While the Spurs, Raptors, Suns and Mavericks (visitors to MSG later today) have all reaped the benefits of the international talent pool, Newsday’s Shaun Powell recalls one of the modern game’s great draft busts while bemoaning the Knicks’ batting average with European players.
The defining moment of his basketball career was a spectacular one, for all the wrong reasons. Frederic Weis stood about as still as another French creation, the Statue of Liberty, when Vince Carter soared over him and dunked during the 2000 Olympics. It was the mother of all poster dunks, and it drove home just how silly it was one year earlier when the Knicks wasted their first-round draft pick on a guy who couldn’t even draw a charge correctly.
Actually, Weis couldn’t do a lot of things, such as dribble or shoot or look good in a uniform. He never wore one for the Knicks because, after it became apparent in summer camp that he was stiffer than a baguette, they cut their losses and didn’t bother giving him a second look.
Back in the 1998-99 season, right before the Knicks drafted Weis, a mostly unknown 7-foot German rookie was having a rough introduction, too. Dirk Nowitzki had trouble creating his own shot and adapting to a quicker game, although he’s come a long way since, in terms of his journey and his game.
Tonight, the potential MVP will be at the Garden, looking for his usual 25 or so points as he leads the team with the best record in basketball. Nowitzki has entered Kobe and LeBron territory as one of the special players who cannot be stopped when his game is on. Besides having the most lethal jumper of any big man since Larry Bird, Nowitzki can get to the hoop. Most of all, the Mavericks, built around a true franchise player, are the early clubhouse leaders for the championship.
Of course, Bargnani was the first overall pick last June and Nowitzki had gone ninth; both were out of range for the Knicks at the time, as was Pau Gasol, the third overall pick in 2001. But plenty more good European talent was found much later in those and other drafts. Tony Parker lasted until the last pick of the first round in 2001. His Spurs teammate, Manu Ginobili, was a second-rounder two years earlier, and Parker’s French homeboy, Boris Diaw, was a late-first pick in 2003.
True, there’s a Weis and a Darko Milicic lurking in every draft, but also a Mehmet Okur and a Leandro Barbosa and an Andres Nocioni. Given that most foreign players come equipped to shoot, wouldn’t one be a big plus for the Knicks as they struggle to free Eddy Curry from constant double-teaming in the post?