The most uneventful moment of yesterday's National Basketball Association draft came at the start, when Patrick Ewing was formally embraced by the New York Knicks as the first player chosen. From there it was a chase for the remaining big men, with Indiana, picking second, getting Oklahoma's 6-foot-9 Wayman Tisdale and the Los Angeles Clippers selecting Creighton's 7-0 Benoit Benjamin.
Seven centers and 10 forwards were chosen in the first round of a draft that was dominated by big men. Seattle followed the Clippers by choosing 6-7 forward Xavier McDaniel of Wichita State fourth; Atlanta grabbed SMU's 7-0 Jon Koncak with the No. 5 pick; Sacramento (formerly Kansas City) made 6-11 Joe Kleine of Arkansas the No. 6 choice; and Villanova's 6-9 Ed Pinckney went to Phoenix on the 10th pick.
Five guards and two guard-forwards were chosen in the first round, including St. John's Chris Mullin, who went to the Golden State Warriors as the seventh player picked, and Loyola of Chicago's Alfredrick Hughes, who was a surprise early choice by the San Antonio Spurs, going 14th.
One other surprise was the Cleveland Cavaliers' selection of 6-9 forward Charles Oakley of Virginia Union with the ninth pick. Oakley then was traded to Chicago for Memphis State's 6-10 Keith Lee in a four-player deal. Lee, the 11th player chosen, was sent with guard Ennis Whatley to the Cavaliers in exchange for Oakley and guard Calvin Duncan of Virginia Commonwealth, the 30th player chosen.
The Cavaliers weren't done, though. They selected John (Hot Rod) Williams, the Tulane center who was implicated in the recent point-shaving scandal, in the second round. Williams has pleaded innocent to two counts of violating Louisiana state laws on sports bribery and three counts of conspiracy to violate sports bribery laws.
"We felt the possible rewards we could gain are worth the risk," said Cavaliers General Manager Harry Weltman. NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a memo last week indicating Williams could be a risky pick.
"We live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty," Cavaliers Coach George Karl said.
Dallas put an international touch on the day, selecting West German guard-forward Detlef Schrempf of the University of Washington as the eighth pick. The Mavericks then went to centers, taking 7-0 Canadian Bill Wennington of St. John's, the 16th player selected, and Indiana's 7-2 German center Uwe Blab, the 17th player picked.
There were plenty of other countries represented. The Bullets selected 7-6 Sudanese Manute Bol. Atlanta took a Soviet, Arvidas Sabonis, in the fourth round, the 77th player chosen. New Jersey was without a first-round pick but opted for Georgia Tech's Haitian center Yvon Joseph on the second round and Fernando Martin, a forward from the Spanish Olympic team.
Other trades had the Bullets sending forward Greg Ballard to Golden State for the Warriors' second-round pick this year and next, and Rick Mahorn and Mike Gibson (Washington had his rights) to Detroit for forward Dan Roundfield.
The Spurs chose Hughes, a third-team all-America, after striking a deal with the Bulls for center-forward Steve Johnson in exchange for forward Gene Banks.
Ewing became the Knicks' first pick after the May 12 lottery, when the seven teams that did not make the playoffs drew for draft order. The Georgetown all-America watched yesterday's proceedings at the Felt Forum in New York. Asked if there would be any problem in signing a contract with the Knicks, he said, "Ask my lawyer."
Knicks executive Dave DeBusschere said negotiations with ProServ's David Falk would begin immediately. "We are looking forward to an amicable and speedy negotiation," DeBusschere said. "We don't anticipate any problems."
Ewing was cheered by the crown at Madison Square Garden's Felt Forum watching the draft. "I'm used to hearing boos in New York," Ewing said. "It was a little unusual."
The Pacers chose who many experts believe to be a future all-star in Tisdale, who in three years at Oklahoma became the ninth-leading scorer in NCAA history with 2,661 points. Indiana Coach George Irvine had said he would take either Tisdale or Benoit, but the Creighton center was considered less advanced.
"The biggest reason I came out early was I had three guys on me right from the tipoff," Tisdale said. "I won't see that type of coverage in the pros. Like Michael Jordan (of the Bulls), I'll score more in the pros."
The Hawks may have acquired some much-needed muscle in Koncak, who averaged 17 points for SMU. The acquisition of Koncak makes 7-1 Tree Rollins expendable. Hawks Coach Mike Fratello said the team is entertaining offers for the eight-year veteran. "We're willing to listen," he said. "We've had a couple of Jesse Jameses try to hold us up. We'll do it only if it helps."
Oakley, the Division II player of the year, averaged 24 points at Virginia Union, which went 31-1 last season. The decision to take the 6-9 forward was greeted with boos by 1,400 fans who gathered to watch the draft at a Cleveland hotel, hoping the Cavaliers would get Mullin. But Golden State, picking seventh overall, grabbed the UPI player of the year. There had been rumors that the Knicks would try to acquire Mullin.
"I would like to have stayed in New York," he said, "but now I'm going to make the most of the situation.