Very interesting, maybe LJ was not the guy they wanted all along
Pacers select Colorado center Harrison
By Jon Krawczynski
June 24, 2004
The Indiana Pacers tried feverishly to trade up and select Connecticut guard Ben Gordon in tonight's NBA draft.
When those efforts failed, Pacers president Larry Bird was only too happy to have Colorado center David Harrison fall into their laps with the 29th pick.
The night began with much speculation that the Pacers were trying to trade up with Chicago or Cleveland to grab Oregon forward Luke Jackson.
In reality, Bird said later in the evening, Gordon, who was selected by the Bulls with the third overall pick, was the player he coveted.
"If I could have got up to No. 3 and got Ben Gordon, this would have been a great draft," Bird said. "Ben Gordon's a guy that I was after and we couldn't get up to get him."
So the Pacers settled for Harrison, a 7-foot, 285-pound shot blocker with good agility and moves around the basket.
"To be at 29 and get the player we got, we're very happy," Bird said.
Harrison averaged 17.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocks as a junior at Colorado last season. He also shot 63.1 percent from the field, fourth-best in the nation, on his way to earning first-team All-Big 12 honorable mention All-America honors.
"Anytime you have an opportunity to get a 7-footer at the end of the first round who has legitimate NBA ability, it's a great opportunity," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.
Speculation swirled when Cleveland picked Jackson with the 10th pick that they would ship him to the Pacers with another player for forward Al Harrington.
But after Gordon was gone at No. 3, Bird said, so was the Pacers' motivation to make a move.
"We really just pulled back and waited for things to calm down," Bird said.
The Pacers' lack of outside shooting was the primary reason Bird was so attracted to Gordon, but the team also needed another big body after losing center Primoz Brezec to Charlotte in the expansion draft.
So Bird was delighted to select Harrison, whose large frame should help take some of the pressure off Jermaine O'Neal on the low block.
"Overall, the ability to play in this league is there, it's just how hard he wants to work to get there," Bird said.
Work ethic may be the biggest reason for Harrison's slide down the draft.
"Coming in, my work ethic was questioned, a lot of things were questioned," Harrison said. "But I'm going to go in there and show them I'm one of the hardest workers they've ever drafted."
He'll have plenty of chances to make good on that statement, given Bird and Carlisle's constant emphasis on hard work and fundamentals.
"I'm excited to introduce him to what real work in the NBA is about," Carlisle said. "I think we'll find out a lot about him."
Whatever the questions surrounding him, Harrison set some high benchmarks tonight.
"I want to be an All-Star within my first contract, I want to start my rookie year, I want to make the All-Rookie team," he said. "So I definitely have lofty goals and I'll have to work hard to get there."