Skip to main content
Original Issue

It's Hard To Keep A 7'3" Secret By taking Nedzad Sinanovic, Portland foiled a plot

"We're talking about somebody who could be one of the 10 best
players in this group," confided agent Bill Duffy the day before
the draft as he plotted a heist potentially worth millions of
dollars. "Our hope is that no one will take him."

While most agents exaggerate their clients' talents to NBA
general managers in the weeks before the draft, Duffy and his
European partner Rade Filipovic, of Serbia and Montenegro, chose
the opposite course: They tried to keep 7'3" center Nedzad
Sinanovic, a 19-year-old from Bosnia and Herzegovina, under
wraps. "I saw him three months ago, and I was amazed by his
quickness and running," says Filipovic. "He has a body like Pau
Gasol's, quick hands, and he's developing a good shooting

Sinanovic didn't play for several years while serving a Bosnian
army hitch, which ended last October. He was discovered in
February by Filipovic's friend Kosta Janko, an assistant coach of
the Spanish club Unicaja Malaga. On the advice of Duffy and
Filipovic, Janko quietly moved Sinanovic to Spain, where he
practiced with the Unicaja juniors though he wasn't a member of
the club. In the meantime Duffy entered Sinanovic in the NBA
draft while providing the barest of details: name, age, height,
club (which Duffy listed as Sinanovic's high school) and agent (a
businessman in Bosnia who doesn't speak English). Duffy insists
that he told no lies. "We just don't want anybody to know
anything about him," said Duffy before the draft. "If no team
picks him, then he becomes a free agent."

That was the big score: free agency. The plan was to sneak
Sinanovic through unselected, then send him to the Belgian
first-division club RBC Go-Pass Pepinster, where he would
jump-start his career. Based on his prospect's athleticism and
the NBA's unquenchable demand for centers, Duffy believed that
Sinanovic might earn more as a free agent in a few years than
LeBron James will make this season as the No. 1 pick--$4 million,
according to the rookie wage scale.

Everything was going smoothly last Thursday night as Duffy and
Filipovic sat in the green room with 10 minutes remaining in the
draft. But when deputy commissioner Russ Granik announced the
54th pick, Duffy did a double-take. "What did he say?" he asked
Filipovic. They stared, frozen, at each other. Portland had
selected Sinanovic.

Trail Blazers assistant G.M. Mark Warkentien credits the team's
European scout, Chico Averbuck, with uncovering Sinanovic. "I
think Bill didn't want him to be drafted," says Warkentien with a
laugh. The silver lining for Duffy is that there is no wage scale
for second-round picks, which means that Sinanovic is free to
negotiate with Portland when he's ready to join the league. "If
he had to be drafted, I'm glad he went in the second round," says
Duffy, who in 2001 negotiated a one-year, $3.5 million deal with
the Detroit Pistons for 1994 second-round pick Zeljko Rebraca.
"At least now we have flexibility." --I.T.