Bobcats select few veterans in expansion draft

Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2004

CHARLOTTE, N.C. One by one, the Charlotte Bobcats announced their selections in the NBA expansion draft. To each name, the small crowd reacted with silence.

The Bobcats picked their first 19 players Tuesday night, and although many of them have talent, few have name recognition.

''Fortunately we don't have to suit up with that team,'' said coach and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff, who refused to predict a victory total for the team's inaugural season. ''We would not be happy at all if that was the group we had to suit up.''

Bickerstaff expects only seven or eight of the players to make it to training camp. Nine of the selections are restricted free agents, meaning they automatically become unrestricted free agents and can negotiate with every NBA team except the ones that left them unprotected.

That's bad news for the handful of fans in the crowd of 500 who cheered the selection of Marcus Fizer of Chicago.

But Jahidi White of Phoenix and Gerald Wallace of Sacramento the only other players to draw any sort of fan response should show up in Bobcats orange this fall. The Suns gave Charlotte $3 million and a future first-round pick to take White. The six-year veteran will have the highest salary of any Bobcats player $5.88 million.

Although some players might be reluctant to join an expansion team, Jason Kapono from Cleveland was not.

Kapono, who Bickerstaff picked despite ''incentive offers'' from Cleveland not to choose him, was thrilled to be coming to Charlotte.

''I am really excited to be joining a new franchise where everybody is going to start on the same level and everyone will have the same chance,'' he told The Associated Press by telephone from California. ''The only thing I am anxious about is the three-hour plane ride to Charlotte because I can't wait to get there.''

That's the attitude the Bobcats wanted in picking their first roster..

''What we want is players who need an opportunity to show they can play. Players talk all the time, they want PT playing time and they want to know their role. We can guarantee both,'' Bickerstaff said.

White, Fizer, Wallace of Sacramento and Predrag Drobnjak of the Los Angeles Clippers were the most experienced players among the Bobcats' selections from the other 29 NBA franchises.

The Bobcats also selected Utah guard Aleksandar Pavlovic, who will be dealt to Cleveland for a future first-round draft pick. Pavlovic will give the Cavs a shooter to replace Kapono, who was one of just four guards chosen by the Bobcats.

A big name will be added in Thursday night's NBA draft when the Bobcats select either Emeka Okafor or high school phenom Dwight Howard.

Charlotte traded the No. 4 pick to the Clippers to move up and make a run at Okafor.

Other selections by the Bobcats were: Indiana center Primoz Brezec, Lakers forward Jamal Sampson, Orlando forward Zaza Pachulia, Boston forward Brandon Hunter and Memphis forward Theron Smith.

''We think this young man is the sleeper of this election,'' Bickerstaff said of Smith, who appeared in 20 games for Memphis last season and averaged 2.2 points.

Each NBA team could protect up to eight players but had to make at least one player available.

The restricted free agents selected by the Bobcats included Seattle guard Richie Frahm, Miami center Loren Woods, Nets forward Tamar Slay, Nuggets guard Jeff Trepagnier, Washington forward Lonnie Baxter, Golden State guard J.R. Bremer, Fizer, New Orleans guard Maurice Carter and Portland swingman Desmond Ferguson.

One glaring omission from the expansion draft was a point guard, which Bickerstaff said he'd try to get through free agency.

''We must find a point guard,'' Bickerstaff said. ''We would look for a veteran point guard to mentor the younger guys, but it is the young guys' game. A veteran will be here to give us respect with the referees and professionalism in the locker room.''

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