B.J. Armstrong, who helped the Chicago Bulls win three straight NBA championships, looks to be the cornerstone of the Toronto Raptors' franchise.
For now, anyway.
Armstrong, far and away the best available player in Saturday's expansion draft, was the first pick overall as Toronto and the Vancouver Grizzlies took the first steps to stocking their rosters.
But Toronto general manager Isiah Thomas already has received offers from other clubs _ most notably Charlotte and Washington _ interested in trading for Armstrong, an All-Star point guard in 1994. Thomas also picked two other point guards, Keith Jennings from Golden State, and B.J. Tyler from Philadelphia.
"There's a lot of interest in B.J. Armstrong as well as there's a lot of interest for him here in Toronto," Thomas told a national TV audience watching a draft recap show.
"He's the perfect person to start off an expansion franchise with because he brings so many good qualities and I'm not so sure I want to get rid of those qualities so easily. One day, we'd like to win the NBA championship and what better person to start it with than a guy who has won three rings."
Thomas, who won two rings while playing with the Detroit Pistons, said "winning habits" and "understanding the process of winning" a championship are intangibles you can't buy.
Vancouver general manager Stu Jackson obviously agreed, explaining why he selected New York point guard Greg Anthony with his team's first choice and later Indiana guard Byron Scott, who won three titles with the Lakers.
Like Thomas, Jackson downplayed rumors that he might deal Anthony, who saw reduced playing time in a crowded Knicks backcourt.
"I would think someone like Greg Anthony, who has championship series experience and obviously has a great deal of skill and is very much a leader, is someone we obviously would want to have as part of our team," Jackson said.
"I've been very blessed as far as wins and losses in my career (in college and the NBA)," Anthony told the Associated Press. "(But) any time you can have an impact, be a part of something on the ground level, it's great. Obviously it's time to move on."
Many of the 27 players selected by the expansion teams probably won't be getting their mail forwarded to Canada. In the 1988 expansion draft, only four of Miami's 12 picks were on the inaugural season roster, while Charlotte kept 6 of 11. The next year, Minnesota had 3 of 11 expansion picks on the team. The Magic was the exception, keeping 9 of 12.
The other teams could protect eight players, not including unrestricted free agents, leaving a pool of predominantly aging stars such as Dominique Wilkins, Robert Parish and Bill Cartwright, injury-plagued players such as Rex Chapman, problem children such as Vernon Maxwell and some overpaid underachievers. No team could lose more than one player.
The Grizzlies seemingly took the biggest chances on veterans, picking among their 13: New Jersey center Benoit Benjamin, who has a big contract and has been considered an underachiever as the No. 3 pick of the 1985 draft; Cleveland guard Gerald Wilkins, who missed the season after rupturing an Achilles' tendon; and Charlotte power forward Kenny Gattison, who returned late in the year after career-threatening neck surgery.
They also went after some youngsters with little playing time such as Phoenix guard Trevor Ruffin, Lakers forward Antonio Harvey, Denver forward Reggie Slater, Atlanta forward Doug Edwards and Magic forward Rodney Dent.
Toronto's other picks included: Miami power forward John Salley, a former teammate of Thomas' who was traded to the Heat but never lived up to lofty expectations; Portland forward Jerome Kersey, who five years ago seemed to be near stardom but has seen less and less playing time; Milwaukee forward Ed Pinckney, a reliable journeyman; and Dallas power forward Doug Smith.
The Raptors also gambled on center Oliver Miller, who has battled weight problems with Phoenix and Detroit. Thomas hopes a fresh start might mean some youngsters could blossom, including Boston center Acie Earl, the 19th pick in 1994; Tyler, the 20th pick last year; and Seattle forward Dontonio Wingfield, who turned 21 Friday.
No. Player Old team Pos
1. B.J. Armstrong Chicago PG
2. T. Massenburg L.A. Clippers PF
3. Andres Guibert Minnesota PF
4. Keith Jennings Golden State PG
5. D. Wingfield Seattle PF
6. Doug Smith Dallas PF
7. Jerome Kersey Portland F
8. Zan Tabak Houston C
9. Willie Anderson San Antonio F
10. Ed Pinckney Milwaukee F
11. Acie Earl Boston C
12. B.J. Tyler Philadelphia PG
13. John Salley Miami PF
14. Oliver Miller Detroit C
1. Greg Anthony New York PG
2. Rodney Dent Orlando PF
3. Antonio Harvey L.A. Lakers PF
4. Reggie Slater Denver F
5. Trevor Ruffin Phoenix G
6. Derrick Phelps Sacramento PG
7. Larry Stewart Washington F
8. Kenny Gattison Charlotte PF
9. Byron Scott Indiana G
10. Gerald Wilkins Cleveland G
11. Benoit Benjamin New Jersey C
12. Doug Edwards Atlanta F
13. Blue Edwards Utah G