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  Fri, June 25, 2004


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Junk or masterpiece?
Bill Harris thinks new GM Rob Babcock, like his predecessors, will be judged on his first draft
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

Rob Babcock forever will be associated with Rafael Araujo.

"He's not a household name, just like I'm not a household name," Babcock said of Araujo last night.

For better or worse, new general managers always are linked historically with the results of their first drafts. It's the same syndrome that partnered Isiah Thomas and Damon Stoudamire or Glen Grunwald and Vince Carter.

Now, sometimes these partners skip hand-in-hand on the road to hoops hell. The Thomas-Stoudamire era ended explosively, while the Grunwald-Carter era already has jettisoned one of its principals, with the other aching to get out, too.

But hey, maybe 15 years from now the names Babcock and Araujo will be uttered not with ridicule, but with reverence.

Babcock, who has been the Raptors general manager for only 2 1/2 weeks, said prior to the NBA entry draft last night that he is the type of GM who does his homework, but then trusts his gut feeling once that homework is done.

And Babcock's gut led him to Araujo, a 6-foot-11 centre from Brazil who played the past two seasons at Brigham Young University.

"He is a centre and we really need a big, strong centre," Babcock said. "He won't back down from anybody and he won't be intimidated by anybody. Physically, he can step in right away. He's not the most athletic guy, but people are overplaying that. He doesn't have a Michael Jordan vertical, but he's not a stiff."

Phew. That's a relief.

Apparently, Babcock felt so calm, comfortable and confident in the Raptors war room at the Air Canada Centre that he was able to make a timely joke at the expense of his brother Pete, who was a GM for 17 years and has been working for the Raptors as an unofficial consultant.

ZANY BABCOCK BROTHERS

"When our pick was up, Pete asked me if I had called the league and told them who we were taking," Rob said. "I already had called the league, but I told Pete, 'The league calls us, right? We don't have to call them.' And Pete got all nervous and said, 'No, no, we have to call them!' Finally I told him I already had done it."

Those zany Babcock brothers. Then Rob gave Pete a wedgie. A war room never has been so jovial.

Rob Babcock said Araujo was one of four or five players the Raptors had targeted and that other teams were trying to move ahead of Toronto to take him. Of course, teams always say things like that.

"The mock drafts had (Araujo) between 14 and 18, but we weren't picking between 14 and 18, we were picking eighth," Babcock said. "You take the player you like where you pick. You don't worry about what the Internet says."

Of course, the Raptors could do little about the seven players who were taken ahead of Araujo. In order, they were Dwight Howard (Orlando), Emeka Okafor (Charlotte), Ben Gordon (Chicago), Shaun Livingston (L.A. Clippers), Devin Harris (Dallas), Josh Childress (Atlanta) and Luol Deng (Phoenix, en route to Chicago).

The Raptors' two biggest needs are big men and point guards. Would Babcock have opted for, say, a guard like Gordon or Harris had they been available?

"I'm not going to give you our rankings," Babcock said.

You can read into that whatever you want.

As the years pass, it's the players who were taken after Araujo who could come back to haunt Babcock. Among the candidates for "I told you so" status are Luke Jackson (No. 10 to Cleveland) and Kirk Snyder (No. 16 to Utah).

But Babcock can't fret over that. He's just praying Araujo has more Brad Miller or Rick Mahorn in him (Babcock's comparisons), or Karl Malone (Araujo's hero), than Aleks Radojevic or Ivan Chiriaev.

After all, when you're linked forever with someone, his ups are your ups, and his downs are your downs.

The judging of Rob Babcock begins with Rafael Araujo.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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