Blazers and Sonics Outshine Knicks' Deal
The Pacific Northwest is not the ideal place for marquee players. But it may have jumped over the areas that the NBA has grown accustomed to for their superstar players to call home. It was a given that Greg Oden and Kevin Durant would go one and two in the 2007 NBA Draft. The lottery decided where.
The Portland Trailblazers and Seattle SuperSonics had the ping-pong balls bounce their way and became the talk of the league for the first time in many years. In Seattle's case, picking as high as they did may have saved the franchise from moving. There has been talk that the team may move to Oklahoma City, but that has been put on hold since the lottery.
Portland did not waste any time in announcing their selection of the 7' center from Ohio State. Oden looks like a natural on the court and in front of the microphone. The 19 year-old seemed quite comfortable meeting the hordes of media after his selection and was humble and jovial. He was asked about the bad reputation that the Trailblazers have and said, "They did have a bad reputation, but I think Brandon (2006 NBA Rookie of the Year Roy) and LaMarcus (Aldridge) kind of turned that around and I hope that I can come and just push that along some more."
He commented on what NBA commissioner David Stern said to him on stage at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden immediately following the announcement. "He told me that everything is about to slow down and I should enjoy the next 24 hours." Always the competitor, Oden said that even being selected number one does not take away the sting from losing to Florida in the NCAA Championship game in April. "I still lost and they (Florida) won two national championships in a row. It's two different categories. I'll always have that memory of that loss forever."
Texas forward Kevin Durant went number two and does not see himself as a savior. "When you play since you were eight or nine years old, you know the game is not a one-man sport. I'm far from being a savior," he said. "I'm just trying to contribute to the team as much as I can and I can't wait to be a SuperSonic."
Oden and Durant became the first freshmen taken with the top two picks and the first American-born college players to be selected 1-2 since 2000 (Kenyon Martin and Stromile Swift).
The Atlanta Hawks chose next and went with 6'10" forward/center Al Horford of Florida. "Winning two national championships and then moving up to the next level and being fortunate enough to get picked third overall; it's something very special," he said. Horford was asked about going to Atlanta and responded, "I'm excited about it. They have a lot of young, talented guys and I feel like I can come in and help the team turn this thing around."
The Chicago Bulls in the ninth position selected Horford's college teammate, Joakim Noah. Being the only playoff team with a top-10 pick, the Bulls moved up from 23 after switching picks with the New York Knicks as a part of the Eddy Curry trade.
"Growing up I was actually a Knicks fan and the Bulls used to make me cry as a kid," said Noah, a native New Yorker and the son of former tennis star Yannick Noah. "And how ironic is it, now I'm wearing a Bulls hat and I've never been so happy in my life."
The Knicks did not wait for their selection to make news, announcing right before the Nets selected Sean Williams at 17 that they have acquired forward Zach Randolph and guards Dan Dickau and Fred Jones from Portland in exchange for guard Steve Francis and forward Channing Frye. Then with their selection, the Knicks tabbed Wilson Chandler, the 20 year-old swingman from DePaul.
"Wilson is a versatile forward who can guard multiple positions and will fit in well with our basketball team," Knicks president of basketball operations and head coach Isiah Thomas said. "Coupled with our latest signing of Randolph Morris, we feel like we have added two players from the college ranks who will evolve into good players in our league."
Randolph, 25, averaged 20.1 points and a career-high 10.5 rebounds per game last season. He will make a formidable frontcourt with center Eddy Curry as long as he can stay out of trouble off the court. Since 2002, he has been arrested for driving under the influence; accused by the police of lying in an investigation involving his brother allegedly shooting three men at an Indiana nightclub; and being suspended for punching former teammate Ruben Patterson during practice. Randolph was also at a strip club in Portland after being granted a three-game bereavement leave to attend the funeral of his girlfriend's cousin in Indiana, and was sued for both assault and sexual assault recently. The five-year pro from Michigan State has a career average of 16 PPG and 7.7 RPG and will bring a presence to the paint with his 6-9, 260-pound body.
After the Nets' selection of the 6-10 Williams, the crowd was obviously surprised that team president Rod Thorn went in that direction. Called a "high risk, high reward" pick by ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, Williams had a troubled career at Boston College. He was arrested for marijuana possession and kicked off the team for repeated violations of team rules.
It was hard to do an encore of the 2006 NBA Draft. 15 trades were made that evening, the first foreign-born player picked first overall and the eventual Rookie of the Year not chosen until number six. In the days leading up to the 2007 NBA Draft, the rumors were running rampart with big names such as Kevin Garnett, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Kobe Bryant being thrown around.
ESPN reported right before the event began that the Charlotte Bobcats and Philadelphia 76ers were working the telephones trying to make a deal. The Golden State Warriors were mentioned as a possible suitor for Garnett. But by the time the 60th and final pick was read, nine trades were made which did not include any of the aforementioned players.
Three deals stood out, including the Knicks' acquisition of Randolph. The Boston Celtics swapped the number five pick, Jeff Green, along with Delonte West and Long Island native Wally Szczerbiak to Seattle in exchange for Ray Allen and Glen "Big Baby" Davis, the Sonics' 35th pick. Then, Charlotte dealt Brandan Wright, who they selected at number eight, to Golden State for Jason Richardson and Jermareo Davidson, the 36th selection.