Conley on their mind

The Vertical
Yahoo! Sports

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Yes, Greg Oden is enamored with the idea of Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard hustling a trade for another lottery pick to select his personal point guard, Michael Conley Jr. He wants this understood. If he goes to Portland with the No. 1 overall pick, he would love to have him on his side.

Nevertheless, Oden, who's expected to be chosen first in the June 28 draft, is sensitive to the shadow that has chased Conley throughout his basketball career. Perhaps, Oden wonders, Conley could benefit with a fresh start somewhere else in the NBA.

"I would love to play with him," Oden told Yahoo! Sports at the NBA predraft camp, where he underwent a physical for NBA teams. "Being with him for so many years, it would be great. But I just think he might want to (go elsewhere), just to be his own person after always being pegged as my sidekick. I think he might want to go do his own thing, and be his own person, without me getting most of the glory."

Conley is considered the top point guard prospect in the draft, and the Atlanta Hawks are thinking hard about selecting him with the third overall pick.

The Blazers would be willing to trade Zach Randolph and Jarrett Jack as part of a package to secure that No. 3 choice, but Atlanta wants LaMarcus Aldridge. In fact, the Hawks believe Aldridge is a much better bet to be a star forward than the 2007 draft crop that includes Brandan Wright, Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah.

Atlanta would pass on Wright, despite the belief that he might be the most talented player in the draft after Oden and Kevin Durant. After taking North Carolina's Marvin Williams two years ago over Deron Williams and Chris Paul, the Hawks can't take another forward whom they'll have to wait to develop. They see Florida's Horford, the strongest, most physical of the class, as the choice at three with Conley.

As for Conley, he says he is rooting for Portland to make a deal for him, but Oden's thoughts on the dynamic between the two of them – and the shadow – resonates with Conley.

"I can understand what he's talking about," Conley said. "I've had to deal with being in his shadow growing up. I thought going to the NBA would be the time we would end up splitting anyway … but once I heard about the trade, it was like, 'Wow, me playing with him again?'

"I'd definitely welcome it. He's a great teammate, a great player, and my best friend. I have had nothing but success with him."


Seattle SuperSonics president Lenny Wilkens interviewed the fourth and final candidate for the team's general manager opening, meeting with San Antonio assistant G.M. Sam Presti, the 30-year-old whiz kid of the Spurs.

Several sources believe Presti will be the choice, but apparently Washington Wizards assistant G.M. Tommy Sheppard impressed Seattle officials with his interview a week ago. John Gabriel, the ex-Magic G.M., and Gary Fitzsimmons also met with Wilkens.

Wilkens has said that he'll wait to hire a coach, until his G.M. is on board. There's a lot of belief among league officials that, with Durant on the way to the Sonics, Wilkens might make himself the coach. However, one league source familiar with Wilkens' thinking this week at the camp said the speculation was "highly unlikely" to happen.

• While Billy Donovan was across town at his coronation as Orlando Magic head coach, his predecessor, Brian Hill, was in the gym on Friday visiting with league friends.

After several weeks of deliberation, the Magic fired Hill, who had reached the playoffs in his second season upon returning to Orlando as coach. The organization has offered him a chance to stay in an undetermined role, but Hill is waiting to hear specifics before making a decision.

When asked if he still wanted a chance to coach, he said, "I do."

For now, though, Hill said, "They offered me a position in the organization that's not clearly defined yet, and once I get that, and see exactly what it is, I'll make a decision."

• A source who has spoken with Los Angeles Lakers G.M. Mitch Kupchak and Pacers G.M. Larry Bird says that the conversations about a Jermaine O'Neal-for-Andrew Bynum-and-Lamar Odom trade have accelerated in recent days, undoubtedly a reaction to Kobe Bryant's four-day tirade.

"I wouldn't be surprised if this got done by the draft," the source said.

• Perhaps no player has created as much intrigue as Eastern Washington shooting guard Rodney Stuckey, who is believed, according to sources, to be the Detroit Pistons' target at No. 15.

Said one Eastern Conference scout: "If this kid was playing at Washington, instead of Eastern Washington, people (would be) talking about him as a top 10, maybe top seven or eight player, in this draft."

Stuckey is a fearless, tough guard with a great shooting touch. Out of high school, he would've gone to the Pac -10, but he didn't have the grades to become eligible as a freshman.

"And even with that, I love the fact that he became an academic all-conference student," the scout said. "That tells you something about his determination."

• Josh McRoberts is intriguing to the New Jersey Nets at No. 17, so much so there was some discussion within the franchise of guaranteeing the 6-foot-11 Duke forward the spot.

• Marquette sophomore Dominic James struggled for most of the camp, leaving him with no choice but to return to school. His coach, Tom Crean, spent two full days watching him and said that he hoped "whatever he decides, he needs to use this experience to see where he needs to improve."

With James returning for his junior year, Marquette is expected to be one of the elite teams in the Big East Conference.

• Marist point guard Jared Jordan dazzled scouts with his passing and poise, and he says that he has "nine or 10" workouts scheduled with teams. He'll start in San Antonio next week.

"I think I proved to people that I can run a team," Jordan said.

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