Thursday, June 26, 2003

Trade rumors swirling at draft

Wheeling, dealing expected today

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - At least one person closely associated with the NBA draft believes there will be several trades made tonight, and Marquette junior Dwyane Wade expects he may be a factor in those dealings.

"I think there are going to be a lot of trades," Wade said Wednesday. "From (picks) four to 13, they don't know what they want to do yet."

The first three picks appear to be set in stone: Cleveland taking high school phenom LeBron James at No. 1, Detroit choosing Serbian 7-footer Darko Milicic at No. 2, and Denver selecting Syracuse freshman Carmelo Anthony at No. 3.

"I'm ready for everything to begin, for everything just to launch because I haven't played basketball in 3 1/2 months," James said.

The Toronto Raptors have the fourth pick, but general manager Glen Grunwald has been entertaining offers that would help him revamp his roster following a disappointing 24-58 season.

"I'm happy to stay at four," Grunwald said, "but we have a couple of holes to fill and there might be another way to do it."

The league brought 13 of the top prospects to a Manhattan hotel for the annual interview session. Unlike past years, the league had the three top picks - James, Milicic and Anthony - speak at a formal news conference.

Anthony went first, saying he was underrated, admitting he had never seen Milicic play and revealing that his sneaker endorsement deal with Nike would be worth $18 million to $20 million over five years.

Milicic took the stage second, answering questions in Serbian. He said he has been a big fan of the Sacramento Kings "like 90 percent of Yugoslavia," admitted he had never seen James play and said he already visited Pistons center Zeljko Rebraca and dined with coach Larry Brown and team president Joe Dumars. James took the stage last, providing thoughtful answers to many questions but ducking anything remotely controversial.

James wouldn't be baited into debating the merits of the league's desire to set a minimum age of 20.

"David Stern is the head of this league. Whatever decisions he's going to make, I'm going to support it," said the 18-year-old James.

After Toronto decides what it will do with the fourth pick - Georgia Tech forward Chris Bosh and Texas point guard T.J. Ford are among the Raptors' top choices if they keep it - the Miami Heat chooses fifth.

"This pick is the first step to rebuilding the franchise," said coach Pat Riley. The Heat selected Connecticut's Caron Butler with the No. 10 pick a year ago.

Picks 11-15 belong to Golden State, Seattle, Memphis, Seattle and Orlando - and that's where some of the deal making might pick up speed.

Teams combined for 11 trades last year - six of them involving first-round picks from the 16th slot to No. 29.

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