133 blocked shots and he averaged 17.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
"I'm really excited about it," Griffin said. "I was excited about going to New Jersey before, because I'm close by (his home in Philadelphia), but I'm looking forward to going to Houston and playing with Cuttino (Mobley)
and Steve Francis
The Rockets tried without success prior to draft day to move their three first-round choices. It took the pressure cooker of the draft to get the deal done.
Tomjanovich compared getting Griffin with their good fortune to obtaining Francis after he was the first pick of the Vancouver Grizzlies in the 1999 draft. Francis refused to play for the Grizzlies and was traded to the Rockets.
"We've had a lot of things happen with the franchise," Tomjanovich said. "This reminds me of the Steve Francis situation. We were there to take advantage of that opportunity."
The Rockets' work isn't finished. They got their guy Wednesday, but they have six free agents, starting with Hakeem Olajuwon
, 37, who at first planned to retire after last season, but wants to play another year.
The Rockets would like to have Olajuwon back if they can fit him under the salary cap.
The Rockets are trying to regain their status as perennial playoff contenders. Houston improved from 34 victories in 1999-2000 to 45 last season and still missed the playoffs. They were the first team to miss the playoffs with 45 victories since the NBA expanded to a 16-team playoff format in 1983-84.
The Rockets did some trading after they made their picks last season, too.
They chose Joel Przybilla
of Minnesota in the first round and traded him to Milwaukee for Jason Collier
of Georgia Tech. They drafted Eduardo Najera
of Oklahoma in the second round and sent him to Dallas for Dan Langhi