"This is a new start in my basketball and life career," Yao said through an interpreter. "There will be a new challenge for me. I am confident I will learn from the NBA and improve myself."
The choice of Yao at No. 1 was expected, although the Rockets went through a few nervous days leading up to the draft while they waited to learn whether he would receive clearance from his national team. Yao had earlier reached a severance agreement with his professional team, the Shanghai Sharks.
The Chinese federation was concerned about Yao's availability for national team commitments, but an agreement was reached earlier Wednesday.
"The whole franchise wanted this so badly. I just felt that it would all be worked out," Houston general manager Carroll Dawson said.
Jay Williams, a junior guard from Duke who was the national player of the year, went second to the Chicago Bulls. Williams gave hugs rather than handshakes to his family before donning a Bulls cap and walking onstage.
This marked the second straight year the Bulls got the second overall pick. A year ago, they acquired teen-ager Tyson Chandler from the Los Angeles Clippers for Elton Brand in a major draft-night deal. Chandler, attending the Bulls draft in Deerfield, Ill., donned a Williams jersey for the occasion.
This year's draft had no shortage of trade talk, with several teams trying to move into the top 10 or acquire one the veterans - including McDyess, Andre Miller and Baron Davis - whose names had been prominently mentioned in trade rumors throughout the day.
Mike Dunleavy of Duke went third to the Golden State Warriors, and newly hired Memphis Grizzlies president Jerry West made his first personnel move for a team other than the Los Angeles Lakers.
With the No. 4 pick, West chose Drew Gooden of Kansas, a 6-foot-10 junior power forward and first-team All-America selection. The Big 12 Player of the Year, who averaged 19.9 points last season, would join a Grizzlies frontcourt that already includes Shane Battier and Rookie of the Year Pau Gasol.
Denver, choosing fifth, selected center Nikoloz Tskitishvili of Benetton Treviso in Italy. The 19-year-old Tskitishvili was the first teen-ager selected. A year ago, high school seniors comprised four of the first eight picks.
Dajuan Wagner of Memphis went sixth to the Cleveland Cavaliers, a clear signal that the trade talk surrounding Miller - the NBA assists leader last season - was legitimate. Cleveland has told Miller it does not want to offer him a contract extension for another year, and several teams have been contacting the Cavs to make offers - most notably the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Knicks, with their highest pick in 15 years, selected the 6-foot-11 Hilario -- a rebounding and shot-blocking specialist who remains under contract to a professional team in Rio de Janeiro - and were showered with boos and a chant of "Fire Layden" -- a reference to Knicks president Scott Layden.
Less than an hour later, though, the word was out that the Knicks were getting McDyess. The fans never relented, though, unleashing an obscene chant when Layden appeared on the giant television screen to announce the deal.
"McDyess was a big component in the trade for us. You can tell by the size of the deal what we thought of him," Layden said. "We knew the No. 7 pick was attractive, and we knew we could use it to make the team better."
Chris Wilcox of Maryland went eighth to the Clippers, and the Phoenix Suns selected Amare Stoudemire, of Cypress Creek High School in Orlando, with the ninth pick.
That allowed the Miami Heat, a team desperate for a scorer, to select Connecticut sophomore Butler with the 10th pick. Butler, a small forward who averaged 20.3 points for the Huskies, was one of the few players projected to be ready to make an immediate offensive impact in the NBA.
Indiana forward Jared Jeffries went 11th to the Washington Wizards, giving Michael Jordan another young building block on his front line to go along with his overall No. 1 pick from a year ago, Kwame Brown.
With their second pick of the first round, the Clippers took Fresno State's Melvin Ely -- the first senior to be selected.
Forward Marcus Haislip of Tennessee went 13th to Milwaukee, guard Fred Jones of Oregon was picked by Indiana, the Rockets went the foreign route again with their second pick of the night by taking Slovenian forward Bostjan Nachbar and the Wizards used their second first-round pick on first-team All-America guard Juan Dixon of Maryland.
After Borchardt and Humphrey and Rush were picked, Portland was able to select junior college standout Qyntel Woods, a projected lottery pick who dropped all the way to No. 21.
Casey Jacobsen of Stanford went to Phoenix, Kentucky forward Tayshaun Prince went to Detroit at No. 23, New Jersey took 18-year-old center Nenad Krstic of Yugoslavia. San Antonio took Miami forward John Salmons, and the soon-to-be-traded Jefferies and Dickau were the final two picks of the first round.
There were 11 foreign-born players selected in the second round after six went in the first round. Previously, the highest total of foreign players drafted was 14 in 2000.
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