Work in Sports
No. 1 picks don't often lead their first teams to titles
By Desmond M. Wallace, CNNSI.com
With the first pick of the 2000 NBA Draft, the New Jersey Nets selected Cincinnatiís Kenyon Martin. And after passing a detailed team physical which included a thorough examination of his right leg, Martin signed a three-year contract with the club, worth a rookie-maximum $11.3 million. A fourth-year team option would increase the deal to $16.5 million.
The Nets are hoping the investment in the No. 1 overall pick will pay big dividends and reverse the franchiseís recent trend of futility.
New Jersey has qualified for the playoffs only once in the last six seasons and hasnít won a postseason series since 1984. It was 16 years ago that the Nets shocked the basketball world by ousting defending NBA champion Philadelphia in the first round. In the intervening decade-and-a-half, the Nets have won all of four playoff games.
But Martinís selection as the top pick in the draft was the source of serious speculation right until Draft Night. Back in March, the 6-foot-9 Martin broke his right tibia during a Conference USA tournament game. The injury not only placed into question Martinís position in the draft but effectively ended the Bearcats' hopes of winning their first national title since 1962.
There will certainly be a good deal of pressure on Martin to succeed in New Jersey. In June, center Jayson Williams, who averaged double-digit rebounds for the Nets in each of his last four seasons, announced his retirement from the NBA. Williams had broken his right leg with 50 seconds left in a game against the Hawks on April 1, 1999 during an on-court collision with teammate Stephon Marbury and hadnít played a game since. Not surprisingly, then, New Jersey ranked near the bottom of every statistical muscle category, including rebounding and field-goal percentage.
Can Martin help turn the Nets around? History tells us that despite New Jerseyís desperation to produce a winner, the Nets should probably be patient with their young star. Since 1970 only six NBA top picks went on to win championships with their original team. Most recently, the Spursí Tim Duncan, who was selected first overall in 1997, helped San Antonio win the 1999 NBA title.