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Deals scarce, rumors abound Duncan goes No. 1 in draft; trade front quiet for now

THE BALTIMORE SUN

For an NBA draft that was considered drab, there was quite a bit of drama leading to last night's gathering at the Charlotte Coliseum: Would Scottie Pippen be traded to the Boston Celtics, thus ending the Chicago Bulls dynasty? Would the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers pull the trigger on a rumored eight-player deal?

By the end of the first round, there were few surprises and no announced megadeals. But the round did result in a thrill for a local star, Keith Booth. The former Dunbar and Maryland star was selected in the final pick of the first round by the world champion Bulls.

The Washington Wizards didn't have a first-round pick, but with their two second-round selections they took Providence guard God Shammgod 46th overall and Yugoslav center Predrag Drobnjak with the 49th pick.

As expected, the San Antonio Spurs used the first pick to select Tim Duncan, the consensus player of the year at Wake Forest last season. Duncan, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, averaged 20.8 points and 14.7 rebounds (first in the nation) in his senior year.

With the selection of Duncan at No. 1, it marked the first time since 1991 that a senior was the overall top pick of the NBA draft. Duncan will play alongside All-Star center David Robinson at either power forward or center.

"We have a great team coming back, and hopefully I can fit in and be an important piece of the puzzle," said Duncan, who was cheered loudly by the fans in Charlotte. "Hopefully I can go out and learn along the way and get better at it."

The Spurs were in a position to get Duncan because of injuries that staggered the team. With Robinson expected to return healthy, the selection of Duncan could vault the Spurs into the upper reaches of the Western Conference.

"Tim knows what's ahead of him, and mostly he's going to help us get back to where we were in the past," said Spurs coach Greg Popovich. "Because [Duncan and Robinson] are so versatile, it's not going to take a lot of brain power."

In a year in which there were a record 40 early-entry candidates in the draft, three of the top four picks were seniors. The last time that many seniors went so early was 1989, when the top four picks were seniors Pervis Ellison, Danny Ferry, Sean Elliott and Glen Rice.

The other seniors taken among the top four picks were Utah's Keith Van Horn (second, by the Philadelphia 76ers) and Bowling Green's Antonio Daniels (fourth, by the Vancouver Grizzlies).

Going into the draft, the Sixers had appeared ready to take Texas Tech center Tony Battie with the second pick. Van Horn even went as far as refusing to work out with the Sixers before the draft.

But as Van Horn's selection at No. 2 was made, there were reports that an eight-player deal was in the making between the Sixers and the New Jersey Nets. Van Horn, Lucious Harris, Don MacLean and a player to be named would be dealt to the Nets for the No. 7 pick (which turned out to be Tim Thomas), No. 21 pick Anthony Parker of Bradley, Jim Jackson and Eric Montross.

"I'm just very happy to be the No. 2 pick," said Van Horn, wearing a cap with the newly designed logo of the Sixers. "I think I can adjust to any situation I can go to."

Van Horn may have to be a Sixer for a few days. Philadelphia and Boston are awaiting further word on the deal in which Dino Radja was traded to the Sixers for Clarence Weatherspoon and Michael Cage. That deal was voided on Tuesday when Radja failed his physical, although Boston coach Rick Pitino said he was healthy in the weeks before the deal.

The Celtics went into the day hopeful to make a deal that would have sent their two first-round picks (third and sixth) to the Bulls for Pippen. But that deal apparently fell through in the hours before the draft, although there is still a possibility that Pippen, who becomes a free agent after next season, will be dealt.

"It was talked about, with the third and sixth picks," said Boston coach Rick Pitino. "They wanted a little bit more to be sweetened. Then they wanted to really sweeten it, and we couldn't talk about that."

Aside from Van Horn going No. 2, Pitino was involved in the other mild surprise of the top picks when he selected Ron Mercer at No. 6. It appeared going into the draft that Mercer's stock was going to drop, considering that Pitino -- who coached him for two years at Kentucky -- made no indications he would select his former star. That may have been a bluff by Pitino to scare teams away so that he could pick the 6-foot-7 early-entry candidate who averaged 18.1 points in his sophomore season.

Going into last night, one of the biggest questions was what team would take a chance on Tracy McGrady, an early-entry candidate out of Mount Zion Christian Academy, a high school in North Carolina. That team turned out to be the Toronto Raptors, who selected McGrady with the ninth pick -- making it three straight year that a high school player was selected in the first round.

By the end of the first round, two relatively minor deals were announced. The Dallas Mavericks traded Kelvin Cato (15th pick) to the Portland Trail Blazers for Chris Anstey (18th pick) and additional money considerations. Later, the Milwaukee Bucks traded veteran guard Johnny Newman, Joe Wolf and Danny Fortson (10th pick) to the Denver Nuggets for center Ervin Johnson.

A team that appeared on the verge of a deal was the Cleveland Cavaliers, who drafted point guard Brevin Knight with the 16th pick. That could be an indication that All-Star point guard Terrell Brandon, who becomes a free agent at the end of next season, may be traded.

Much had been said before the draft about the number of early-entry candidates, but the clear message when the first round had ended -- along with its guaranteed three-year contracts -- is that staying in school pays off. After Booth was selected by the Bulls with the 28th pick, 18 of the first-round picks were seniors.

Second round

30. Houston (from Vancouver), Serge Zwikker, c, North Carolina; 31. Miami (from Boston), Mark Sanford, f, Washington; 32. Detroit (from San Antonio), Charles O'Bannon, f, UCLA; 33. Denver, James Cotton, g, Long Beach St; 34. Philadelphia, Marko Milic, f, Smelt Olimpija (Slovenia); 35. Dallas, Bubba Wells, f, Austin Peay St.;

36. Philadelphia (from New Jersey), Kebu Stewart, f, Cal. St. Bakersfield; 37. c-Philadelphia (from Toronto), James Collins, g, Florida St; 38. Golden State, Marc Jackson, c, Temple; 39. Milwaukee, Jerald Honeycutt, f, Tulane; 40. Sacramento, Anthony Johnson, g, College of Charleston;

41. Seattle (from L.A. Clippers), Eddie Elisma, f, Georgia Tech; 42. Denver (from Indiana), Jason Lawson, c, Villanova; 43. Phoenix, Stephen Jackson, g, Butler Community College (Kan.); 44. Minnesota, Gordon Malone, c, West Virginia; 45. Cleveland, Cedric Henderson, f, Memphis.

46. Washington, God Shammgod, g, Providence; 47. Orlando, Eric Washington, g, Alabama; 48. Portland, Alvin Williams, g, Villanova; 49. Washington (from Charlotte), Predrag Drobnjak, c, Yugoslavia; 50. Atlanta (from Detroit), Alain Digbeu, g, France;

51. Atlanta, Chris Crawford, f, Marquette; 52. L.A. Lakers, DeJuan Wheat, g, Louisville; 53. Vancouver (from Houston), C.J. Bruton, g, Indian Hills C.C. (IA); 54. L.A. Lakers (from New York), Paul Rogers, c, Gonzaga; 55. Seattle, Mark Blount, c, Pittsburgh;

56. Boston (from Miami), Ben Pepper, Australia; 57. Utah, Nate Erdmann, g, Oklahoma; 58. Chicago, Roberto Duenas, c, F.C. Barcelona.

c-Philadelphia traded G James Collins (37th pick) to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 1998 second-round draft pick.

Pub Date: 6/26/97

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