Word on the Street: Bargnani Responds, Orlando Invites Go Out

Word on the Street: Bargnani Responds, Orlando Invites Go Out
May 25, 2006, 09:56 pm
Bargnani’s Agent Denies Rumors

DraftExpress reached out to Andrea Bargnani’s agent Antonio Ricciotti these past two days to ask him about the many rumors that have been swirling about his client in regards to the Toronto Raptors.

Trailblazers GM John Nash was reportedly heard on the Portland airwaves claiming that Bargnani has refused to workout for his team. Ricciotti claims that the Bargnani camp has yet to speak to any NBA teams at this point, and states emphatically that they “NEVER refused any workout, interview and/or physicals to any team.” He states that at this point, “no NBA team has asked us directly so far,” due to the fact that he is still caught up in the Italian league playoffs.

Ricciotti also dismissed reports about a promise and/or package deal from Toronto, calling them “ridiculous,” and saying that they don’t even deserve a comment.

In regards to a direct question whether Bargnani would consider playing for the Chicago Bulls should they decide to work him out and potentially draft him, Ricciotti said that Andrea will be “open to hear everything not only from Chicago, but from any other NBA team.”

When discussing the rumors about a potential package deal with the Raptors organized by current Benetton Treviso GM and potential future Toronto Raptors Assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini, Ricciotti suggested that we “ask him, but the expertise and professionalism he has proven over the years puts him above any type of speculation of 'funny business' going on."

Ricciotti repeatedly pointed out the passion Bargnani has shown for making and playing in the NBA, saying that he has “rarely seen such a dedicated player who is willing to work as [hard as] Andrea, not to mention the incredible all-around talent [he possesses] for a 7-footer.”

From the information that DraftExpress has gathered from sources close to the Raptors organization, the #1 spot in the draft indeed appears to be Andrea Bargnani’s to lose. Colangelo is infatuated with his phenomenal skill-set and is determined to lay the groundwork and make sure that this pick is not deemed a huge surprise like Charlie Villanueva was last year. The Raptors see Bargnani, like Charlie Villanueva, being able to play the 3, 4 and 5 spots in the NBA, with Chris Bosh manning the 4/5. The only question now is whether the Raptors will draft him at #1, or will attempt to trade down a few spots (possibly to Portland for the #4 pick in a package with Chris Bosh’s good friend and ex-teammate Jarrett Jack) to pick up a valuable asset along the way.

Alexander Johnson Working Himself into 1st Round

If two editions ago of Word on the Street it was Marcus Williams of UConn who had the strongest buzz going for him in NBA circles, and last time it was Cincinnati's James White, this week’s high-riser is Florida State Power Forward Alexander Johnson. DraftExpress got the first shot to watch him workout in an exclusive private workout at the Five-Star Pro Training Center two weeks ago, and has since been getting feedback from private workouts consistent with the statement we made then about Johnson being the “most athletic Power Forward in the draft after Tyrus Thomas

Johnson has impressed everyone who has watched him with more than just his athleticism, though, hitting a good amount of his mid-range jumpers, playing with more tenacity than anyone in any workout, playing strong defense, and leaving a favorable impression with his excellent demeanor both on and off the court.

Like his workout buddy Guillermo Diaz, Johnson has been consistently clearing 40 inches on his one-step vertical in the agility tests, and just under 37 inches with no step. Diaz in fact cleared 42 inches with no step and over 48 inches in one workout on the one-step vertical.

After favorable workouts with the Wizards, Lakers and Nets, Johnson appears to be working himself strongly into the 1st round, and will be targeting his best case scenario teams (Chicago, Indiana, and the Wizards once again) against stronger competition if they choose to work out against him.

Thomas’ Camp Concerned About Draft Stock, Mock Drafts

Tyrus Thomas’ agents Brian Elfus and Mike Siegel invited DraftExpress to attend a workout on Friday in Orlando, but have rescinded their invite due to differences in opinion regarding the draft stock of their star client. Citing (via text message) the fact that the Thomas camp is “not happy with [Draftexpress] having Tyrus 7th,” and saying that we “need to adjust that ASAP,” Elfus and Siegel have shut DraftExpress out of watching their client and possibly coming to a different conclusion.

DraftExpress never has and never will sacrifice our journalistic integrity by bowing down to demands of agents. We cannot allow our site to be manipulated in such a way that will hurt our credibility and detract from the many people who visit us to read our honest and professional opinion. If it’s at all possible to get access to a workout and do our job objectively the way our visitors have become accustomed to in the past, we will always jump on the opportunity.

DraftExpress will continue to evaluate Tyrus as an NBA prospect solely off the dozen or more times we watched him play on tape, as well as the practice and live game settings we’ve attended in person. Our professional opinion of his NBA potential has been stated many times, and is available for all to see through reading his extensive scouting report.

Random Tidbits

-Mardy Collins is, as expected, not working out very well for NBA teams and is struggling to find a floor for himself. Collins has had especially poor workouts with the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls recently, where according to different sources who watched him there, he “couldn’t knock down a shot from behind the college 3-point line in the drills to save his life” according to one, and “looked extremely slow and just played the entire workout in one gear” according to another.

As we wrote in the outlook section of our scouting report a while back, Collins is just not the type of player who will look good in the private workout. He will reportedly pass up the Orlando pre-draft camp, and considering how good of a five on five player he is, that could be a serious mistake.

-Expect Cedric Simmons to measure out at the Orlando pre-draft camp at a solid 6-10 in shoes, reportedly with a mammoth 7-4 wingspan.

-Sergio Rodríguez’s season is officially over after his 8th seeded Estudiantes team was swept by #1 seed Unicaja Malaga 3-0 in the first round of the Spanish ACB league playoffs. It was not because of a lack of effort on Rodríguez’s part, though, finishing the playoffs averaging 18.7 points and 5.3 assists in 28 minutes per game on 55% shooting from the field and 42.5% shooting from behind the arc (with a solid 4 attempts per game). Those are absolutely unheard of numbers for a 19 year old player in the best domestic competition in Europe. According to his agent Herb Rudoy, Rodríguez will be on his way to the States shortly where he will work out only for the NBA teams that are showing the most interest in him in the first round.

Update: Sergio Rodríguez will be arriving in the States on Monday and will begin working out for NBA teams on Tuesday. His agent Herb Rudoy informed us that Rodríguez will be conducting 5 workouts before the NBA pre-draft camp. The ones that have already been booked are Phoenix, Chicago, Memphis and Washington.

-Another European player who is on his way to the States is Ukrainian power forward Oleksiy Pecherov, who just coming off a breakout season with Paris Racing Basket in France. Pecherov is waiting on his Visa to the States according to agent Steve Huemann, and will start conducting private workouts shortly after he arrives. He has a fixed buyout sum in his contract that fluctuates on a sliding scale according to where he ends up being drafted.

-Maurice Ager, Rodney Carney, Randy Foye and Hassan Adams all worked out yesterday for the New Orleans Hornets together. The feedback coming out from two different people in the gym was that Ager and Foye were the two most impressive players there. Ager reportedly shot the ball poorly in the drills, showing poor footwork, but was absolutely lights out once the very competitive 2 on 2 game started. Both sources mentioned in their own way that Ager was “knocking down shots from all parts of the floor, getting to the rim at will, dunking on people, and playing outstanding defense.”

Rodney Carney was the best player in the drills portion of the workout, being absolutely unconscious from the NBA 3-point line, but went silent once the two on twos started, largely due to the intense defense of Ager. Carney reportedly did not score a single point in either game that was played, looking a bit soft throughout, not quite in the workout mentally, and was even dunked on ferociously by Ager at one point.” In all fairness, though, this was Carney’s first workout, while we already have Ager down for 9 different completed workouts already.

-Mike Gansey will not be playing at the Orlando pre-draft camp, due to the fact that he has 17 private NBA workouts already scheduled. He was in Los Angeles today with the Clippers and will be part of a shooting-specialist workout tomorrow in Golden State with J.J. Redick, Randy Foye and Dan Grunfeld. Speaking of Grunfeld, after not being invited to Portsmouth, the senior Stanford guard has received an invite to the Orlando pre-draft camp, which he will of course accept. Other players we’ve heard who are tentatively scheduled to be there include Iowa State guards Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock, Illinois big man James Augustine, Yemi Nicholson, Steve Novak, Jose Juan Barea, Frans Steyn, Richard Roby, and many others. Formal invites will be in tomorrow. If you’ve received one, let us know by emailing us below.

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