There won't be a lot of guesswork for Ernie Grunfeld, the Washington Wizards' president of basketball operations, when it comes to evaluating draft prospect Josh Childress, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard from Stanford. Grunfeld knows just about everything there is to know about the lanky Pacific-10 standout who bypassed his senior year to enter the June 24 NBA draft, where he might not get past the fifth pick, owned by the Wizards.
Childress, who worked out for the Wizards at MCI Center yesterday, bears a striking resemblance to Washington forward Jared Jeffries, except Childress is three inches shorter and sports a not-quite-Ben Wallace-sized afro. He played on the same Stanford team with Grunfeld's son Danny, a junior for the Cardinal. Grunfeld has seen Childress play up close several times and has gotten to know Childress on a personal level.
"We have a personal relationship," Grunfeld said. But, "this is business, and you have to evaluate all players according to how they perform on the floor. The more information you have about a player the better, but we do a lot of research and background checks on all the players we're considering."
Childress, who averaged 15.7 points and 7.5 rebounds despite missing the early part of last season with a stress fracture in his left foot, wasn't so coy about his familiarity with Grunfeld.
"He knows me as a person, he knows my character, he knows I'm a good guy who won't bring any trouble to a team, who will come in and be ready to do whatever it takes to get it done," said Childress, an all-American selection. "He knows my game. He knows a lot of my strengths and a lot of my weaknesses because he's come to watch so many of our games. It is a business, and you have to make intelligent investments, because that's what we are, and I'm confident Mr. Grunfeld would do that -- whether it's me or it's someone else."
In attendance at Childress's workout were Grunfeld, team owner Abe Pollin and about 10 other members of the coaching and basketball operations staffs. According to a team staffer who witnessed the workout, Childress did nothing to hurt his stock. He competed against other prospects, including Arizona forward Andre Igoudala, Fordham forward Michael Haynes, Wisconsin-River Falls forward Rich Melzer and Oak Hill Academy swingman Josh Smith.
The team thought highly of Childress even before he broke a sweat, according to a league official who did not want to speak for attribution about another team's affairs. However, the Wizards aren't the only team smitten with Childress.
The expansion Charlotte Bobcats, who select one slot before Washington, are also believed to be keen on him, prompting Bobcats Coach and General Manager Bernie Bickerstaff to remark after last week's draft lottery, "I do like sitting there ahead of Ernie because we probably have some kindred spirits about the same player -- and we would be willing to talk to him about that."
According to Grunfeld, the Wizards are not locked in on Childress. Also under consideration are Igoudala, Smith, prep guard Shaun Livingston, Connecticut guard Ben Gordon, Wisconsin guard Devin Harris, Duke swingman Luol Deng and center/forward Andris Biedrins (Latvia).