Andrew Bogut is likely to be the top pick in tonight's NBA Draft.
June 27, 2005
NEW YORK (AP) - Andrew Bogut, the Australian center by way of Croatia expected to be selected first in the NBA draft, has made two things crystal clear: He wouldn't mind playing for Milwaukee, and he doesn't want to be compared to Luc Longley.
The 7-foot center plopped himself down at an interview table Monday and kept some distance from the microphones placed in front of him, though he didn't shy away from displaying the one personality trait - outspokenness - that has helped make him such a unique commodity.
The Milwaukee Bucks have the first pick, and it would be a major surprise if they did not select the 7-footer with the chubby face, shaggy hair and blue eyes who played two seasons at Utah before opting to turn pro.
"I know there's a lot of beer and cheese there, and that suits me," Bogut said of the Wisconsin city where he'll likely be making his home for the next five seasons.
Bogut is better associated with beer and cheese than the average 20-year-old, but only because his customers used to order plenty of each when he worked as a waiter in a Salt Lake City sports-themed restaurant to help pay his rent in college. He said he chose that line of work so he could better relate to the average American.
Soon, it'll be Americans looking to get a better handle on him.
Bogut's unique blend of size, skills and smarts will likely put him atop the pecking order when commissioner David Stern steps to the podium at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night for the annual processions of prospects wearing flashy suits and million-dollar smiles.
Most American fans have been exposed to very few Australian players, with the best-known commodity from Down Under being Longley, the center who won three championships with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.
But Longley was often widely dismissed as a "stiff" whose success was owed to having the good fortune of playing alongside Michael Jordan during the peak of his career.
Other Australians who made it to the NBA, including big men Paul Rogers, Chris Anstey and Mark Bradtke and guards Shane Heal and Andrew Gaze, saw very little playing time before abandoning the notion of playing long-term in the United States.
Bogut, who described himself "proud" to be half-Croatian, half-Australian, said he wasn't even a fan of any Australian players when he was growing up playing basketball, rugby, soccer and tennis, preferring Croatian guard Drazen Petrovic as his athletic idol.
So when the inevitable Longley comparisons were thrown at him during an informal news conference at a hotel ballroom, Bogut was quickly dismissive.
"I've had a better collegiate career than anyone else from Australia that came over here," Bogut said. "I'm not as slow as Luc Longley, I'm more athletic, I can shoot better, I'm more competitive. So I think it's not even fair to bring that name up."
If Bogut is picked No. 1, he'll be the first center to go first overall since Yao Ming in 2002, and the first player from a U.S. college to be the No. 1 pick since Kenyon Martin in 2000.
Atlanta chooses second, with Portland, New Orleans and Charlotte rounding out the top five. Bobcats general manager Bernie Bickerstaff said Charlotte could move up to No. 3 if it agreed to package the fifth and 13th picks in a deal with the Trail Blazers.
"Portland has not made a move, and I don't think anything gets resolved until Portland makes a move," Bickerstaff said.
The Hawks are expected to select North Carolina freshman Marvin Williams, an athletic small forward who came off the bench for the Tar Heels.
"My vertical (leap) is only one inch less than Marvin Williams'," Bogut said. "You guys call him the 'superfreak' athletic-wise, so I don't see why I'm unathletic."
Bogut played for Australia in the 2004 Olympics, and his familiarity with the international style of play - and its emphasis on ball movement over one-on-one moves - is one of the skill sets that appeal most to NBA personnel directors.
Bogut also said that the choice between himself and Williams comes down to experience vs. potential, and his background of going up against the likes of Yao and Tim Duncan at last summer's Olympics has only added to his basketball IQ.
"It does seem like Milwaukee is heading toward Bogut, but I don't blame them," Williams said. "He's a great player."
Having already dismissed Kobe Bryant as the epitome of the selfish American superstar, and also laying bare his less-than-rosy relationship with former college coach Rick Majerus, Bogut has already developed a reputation as a youngster unafraid to flap his gums at the establishment.
Now that the Longley comparisons and the beer/cheese angle have been addressed, it'll soon be time to tell whether his basketball skills match his gift of gab.
Most eager of all is Bogut himself, who has grown tired of the two-month buildup to the draft. He said if the Bucks decide not to take him at No. 1, he has an assurance from the Hawks that he'll go No. 2.
"It's exciting to get it over with," he said. "It's been a very long process."