From top: Brand, Francis

Bulls pick Duke star No. 1 in NBA draft

Terp goes to Grizzlies

Wizards take Hamilton

Clippers get Odom

deal seen for Bender

July 01, 1999|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- As the top pick in last night's NBA draft, Duke's Elton Brand was booed by the pro-Maryland fans at the MCI Center. As the No. 2 pick, former Maryland star Steve Francis all but booed the team that selected him.

Brand was selected first by the rebuilding Chicago Bulls, and Francis was picked second by the Vancouver Grizzlies as the Atlantic Coast Conference dominated the top two picks of the 1999 draft.

Overall, there were few surprises among the top 10 selections. The draft was expected to be dominated by point guards, and four point guards were among the first 10 selections.

There was one reported deal waiting to be finalized. Prior to the draft, the Toronto Raptors agreed to trade the No. 5 pick, 6-foot-11 Jonathan Bender, to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for forward Antonio Davis and point guard Travis Best.

Bender was the top-rated high school player in the nation last season, out of Picayune Memorial High School in Mississippi.

Close to home, the Washington Wizards, with a first-round pick for the first time since 1995, selected Richard Hamilton from NCAA champion Connecticut. The 6-foot-6 guard/forward was the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA title game and may inherit the small forward or shooting guard position with the Wizards, depending on what happens in free agency with Calbert Cheaney and Mitch Richmond.

Lamar Odom, thought by many to be the top talent in the draft, may have slipped because he skipped several planned workouts with teams. Odom, who left Rhode Island after one season, was taken No. 4 by the Los Angeles Clippers.

The school that made the biggest impact in the 1999 draft was Duke, which had four players selected in the first round. As the top pick, Brand was the first No. 1 selection in Duke history.

The four Duke players were among the top 15 picks: Trajan Langdon, a shooting guard, was a surprise pick at No. 11 by the Cleveland Cavaliers; Corey Maggette, after just one season at Duke, went to the Seattle SuperSonics at No. 13, and William Avery, who left the Blue Devils after his second season, went to the Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 14.

To no one's surprise, the top Blue Devil taken was Brand, who was expected to go anywhere from 1 to 4. The MCI Center crowd was anticipating Francis would be taken with the top pick, and booed Brand when his name was announced by commissioner David Stern.

"Those were just Maryland Terrapin fans," Brand said of his greeting. "I couldn't believe it [being the top pick] and I just had to sit there for a minute and make sure."

Brand was the consensus national Player of the Year after his sophomore season, and his selection breaks a two-year string in which seniors were taken with the top pick (Tim Duncan in 1997 and Michael Olowokandi in 1998). He'll likely assume the power forward role with a Chicago team that was among the league's worst last season, one year after winning its sixth NBA title of the 1990s.

"That's going to be a super challenge [rebuilding], but I think we're going to have to do it a little different from the championship teams," Brand said. "Of course, the Bulls have a lot of great role players. I don't know what my role is going to be yet, but I'm ready to get out there and find out."

As happy as Brand was about being the top pick, Francis was disappointed about being selected by Vancouver. On his walk to the stage, Francis bit his lip and appeared extremely unhappy. That displeasure was evident at his news conference later, where, at times, he responded to questions with short, curt answers.

Asked about the Bulls not taking him with the top choice, Francis said: "They took a big gamble not picking me."

Later, when asked if he was disappointed in not being able to play for his favorite team, the Bulls, Francis said: "I really didn't have a dream team. The team that I liked was the Bulls in '95 and '96. As soon as Michael Jordan retired, I stopped liking professional basketball."

It was probably not the response league officials wanted to hear, just as much as Vancouver is not the place Francis wants to play. Francis said he has never set foot in Canada, and the Grizzlies already have an up-and-coming point guard in Mike Bibby.

It's not unlikely that Vancouver will use Francis as trade bait, though a deal had not been made by the end of the first round.

"I really don't know anything about those guys," Francis said of the Grizzlies. "I feel relaxed now. I'm glad this is over with, and hopefully tomorrow when I wake up, I'll be happy."

Brand and Francis could have easily had their draft positions changed by Odom who, at 6-10, has the ability to play point guard, shooting guard and small forward. Odom missed the pre-draft camp workouts in Chicago and failed to show up at some scheduled workout sessions with some teams.

He did have workouts with teams in days leading up to the draft, but his actions -- and the fact that he tried to return to Rhode Island -- may have turned off the top three teams.

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