As international scouting and hoops coverage become more sophisticated, it’s tougher and tougher to keep a quality player under wraps. The San Antonio Express’ Johnny Ludden on the Spurs’ covert methods surrounding French F Ian Mahinimi, a player likely to spend at least one more season in Europe before making his NBA debut.

“Coltish” was how one scout described Mahinmi (above) after seeing him for the first time in France. The Spurs had their own name for him: John Mason.

Not wanting to tip off their interest in Mahinmi before the 2005 NBA draft, the Spurs gave him an alias. “John Mason” sounded like a basketball player, so the name stuck. Anyone eavesdropping wouldn’t know the difference.

Or so the Spurs thought. With the draft only two weeks away and the Spurs in the middle of the NBA Finals, general manager R.C. Buford opened the Sports section of the San Antonio Express-News and felt his stomach drop. “When you’re talking ‘Detroit basketball,'” read the headline stretched across the top of the page, “you’re talking John Mason.”

Buford relaxed after reading further. The story profiled the Pistons’ public-address announcer, who, in addition to popularizing the chant “DEE-TROIT BAS-KET-BALL,” also happened to share the same name as the one the Spurs selected for Mahinmi.

“All I saw was ‘John Mason'” Buford said, “and thought somebody had found us out.”

Milwaukee sent C Jamal Magliore to Portland today in exchange for G Steve Blake, F Brian Skinner and C Ha Seung-Jin. The Racine Journal News’ Gery Woelfel finds the move curious, at least from the Bucks’ perspective.

Even after trading T.J. Ford to Toronto, the Bucks seemed set at the point guard position with Mo Williams and Charlie Bell still around. Williams was the Bucks™ starter two years ago, and Bell played admirably off the bench last season.

But now the Bucks traded for Portland™s Steve Blake (above), and it™ll be interesting to see how he fits into the equation. Blake was a starter last season in Portland and, if he doesn™t start in Milwaukee, the Bucks are likely to have one unhappy camper on their hands, especially since Blake is in his contract year.