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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."
INTRODUCING ... ANDREA BARGNANI
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."