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Deals and Steals
Phil Taylor
July 10, 1995
The NBA's off-season began with moves deft (Suns), dumb (Clippers) and perhaps devious (Heat)
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July 10, 1995

Deals And Steals

The NBA's off-season began with moves deft (Suns), dumb (Clippers) and perhaps devious (Heat)

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Maryland forward Joe Smith, the No. 1 pick, won't make as much of an immediate impact as Stackhouse, but he eventually should solve the Warriors' shortcomings at power forward.

3. Are the Clippers the dumbest team in the league on draft day?

Isn't that obvious by now? The Clippers had the second pick. They could have chosen Stackhouse, the dynamic player they need to help turn around their moribund franchise, or they could have extracted a king's ransom from several teams for that No. 2 choice. Instead they chose to take highly regarded Alabama forward Antonio McDyess, only to trade him within an hour (along with guard Randy Woods) to the Denver Nuggets for forward Rodney Rogers and the rights to guard Brent Barry, the 15th pick.

"This may be hard for you guys to believe, but there wasn't that much interest in [teams trading up for] the pick," says Clipper coach Bill Fitch. Maybe. But instead of keeping a player whom most rate a potential star, the Clips took a question mark in Barry and a decent power forward in Rogers, who happens to play the same position as Los Angeles's best player, Loy Vaught. Go figure.

4. Why should every NBA fan learn to pronounce Danilovic?

As my colleague Alexander Wolff reports from Athens: With the preeminent basketball player on earth a converted goalkeeper from Lagos, Nigeria, it wasn't particularly remarkable that seven NBA teams sent scouts to the European Championships, which ended here on Sunday. In fact, it was more noteworthy that there weren't more bird dogs prospecting the territory that produced three second-round picks in the draft: swift, soft-handed 6'10" forward Dragan Tarlac, a naturalized Greek of Serb descent (drafted No. 31 overall by the Bulls); versatile 6'8" guard Dejan (White Magic) Bodiroga of Yugoslavia (taken by the Sacramento Kings with the 51st pick); and 7'2" shot-blocking specialist Aurelius Zukauskas of Lithuania (drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics at No. 54 and then traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for point guard Eric Snow of Michigan State). "You're foolish not to expand your horizons and look at new markets," says former Warrior scout Donn Nelson, who served as an assistant coach with the Lithuanian team, which last week qualified for next year's Summer Olympics in Atlanta along with the teams of Croatia, Greece and Yugoslavia (the latter won the European title by beating Lithuania 96-90).

Even with its high-powered scouting systems, the NBA's approach overseas can still be embarrassingly unscientific. In 1992 international basketball let loose a collective howl of laughter when the Minnesota Timberwolves signed Latvia's Gundars Vetra, a 6'6" swingman who couldn't even get his shot off in Europe. Last month the foreign basketballers yukked anew when the Suns signed (to a two-year deal with an option for a third) Stefano Rusconi of Italy, a 6'9" center with lousy work habits. And when the Sonics last week chose Zukauskas, a 22-year-old factory worker from Klaipeda, much of the NBA assumed—and USA Today reported—that Seattle had actually taken 7'1" Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who's known in Lithuania as Bolas for his resemblance to pipe-stem 7'7" former NBA center Manute Bol.

So, does that mean if you've seen one shot-blocking Lithuanian seven-footer, you've seen 'em all? The Portland Trail Blazers are fervently hoping that's not true. They were on the verge of finally retaining the services of massive 7'3" former Soviet Olympic star Arvydas Sabonis, whom they had drafted nine years ago, when the owners' lockout last week placed a moratorium on all new contracts. Assuming he eventually puts his name on a pact, Sabonis figures to be a backup center for the Blazers. Luckier was the Miami Heat, which has already signed last season's European Player of the Year, 6'7" Predrag Danilovic (pronounced duh-NIL-oh-vich) of Yugoslavia, to a four-year deal. Swingman Danilovic is a slasher and scorer, a Jeff Hornacek type (only larger), and he could supply the Heat with firepower off the bench.

With the NBA already boasting both the Australian-born Longley and Venezuela's Carl Herrera, who last season was a Houston Rocket and is now a free agent, it's simply a matter of some team signing 6'8" Chinese star Ma Jian for every nonpolar continent to be represented. Don't bet against it happening: The expansion Vancouver Grizzlies share a city with North America's second-largest Chinatown, and the Clippers already broadcast some of their games in Mandarin.

5. Is there any chance Pat Riley will become the best-dressed guy in Miami since Don Johnson left town?

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