Worth a Gamble?
German wunderkind Dirk Nowitzki was the talk of predraft camp
Holger Geschwindner, a forward-guard on the 1972 East German
Olympic team, spent half his free time after the Munich Games
bemoaning the apathy toward basketball in his native land and
the other half watching young Germans butcher the sport in
pickup games. "But then one day in 1994, I watched this boy who
instinctively was doing all the right things without knowing the
game," says Geschwindner. "I was fascinated. So I asked him,
'Who practices with you?'"
The boy, Dirk Nowitzki, then 15, answered quickly: Nobody.
Geschwindner, a project manager, began spending his 1 1/2-hour
lunch breaks working on all facets of the game with Nowitzki. He
watched his pupil blossom. Three weeks later Geschwindner paid a
visit to Nowitzki's parents in Wurzburg, who had never
played--nor followed--basketball. "You don't have the slightest
idea what you have here, do you?" he said to them.
The NBA does. Though the 6'11", 237-pound Nowitzki missed last
week's predraft camp in Chicago, coaches, scouts and general
managers were buzzing about Nowitzki's tantalizing ability to
handle the ball and shoot the three.
Nowitzki, 19, excelled against top American high school seniors
during the Nike Hoop Summit game in San Antonio in March.
Playing for the International Junior Select Team, he scored 33
points, made 6 of 12 field goal attempts and 19 of 23 free
throws, and had a game-high 14 rebounds. Within weeks, tapes of
his stunning performance had circulated through nearly every NBA
coach's office. "If you went by that tape alone," says Pacers
coach Larry Bird, "you'd think he was the best ever."
"He's like a lot of European players in that he doesn't like
contact," says Mavericks assistant Donn Nelson, who helped coach
Nowitzki in San Antonio. "He has a lot of work to do, but he's
smart and he can handle the ball. He has the kind of potential
that leaves you curious."
Nowitzki had planned on attending the Chicago camp but was
informed at the last minute by German officials that he needed
to serve the final weeks of his one-year Army hitch, which means
he will not be available to any NBA team until June 30--six days
after the draft.
The speculation on Nowitzki is that he may withdraw from the
draft and accept a scholarship offer from Cal or Kentucky. He
also has the option of staying in Europe and playing for Kinder
Bologna, which is prepared to offer him millions.
Best of the Rest
Drew Draws the Scouts' Eyes
Top college players long ago ceased playing in the predraft
camp--they see nothing to gain by doing so and fear that injury
or a poor performance could diminish their prospects--and
big-name talents like projected No. 1 pick Mike Bibby of Arizona
showed up in Chicago only to be weighed and measured. That left
the games to lesser lights hoping to play their way into a late
first-round selection and guaranteed money.
Nobody left a better impression than Bryce Drew, one of
Valparaiso's NCAA tournament heroes, who proved he can play
point guard at the NBA level and should benefit from a draft
thin in playmakers. Felipe Lopez, the enigmatic guard from St.
John's also was in Chicago, but he alternately hurt and helped
himself, depending on which day coaches saw him, leaving
assessments of his NBA potential as murky as ever. At least
Lopez suited up. Arizona's Michael Dickerson, confident he was
already a surefire top-15 selection--a presumption with which
few scouts concur--skipped Chicago and may have hurt his
standing on draft day.
Eye on the Finals
Myths, Realities Of Officiating
In 1994, Jack Madden, recognized as one of the best referees in
history, retired after having presided over 35 NBA Finals games.
He continues to follow the sport closely, and we checked in with
Madden for his views on refereeing a Bulls-Jazz series.
SI: Fans and players have the perception that referees are ready
with a makeup call when a clearly bad call has been made on the
other end of the floor. Is that true?
Madden: No, that's a myth. If we did that, we'd make a travesty
of the game. We're human. Sometimes we miss calls. But if we
called a makeup for everything we missed, we'd be trying to even
the score all night.
SI: So is it also a myth that Michael Jordan gets away with more
than most players?
Madden: There's some truth to that. Michael Jordan is the
greatest player I've ever seen. He's so quick with his feet that
he gets away with walking an unbelievable number of times,
especially when he's in the post, with his back to the basket.
SI: Why don't officials call it?
Madden: Sometimes his feet move too fast [for the official to
detect the violation], and sometimes the refs are concentrating
on what the defensive player is doing.
SI: Did you nail Jordan for traveling?
Madden: All the time. He got upset about it, too. I think he
hated to see me walk into the gym.
SI: Does Jordan intimidate officials?
Madden: He intimidates the younger referees. He gets in their
faces, and that can be tough for a new guy. Obviously Jordan
intimidates players and coaches, so you can see how it would
happen with some refs. But not the veterans. They've heard it
SI: What about John Stockton? His opponents claim he's a dirty
Madden: I never saw that. He's very smart, very competitive, and
other guys are jealous because he's so great for his size.
SI: When you officiated, what did you look for with Stockton?
Madden: We'd probably concentrate on how he was setting screens.
He sets a lot of them during a game. Some are moving
screens--but not as many as opposing teams think.
SI: Do the Bulls get more calls in their favor, the way many
felt the great Celtics teams did?
Madden: I laugh when I hear that. People don't realize that when
you're the better team, you are better in every way, including
how you execute. The great teams deserve all the breaks and
calls they get.
Around The Rim
Nuggets general manager Dan Issel, who last year, when he was
still a Denver radio talk-show host, dubbed Denver rookie Tony
Battie El Busto, offered Battie and the No. 3 pick in the June
24 draft to the Grizzlies for the No. 2 pick, which Issel would
have used to select Pacific center Michael Olowokandi. But
Vancouver, which is seeking a polished veteran and a top pick
for the No. 2 selection, politely declined, just as it did when
the 76ers offered the No. 8 pick and forward Tim Thomas....
Center Keon Clark, 6'11", who has the talent to be a lottery
selection but whose off-court woes at UNLV have diminished his
chances of being selected among the top 13, will be considered
by the Magic, which has three first-round picks and can afford
to gamble on one of them.... There may be questions about Notre
Dame forward Pat Garrity's speed but not about his strength.
During a recent workout with the Bucks, the 6'9" Garrity, who
weighs 231, bench-pressed 185 pounds 21 times.... Encouraged by
the strong showing of Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, teams
are studying another European big man, 22-year old Radoslav
Nesterovic of Slovenia, who averaged 7.0 points and 5.3 rebounds
for European league champion Kinder Bologna this season. The
6'11" Nesterovic has a year left on his contract with Bologna
but likely will be chosen in the first round anyway.... The
Mavericks, who will pick sixth in the draft, like precocious St.
Louis guard Larry Hughes.
For more NBA news from Jackie MacMullan and Phil Taylor, go to
COLOR PHOTO: NORBERT SCHMIDT/ASA [Dirk Nowitzki]
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Happy feet A retired ref says His Airness doesn't walk only on water. [Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller in game]