Italian player taken No. 1 on busy day

Thursday, June 29, 2006
Andrea Bargnani spoke to the press after being selected first overall by the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Draft on Wednesday. (Associated Press)

Fifteen trades made as Portland stays active.

NEW YORK -- Andrea Bargnani went first. Then came the trades.

The Toronto Raptors selected Bargnani with the No. 1 pick Wednesday night in an unpredictable NBA draft that saw four of the top seven picks switch teams by the middle of the first round.

LaMarcus Aldridge of Texas went second to the Chicago Bulls, starting a flurry of trades that would also include the fourth, sixth and seventh picks.

Aldridge's rights were later dealt to Portland for the rights to Tyrus Thomas, who had been chosen fourth, and forward Viktor Khryapa.

"Right before they said my name, they said, 'They are going to call your name in a minute, but don't worry about it, they are going to trade you,'" Aldridge said.

The Trail Blazers weren't done dealing. They acquired the rights to Randy Foye, taken seventh by the Boston Celtics, along with Raef LaFrentz, Dan Dickau and cash for Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and a 2008 second-round pick.

The Blazers then shipped Foye's rights to Minnesota for Brandon Roy, the Washington guard taken sixth by the Timberwolves.

"When I see the guys go 1, 2, 3, it was just nerve-racking," Foye said. "But then like two picks before, my agent and Brandon's agent were making eye contact and I didn't know what was going on at the time. And once I saw my agent's face light up, he was like, 'Yeah, Boston is going to take you.'

"And then, 'Portland is going to take you.' And then when they said Minnesota, I was like OK, good. Bring it on."

There were 15 trades, likely the product of a draft that lacked star power. High school players are no longer eligible, meaning Greg Oden, who surely would have been the No. 1 pick, is headed to Ohio State instead of the NBA.

The Raptors didn't think they needed a deal, confident that Bargnani, a 20-year-old forward from Italy, can live up to comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki.

"Everyone has strengths, weaknesses, etc.," Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo said. "But at the end of the day, it came down that we felt that Andrea Bargnani was really the best pick for the future of this organization going forward. It's not about today. It's about today and tomorrow and we think that Andrea is a player that's not only going to help us in the short run, but we think he's going to grow into a terrific star in this league."

The 6-foot-10 Bargnani, the first European player taken first overall, has drawn the comparisons to the Dallas Mavericks' All-Star because of his outside shooting skills. Playing last season for Benetton Treviso in Italy's Lega A, Bargnani shot 37 percent from 3-point range.

He's the second straight foreign-born No. 1 pick after Milwaukee chose Andrew Bogut of Australia from the University of Utah last year. Bargnani is the first No. 1 pick to not play college or high school basketball in the United States since Houston took Yao Ming in 2002.

"I hope to help the team as soon as possible," Bargnani said. "I'm a young player, I know that I will find a lot of tough moments because it's a new league and I'm used to playing in Europe."

Aldridge then went in a pick that came from New York in a preseason trade for Eddy Curry, and the fans at the Theater at Madison Square Garden didn't have to wait for it to express their anger toward Knicks coach and team president Isiah Thomas.

Chants of "Fire Isiah!" started 15 minutes before the draft, and "Fire Thomas!" cries followed just before the pick. The fans might get their wish next year -- Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan warned Thomas on Monday that he has one year to turn around the franchise or he'll be out of a job.

Dolan wasn't spared, either: "Sell the Knicks!" chants also rang out before the draft started.

Gonzaga star Adam Morrison went to Charlotte at No. 3 with the Bobcats' first since pick Michael Jordan became a part owner of the team in charge of the basketball operations earlier this month. The mustachioed All-American led the nation in scoring as a junior with 28.1 points per game.

"It would be awesome if I could get some hands-on instruction from Mike," Morrison said. "Any time the greatest player of all-time is telling you what to do ... if he told me how to tie my shoes a certain way, I would probably listen."

The Trail Blazers then selected LSU's Tyrus Thomas, who already knew he wasn't going there. Even while wearing a Blazers hat, he spoke of playing for Chicago.

"They're young, they like to run and Coach (Scott) Skiles, I visited with him, and he's a great teacher and a motivator," Thomas said. "Just the organization as a whole, it has a bright future so I'm looking forward to doing some good things in Chicago."

The Atlanta Hawks also went for interior defense when they took Duke's Shelden Williams at No. 5. The Blue Devils' career leader in blocked shots was the ACC defensive player of the year in each of his last two seasons.

The Houston Rockets took Rudy Gay at No. 8, the first of a record-tying four Connecticut players taken in the first round. The Golden State Warriors then grabbed center Patrick O'Bryant, whose stock rose after he led Bradley to the third round of the NCAA tournament.

After Seattle took forward Saer Sene to close the top 10, Orlando grabbed guard J.J. Redick, recently charged with driving under the influence. As usual, the former Duke guard was greeted by a loud, mixed reaction. He drew boos when he was shown on the overhead TV screen, but eventually cheered after his pick was announced.

The next pick was another popular one with the crowd: The Hornets went with UConn's Hilton Armstrong from Peekskill, N.Y. Marcus Williams and Josh Boone of the Huskies went with the 22nd and 23rd picks, both to New Jersey.

Philadelphia grabbed guard Thabo Sefolosha, who played last season in Italy, at No. 13, followed by Arkansas' Ronnie Brewer to Utah; Cedric Simmons of North Carolina State to the Hornets with the 15th pick, and the Bulls taking Memphis' Rodney Carney with their second first-round choice.

In another trade, the rights to Sefolosha and Carney were later swapped.

Sacramento's pick of Rutgers' guard Quincy Douby at No. 19 drew a roar, but the boos came right back when Isiah Thomas' face was shown on the screen as the Knicks prepared to pick at 20th. They didn't stop, either -- drowning out the last name of New York's pick, South Carolina forward Renaldo Balkman, the MVP of the NIT who averaged 9.6 points last season.

Villanova, Memphis and Michigan State also had multiple first-round picks. The Tigers' Shawne Williams went to Indiana at No. 17 and Memphis chose Wildcats guard Kyle Lowry at No. 24. The Spartans' Shannon Brown (25th by Cleveland) and Maurice Ager (28th to Dallas) went later.

The draft ended with deputy commissioner and fan favorite Russ Granik announcing Iowa State's Will Blalock to Detroit with the last pick. The remaining fans chanted "One more year!" for Granik, who is leaving his position on July 1.

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