The biggest gamble in the draft may turn on a big man from France
There has never been a better time to be very tall. Look at Vancouver big man Bryant (Big Country) Reeves, who just completed the most embarrassing season of his young career after showing up at training camp 40 pounds overweight. Despite his horrid showing, the Grizzlies have no plans to shop him, because they know that Reeves, love handles and all, is an infinitely better center than anyone they can obtain with the No. 2 pick in the June 30 draft.
The 1999 crop of NBA hopefuls is exceedingly short of impact big men. The two best college prospects, Evan Eschmeyer of Northwestern and Todd (Little Country) MacCulloch of Washington, have the look, smell and lumbering gait of career backups. Both are projected as late first-rounders. No wonder Sacramento is monitoring the caloric intake of Oliver Miller, who has reportedly dropped 40 pounds at a fat farm. No wonder scouts got all tingly when it appeared that 7'4" Chinese center Yao Ming might declare himself eligible for the NBA draft. (He didn't.)
While 7'3" Serbian center Aleksandar Radojevic has gotten the most predraft ink, Frederic Weis, a 7'2", 22-year-old center for a team in Limoges, France, may be the most intriguing gamble in this year's draft. According to Dallas assistant Donn Nelson, an avid follower of foreign talent, Weis is "soft but skilled," but his most pressing problem is that very few NBA coaches and general managers have seen him play. He has declined to work out for NBA clubs and did not show up at the predraft cattle call in Chicago last week for a physical, which is of critical importance, since Weis had back surgery on April 1.
Atlanta scout Gary Wortman first saw Weis play four years ago in the Junior World Championships in Greece. "If he was working out for teams, he'd be a first-round pick," Wortman says. "But there's so much mystery surrounding him. I'm not sure how many teams would take a chance on him without giving him a physical, because of his back."
Limoges owner Didier Rose, who doubles as Weis's agent, says the player's surgery was successful. "Frederic is 100 percent healthy," Rose says. Weis's decision on whether or not to play in the NBA next season will be determined by his place in the draft. "If we are at the top of the draft, we are ready to come," Rose says. "If not, then perhaps we will want a little more time."
The Hawks, who are in the market for a backup to Dikembe Mutombo, are the team most likely to take a chance on Weis. They have four first-round picks and can afford to gamble. Rose says he will be disappointed if Weis falls below the top 15 in the draft. "He is the best center in Europe," the agent says. The question remains: Is that really saying a whole lot?
NBA Coaches' Work Fair
Nice Tie. Can I Have a Job?
The party line: NBA coaches, scouts and general managers convened at the Chicago predraft camp last week to evaluate borderline talent. The hidden agenda: The annual gathering is a job fair for coaches. The only people there who were able to relax were the coaches with secure futures and the general managers who have all their positions filled. Everybody else was busily exchanging r�sum�s.
New Orlando coach Doc Rivers spent his time accepting congratulations—and applications for positions on his staff. He also called pouty point guard Penny Hardaway, who exercised his option to become a free agent but told Rivers that he was willing to stay in Orlando if Rivers would give him a fair shake. "He said he feels like he's been on an island by himself," Rivers said. "I told him I wanted to get a boat and bring him back to land."