Post-Lottery Interview: Bryan Colangelo, Other NBA Personnel

Post-Lottery Interview: Bryan Colangelo, Other NBA Personnel
May 23, 2006, 11:33 pm
Following the NBA lottery, Toronto Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo conducted a conference call with the media to discuss the implications of winning the #1 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. DraftExpress columnist Charlie Bury participated and had some interesting questions for Mr. Colangelo.

Also included are more reactions from Secaucus from the other team representatives at the lottery, courtesy of


Bryan Colangelo: Thank you for joining the call. Very, very pleased with the outcome, obviously, of the lottery tonight. I was stressed there at the end, but to be honest with you there was a little bit of a simple feeling going in that no matter where we ended up, number one, five, or eight, we were going to end up with a very good basketball player. But now the Toronto Raptors find themselves in a situation where not only do we have the number one pick, but we’ve got some cap flexibility that was obviously a result of a midseason trade pulled off by Wayne Embry that gives us a real combined power if you will. I believe the combination is a very worthwhile package in terms of the ability to maybe pull a player in but to also possibly select the number one player in the draft. It just gives you that much more flexibility, so we are playing with an absolute full deck in terms of the options that are there in front of us, the combination of [cap flexibility] and then the first pick gives us a very good hand to go through this process and, hopefully, make the right decisions. We are hard at work already in the draft process; we have a terrific staff in place. The draft workouts are headed up by Jim Kelly, our director of player personnel, but being over seen by all of us at this point: myself, Wayne Embry, Sam Mitchell, the scouts who are involved. We have obviously have a lot of work ahead over the coming month and there is a lot to do to make this team better, but this draft should net us a player that is a good piece for us moving forward, and when I say a good piece, it’s a piece that both short term and long term have to fit our plan, and our plan is to get better and ultimately contend for a title and this is a good first step in that process.

Thank you we will now open it up to questions

Question: It looks like you are putting your stamp on this team right now. How much input does coach Mitchell have on who you guys are going to draft considering you are new to the team now and your trying to make it your own?

Bryan Colangelo: Well I always operated on the basics of re-building. That’s a big word for me, but it’s more importantly a big part of the way I operate. I think you do things as a staff. Sam [Mitchell] is a big part of that staff right now, he’s our head coach. He got the guys ready to play every night last year and he has really grown as a coach. But I will certainly utilize his input in this process, as I always have. I’ve always given a coach a lot of input in the process. Obviously, at the end of the day, a decision has got to be made and I want it to be a consensus of the entire group. We’ve got a great group together; I mentioned some of them before. There are a lot of good basketball minds in the room, and, by the way, this organization has done a terrific job of drafting in the past. You just look back, and compliments to Rob Babcock my predecessor for collecting Charlie Villanueva where he did. He turns out to be the second best rookie of the class from last year, and I think that’s indicative not only of Rob’s judgment, but it’s what the staff that was involved in the process thought of Charlie, and I know that Rob was a big part of that. I would simply tell you that this is a process where Sam’s input is definitely going to be seen as a key part of this, because it’s important to have your coach on board with whatever ultimately you do.

Question: How is this going to impact what your plans are for the next month and the guys you work out? I suppose it will narrow it greatly, right?

Bryan Colangelo:Yeah, there was a lot of jockeying going on with agents in terms of scheduling the draft workouts. But now that they know the draft order, it’s going to be a little bit easier to get some commitments on those dates and times. We had a lot of dates that were tentatively scheduled. Now we can probably put them in pen as opposed to pencil. This certainly has the makings of an exciting month ahead. We’ve got a lot of work to do. I had previously planned one more trip to Europe to the Reebok Eurocamp, which runs from June 11-14th and Orlando camp which is a chance to not necessarily look at first round picks, but important players will go through there. I’ll probably have a chance to sit down and talk to a couple of them. Our doctors and trainers will go through a process of interviewing them based on the physicals, finding out a little bit more about who they are, as people, and as draft prospects. This is a busy month and we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. It’s just a matter of getting some firm times and we're going to start this process as soon as possible.

Question: People will be automatically discussing trade possibilities. Do you expect to get inundated with this pick given that there isn’t a real consensus number one player out there?

Bryan Colangelo: I don’t know that there is any inundation that I’m looking at, but I will say that there is a lot of flexibility and I know there are a lot of players that people like at number one. Whether someone’s willing to part with a player who we feel is valuable enough to part with (our) pick, we’ll make that decision when it presents itself. Whether it’s someone else doing the presenting or us manufacturing ways or coming up with ways of our own, we’re going to explore any and all options as we move forward. I do like this draft. I like the top of the draft. I think there are some very good players and I think those players will be in the league for a long time. Just by virtue of us being number one and having the first pick, it puts us in a very good situation.

Question: A cynic may say the Raptors finally get the number one pick in a year where there is no consensus number one and there are a lot of questions marks. What would you say to that?

Bryan Colangelo: Are you saying there are cynics among us?

Question: I would say yeah there might be. (Laughs)

Bryan Colangelo: Well, again, this is a year that I've said, from the beginning, we were going to have a very good pick and it’s not the best draft to have the highest pick. I still think this is a year where we have a lot flexibility, but it might not be the best year to have a lot of flexibility with regards to free agents because it’s not a banner year for free agents. But you have to take it in stride. This is a year that we're looking to get better as a basketball team. We’ve got a lot of room to improve. I look at this as a very positive step for the organization, for the Toronto Raptors, for the city of Toronto and we’ll do what we can to make the most of what opportunity is there for us. Right now, to have the most opportunity that we can possibly have, I feel a lot better than having zero opportunity.

Charlie Bury (DraftExpress): Does winning the lottery put more pressure on the Raptors organization to make the playoffs next year?

Bryan Colangelo: I’ve said about this draft: I don’t know that there’s a sure fire piece that’s going to come in and help us get to where we want to go, but I will say long term we should be acquiring a player via the draft that will help us get there. My stance on the playoffs--without any kind of predictions-- is that I will be disappointed any year that I’m here that we don’t make it. That’s what we should be striding for. First thing I wanted to do when I came to Toronto was change the culture, turn it from what was a situation that I don’t think there was a lot of winning in the mindset, to a situation where there is a lot of winning. That’s what our sole focus should be. We should have a goal of making the playoffs every year that we step on the floor and there’s no reason that says we shouldn’t next year given the fact that we have some opportunity next year to make some improvement.

Question: Have you had a chance to talk to any of the high prospects like an Adam Morrison and Tyrus Thomas, and do you have plans to work these players out?

Bryan Colangelo: We have plans to work out all of them. However, given the nature of timing and draft ineligibility, I personally have not talked to any of what I would call the “top top picks” with the exception of Marcus Williams, who came into Toronto last week. But LaMarcus Aldridge, Andrea Bargnani, Tyrus Thomas, Rudy Gay, and Adam Morrison I have not spoken to directly.

Question: The rabid speculation is that you guys are looking at Andrea Bargnani. Are there a few players that you have seen that have particularly excited you and you are dreaming about drafting them?

Bryan Colangelo: Yes and no. I would say that I don’t dream about drafting anybody per se (laughs,) but we have talked a lot about players in this draft, players that might help us in terms of what we need to do to get better and what’s on our agenda in terms of getting better. There are some players that I can tell you would be good fits for us. But we’ve got a lot more work to do in terms of figuring out specifically what’s going to be the right move for this team long term including that of combining it with the right moves this summer in free agency. We have got a lot ahead of us; we’ve got a lot of thoughts. You’re going to hear us list a lot of the top possibilities; I think I just did in the previous question. But yes I have got to say that Bargnani is someone we would consider with that pick. There is also rabid speculation that I was trying to manipulate the draft so that Bargnani would come to Toronto as part of a package deal with the possibility of hiring Maurizio Gherardini as an assistant general manager. Maurizio Gherardini is [Andrea’s] general manager. We are in the process of discussing the possibility of Maurizio coming to Toronto. That courting is definitely something that is in process. That should talk again about the direction I would like to see this thing go in terms of bringing in the top flight people, top tier people in the industry to make this a great situation for years to come. This is a step going in that direction, and there is no package deal right now, but I can’t rule anything out as we move forward.

Question: The last couple of years, Toronto’s picks have not been very well received by fans and media. How much pressure does that put on you this year to really make the right call and do you factor in making a decision that will go over with the fans?

Bryan Colangelo: Well you know I’m new to the market. I’m aware of some of the criticisms obviously and the talk last year, even the reactions last year of some of the commentators on ESPN at the draft who were in a little bit of disbelief that Charlie Villuneva was picked where he was. I think Charlie proved everybody wrong. When you start getting influenced by some of that stuff, I think you have to factor in the marketability of a player, I think you have to factor in the talent of the player, I think you have to factor in the long term prospect of improving your team above all of that. When I say above all of that, you can’t be influenced by, no offense, by what the media wants you to do and what the general public wants you to do. You have to do what right’s for your organization. At the end of the day, when your team starts to succeed, that’s what translates to success with the fans and with the media. I think you’ve got to make decisions, you can’t be afraid to make tough decisions. There are a lot of tough decisions to make in this business. Sometimes you make trades where people scratch their heads; sometimes you make a draft selection where people scratch their heads. Me, personally, even in Phoenix, I was criticized for just about everything we did. I always think there is a little bit of a rush to judgment on draft night or when a trade happens. I think you have to let time pass, games play to determine what exactly is the outcome of some decision. Going back, when I said I was criticized for everything, that was not an understatement. I was criticized for taking Shawn Marion and not Corey Maggette. I remember hearing it was a bad move trading Stephon Marbury to the Knicks, and it turned out to open up the door for us to Steve Nash. I’m now arriving at a new situation and I know that we’ve got a whole new course to determine our future and determine the kind of success that we are going to have. I think, in fairness to the process, you do have to be patient and you do have to let things play themselves out, so any kind of criticism on draft night really doesn’t mean anything.

Charlie Bury ( What do you think you can learn about these players by working them out that you didn’t know about them from watching them play during the season?

Bryan Colangelo: That’s an interesting question. A lot of times people ask “What do you put most of your weight on?” Do you put it on the way they play during the year or do you put it on the draft workout? I like to look at bits of everything. I like to watch what a guy’s success has been or progress has been. Sometimes we’re not dealing with a whole lot of comparative stats. That’s why scouts are employed and scouts have an opportunity to help you chart a player’s growth. Whether you see them first as a high school senior, which used to be the case, to a player that ends up playing four years of college ball, you’re constantly looking for signs of improvement. Players that don’t improve a lot are either stuck in a bad situation and make bad decisions or ultimately perhaps they just are in the wrong system and the coach is not the right fit for them. Sometimes the NBA game is the better fit for some of these players than the college game. I do believe that you need to put a lot of weight on the personnel interaction. When you’re a scout and you show up at a game, whether you’re a general manager or just a guy asked to go see a game as a friend, the bottom line is you can’t sit down and talk to that player and get a feel for them. When they are sitting in front of you, when they go out to dinner with your scouts the night before, when they are in the training room getting their ankles taped, you start to learn a lot about a person and what kind of character they have. That’s a big part of what we do, evaluate these people not just as basketball players but who they are as people, as well, and that’s something that I think factors into it. Also you get a chance to officially measure a player there when they are at the workout. You get a chance to shake their hands and see how big their hand is. You get a chance to talk to them face to face about what kind of experience they had growing up. I think you can learn a lot from these visits. I’ve got a history of factoring in all of the above, whether its games played, visits, all the statistical information that we can evaluate now. You’ve got to factor it all in, and it ultimately leads to your decision to draft somebody.

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Q: What are your thoughts on Andrea Bargnani from Benetton Treviso?

COLANGELO: Andrea Bargnani is one of several players we’ll have to consider with the top pick. There are five or six names that you can probably throw into that mix right now. Some years, some people on stage have a jersey with a name on it. In this case, I think there’s still a lot of work to do to determine who the right pick is. There’s the potential for some jockeying. Maybe we trade down and get two players. We’ve got a lot of options out there and a lot of things to talk about. I’ve got my staff in place and we’re ready to go. I think this a great day and an exciting day for the organization.

Q:What type of flexibility does this give the Raptors heading into this draft?

COLANGELO:It gives us that much more flexibility. We’ve got an opportunity to pick the number one player in the draft, and if someone really wants that player, maybe there’s a deal to be made. Maybe we can facilitate that deal and end up netting more assets. We also have cap space and cap flexibility. So, we go into this draft not only holding the number one pick, but also the flexibility to take on a pretty large contract. That’s a pretty powerful combination, and hopefully we can manipulate it the right way, and make some good decisions. I think we’re in a no-lose, because we’re going to get a very good player if we just decide to use the pick.

Q:What are your thoughts on the top of the draft?

COLANGELO:There are a lot of players in this draft that can be considered a possibility at number one. We have a lot of work to do to figure out who that player is. We have a great young core. We’ve got Chris Bosh and Charlie Villanueva, both very versatile players, and young, budding player in Joey Graham. We’ve got the young core, and now, whether or not we want to add another player to that? We’ve got a lot of areas in which we need to improve, and I don’t think you can draft around any of the players we have. You just have to take the best available player that addresses your overall needs. We have a depth issue, and we’ve got some very specific weaknesses. Whether or not the number one pick addresses those weaknesses or areas, is yet to be determined.

Q:How open do you think you’ll be to the calls looking to trade up?

COLANGELO:I’ve been pretty consistent with the message that you never marry yourself to a concept. Until you have to make a decision, I would never make a decision before that point. We’ve got a month to go. Let’s see what comes our way. Let’s see what we can dig up. Let’s continue to evaluate players. I’m all about consensus. Consensus of the basketball staff. We’re also an organization with a history of drafting very well. We’ve got the pieces in place to make the right decision. Are we absolutely married to using the pick? No, but that’s just an indication of the kind of flexibility we have.

John Paxson, Chicago Bulls
Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations
Second Overall Selection

Q:What are your feelings about the second pick … With no consensus top player, does it really matter?

PAXSON: It makes a difference in terms of if you have the first pick, you control everything. But no, I’m thrilled to be the second pick. It gives us a chance to … get a really good player or explore the possibility of moving it. I feel very fortunate to be picking this high in this draft.

Q: When you made the Eddy Curry trade, you didn’t think the pick would be this high?
PAXSON: You never know what’s going to happen. It was a deal that was done from our end for the right reasons. I didn’t know what to anticipate. It was a very emotional decision based on what had become a lengthy summer in regards to a player that we were very concerned about. So I didn’t know what it would be and I didn’t have any inkling.

Q: The Knicks’ excuse for trading the pick was that it would have been a deal breaker [in the Curry trade]. Was it a deal breaker?

PAXSON: It would have been a deal breaker. We just simply stated this is how the deal could be done. You have to understand that we were all very fond of Eddy Curry in our organization. And we had gone the route of trying to do everything we possibly could. And it’s not worth rehashing, but we were concerned. And it came down to [that] I got a little bit frustrated with the whole process and there was only one way that we felt the deal would be done. And it was done. Look, every team does what they feel is in their best interest to improve their team, and Eddy’s a very good basketball player – a very good center in this league. I’m sure that over time the Knicks will be very happy.

Q:Isiah Thomas said he wanted lottery-protection. Did he ever say he wanted lottery-protection one and two?

PAXSON: Isiah and I had those conversations and it’s not worth it for me to divulge how it went down. They got an excellent player in that trade and we got a chance to be in the lottery and get the second pick in the draft.

Q:Does getting the number two pick validate the whole Curry-DNA testing fight?

PAXSON: No, it was never about that. I never once had thought about validating that trade. We did it at the time for the right reasons in our mind. I’ve said we were fond of Eddy and we were trying to get something done that was helpful to both of us, but it didn’t work. And so, with Jerry Reinsdorf’s say-so, we did this deal. And it’s not anything about vindication. Eddy Curry’s a very good basketball player. We made the deal, we’re lucky we got in the lottery, and we’re lucky we got the second pick in the draft.

Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats
Third Overall Selection

Q:Did you bring any lucky charms with you today?

WALLACE: Yeah, I got a couple of things I’m going to keep to myself. I’m not going to use them anymore because it didn’t work. It was a great lottery. Congratulations to the Toronto Raptors. We got the third pick and we are just going to have to make the best of it.

Q:Would you consider this a deep draft?

WALLACE: I think this is a deep draft with a lot of potential. A lot of these guys have the potential to have a long career in the NBA. There are no franchise changing players, but I think there is a great core group of guys that can help a lot of teams out.

Steve Patterson, Portland Trail Blazers
Fourth Overall Selection

Q:Do you think, at four, this is a deep enough draft at the top where you can still fill the needs that you have?

PATTERSON: Well, I think there is no clear number one pick this year that is a franchise-type player.

Q:Will you guys look to move up?

PATTERSON: I think there are a lot of very good players that are going to come in and make an impact and I think we may very well end up with as good a player at number four as we would have ended up with at number one.

Q:With the players in the draft is there a specific position that you guys are looking to address and does that change at all picking at four instead of at one?

PATTERSON: You don’t know where the picks are going to fall. Anytime you win 21 games, you need help at a lot of positions, so we’ll take the best player that’s out there.

JoJo White, Boston Celtics
Director of Special Projects
Seventh Overall Selection

Q:Do you think the good luck charms worked out for you?

WHITE: Well, they didn’t hurt us. There is a lot of talent in the draft this year. And for what we might need, there is going to be some availability out there. It would have been great to have moved up to one, two or three – but I don’t think we get hurt at all with picking seventh.

Q:Are there any specific needs you guys are going to focus on?

WHITE: We’ve been working out players for the past week. We need a backcourt player, a point guard. We’ve looked at a number of guys. If we can find another go-to guy at the power forward spot, there are some opportunities there as well. So we’re going to try and get the best athlete at those one or two positions that can bolster the young club that we already have.

Carroll Dawson, Houston Rockets
General Manager
Eighth Overall Selection

Q:With this being your last lottery, talk about the experience and the future of the franchise?

DAWSON: I hope this is not only my last lottery, but the last the franchise has. Over the years, we’ve been pretty luck up here. From getting Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming, it’s been good to us. I was hoping that mainly with a two percent chance of moving up that we just wouldn’t slide backward because truthfully, after the year we had, I didn’t feel very lucky. We’ve had more injuries than I’ve ever seen in my 28 years here. So the fact that we stayed where we were, I’m pretty happy with it. We’ll get a good player that can help our franchise, so that’s the most you can ask.

Q:What are the needs you need to fill around McGrady and Yao?

DAWSON: More athletic, more shooting, more rebounding – you can take any one of those things. So, whoever comes up we can draft a need pretty much because we need some different things. That’ll work out pretty good. If not, usually 8-9-10-11 … if you’re in that position, you’ve just got to take the best player because it’s not always the guy you need is there. That may happen to us, too, but there’s a good chance that they’ll be somebody there that we need.

Q:Any particular college players catch your eye throughout the college season?

DAWSON: I’ve looked at more film this year because we also have the 32nd pick. I think [this] is a deep enough draft that we might get somebody to be a roster player at 32. We’ve brought in already about 18 guys for the second round. We haven’t brought in any first-rounders except maybe one or two, because most of them wait until after the lottery. But I think there’s a chance that we can get two players out of the draft that can make our team.

Q:With Houston gaining a lot of visibility with this past year’s All-Star game and the superstar duo of Yao and Tracy McGrady, do you feel this is a make-or-break year?

DAWSON: I think our base is there and a lot of good things can happen if we can just keep them healthy and add the complementary players that we want to. But even our complementary players got hurt last year, so it was just one of those years. If you talk to everybody in this league, we’ve got two very very good players in this league, and I think that’s a good place to start. We’ve got some other players under contract that we’re very happy with. I think if we’re very frugal in our efforts this year and get the right players or the right number of players, then we can be a factor next year. And I think that’s our goal – that was our goal last year. I thought if we could have stayed injury-free we were going to be a factor last year, but that’s always the thing.

Pat Williams, Orlando Magic
Senior Vice President, Basketball Operations
Eleventh Overall Selection

Q:Would you consider this a deep draft?

WILLIAMS:Yes. I don’t think this is a superstar-oriented draft. I don’t think there are franchise turners in the draft. I don’t think anybody is going to come out of this and say ‘we are the man, we have really done it’, but all the way down deep into the first round you are going to get a player that can play NBA basketball.

Q:What do you feel is the strongest position in this draft?

WILLIAMS:I think that it is a draft without great big men. I think there are some power forwards. I don’t think there are a huge abundance of point guards. So, I think power forwards and small forwards and if you need a center in this draft you are probably not going to get it.

Chris Paul, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
Twelfth Overall Selection

Q:What was the feeling like for you, being drafted?

PAUL:It was one of the best feelings of my life. It was great, you know, being in New York City, with my family in such a major setting.

Q:What did you take away from that day in terms of talking to the other guys, that day, being there, knowing you were going to be a lottery pick?

PAUL:We talked about the expectations. And, we talked about how you get to play basketball every day for the rest of your life, for as long as you can. We get to play basketball and take care of our families.

Q:What advice would you have for any potential lottery picks this year?

PAUL:Just coming in, play as hard as you can. Don’t listen to all the supposed experts. I was at home watching this lottery last year, and you hear different people say different things about you and what you can’t do, but you know what you have to get better at so you just have to go out there and play as hard as you can.

Q:And the suit? Anything in particular on what to wear?

PAUL:Nothing too loud. (Laughs). Don’t draw too much attention to yourself. If you don’t draw too much attention, a lot more people will notice you.

Billy King, Philadelphia 76ers
President & General Manager
Thirteenth Overall Selection

Q:Would there be any chance of you moving up?

KING: I would love to move up. There are some guys we’d be interested in moving up to get. We’re not moving down.

Q:Where do you go from here?

KING: The best thing about this is now you know where everybody is picking, and there isn’t the discussion of will this guy be there or won’t this guy be there. Now you can get to work.

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