Wednesday, June 28, 2000

It's showtime for 2 Bearcats

Martin likely No. 1; DerMarr may be top-10

By Mike DeCourcy
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MINNEAPOLIS — There isn't much reason for Kenyon Martin to be anxious. He probably will be the first player to hear his name called tonight, the first to walk across the stage at the Target Center and shake commissioner David Stern's hand, the first overall selection in the 2000 NBA draft.

        The New Jersey Nets own the pick and are expected to use it to make Martin — the national college player of the year in his final season with the Cincinnati Bearcats — their new power forward.

        “I'll just be as relaxed as I can, not worry about it,” Martin said. “Because it's out of my hands now.”

        Former UC teammate DerMarr Johnson does not enjoy the same luxury. Johnson is likely to be among the first 10 picks, probably to Orlando (fifth), Atlanta (sixth) or Chicago (seventh). The uncertainty is unsettling.

        With all the conversation there has been regarding Illinois high school star Darius Miles, Michigan guard Jamal Crawford and Missouri guard Keyon Dooling rapidly rising in the draft, Johnson chose to work out for five teams, including Houston and Dallas, and generated precious little league-wide “buzz.”

        “I don't get nervous much,” Johnson said, “but I think this will make me nervous.”

        Martin and Johnson are symbolic

        of the divergence in NBA drafting philosophies, as well as the approach of the players involved.

        Teams that once used the draft to fill particular needs and pursue immediate improvement now look to draft players who may, in the future, develop into stars.

        Players who once worked years to achieve the most prominent draft status now look to turn professional at their earliest convenience.

        Johnson, who played only his freshman season with the Bearcats, has looked forward to playing in the NBA since high school, so much that the league's initials are tattooed on one bicep. Martin has been infatuat ed with basketball but not necessarily the NBA. “Once my season was over, I got into (the NBA) more,” Martin said.

        Concern about the broken leg that ended his college season has decreased as numerous NBA team physicians examined Martin. He visited only three teams prior to the draft: the Orlando Magic, the Nets and the Vancouver Grizzlies. The Magic tried to deal for the right to choose Martin with the first pick, but he probably will begin his career in New Jersey.

        Where Johnson ends up probably will depend on which team chooses Miles.

        • The Los Angeles Clippers could grab Miles with the third pick, which would leave Chicago to take center Chris Mihm at No.4 and then the Magic to select Florida small forward Mike Miller. That would make Johnson available to the Hawks.

        • The Clippers could trade their pick to Orlando for its picks at No.5 and No.10. The Magic would take Miles, which would mean Mihm going to Chicago, the Clippers probably grabbing Marcus Fizer with the fifth pick and Atlanta then going with Miller. The Bulls then would take Johnson with the seventh pick.

        • The Bulls could take Miles at No.4 and hope for Mihm to be around when they choose at No.7. Johnson probably then would slide to the Cleveland Cavaliers at No.8 or Houston at No.9.


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