THE HOT LINE
Drawing from its
network of NBA insiders--including scouts, coaches and front-office
personnel--FAST BREAK picked up this chatter from around the league.
"The NBA is
hoping to persuade five or six CBA teams to buy their way into the D-League. If
the price is $100,000, the CBA teams like the idea; if it's $300,000, they
don't know." ... Guys like [LSU's] Tyrus Thomas (right) and [ Texas's]
LaMarcus Aldridge can talk about staying in school, but they have a chance to
be high picks in the draft--and in those situations guys almost always wind up
crossing the border for the money." ... "I'm hearing the one team that
might be up for sale is the Warriors. In the meantime, the word is that the
owner [ Chris Cohan] won't make a coaching change unless Mike Montgomery agrees
to a settlement." ... "The NBA has decided that the Las Vegas Summer
League can have no more than 16 teams, so that means at least two teams are
going to have to find somewhere else to play."
One NBA team
executive predicts that 6'11" Italian forward Andrea Bargnani (left), who
has been likened to Dirk Nowitzki, will be the No. 1 pick in the June draft.
Another exec, however, cautions that the 20-year-old from Benetton Treviso has
more in common with Nikoloz Tskitishvili, who was a bust after the Nuggets
drafted him fifth in 2002. Benetton G.M. Maurizio Gherardini dismisses that
comparison, saying that while the 7-foot, 225-pound Tskitishvili was strictly a
practice player in his one season with Benetton, "Bargnani has been playing
for more than a year."
Bargnani has been
a consistent performer as well, averaging 11.3 points in the Italian league and
10.9 points in the tougher Euroleague at week's end. Despite his skinny
245-pound frame, scouts believe that Bargnani's skills are advanced enough that
he'll be able to contribute right away. "He has a very clear vision of what
he wants to accomplish," says Gherardini, regarded as Europe's top G.M.
"He shoots the three-pointer very naturally--he doesn't need extra time to
prepare it. Not only can he jump, but he has the length and reach to be
effective. The guy has everything to become the first meaningful Italian player
in the NBA."
The big loser in the yearlong Ron Artest saga could be the Suns, whose reward
for being the No. 2 seed in the West looks like a first-round matchup against
the streaking Kings and their physically dominant wing combo of Ron-Ron and
Isiah Thomas is telling friends that he next wants to be a college coach--but
that he's in no hurry to leave as Knicks G.M.
He's 26 with a 52-year-old back: Tracy McGrady's chronic injuries are almost as
sad to see as were those of his former teammate and free-agent classmate of
2000, Grant Hill.