Rookie Dookies A hotshot draft class is learning the hard way

February 14, 2000

Nearly every day, on the bus after practice or at the team
hotel, Magic guard Corey Maggette takes out his cell phone and
calls Bulls forward Elton Brand, his pal and former Duke
teammate. The two rookies chat about NBA life, the latest movies
or maybe the fortunes of the Blue Devils. "Sometimes we'll talk
three or four times a day," says Maggette, who last season used
to crash on the sofa at the apartment Brand shared with Duke
point guard William Avery.

Brand, who left Durham after his sophomore season and was the
No. 1 pick in last June's draft, has become a Rookie of the Year
candidate, but Maggette, who turned pro as a freshman, has had a
broader range of NBA experience. In eight months Maggette, a
6'6" skywalker who was selected 13th, has been traded (on draft
day, from Seattle to Orlando), missed a game to freak injury (a
twisted ankle when he stepped on a ball during warm-ups), lost
his spot in the rotation (to third-year guard Anthony Parker),
missed two more games with an infected toe, regained his spot in
the rotation (sorry, Anthony) and had his name surface in trade
rumors. Oh, yeah, at week's end he was also averaging 8.8
points--on 48.6% shooting--and 4.1 rebounds in 18.9 minutes a
game off the bench. Says Brand, "Corey's like a veteran already."

Maggette's ascension and Brand's precocious play (he was
averaging 18.2 points and 9.8 boards) have stood in sharp
contrast to the performances of Avery and Cavaliers guard Trajan
Langdon, the other Duke players taken among the first 14 picks
in last summer's draft. A 6'3" shooting guard chosen No. 11 as a
senior, Langdon averaged 4.9 points (hitting eight of 19
three-pointers) and 14.5 minutes in Cleveland's first 10 games
before suffering bruised cartilage in his right knee; last week
he underwent surgery and will miss the rest of the season. While
healthy, the 6'2" Avery, who was picked 14th by the
Timberwolves, has also been MIA, averaging just 2.1 points and
7.3 minutes.

When Avery announced he was going pro after his sophomore
season, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski publicly questioned the
decision, saying he felt Avery--and Maggette--needed more
seasoning. But Avery's biggest problem is that he's stuck behind
Terrell Brandon and Bobby Jackson, two experienced point guards
on a team fighting for playoff position. "I don't regret
[leaving Duke] at all," says Avery. "You can learn just as much
by watching as you can by playing."

On the court Avery, Langdon and Maggette have a way to go before
they catch up with Brand, a 6'8", 260-pound banger. Off the
court Brand has even had some fun at Maggette's expense. When
reports surfaced in November that a pedicure had caused
Maggette's toe infection (a story he denies), Brand called
Maggette "a pretty boy" in a Chicago newspaper. When reminded of
it recently, Brand laughed, then asked, "Corey doesn't know I
said that, does he?"

If he didn't, Elton, he just found out. You might want to turn
off your cell phone.

--Marty Burns

COLOR PHOTO: FERNANDO MEDINA/NBA PHOTOS (MAGGETTE)CRASH COURSE After a whirlwind year at Duke, Maggette has had a hectic half season as a pro.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)