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Old 06-08-04, 05:22 PM
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ESPN NBA Insider - 6/8/04

Draft Central
by Chad Ford

June 8, 2004 updated 09:10:35


Iguodala has a special skill few players his size possess -- he's a legit playmaker at 6-foot-6. A point guard throughout high school, Iguodala has a real knack for handling and passing. He averaged 4.9 assists at Arizona last season and recorded three triple-doubles. He should be a devastating triple-double threat in the league.

The question, though, has been about his ability to score. More specifically, about a jump shot that produced a 31 percent shooting average from 3-point range. As we reported over the past two weeks, Iguodala has been working on his shot, and it reportedly showed in workouts in Charlotte and Chicago last week. In Monday's workout, his shot indeed looked very solid.

Iguodala has a nice arc and gets great lift on his shot, and his mechanics all look good. He's a rhythm shooter who, when he finds his stroke, can rattle of 10 straight NBA-range 3s. At the end of his workout, Grover had Iguodala make five 3-pointers from five different positions behind the NBA arc. Iguodala needed only 40 shots to make 25 (that's 62.5 percent for those of you playing at home). Grover, who will be brutally candid when one of his guys isn't measuring up, can't stop raving about Iguodala's progress and his work ethic.

"His shot has obviously gotten a lot better," Grover said. "His mechanics are very good. We're just working on consistency and repetition now. He's increased his strength and explosiveness. He's an off-the-charts athlete. He's got a great, great work ethic. He's a quick learner and is the type of kid that really likes to be in the gym working on his game."

How will he fare during his rookie season?

"He's going to be a factor on both ends of the floor," Grover said. "The thing about Andre is that he makes everyone around him better -- that's a rare quality in a two guard. He's also going to fill up the highlight reels this year. He's going to come in and contribute right away, if he goes to the right team."


11:30 a.m.: Marcelo Huertas

As Iguodala exits, the next group arrives. Over the past few years, Grover has gotten a stranglehold on the Clippers. Maggette, Richardson, Kaman and Elton Brand are regulars here each summer. Miles, a former Clipper, also spends time with Grover in the offseason. In all likelihood, whomever the Clippers draft this month also will be a Grover guy.
Maggette and Richardson have been working out for a few weeks. Both are very hard workers -- and both look great already -- who rarely miss a session. This is Miles' first day here this offseason. They are joined by an unusual guest -- 6-foot-3 Brazilian point guard Marcelo Huertas.

Huertas is one of the most dominant point guards in Brazil right now and is attempting to follow in the footsteps of Leandrinho Barbosa, a first-round pick by the Suns last June. But Huertas is nothing like Barbosa. Huertas looks like Luke Ridnour from a distance, with his curly locks and boyish face. In Brazil he's often compared to Steve Nash, and some similarities are evident as he works out.

He's got a very nice jump shot, especially from the college-range 3 and in. He's pretty quick and is a better-than-decent athlete. He gets up and down the court quickly, and from the film I saw, he's a pretty good decision-maker with the ball. Unlike Barbosa, who's more of a combo guard, Huertas is a true point.

A few weeks ago Huertas began playing in 5-on-5 games against this group. He said he was blown away by the competition.

"I couldn't believe how fast and athletic everyone was," Huertas said. "I was like wow. I have to really step up my game. It was a big difference."

That's exactly what worries scouts. Huertas has experience but at nowhere near NBA levels. He's drawn some interest from NBA teams, but mostly as a second-rounder.

Today, only his shooting skills are on display. Grover has the four players paired up for a shooting game. Huertas and Maggette are up against Richardson and Miles. You'd think any team with Miles in a shooting contest would be doomed, but that wasn't really the case. As Miles showed toward the end of the season, his jump shot really has improved. While he'll never be a natural shooter, the hard work he's invested in his jumper shows.

On a side court, Clippers Director of Player Personnel Barry Hecker and international scout Fabricio Besnati are working with third-year guard Bobby Simmons on his jump shot. On the other side court, Magic center Steven Hunter and DePaul's Andre Brown are going through the motions.

After the session ends, Maggette, Miles and Brown get an impromptu dunk contest going. I wish I had a video camera ...


12:30 p.m.: Luol Deng and Devin Harris


Luol Deng stands at 6-foot-8, but with his arms raised he looks like a 7-footer.
Shortly after the dunk contest, Deng arrives for his first workout with Grover. Deng has remained in Durham over the past month, trying to decide whether to stay in the draft or return to Duke. He originally had planned to hold a group workout for NBA teams on the Duke campus, but when teams objected, Deng decided it was time to get serious. He hired an agent and made his way to Chicago to begin workouts.
Deng has kept himself in very good shape since Duke's season ended, which allowed Grover to put him through a very rigorous workout the first day. Two things really stand out: First, Deng is very, very long. He stands at least 6-foot-8, but when he raises his arms, he looks like a 7-footer coming at you. Second, and you may need to sit down for this, was his shooting.

Deng's reputation is as a smart player with a good mid-range game who can post up smaller defenders and take bigger guys to the hole. His weakness was supposed to be his 3-point range. Though Deng improved dramatically on his perimeter shooting this season, it still was supposedly a weakness.

What we saw Monday made us do a double-take. Deng didn't shoot the ball well -- he shot it extremely well. He was getting great lift on his jumper, and his mechanics were really sound. He shot effortlessly from just about everywhere on the floor, and in the same drill Grover put Iguodala through, Deng needed only 37 attempts to make 25. And this drill came at the end of the workout, when Deng was exhausted. Earlier in the session, he couldn't miss.

This was the first day Grover had worked with Deng, and already he was impressed.

“ We'll get him more explosive over the next month. I think the knocks on his athleticism will turn out to be unfounded. He can be explosive with the right training. He has above average strength already and, again, he'll get stronger once we put him on a system. ”
— Trainer Tim Grover, on Luol Deng
"He shoots the ball really well," Grover said. "He has great mechanics. I also noticed his footwork in the post. It's really sound. He's also more athletic than I thought he'd be. We'll get him more explosive over the next month. I think the knocks on his athleticism will turn out to be unfounded. He can be explosive with the right training. He has above average strength already and, again, he'll get stronger once we put him on a system. The other thing that stood out was his attitude. I put him through a really tough workout today, and he pushed himself all the way through. Not everybody does that, especially the first day."

Harris arrives 15 minutes after Deng and starts working out on the other side of the gym. Harris has one of the softest touches on his jump shot of any prospect I've seen this year. Almost every shot he takes nestles itself quietly at the bottom of the net.

At one point both Harris and Deng are in shooting drills at opposite ends, and there was a stretch of about 45 seconds where neither missed a jumper. Sitting at mid-court, it was like watching a tennis match. Who says college players can't shoot anymore?

Harris ends up putting on the best shooting display of the day from NBA range. He goes 25-for-35 from 3 at the end of the workout -- an impressive 71 percent.

Harris is in a bit of a unique situation. He only recently decided for sure to stay in the draft, which means he basically has had to work out on his own the past month at Hoops. NCAA rules prohibited Grover from working directly with Harris until the Wisconsin junior finally made up his mind to stay in the draft, "a couple of weeks ago" according to Harris.

In the space of the last few weeks, though, Harris already has added 10 pounds (he's up to 175) and has been working out intensely in preparation for his first individual workout -- Tuesday, with the Clippers.

Everything about Harris' game is smooth, from his ball-handling to his jump shot. He moves around the court effortlessly and also has amazing quickness. When he goes baseline to baseline and when he weaves through traffic, Harris is a blur.

While some scouts are going to worry about his size (he's listed at 6-foot-3, but to the naked eye looks closer to 6-1) Grover thinks the skills Harris brings to the table will make that moot.

"His quickness is off the charts," Grover said. "He's extremely fast -- faster than T.J. Ford. And he shoots it extremely well. That's a pretty potent package. He also has a little chip on his shoulder. He's not afraid of competition; in fact, he thrives on it. When you push him a little bit, he comes back at you. He's got great court vision and, when everyone's covered, he's great at taking his guy off the dribble and finishing."

Grover thinks Harris, too, will make an impression his rookie year.

"He's going to be really good in the up-and-down game," Grover said. "He'll make an impact right away. Like all rookie point guards, he's going to be a little inconsistent, but he's so intelligent, he'll pick up a system quickly. He really likes challenges, which I think will ultimately make him a big success in the league."


2:45 p.m.: Shaun Livingston

Like Harris, Livingston is in a bit of a conundrum. He still is trying to decide whether to stay in the draft or go to Duke. That means he doesn't get the hands-on training most of the other guys in the gym do.
He's had just one workout with an NBA team -- the Bulls -- and according to Grover, who attended the workout, he looked great. He'll work out for the Clippers on Tuesday, the Bobcats on Wednesday and a few select teams in a private workout later in the week. Then he'll decide whether to stay in the draft.


At 6-foot-7, high schooler Shaun Livingston's ball-handling skills are flat-out spectacular.
"I think I want to stay in," Livingston said. "But a lot is going to depend on these workouts. I just want to know where I stand before I make my decision. It's a tough decision to make. I really would like to play for Duke, but my dream is to be an NBA player. I just want to do what's right."

Livingston is a great, intelligent kid who doesn't come with the trappings of most high school players in his position. He has no posse. No group of advisers whispering in his ear. He still lives at home in Peoria, Ill., and takes the bus into Chicago every day to work out. He's a grounded kid who is leaning heavily on his grandfather for advice.

It's pretty clear his family would prefer he go to school. They want to protect Livingston and don't have a great handle on the draft process. That's why everyone is still claiming it's 50-50 he'll stay in, despite projections that rate him a top-six pick.

On his own, he's made amazing progress. Livingston weighed in at 189 on Monday. While that may not blow anyone away, consider that he's 6-foot-7 and it's about 20 pounds more than he weighed at the end of the season.

Several NBA GMs to whom I spoke Monday night were very impressed with the weight gain, as well as reports about improvements in Livingston's shooting.

"That will make a huge difference for him," one NBA GM told Insider. "At 170 pounds, there's no way he could really get a lot of minutes right now. At 190 pounds you can start having that conversation."

What if he gets to 200 or 205, the weight Grover projects he'll get to if he keeps working all summer?

"Then he just got really interesting," the GM said.

Livingston is interesting. His ball-handling skills at his size are flat-out spectacular. I've never seen a kid that size do what he does with the ball. He's also up there with Emeka Okafor when it comes to intelligence. As far basketball IQ and floor vision goes, there isn't anyone in the draft who measures up.

Livingston is the one guy in this draft who could do legacy-type stuff in the league. After spending several hours with him, I was sold. I won't see Dwight Howard until Wednesday, but I have a hard time believing he could surpass this kid in potential. Only Pavel Podkolzine could do that, and that's only because he's 7-5 and 300 pounds. With Livingston, however, the risk is much, much smaller than with Podkolzine.

The other knock on Livingston is his shot. He doesn't look to score in games, but when he does raise up for a jumper, it's often off the mark. He's been working like crazy to fix it, and it appears to be improving. From mid-range, he was money on everything. Outside the NBA 3-point line, he hit a respectable 25 of 42 in Grover's drill.

Grover is itching to get his hands on Livingston. He believes that with the right training, the questions about Livingston's strength and body will go away. Right now, though, Grover has to admire from a distance.

“ How often does a 6-foot-7 point guard come along? Especially one with his flair for playing the game. He's the one guy in the draft people will pay money to see. Every time he touches the ball, something spectacular can happen. He's a mix between Magic Johnson and George Gervin. He's got the chance to be very special. ”
— Tim Grover, on Shaun Livingston
"His shot has really improved since he showed up in the gym," Grover said. "His strength has really improved, too. He's a pure point. A pure one. He's got long arms (6-foot-11 span), huge hands and long fingers that allow him to do just about anything he wants with the ball. Believe it or not, he also has really nice footwork in the post. He's very intelligent. Great work ethic and basketball IQ. His basketball instincts are off the charts. He has no one pushing him right now, but still he makes the trip here every day. He does it because he wants to. That's impressive to me."

What kind of lottery pick will Livingston turn out to be?

"Let me ask you, how often does a 6-foot-7 point guard come along?" Grover said. "Especially one with his flair for playing the game. He's the one guy in the draft people will pay money to see. Every time he touches the ball, something spectacular can happen. He's a mix between Magic Johnson and George Gervin. He's got the chance to be very special."

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. Send him an e-mail here.
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Old 06-08-04, 05:28 PM
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Quote:
11:30 a.m.: Marcelo Huertas

As Iguodala exits, the next group arrives. Over the past few years, Grover has gotten a stranglehold on the Clippers. Maggette, Richardson, Kaman and Elton Brand are regulars here each summer. Miles, a former Clipper, also spends time with Grover in the offseason. In all likelihood, whomever the Clippers draft this month also will be a Grover guy.
Maggette and Richardson have been working out for a few weeks. Both are very hard workers -- and both look great already -- who rarely miss a session. This is Miles' first day here this offseason. They are joined by an unusual guest -- 6-foot-3 Brazilian point guard Marcelo Huertas.

Huertas is one of the most dominant point guards in Brazil right now and is attempting to follow in the footsteps of Leandrinho Barbosa, a first-round pick by the Suns last June. But Huertas is nothing like Barbosa. Huertas looks like Luke Ridnour from a distance, with his curly locks and boyish face. In Brazil he's often compared to Steve Nash, and some similarities are evident as he works out.

He's got a very nice jump shot, especially from the college-range 3 and in. He's pretty quick and is a better-than-decent athlete. He gets up and down the court quickly, and from the film I saw, he's a pretty good decision-maker with the ball. Unlike Barbosa, who's more of a combo guard, Huertas is a true point.

A few weeks ago Huertas began playing in 5-on-5 games against this group. He said he was blown away by the competition.

"I couldn't believe how fast and athletic everyone was," Huertas said. "I was like wow. I have to really step up my game. It was a big difference."

That's exactly what worries scouts. Huertas has experience but at nowhere near NBA levels. He's drawn some interest from NBA teams, but mostly as a second-rounder.

Today, only his shooting skills are on display. Grover has the four players paired up for a shooting game. Huertas and Maggette are up against Richardson and Miles. You'd think any team with Miles in a shooting contest would be doomed, but that wasn't really the case. As Miles showed toward the end of the season, his jump shot really has improved. While he'll never be a natural shooter, the hard work he's invested in his jumper shows.

On a side court, Clippers Director of Player Personnel Barry Hecker and international scout Fabricio Besnati are working with third-year guard Bobby Simmons on his jump shot. On the other side court, Magic center Steven Hunter and DePaul's Andre Brown are going through the motions.

After the session ends, Maggette, Miles and Brown get an impromptu dunk contest going. I wish I had a video camera ...
He can be a good player but he's not good enought to play in the NBA now. He needs some years developing his game in europe or be a 3rd PG of some NBA team
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Old 06-08-04, 05:29 PM
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this dude livingston sounds dope.
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melo has the face of a fat 10 year old girl
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Old 06-08-04, 06:58 PM
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Whoever's doing this writing sure knows how to sell. Its making me really excited about this draft.

The only guy I've seen in action was Luol Deng during March Madness. That guy really knows how to play the game. Big shots, big plays, good decision making. He'll be an excellent SF.
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Old 06-09-04, 12:02 AM
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shaun livingston should go to school. he's to skinny and doenst have perimeter skills yet to play right away in the league.
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