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Posted by Rob Peterson on June 23 2004 6:15 p.m. ET

THE MEDIA CRUSH BEGINS

NEW YORK, June 23 -- University of Connecticut guard Ben Gordon walked into the ballroom at the Westin Hotel in New York, put his hand to his chin and broke into a big smile.

"Damn!"

High-school phenom Dwight Howard entered a few paces behind Gordon and broke out in a wide smile, his mouth full of braces.

It's no wonder Gordon and Howard could barely stifle their grins. They saw the members of the press three-deep at their assigned tables during Wednesday's media availability with the NBA Draft 2004 prospects.

Yes, gentlemen, the Draft may be Thursday night (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), but your future has already begun. Welcome to the NBA. Now, explain yourselves.

And who better to welcome you than those bearing microphones and micro-cassette recorders. For many of you, this will be the last time in some time you will face us in such numbers, while media availability allows us jackals in the press the opportunity to swarm and gnaw of the bones of storylines, such as:

"Are you shocked that so many high-school players are in the draft?"

"Is this a dream come true? What's it like now that you're here?"

"Emeka, are you really a boring stiff who just studied and played hoops at UConn?"

"What would be the first thing you buy for someone else when you sign your contract?"

"What's your sign?"

(Ha! Just wanted to see if you were paying attention on that last one.)

With 14 players in attendance (Pavel Podkolzine, the 7-5 behemoth who played professionally in Italy, was delayed and could not make it), Click and Roll did its best to get to everyone, from BYU's Rafael Araujo to Nevada's Kirk Snyder

(Though we didn't get to either Araujo or Snyder, but we tried to get everyone alphabetically in between. I am only one man! But I digress.)

Anyway, here are some of the better bon mots from media availability.

UConn's Emeka Okafor could be No. 1 (or No. 2, depending on which mock drafts and rumors you choose to believe).
-- Boston Herald

Yet, when a reporter asked Okafor, a guy who won a national title and graduated in three years with a 3.7 in finance, if Emeka felt he could look down his nose at the high-school kids in the Draft, Okafor was shocked that some people thought he was some kind of robot.

"I'm like everyone else," Okafor said. "I like playing video games. I go to movies. It's not like I had a bed in the library and a bed in the gym and that's all I did.

"I did everything most college students do. I was a college student who just happened to play basketball."

And what about those pesky high school kids? There are nine in the Draft this year. Someone asked Josh Smith ("J-Smoove" to his friends) of Oak Hill Academy in Virginia if the children are our future of the NBA.

"I think it’s good," Smith said, "because you're putting more excitement in the league. But it's kind of bad, too, because some high-school players aren't mentally ready and they're not mature enough to handle the life in the NBA."

Stanford's Josh Childress agreed.

"College helps," Childress said. "It was the way to go for me. Some of the [high-school players] will succeed, but college guys are more polished and ready to contribute right away."

JAMEERLY HIMSELF

Speaking of being able to contribute right away, we have St. Joseph's point guard and consensus National Player of the Year Jameer Nelson. If Nelson doesn't make the got milk? All-Rookie First Team next season, there's one postseason team where we'll be sure to find him: The All-Interview team.
-- NBA.com

Nelson, the 6-0 point guard, is eminently quotable, not to mention supremely talented. Even before Wednesday's media availability, he's unleashed some beautiful quotes.

The first one is from the Seattle Times:

"Look man, I didn't wait this long, play four years in college to sit another four years or spend any time on somebody's bench. I'm ready now. Right now. I'm not like some of these kids that's going to take some time to get comfortable playing ball. I'm ready."

Or this one, from the New York Times (registration required) about his height, or lack thereof:

"I'm 6-0 in shoes. And I play with shoes on."

Nelson has other fans (besides me) in the media as well. Terry Pluto, who wrote "Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association -As Told by the Players, Coaches, and Movers and Shakers Who Made It Happen" one of the best basketball books of all-time, said the Cavs should snap up Nelson with their pick at No. 10.
-- Akron Beacon-Journal

As far as quotability, the point guard was on point again Wednesday.

On the workout process: "It's been a long journey. I was one of the first guys to start working out. It's been about four or five weeks for me. I was one of the first guys who started working out. It was fun. It was something I love to do. I love to play basketball. If I wasn't working out for a team, I'd be working out by myself, playing against other guys. I might as well showcase my talents to somebody that's going to pay me."

On high-school players: "If LeBron had gone to college, what would he have proven? The guy came into the NBA as a high-school player and won Rookie of the Year. I don't have a knock on any high-school player. They can be just as good as anybody else."

On his draft night suit: "I don't make fashion statements. I make basketball statements."

On another draft night couture question: "I'm wearing these clothes," Nelson said gesturing to his checked shirt and khaki-colored pants.

On what would be the first thing he would buy someone else with his new contract: "I'd buy you a bigger tape recorder!"

Hey! There's nothing wrong with the size of my tape recorder.
-- OlympusAmerica.com

SHOPPING SPREE

No, we're not talking about the rims for a pimped out ride. We wanted to know what these guys would buy for someone else when they sign their contracts.

Devin Harris, Wisconsin: "Pay off mom's credit. She has a high credit card bill. It's time to pay that off. I'm to blame for a lot of it."

Shaun Livingston, Peoria Central H.S.: "I haven't really thought about that yet. I really haven't. Whether it's getting one of my loved ones out of debt, I haven't really talked about it yet."

TIP-INS

Utah. Boston. Boston. Utah. They're so close in the Draft order, they're practically neighbors.
-- Salt Lake Tribune

Ah, the Clippers.
-- L.A. Times (Registration required)

Pavel Podkolzine? He's tall.
-- Toronto Globe

He's a choirboy with a devilishly good game.
-- Newsday

Uh, this isn't true. Or is it?
-- ESPN.com

BUSY LITTLE BOBCATS
Posted by Rob Peterson on June 22 2004 1:20 p.m. ET

THEY'VE YET TO TAKE THE FLOOR, BUT CHARLOTTE'S A MAJOR PLAYER

Ladies and gentlemen, now starting at center for your Charlotte Bobcats, No. 14, Peja Drobnjak! Drobnjak!

Yes, with a trade consummated Monday, the Clippers sent the No. 2 overall pick of the NBA Draft 2004 to Charlotte for the fourth overall pick and the promise that the Bobcats select Drobnjak in tonight's Expansion Draft.
-- Charlotte Observer (Registration required)

With this trade, Drobnjak becomes the first-ever Bobcat. Remember that 20 years from now when you get a sports question in Trivial Pursuit's 40th Anniversary edition.

Anyway, the Bobcats have been busy preparing for the inaugural season. I have a feeling Bernie Bickerstaff may be a little too busy to blog these days. It's a pleasant surprise that Bernie has blogged at all. And we thank him.

But back to the business at hand. From the Clippers' end, this trade initially had me puzzled. (Clippers + puzzling = shocking!) But after reading the statement from Clippers’ VP of basketball operations, two things became clear.

"This trade achieves a two-fold objective," Baylor said. "First, we know we will get the player we want with the fourth pick, and second, it improves our salary cap flexibility with regard to potential free-agent developments."

Hmmm. Intriguing. Being able to get what they want at No. 4 means the Clippers had no interest in Emeka Okafor (the Clippers have Elton Brand at that spot) or high-schooler Dwight Howard (the Clippers think they can win sooner rather than later) had either of them slipped to the Clippers' original position at No. 2.

By shipping Drobnjak and the remaining two guaranteed years on his contract (We don't discuss contract numbers here in Click and Roll, it's vulgar), it means the Clippers think they can get the point guard they want at No. 4 and have some big plans in the free-agent market this summer.
-- Los Angeles Times (Registration required)

And while it's fun to speculate about the Clippers' foray into the free-agent market and their possible attempts to pry Shaquille O'Neal from the Lakers (Whoops! Was that out loud?), one thing is for certain -- the Bobcats will be major players in this NBA offseason.
-- New York Post

To wit. It's possible the Bobcats could send the proposed Tracy McGrady, et al.-Steve Francis, et al. trade to the trash heap. How? If the Bobcats do something as simple as select Orlando's Reece Gaines in the expansion draft.
-- Florida Today

What can the Magic do to make the deal go through? Florida Today reports the Magic could select Howard at No. 1, allowing Okafor to slide to No. 2 to Charlotte.

It appears Bickerstaff has used his time putting together the Bobcats well. With Okafor, the Bobcats would get an intelligent 21-year-old who graduated in three years, who can block shots, rebound and serve as the face of the franchise right away. And why? Because two other teams want so badly to get rid of their superstars that he only need say, "I won't pick Reece Gaines, but you'll need to pick Howard and let Okafor slide to me."

As the Guinness guys would say: "Brilliant!" It's hard not to see Bickerstaff diabolically laughing and rubbing his hands at the thought of it all.

But if they do pass on Gaines, who will the Bobcats select in tonight's expansion draft?

They could pick Gaines' teammate, Zaza Pachulia.
-- Florida Today

It appears as if the Bobcats will trade for Jahidi White, who the Suns left unprotected.
-- East Valley Tribune

Seems like Charlotte will also pass on the NBA's other Florida team as well.
-- South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The Bobcats could go after Juan Dixon.
-- Balitmore Sun

What if the Bobcats take a Sonic? That could throw a wrench in Seattle's draft plans.
-- Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Charlotte could also tab a Sixer. Or a Pacer. Or a Piston. Or, on second thought, not a Piston.
-- Philly Daily News (R.R.), Indy Star, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News

Maybe the Bobcats can select and keep Marcus Fizer. Seems like he wants to be there.
-- Chicago Sun-Times

Meanwhile, Memphis' Lorenzen Wright wants no part of Charlotte.
-- Memphis Commercial Appeal (Registration required)

As for the other teams getting ready for NBA Draft 2004, the Suns seem to have a cloudy immediate future.
-- Arizona Republic

The Jazz are also trying to figure out what to do with their first-ever lottery pick.
-- Salt Lake Tribune

The Knicks are also trying to be players in an Antoine Walker deal. Of course, Charlotte would be involved.
-- New York Daily News

I've finally figured out why some sportswriters don't like teenagers in the NBA Draft: Too unpredictable, just like all teenagers. That, and sportswriters can't trot out the "Can't miss" tag as easily.
-- Providence Journal (Registration required)

And finally, here's the link to the rumored Vince Carter for Allen Iverson trade. What does it have to do with the draft? Nothing, but it's a fun rumor.
-- Toronto Star

FALL OUT
Posted by Rob Peterson on June 21 2004 2:30 p.m. ET

LAKERS DISINTEGRATE AFTER THE FINALS, TOO

You know, I planned to chill somewhat after The Finals, Charlotte's Expansion Draft on June 22 and the NBA Draft 2004 on June 24. Just get a little breather. After all, I realized I suffered from a touch of post-championship-party depression. Thursday night I returned home after work, turned on the telly and realized I had no basketball to watch.

Sigh!

Yet, not three days after the Pistons kicked their saggy tails in The Finals, the Lakers intrude on the R&R. Phil Jackson and the Lakers part ways, Kobe and Karl file for free agency and Shaq asks for trade.
-- Los Angeles Times (Registration required)

As one of my friends said, "It's going to be an interesting summer in your business." This from someone who once worked for the Washington Capitals in the NHL, where a lockout looms.

Interesting ain't the half of it, and we're not even seven days removed from the end of the season.

We'll get to the 2004 NBA Draft (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) later this week with a special edition of Click and Roll. (Yes, mark your calendars.)

But this edition will address the craziness of the weekend.

As you know on Friday, Phil Jackson and the Lakers "mutually agreed" to part ways. Still, some sports networks fell all over themselves to report this, meaning Jackson and the Lakers agreeing to part ways might have been the worst kept secret in sports. Jackson's departure wasn't a matter of if but when, considering he uttered the following moments after the Pistons opened the Champagne.

"But right now I would say that it's a pretty slim chance that I'll be back coaching next year," Jackson said. Slim turned to none Friday.

This revelation tipped over the first domino that will make the next few months in the NBA worth watching.

We can begin in Los Angeles, where Jackson's departure angered the Big Fella.
-- Los Angeles Daily News

"The direction they're going, if they're going to continue going in the wrong direction, I don't want to be a part of this," O'Neal told the Daily News. "So I want you guys to write that if any GM out there wants a hard-working big man who wants to win championships, call Mitch Kupchak, because he will entertain offers."

What also set off Shaq is the perception that the Lakers prefer Kobe over him. Some reports say it's not perception, it's reality: "Sources Say Bryant Wanted Jackson Out."
-- Los Angeles Daily News

Because with Jackson out, the Lakers have sent the signal to Bryant -- who is now an unrestricted free agent -- that he should re-sign with the purple and gold.

All of this, says one L.A. columnist,is not good, not good at all, as the lovely Lakers have all of a sudden become the languishing Lakers.
-- L.A. Times (Registration required)

This internet columnist says you're going to Joni Mitchell the Lakers.
-- Salon.com (Must watch advertisement for entry)

While this guy says what Lakers owner Jerry Buss did was cold, but correct.
-- L.A. Times (Registration required)

So, what does all of this have to do with Tracy McGrady? We thought you'd never ask.

Well, for one, T-Mac has also asked to be traded. Poor Magic fans, first they lost Shaq, now T-Mac.
-- Orlando Sentinel

But really, where could Shaq and T-Mac end up? McGrady, because of his salary, is more salable than Shaq. And plenty of teams have lined up to take a look at the league's leading scorer.
-- Orlando Sentinel (Registration required)

Shaq's salary and age doesn't stop this columnist from dreaming about where O'Neal could land (and he would land with a thud, clearing out three to four players, plus some draft picks at every stop).
-- Chicago Tribune (Registration required)

Then again, Memphis (reunited with Jerry West) or New Jersey (say wha?) may be the route for the Diesel.
-- ESPN.com

It also appears that T-Mac wants to team up with Shaq (an Orlando fan's worst nightmare). Where could this happen besides Fantasy Land? Dare we say Dallas?
-- Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Registration required)

Scary, but it's still wishful thinking by Mark Cuban and Mavs fans alike.
-- Dallas Morning News (Registration required)

As it is wishful thinking from Magic fans to bring Shaq "baq" to Orlando.
-- Orlando Sentinel (Registration required)

Another scenario has the Clippers sending some guys and the No. 2 pick to the Magic for McGrady.
-- Chicago Tribune (Registration required)

Regardless, the Magic want something in return for McGrady, unlike the whole lot of nothing they received when Shaq bolted for the Lakers. The Rockets also seem to be interested in McGrady. Any combination of Tracy McGrady and Shaq or Yao Ming should frighten the NBA's other 29 squads.
-- Indianapolis Star (Registration required)

Then again, maybe someone, anyone, will want Vince Carter.
-- Toronto Sun

Or, maybe someone would like to pick up Kenyon Martin as a free agent?
-- New York Post

Where did that come from, you ask? Well, we were on the subjects of superstars changing places, and well... oh, never mind. On to the coaches.

Where does Jackson go from here? Like that old joke: Where does an 800-pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he pleases! Jackson, with nine titles and the best winning percentages in the regular and post-season, is the 800-pound gorilla of NBA coaches. He would more than likely go coach a contender if he decides to coach at all. That means a team like Atlanta is out, though I would like to see Jackson build a team like the Hawks into a champion.

Yet, many of the contenders like their coaches. Detroit has Larry Brown. Indiana won't boot Rick Carlisle. Sacramento says it's sticking with Rick Adelman for another year. Minnesota won't boot Flip Saunders. The Nets extended Lawrence Frank's contract. So, where can Jackson go? Dallas? Chicago? New York?
-- Nets.com, MSNBC.com, New York Daily News

It'll be interesting to see.

As for coaching the Lakers, it seems that former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich is interested and vice versa.
-- New York Daily News

Whomever will be coaching the Lakers, it won't be Pat Riley, who's said nuts to returning to the purple and gold.
-- Miami Herald (Registration required)

TIP-INS

If you Fear the 'Fro, then you'll have plenty to fear as Ben Wallace and the Pistons will be coming to advertisements near you, and soon. Endorsements are the perks of being the champs.
-- USA Today

Coaches argue about whether they should foul or not foul beyond the 3-point line late in games.
-- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

And finally, our deepest sympathies to Jerry Sloan, whose wife Bobbye died of cancer last Friday.
-- ESPN.com

Who will the Magic get to fill that uniform?
(Jennifer Pottheiser
NBAE/Getty Images)

2003-04 ARCHIVE
June 5-15 -- C&R's Finals
June 5-15 -- The Finals Blog
June 1 -- Love 'Em, Hate 'Em
May 24 -- Three's Magic
May 17 -- Unsung Heroes
May 10 -- Kero-Whacked!
May 3 -- Fugazy Like a Fox
April 26 -- Click Gets Randy
April 19 -- Playoffs CW, IQ
April 12 -- Give Them Away
April 5 -- Fight for First
March 29 -- Prime Time
March 22 -- East Bests West?
March 15 -- Very Scary Bears
March 8 -- Sick and Tired
March 1 -- West Side Story
Feb. 24 -- Surfing the Nets
Feb. 17 -- City of Angles
Feb. 13-15 -- All-Star Blog
Feb. 9 -- Git Up, Git Out
Feb. 2 -- Lobbying for L.A.
Jan. 26 -- Midwest is Best
Jan. 19 -- More Central
Jan. 12 -- Grand Central
Jan. 8 -- Starbury Time
Dec. 29 -- American Rookies
Dec. 22 -- The Greatest Gift
Dec. 15 -- Hail the Kings
Dec. 8 -- Spurs Sportsmen
Dec. 1 -- Holiday Exchange
Nov. 24 -- Hive Talkin'
Nov. 17 -- Clip and Save
Nov. 10 -- Short People

BACKCOURT
Check out NBA.com's "Destination Finals" and The Finals sections for a complete recap of all of the 2004 postseason action.

FRONTCOURT
The week that will be:
June 22: Charlotte Bobcats expansion draft
June 24: NBA Draft 2004

WEEKLY KERR
My boss likes Steve Kerr's Yahoo! column. I like my job. Here's this week's link to Steve's piece on ... Phil Jackson. Whomever takes the Lakers coaching job has huge shoes to Phil.

'ROUND THE GLOBE
Arvydas still has game! He was named the best player in Europe.
--Euroleague.net

WELCOME, BOBCATS!
Click and Roll offers this new section as a public service to our readers. Soon, the NBA will welcome team No. 30 -- the Charlotte Bobcats. See their home page.

The Bobcats will be involved in two drafts: an expansion draft on June 22 and the NBA Draft on June 24.