I have a confession to make. I have an addiction.
It took an intervention of sorts, but I am willing to admit it: I am addicted to the NBA. Even when it’s boring. Even when it’s corrupt. Even when my team sucks. Even though I’m in the wrong continent. Even when doing so is to the direct detriment of my sleep pattern and general health. I am addicted to suckling every molecule of informative fecal matter from the grand protruding arse of NBA factoids, garnering even the most boring information about these people that I’ll never meet, who just so happen to play a sport that I love, despite my never having played a game of it. This isn’t something I’m proud of. I’d definitely rather have a gambling addiction, or a relatively sedate heroin problem. But, so be it.
Nothing is more indicative of the grip of my addiction than the annual NBA Draft. I make no secret of the fact that I don’t know anything about the potential draftees. I do not get to watch NCAA games, and so I will not pretend to know about them/formulate broad sweeping generalisations of these players based off of the opinions of others. No, that would just be silly. Instead, I prefer to typecast people based off of my first impressions, a fleeting couple of minutes to judge the worth of the person presented to us. Who doesn’t love doing this? This is why, as a species, we go speed dating. We are all prone to prejudice based on appearance. Let’s just learn to accept it and make sure that we take it out on sportsmen – the ultimate punching bag, serving only as an outsource for our prejudice, immune from retribution. (Perfectly healthy behaviour and in no way a projection of our own inner emptiness,)
This year, I went for a slightly different approach. Instead of spending the evening before the draft starts smearing my body in the veritable bounty of rumours made public, Scrooge-McDucking it up amongst their unmeasurable riches, I decided to stay off of the internet until the draft started so that there’d be an element of suspense for me in an otherwise increasingly predictable experience. (The other reason for this is that I fell asleep.)
Added drama hit the ShamBulls household on this particular draft night, as an as-yet-undiagnosed internet problem has left us with an unusably slow DSL connection, which meant that I wouldn’t be able to watch the draft online, or even listen to it. (You wouldn’t believe the number of Americans who told me to “go to a bar or something”, as their remedy for this crisis. Oh you silly, silly fools. If it were possible to watch the draft on a TV set, don’t you think I’d start there?) So, to watch the draft, and to be able to write the following anti-climactic piece, desperate measures were called for.
As a result, I drove to my friend’s house at 1am, let myself in, and watched the draft in her front room for 5 hours as she slept upstairs. Now THAT’S how you feed an addiction.
(I then sold her TV for crack.)
I finally got a stream working about 90 seconds before the Bulls made the first pick of the night, and it is from there that My Totally Boring Draft Diary begins. (Written in real time, even though it isn’t. Not sure why.)
– The first shot I see is one of the Bulls “War Room”, in which General Manager John Paxson can be seen sitting down, biting his nails, surrounded by a lot of anonymous men in anonymous suits. I have only three questions:
a) Why do we have to do this War Room tradition every year?
b) Why are we pretending that some intense last-minute decision making is going on in there, when it’s clearly a bunch of men in suits watching themselves on the telly, their minds made up hours if not weeks ago?
c) Why do we only get the War Room for the team picking first, when clearly that’s the ONE room in which nothing frantic is going to be happening?
Also, where is Steven A. Smith? He seems to have been bumped from the analysts panel, and regardless of how much or how little you think of Mark Jackson, you surely know that Smith’s removal is a good thing. Less of a good thing are Stu Scott’s glasses, recently borrowed from Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon on what we can only assume was a lost bet. Which is pretty much how Maddon got them from Joe 90 in the first place.
– Pick 1: A few seconds after leaving the war room shot, Commissioner David Stern walks up to the podium – to more cheers than he got at the NBA Finals trophy presentation – and, sure enough, he announces that the Bulls take Derrick Rose first overall in a move that shocks literally no one. Instantly we are thrown back to the green room, just in case the cameras accidentally caught something interesting. They didn’t. The Bulls men in suits awkwardly clap themselves, and a single handshake is offered up by whoever sat nearest the camera. Yep, that green room camera was totally worth it. Let’s do it again next year.
Derrick Rose’s interview offers up four interesting discoveries.
a: Steven A. Smith is seemingly doing the interviews this year. So we weren’t finally free from him after all.
b: Rose’s nickname is “Pooh”, which is odd, but somewhat synonymous with roses at least.
c: He talks slowly, deeply, with extremely simple and formulaic diction, and saying not one single solitary word worth remembering.
d: His mum has exactly the same voice as him.
This was enough to make me apprehensive about the pick. Name the last player who was completely impersonable to lead his team to a championship. It’s quite hard, isn’t it? Garnett, Shaq, Rasheed Wallace, Jordan…..I guess you have to go back as far as Olajuwon to find the most recent example, and he wasn’t that bad. And Hakeem has the ol’ English-as-a-second-language fallback that Rose will never have. This bugs me. (Tim Duncan doesn’t count, by the way, because he’s brilliant in ways that Derrick Rose never will be, and also because counting him invalidates my already-tenuous point.)
This brings us neatly into pick number two…..
– Pick 2 …..where the highly personable Michael Beasley is taken by Miami, who idly threatened not to pick him for a few weeks. If you bought into any of that bobbins, shame on you. Really. A plague on both your houses. It was the least convincing acting job since Val Kilmer in Top Secret, and if you thought there was any legitimate chance of them picking anyone other than the instant 20ppg scoring forward, then you really need to re-think how much you trust people.
Jay Bilas chimes in, touting Beasley’s “second jump ability” as soon as he opens his mouth, which seems like a weird place to begin praising the most sure-fire star in this draft. (Well, so I’ve heard.) Beasley bounds up confidently to the stage, but then lets us all down by not signing David Stern’s head.
Doris Burke – who is to spend the whole evening conducting green room interviews, flexing her biceps, and looking genuinely concerned and/or relieved at all times – interviews Beasley’s mother, Fa-TEE-ma Smith. Doris congratulate Fa-TEE-ma on raising five kids by herself – the obvious connotations of this aside – but neglects to mention the infection in her first name. I’d open with it, it’s a new one.
– Pick 3 sees the Minnesota Timberwolves – who didn’t have to try hard to suck this year – pick O.J. Mayo, who treats us to the first three-piece suit of the night, as well as Sam Mitchell’s glasses. This news breaks Jay Bilas’s heart, as his “Best Available” list sees Brook Lopez confidently listed as the third best player in this draft. As Jeff Van Gundy comforts Bilas off-camera (maybe), Stu Scott asks the panel about the Jermaine O’Neal trade.
Woah, hang on: Jermaine O’Neal trade? Can someone please elaborate? Some of us were asleep and missed this. Don’t assume that we know. Help me!!!
(No one elaborates. I am left floundering.)
There follows a brief O.J. Mayo interview, in which he awkwardly stares directly at the camera while describing how he will do whatever it takes to help the team win (a cliché that’s currently appeared in all three draftee interviews), before we cut to a video conference with an extremely tired-looking Pat Riley overdubbing a video clip of Michael Beasley’s vertical leap test. Hasn’t anybody told them? Beasley is 6’9! He’s too small to be a power forward in the NBA. Even I know that, and I don’t know anything. (Note: that bit about 6’9 being too short? That was satire.)
– Russell Westbrook is chosen by Seattle with Pick 4, in a move that draws audible stares from the panel, and a startled noise of bewilderment from the crowd. Jay Bilas confidently weighs in to fill the airtime void, exclaiming “who would have thought, this time last year, that Westbrook was a possible top four draft pick?”. He probably could have changed “year” to “week”.
Stephen A’s interview with Westbrook lasts for precisely one question, before he is forced to throw it over to Doris Burke, who is subconsciously challenging Kevin Durant to an arm wrestle. The television executives believe that we, Joe Public, really want to hear Kevin Durant’s views on his team’s decision to draft Westbrook. And if Durant had something negative to say, they’d be right. But, unfortunately, this didn’t happen. Durant smiled, said words so meaningless that I can’t even remember them, and the world continued to spin. While I love the drama of the draft, purely for the way that the entire NBA landscape can change within four hours, it could definitely be better television. Maybe there could be some monster truck racing between picks.
– Pick 5: Kevin Love goes to Memphis. I guarantee you, GUARANTEE YOU, that I thought of the Gay/Love jokes before you did. That thing was instantaneous, I swear to God. As was the subsequent Hakim Warrick for Luther Head trade idea. Stern hadn’t even got the word “Love” out and I was concocting “Love Gay Head” blog posts. Good times. Between Kevin Love and Lopez twins, we have the outlines of a fine All-Porn Star Rookie Team here.
The subsequent Kevin Love analysis has warning flags all over it. Bilas begins the ultimate he’s-not-that-good cliché round-up (“he knows how to play the game, he has a great feel for the game, and he’s strong”), and as footage, ESPN choose to show Love’s ability to hit 80-foot three-pointers, before flashing up the polarizing caption “Must Improve: Explosion Ability”. Is that even possible? I’d be worried about this pick right now if I was a Grizzlies fan. Add it to the list of things to worry about down there.
Then, things improve. First, we learn that Kevin Love’s uncle Mike is the lead singer of the Beach Boys (I looked up whether Mike’s name was Mike Love, and it was, so that’s good news), and then both Kevin and the rest of “The Love Family” are interviewed. Kevin shows himself to be eloquent, friendly, and not firmly adhered to the interview chair like most other draftees, while his father Stan Love nervously twirls what looks like an iPod during his turn, apparently threatened by Doris Burke. Following this, Stu Scott tries to build up the drama, for the hometown Knicks are picking next, but he is undermined slightly by the camera cutting to a shot of a Knick fan yawning. This was a good montage.
– Pick 6: The Knicks surprise and annoy their travelling faithful by picking Danilo Gallinari to a resounding chorus of boos, which Gallinari overlooks with good grace. Even the panel had to backpedal, having talked about the Knicks selecting every candidate other than Danilo before the pick was made. Fran Fraschilla interjects with the soothing declaration that Gallinari “will not be a superstar”, which didn’t help to assuage the rising angst of the gathered New Yorkers. (At #6, wouldn’t you at least pick a guy with an outside chance of this happening? If only a faint one? Especially if you’re the Knicks? And why another small forward when they can’t shift two of the four that they already have? Still, it’s good news for the current Jared Jeffries bet that I have got going, which I stand to win unless Jeffries averages 9.5 points a game. Basically I’ve won it already.)
Stu Scott tries to brighten proceedings, by announcing that Gallinari already has a personalised shoe, called the “Reebok Rooster”, helpfully pointing out that “Galli” is Italian for rooster. Thus, if you didn’t already know, Gallinari is forever after known as “The Italian Cock”. Good times.
(EDIT – “Nari” is an Italian name, meaning “Happy”. Thus, Danilo Gallinari is, literally, Cock Happy. I’m going to tell this joke over a million times in the coming days.)
SAS’s interview with Gallinari focuses on little else but the booing Knicks fans, which seems unfair. (You could say that Steven A. Smith was trying to manhandle The Cock. In fact, I will say that.) Gallinari copes with it well, citing the fact that he will win them over when they see that he “plays hard”, a cliché now invoked of five of the six interviews so far. I’d like to see more “I will give it only the merest token effort during my time here” interviews, just to mix it up a little.
White jacket, black trousers, black and white stripy shirt with a plain white collar. How very…..something.
It is pointed out that five of the first seven players chosen are college freshman, but at no point does anyone mention why. (Has this 19-year-old age limit really changed anything?) There follows an Eric Gordon montage, featuring him shooting jump shots from around his right ear, a commentary that describes him as a small two guard, plus a screenshot that cites “ball-handling” as a weakness. So my first impressions of Eric Gordon are unflattering at best.
We leave this high octane moment to cut to someone called Wendi Nix interviewing new Knicks president Donnie Walsh (I see what they did there) who is wearing Pacers colours. Walsh, looking a lot like a Mafia capo tonight, lets down this image when he speaks without an Italian-American New York drawl. Still, he’s in the right place for it now. Maybe he can develop one.
Jeff Van Gundy explains that the Knicks don’t need point guard help because they have Stephon Marbury. Everybody is stunned into a submissive silence.
– Pick 8: Joe Alexander goes to Milwaukee. I don’t know who he is, or what he’s about, but I’m calling him “Diamond”, because all people with the name Joe get that prefix. Similarly, all Petes are “Pistol”, all Daves are “Dynamite” and all Marios are “Super”. These things write themselves.
The compulsory montage offers the viewer the chance to see Joe Alexander’s baby pictures, which must be something that he consented to, but for reasons that I cannot possibly fathom. Clips of his play show that Alexander is a keen proponent of The Grandad Run™, the ultimate warning sign for any draftee. (FYI, The Grandad Run™ is a run defined by absolutely no arm movement, even when running at full tilt.) Name two players who star in this league, even when burdened with The Grandad Run™. You can’t. Yao Ming is one, but the second….he just doesn’t exist.
Alexander then changes the very fabric of society in his interview, by saying that he will “work hard”, as opposed to the usual “play hard”. SAS responds, saying “you know the trade that the Bucks made today”, and before I have time to excitedly mouth “NO!”…..my online streams cuts out. Terrific. So I’m still none the wiser. Note to self – don’t miss the build-up next year.
– Pick 9: After a quick scramble, the feed comes back barely in time to see Jay Bilas plugging Brook Lopez once again, just for Charlotte to disappoint him by picking D.J. Augustin. The pick is greeted by a consensus congratulations from everyone except Jay, who openly wonders why Charlotte wouldn’t go big, but instead went for the 5’11 guy. Jeff Van Gundy begins his analysis with the sentence “the big thing is, what are they going to do with Gerald Wallace,” thereby making it painfully obvious that he knows absolutely nothing about D.J. Augustin. By the way, I always get a jolly when I find out that I’m taller than an NBA player, and I don’t know why.
The fact that Richard Jefferson was traded earlier today is idly mentioned in the build-up to the Nets picking tenth. Would someone please put me out of my misery and tell me about all these trades, please? Was Jefferson traded to Jermaine O’Neal or something? What have the Bucks got to do with this? Don’t ever assume the public are clever. We’re not. And we have afternoon naps sometimes.
– Pick 10: Brook Lopez goes. Jay Bilas lives.
Jay Bilas’s main selling point on Brook Lopez is how “tough” he is. One question – if you’re far bigger than all of your peers, more athletic, and also “tough”, why would you only average eight rebounds a game?
A lot is also made of the fact that his twin brother Robin Lopez will be drafted at some point tonight too, making them the third set of brothers currently in the NBA (but soon to be one of four – read on, captivated viewer!). This, when combined with the well-defined fact that half of the NBA is in some way the other half’s cousin, makes the NBA one great big family love-in. Who said that the sport had lost its appeal to the white American audience?
Someone FINALLY throws up a caption showing the Bucks trade mentioned earlier: Milwaukee acquires Richard Jefferson for Bobby Simmons and the Chinese anticlimax, Yi Jianlian. In the unlikely event that you hadn’t noticed, that trade is staggeringly bad for New Jersey. You mean to tell me a 21-foot jump shooter and a contract so bad that it’s not even expiring is the best value that you can get for a 28-year-old 22 ppg scorer in the prime of his career? Really? You couldn’t even get a future pick out of them? Not even a second? A meagre second wouldn’t offset the rest of the deal, but you surely need to leverage at least something.
– Pick 11 sees Jerry D. Bayless go to Indiana, in a move that baffles the announcers, who proclaim that Indiana doesn’t need a point guard. Either they weren’t watching last year, or Jermaine O’Neal was dealt for a point guard. Rather than wait it out like the Jefferson thing, I looked it up, and saw that O’Neal had been traded to Toronto for T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Macy O’Baston, and the number 17 pick. Good trade for Indy, that. Too much from Toronto, but it might be all right. Scott helpfully points out that Jamaal Tinsley is now “for sale”, the implication being that he wasn’t before.
In his interview, Bayless says he’ll play wherever he is needed. So that’s nice. Bayless is apparently really good at golf. So that helps. He’s also apparently not very good at passing, but really, which of these two skills do you need more in your point guard? It’s clearly the golf.
Now, when I say that I don’t know anything about the draftees in any given year, I’ve usually at least HEARD of them. With Jason Thompson, I am stumped. I’ve never heard of him, nor his college (Rider), nor even his conference (the MAC or something). It would be immature of me to hold my ignorance against Thompson, but what else am I to do? This is a night for snap judgements and first impressions, after all.
David Stern tells us that Thompson is “not here”. So it follows either this wasn’t a ‘promise pick’ by Sacramento, or Thompson declined the offer to turn up, as he didn’t want several thousand people staring at him, mouthing “who the hell is that?”. That seems reasonable.
A table is quickly fashioned by ESPN, showing us that the selection of Thompson ties the record for the lowest that the first senior in any draft has ever been drafted. His company on that table is made up of Melvin Ely, Rafael Araujo and Acie Law. A list with those three in it can’t ever be good.
– Pick 13: Brandon Rush is selected by the Portland Trail Blazers, ostensibly to back up the back-up to his namesake, Brandon Roy. So confusing is the names thing that Stephen A. Smith immediately asks Rush what it will be like to back up Brandon Rush, which I claim as vindication. This marks the second time tonight that a pair of brothers have joined the league, as Brandon’s brother Kareem Rush is an Indiana Pacer for at least five more days.
At this moment, my feed cuts out again, freezing irreparably on a screen that shows “Sacramento: Pick 12 (Jason Thompson). Fan Grade: F”. Tough crowd.
(You know, there’s only been one Euro drafted so far. Maybe that trend of picking completely unready Euros way too high is finally gone for good.)
– Pick 14: I missed pick #14, busy trying to find a new stream, when Golden State drafted somebody named Anthony Randolph. This marks the second straight year that they have drafted a 6’10, 200lb forward.
Dick Vitale makes his first appearance of the evening, in one of draft night’s more annoying traditions. I have no problem with Dick Vitale – his name is Dick Vitale, after all, and no amount of deliberate mispronunciation of his surname will hide this fact. And he’s passionate. But do people really have to encourage the “baby” thing? Let the baby have his bottle, but don’t make the problem worse. We may as well get Scotty Nguyen in the booth if this is how it’s going to be.
– Robin Lopez goes to Phoenix at Pick 15. That leads to this happening:
And that’s unfortunate.
Also, let’s get this out of the way now. Robin Lopez has big hair. OK? We get this. As a result, it is now obligatory to compare him to the other players with big hair, Anderson Varejao and Joakim Noah. Brian May. Charles the First. So let’s get it all out of the way early so that we need not bother with it again.
(By the way, his mum is called Deborah Ledford. Ledford is a baaaaaad name for a basketball player.)
Coming up soon: Part 2. I only broke it down into two parts because, as you can see – it’s way, way too long. But I’m not sorry.