NEW YORK -- Emeka Okafor tried masking his displeasure about
being chosen second rather than first in the NBA draft. Instead,
his sarcasm made it clear who he believed should have been No. 1.
"It made me feel real special, all warm inside," Okafor
deadpanned on a night when potential was valued more than
experience and high schoolers were a hotter commodity than college
High school senior Dwight Howard of Atlanta was chosen No. 1 by
the Orlando Magic, becoming the third prep player in the past four
years to be chosen first overall. The expansion Charlotte Bobcats
scooped up Okafor at No. 2, getting the player they preferred all
"As far as them believing in me, it makes me feel good,"
The quest for youth brought an unfamiliar dynamic to a draft
night that began with mystery, the identity of the Magic's pick a
secret to almost everyone right up until commissioner David Stern
walked onstage at Madison Square Garden and delivered the news.
When the pick was announced, Howard's family leaped out of their
seats as Okafor's family applauded at the next table. The two
players shook hands before Howard became the first player of the
evening to be greeted by Stern.
"This feels so good," Howard said. "I want to go out there
and prove all the doubters wrong."
A crowd of about 10,000 fans in Charlotte cheered when Okafor
was not selected by the Magic, and owner Bob Johnson nodded his
head and smiled. Fireworks then exploded, and orange and white
confetti and streamers rained down on the cheering crowd.
Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said Magic general manager John
Weisbrod "conveyed" to them Thursday morning that Howard would be
their pick. Howard also said his agent was aware all day that he
would go No. 1.
Okafor donned an orange Bobcats cap after the second pick was
announced, and a large contingent of family and friends cheered
loudly from the stands. One held up a sign reading "Okafor the
Olympian," a recognition of Okafor's status as a finalist for the
U.S. team that will compete in Athens.
Okafor, a junior, averaged 17.6 points for the national champion
Connecticut Huskies, and his shot blocking ability and defensive
prowess made him a consensus choice to be one of the top two picks.
His UConn teammate, Ben Gordon, went third to the Chicago Bulls,
marking the second time in three years teammates have been selected
second and third. Jay Williams and Mike Dunleavy of Duke had that
distinction in 2002.
"Other people may be surprised, but I always thought I should
go No. 1," Gordon said.
High school senior Shaun Livingston of Peoria, Ill., went fourth
to the Los Angeles Clippers, who had traded down from No. 2 this
week in a deal with the Bobcats. The baby-faced, lanky 6-foot-7
guard had originally committed to play at Duke.
Wisconsin guard Devin Harris was chosen fifth by Washington,
which was picking for Dallas as part of a trade agreed to Wednesday
night that sends Jerry Stackhouse and Christian Laettner to Dallas
and Antawn Jamison to the Wizards.
If the Mavericks keep Harris, he could be a replacement for
Steve Nash at point guard if Nash leaves as a free agent. But
Dallas was involved in trade discussions with several teams, and
even Harris acknowledged he was "clueless" as to what the true
identity of his team will be.
Stanford junior Josh Childress went at No. 6 to Atlanta, which
had been trying to move into the No. 1 spot.
"This draft in particular, no one had any idea which way it
would go," Childress said.
Duke freshman Luol Deng was picked seventh by Phoenix, which
traded him to Chicago for a future first-round pick, cash and the
rights to the 31st pick, Jackson Vroman. The Suns, who owned three
first-round picks before dealing them all away, wanted to get rid
of the No. 7 pick to clear enough salary cap room for a maximum
salary offer to one of the top free agents.
San Antonio, Denver and Atlanta also have enough room to offer a
"max" contract to a free agent class headed by Kobe Bryant and
Toronto Raptors general manager Rob Babcock made his first
personnel move by selecting Brazilian center Rafael Araujo of BYU,
Philadelphia chose Arizona forward Andre Iguodala at No. 9 and
Oregon forward Luke Jackson went to Cleveland.
"We really need outside shooting, and we felt Luke Jackson
would fit that bill for us," Cavaliers coach Paul Silas said. "We
feel we have a player now who can stretch defenses."
Sebastian Telfair of Lincoln H.S. in New York City was chosen
13th by Portland, a higher-than-expected slot for one of the record
nine eligible high school seniors. Miffed that he was not invited
to sit in the "green room" offstage, Telfair celebrated at rapper
Jay Z's nightclub, not far from the Garden.
The Utah Jazz had three first-round picks, selecting Minnesota
forward Kris Humphries (14th), Nevada guard Kirk Snyder (16th) and
7-foot-5 Russian Pavel Podkolzine (21st), who was dealt to Dallas
for a future first-round pick.
Boston also had three first-rounders and chose Mississippi high
school senior Al Jefferson (15th), St. Joseph's guard Delonte West
(24th) and Oklahoma State guard Tony Allen (25th). Portland also
had three selections after acquiring the 22nd pick from the Nets.
Eastern Europeans were favored in the bottom third of the first
round, with Russians Podkolzine and Sergei Monia (No. 23, Portland)
and Ukrainian Viktor Khryapa (No. 22, New Jersey, traded to
Portland) joining Slovenians Sasha Vujacic (picked 27th by the
Lakers) and Beno Udrih (No. 28, Spurs).
Notable second round picks included Brazilian Anderson Varejao
(No. 30, Orlando), 7-foot-3 Puerto Rican Peter John Ramos (No. 32,
Washington), Duke senior Chris Duhon (No. 38 Chicago), 7-foot-3
Korean center Ha Seung-Jin (No. 46, Portland) and Gonzaga guard
Blake Stepp (No. 58, Minnesota).