And ... action: Draft Diary XIV
One night before the 2010 NBA draft, I was reading mock drafts and Googling various prospects when the Sports Gal casually asked, "You care if I pay-per-view something?"
Before I knew it, she was ordering Robert Pattinson's movie "Remember Me." She loves Pattinson. So does my daughter, who brings a "Twilight" lunchbox to school every day with his face on it. My house is all Pattinson all the time. When I'm away, my wife and daughter lie in bed and fall asleep to "Twilight" every night. I stay out of it. I'm in six fantasy leagues; it's not like I can make fun of someone else's obsessions.
Just know that I'd never seen Pattinson act until "Remember Me." He's like a cross between Keanu Reeves, Tommy Wiseau and every athlete who ever made an "Entourage" cameo. He's fantastically, historically, mesmerizingly bad. He's so bad at acting that I couldn't stop watching the movie. I found myself rooting for him. Come on, Pattinson, you can pull this off -- just give us one scene. When the movie mercifully ended, I had the following exchange with my wife.
-- Me: "You realize how terrible an actor he is, right?"
-- Her: "He's young. He'll get better. He has potential. He's like one of your NBA picks."
Not a far-fetched analogy. According to her logic, Pattinson is like Derrick Favors: young, raw, all the physical tools, no polish at all. I see him more like Wesley Johnson: a fourth-year junior who can't get much better than he already is. Only one of us is right. You don't know for sure. You can't know for sure. That's the beauty of the NBA draft. If only she had said that Pattinson had tremendous upside. Without further ado, Draft Diary XIV.
4:30 p.m. PT: We're coming to you live from the New and Improved Man Cave. I'm joined by my pooch Rufus, a bottle of SmartWater and a bag of stale Baked Lays. My favorite moment from the pregame show with Stu Scott, Jon Barry, Jeff Van Gundy and Jay Bilas: Bilas ran down his "Best 15 Available Players" in the following order: 5, 4, 3, 2, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11. I'm still confused. Also confusing: ESPN using Michael Buble's romantic swing music as the theme for tonight's telecast. I can't tell if we're drafting players or trying to roofie them.
4:31: Our first four GMs on the clock: Ernie Grunfeld (Washington), Ed Stefanski (Philly), Rod Thorn (Jersey), David Kahn (Minnesota) or, as they're better known, "Mount Duncemore." Here's how the picks should go: John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins. We'll see. Kahn is the wild card. The man fell out of the comedy sky. I'm excited about another draft with him. Titillated, even.
4:32: David Stern is booed by the New York crowd, calls the fans unruly, then cups his ears for boos after reminding everyone that the Lakers won the 2010 Finals by beating the Celtics. He's slowly morphing into the Mr. McMahon of the NBA. I love it. We might see him make a catty "By the way, I hope LeBron signs with Chicago" joke before the night's over.
4:34: ESPN whets Washington fans' excitement for their No. 1 pick by showing highlights of the Kwame Brown pick in 2001. That was downright cruel. Speaking of cruel, Portland fired GM Kevin Pritchard an hour before the draft. Hey, he's only a top-seven GM -- there are plenty of those. Does anyone else think Al Davis died a year ago and took over Paul Allen's body?
4:37: Bilas uses the word "tremendous" three times in a minute. I think he likes Wall. I'm almost positive. By the way, Washington's draft room had so many people in it that they may have had to hire a bouncer.
4:40: Mark Jones asks Wall what it means to be the first Kentucky player picked No. 1 overall. Um, I'm pretty sure it means nothing. He was there for eight months. We've had "Bachelor" relationships last longer than John Wall lasted at Kentucky.
4:43: The Sixers are on their fifth coach in five years (a guy who hasn't coached a playoff game since 1997); they never fired the GM who gave Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand a combined $160 million; they don't have a single trade chip; they won't have cap space for three more years; and the last time they picked second in an NBA draft they took Keith Van Horn. Needless to say, their fans are pumped. They take Evan Turner. Phew. Smart pick. Not as much potential as Favors or Cousins, but he'll be better in the pros than people realize because he can play multiple positions. He even wore a gray suit with a bright red tie that goes nicely with his blue and red Sixers hat. I like him.
4:45: Stern's microphone is being left on when he greets every draft pick. Who else is hoping for a "mike stays on when he takes a leak" moment, a la Leslie Nielsen in "The Naked Gun"? Would that be the funniest moment in NBA draft history?
(The answer? No. It's still when Darius Miles gave Stern a full-body, belt-to-belt, genitals-to-genitals hug during the 2000 draft. That's the funniest draft moment ever. And also the funniest moment ever.)
4:49: Our first draft for Mutant Russian Mark Cuban and the Nyets! They grab Derrick Favors, the Georgia Tech freshman who might be the best 2010 rookie when everything's said and done. (Think Antonio McDyess pre-ACL surgery.) He played for a poorly coached team with bad guards, he's ambidextrous (or, as Mike Tyson would say, "amphibious") and as the 2010 Finals just showed, you need size to win titles. Favors and Brook Lopez are a nice start. My big concern: Does anyone else worry that Avery Johnson could single-handedly turn Favors into Kwame Brown 2.0 just by screaming at him in a squeaky voice for eight straight months?
4:49: Hold on, Josh Howard and Devin Harris are still nodding intently.
4:50: Mark Jones asks Favors about his "mentorship/pupil" relationship with Chris Bosh. This could be a long night.
4:53: On the clock: Our featured speaker for "Atrocious GM Summit II" next February, the one, the only, David Kahn! He's giving a lecture titled "How To Drive A Potential Franchise Guy To Europe For Three Years, Pass On Stephen Curry For An Undersized Point Guard Who Can't Guard Anyone, Then Convince Your Fans That Everything's Fine." We're delighted to have him.
REVIEW: EVAN TURNER
I asked Mark Titus (Evan Turner's former OSU teammate, creator of the Club Trillion blog and a recent Globetrotters pick) to review Turner's draft night performance. Here's what he wrote:
Heading into last night's NBA draft, I was certain of two things about my former teammate: He has by far the best nickname of anyone in the draft (The Villain), and he is an avid fan of Lady Gaga. Knowing this made me uncontrollably excited about what he might wear, because a great nickname always comes with a little bit of swagger and any serious Lady Gaga fan just might be crazy enough to try to dress like her. Then I realized there was virtually no chance of Evan going over the top with his wardrobe, because pretty much nothing about Evan could be described as "flashy." On the court, the bread and butter of his game is his midrange jump shot (unexciting yet effective). Off the court, he's a well-mannered and respectful kid who can be found reading books, watching film, or working on his game in the gym on weekend nights. This substance-over-style attitude was reflected last night in demeanor and dress.
Evan only got flashy with his watch and custom Ohio State cufflinks, but virtually nobody saw them because his long sleeves and suit jacket covered them. He pushed the Ohio State theme by wearing a gray suit with a scarlet red tie, but to all non-Ohio State fans, it looked boring compared to Wesley Johnson's suit. While Al-Farouq Aminu regrettably wore glasses that made him look like Squints from "The Sandlot," Evan wore the same prescription glasses that he's worn for years. These glasses paired with this year's atrocious draft hats made Evan quite possibly the first top 2 pick in NBA history to also look like the draft's biggest dweeb. Sure it wasn't the Gaga-esque look I was hoping for, but Evan will probably tell you that he dressed that way because he didn't want to try to make the draft about him. One thing's for sure: He's come a long way from the hot-headed college freshman who, when told to wear dress clothes to team events, would show up in Jordans and blue jeans.
4:54: Minnesota's pick: Wesley Johnson, the Syracuse star and owner of tonight's best look (a blue blazer with checkered pants). The good news: He fills a need for the Wolves (a small forward who can rebound, shoot 3s and play right away) and puts every Syracuse fan on the sparsely filled Minnesota bandwagon (since they have Jonny Flynn as well). The bad news: For a team that's rebuilding and playing the "We're waiting for Rubio" card, he turns 23 in July and averaged just 16 points a game as a 22-year-old junior. He will never, ever make an All-Star team. So I don't know. You're telling me that Cousins (age 19) isn't going to be a better player in 2014 than Johnson is right now? Safe pick. A little too safe.
4:56: Highlight of the draft so far:
-- Mark Jones: "What did [Jonny Flynn] tell you about Minnesota?"
-- Johnson: "I mean, he loved it."
(Translation: "He loved running the triangle offense on a 17-win team that has no direction and plays in freezing cold weather! He kept telling me, 'I wish it were colder and we were winning even less!'")
5:00: The case for Cousins dropping to No. 5: He's so immature that (A) he's been most compared to Rasheed Wallace and Derrick Coleman; (B) Cousins and Minnesota would have been a worse match than Cisco Adler and Mischa Barton; and (C) John Thompson defended him as a top-five pick by saying, "You can calm down a fool before you can resurrect a corpse." Any time someone uses the word "fool" as he's defending you, there are probably some major red flags.
The case for Cousins haunting Philly, Jersey and especially Minnesota: He's the draft's most polished big man and a guaranteed 20/10 guy in the pros if his head's right. And also, in 2010: (A) Zach Randolph made an All-Star team; (B) Lamar Odom won his second straight title; and (C) Ron Artest made the biggest shot in Game 7 of the Finals. If there was ever a year to roll the dice with Cousins, it's 2010. We have a crapload of head-case momentum right now.
5:00: The Kings smartly grab him at No. 5. Cousins and Tyreke Evans in back-to-back drafts? Yikes. Major talent haul for a small-market team. I wish the Stern/Cousins handshake could have lasted for 25 minutes. Stern sized him up the way a lion looks at a potentially troublesome cub. That was great.
5:02: ESPN's graphics guy gives Cousins "MUST IMPROVE: MATURITY." Knew that was coming and it still made me laugh. That was like giving Ben Roethlisberger "MUST IMPROVE: OFF-FIELD CONDUCT."
5:04: John Calipari tries to claim with a straight face that, since Kentucky might have five first-round picks, it's the biggest day in the history of Kentucky basketball. Yeah, I'm sure it beats winning the title in 1996 or 1998. Go away.
5:05: Cousins on the general public's biggest misconception about him: "They think I'm a monster off the floor, I'm nothing like that. I'm just a kid that likes to have fun." I mean, he does have the nickname "Boogie." He might be right. By the way, I love whenever someone defends a head case (like we've seen with Cousins this past year) with the "He doesn't drink or do drugs" defense. Oh, even better so he's NATURALLY a head case?
5:06: Van Gundy sums up the Cousins conundrum perfectly: "You need to rebound the ball, you need an interior presence to win in this league. You can get a guy in shape. If he loves the game, he'll get in shape. If he loves to play, he'll be a good teammate. And you can't find guys who can rebound the ball like this guy does." Translation: In the right situation, with the right coach and supporting cast, this guy could be a monster. Maybe Minnesota passing on him was a blessing.
(PS: Sorry to spend so much time on Cousins, but he's the most important 2010 rookie. If he makes it -- a big if, but IF he makes it -- that's the home run pick. I like John Wall, but you can count the impact under-30 bigs like Cousins on one hand. And you wouldn't need to use all five fingers. I mean, Andrew Bogut made an All-NBA team last season. So yeah.)
5:07: Golden State grabs Baylor shot-blocker Ekpe Udoh. It's going to be fun when Don Nelson plays him for three weeks, Udoh puts up huge rebounding/blocks stats, there's a fantasy hoops stampede for him and then Nellie inexplicably benches him for the next three months.
5:09: Just found out that Rasheed Wallace is definitely retiring. Gotta say, I respect Sheed for knowing when to call it quits and then waiting two more years, getting two more paychecks, and finally calling it quits.
(Follow-up note: Apparently he's doing one last noble act, not filing his retirement papers right away so the Celtics can trade his cap figure for another player which, ironically, gives him real value to teams looking to dump payroll and/or get under the tax. This reminds me of a dying Darth Vader being nice to Luke Skywalker at the end of "Return of the Jedi." I don't know where this is coming from, but thank you, Darth!)
5:12: Nice pick at No. 7: Georgetown's Greg Monroe (a quality passing big man) to Detroit (which desperately needed a power forward). Match.com made that pick. That's followed by a Flip Saunders interview that almost made me flatline. We're on pace for the most boring draft I can remember. Can you give me a drunk dad, a bad suit, a pithy Stern comment anything???
5:18: Here come the Clippers at No. 8! Whose ACL is getting blown out this year??? And it's Al-Farouq Aminu, the Wake Forest forward who kinda looks like Urkel. He sure seems happy for someone who's about to end up in a full-body cast. Nice pick for the Clips; they could use energy legs off the bench. As long as they're not dangling in the air over a hospital bed. And yes, if you're talking about the No. 7 pick in a draft being "a good energy guy off the bench," it's a pretty good bet that the draft sucks.
5:19: E-mail exchange with my buddy JackO:
-- Me: Did you know Al-Farouq Aminu means "the chief has arrived" in Nigerian?
-- JackO: "I'm screaming 'Al-Farouq Aminu!!!' during my next 25 orgasms."
5:26: Bilas says Hayward reminds him of "Luke Jackson coming out a couple of years ago." According to my Jay Bilas Thesaurus, that means "I think he'll be out of the league in three years."
5:31: I present two athletic perimeter guys for you, both freshmen:
• Xavier Henry (born March 1991), 2-guard: a top-3 college recruit in 2009, started on the No. 1 college team (regular season), averaged 13.4 ppg (27.5 mpg), shot 45.5 percent and 41.8 percent on 3s, didn't get a ton of touches on a veteran team, did everything he could to fit in.
• Paul George (born May 1990), small forward: not a top-100 college recruit, best player on a 15-18 team in the WAC, averaged 16.8 ppg (33.2 mpg), shot 42 percent and 35 percent on 3s, played inferior competition.
Whom did the Pacers take? Naturally, George. Did I mention that their best player (Danny Granger) is a small forward? I love the NBA.
5:32: Bilas just mentioned that George was 6-foot-8 with a 6-11 wingspan. According to the Google search I just did, the human wingspan is normally 1.07 times a person's height. So if George is 80 inches, and his wingspan is 83 inches, actually, that's a wingspan about 2½ inches smaller than it should be. I'm glad I'm here.
5:36: New Orleans picks Kansas center Cole Aldrich at No. 11, then deals him to Oklahoma City (our first trade!) with Mo Peterson's expiring contract for the No. 21 and No. 26 picks. I would have loved that move for OKC if Aldrich didn't measure 6-9 in street clothes during the combines; that triples the potential that he's just a shorter Joel Przybilla. On the bright side, he can bang the boards, set some picks, make a jump hook and give you six fouls. I know, I know try to contain your excitement. Even the trades are boring in this draft. The fans are so zoned out they can't even remember to boo David Stern anymore.
5:42: First funny line of the night from Van Gundy (after Aldrich's interview): "[The Hornets] needed to trade him, he just compared Sherron Collins to Chris Paul."
5:44: Memphis happily takes Henry at No. 12. That was like last year's Hasheem Thabeet pick, only the complete opposite. Heather Cox quickly interviews Henry's dad under the NBA's little-known "If any lottery pick has a dad at the draft, you have to interview him" rule. By the way, Memphis is close to realizing a dream of mine: They could start three lefties next season (Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Henry). I've always wanted to see an all-lefty crunch-time five; we're 60 percent there.
5:45: Forgot to mention, it's an emotional day: the 25th anniversary of Karl Malone's draft-day outfit!
5:48: Our "draft capologist" Tom Penn (the former assistant Blazers GM) explains how New Orleans got under the cap by dumping Peterson's body. Er, contract. I'm pretty sure I could have been our draft capologist while doing this diary and wearing jogging pants in my house. Why wasn't this job posted by HR? I would have applied!
5:49: Power forwards for the past two picks: Ed Davis to Toronto (decent value this late) and Patrick Patterson to Houston (liked that one). Patterson needed only three years to graduate from Kentucky. As someone who barely graduated college in four years, I'm always impressed when someone does it in three. I see him trying to learn Chinese from Yao Ming on team charters and stuff. Always fun to have smart guys on a team.
6:01: Stern blesses Milwaukee's pick of Larry Sanders by saying "Larry is not here." Hey, now.
6:03: Just saw a shot of the Minnesota draft room. How much would you pay for a live feed of Portland's draft room? Do you think Kevin Pritchard looks like the two guys tied to the pipes in "Saw" by now?
6:05: The T-Wolves take a second forward (Nevada's Luke Babbitt) at No. 16. On the plus side: He was a 50-40-90 guy in college. On the minus side: They're already horrible defensively, and now they're taking someone who can't guard anyone and putting him in front of two undersized big guys who can't block shots or protect him. I'm feeling a trade. Kahn's been quiet. He's like an earthquake -- he hits when you least expect it.
6:09: So Chicago traded No. 17 to Washington with Kirk Hinrich in return for the cap space to pursue LeBron and Bosh. This was funny because just four months ago the Knicks traded Jordan Hill (last year's No. 8 pick) and their 2012 No. 1, and agreed to swap No. 1s with Houston in 2011 so the Rockets would take Jared Jeffries off their hands (who makes less money than Hinrich, by the way) so they could also pursue LeBron and Bosh. Might be time to take Donnie Walsh to the GM vet and put him down.
6:10: I had my "Fitting that his year's Token French First-Rounder (Kevin Seraphin) didn't show up for the draft during the same week France didn't show up for the World Cup" joke all ready to go, but he actually showed up (Chicago picked him for Washington). Too bad.
6:11: I can't decide if I should be writing down Stu's obscure statistics or not. Is there a quiz after the telecast? Let me know. By the way, you know this draft sucks because I'm now irrationally excited that the Celtics (picking 19th) might get either Eric Bledsoe (my favorite remaining prospect) or Avery Bradley (ESPNU's No. 1 college recruit just 12 months ago) as Rondo insurance. I thought we'd have dreck left in this spot. This almost makes up for blowing a double-digit lead in the second half of Game 7 of the 2010 Finals against the NBA team I hate the most. Oh, wait, it doesn't at all. Not even a little.
6:15: Somebody could splice a pretty nice compilation on YouTube of Van Gundy (clearly bored by the lack of excitement tonight, and I don't blame him even a little) staring vacantly at Stu or Jon Barry after every one of their points. It's my favorite running subplot. This should be a game show: "Say Something Interesting Enough During A Deadly Boring Draft To Get Jeff Van Gundy To Blink."
6:16: Bledsoe's off the board. Damn. OKC just took him. Typically smart move by them. I'm starting to hate Sam Presti. Make a mistake already, Sam. If there were 30 GMs like you, I'd have nothing to write about. Meanwhile, Ric Bucher reports on another deal: Martell Webster to Minnesota, Ryan Gomes and Luke Babbitt to Portland. I knew it! Gotta say, nice move by Kahn! I'm a Webster fan. Good character guy, good defender, type of guy Minnesota needed.
6:17: Did I just compliment a Chris Wallace pick and a David Kahn trade in the last 30 minutes? I think I need some coffee.
6:19: Come on Celtics Avery Bradley Avery Bradley Avery Bradley.
6:20: YES! Good value. And by the way, if you're betting on a No. 1 overall high school prospect whose stock dropped a little after one college year, you want it to be for a reason like, "Yeah, he played at Texas for Rick Barnes, OF COURSE his stock dropped!"
6:22: Just called my dad for his Bradley take. "Did you hear them say he was ranked higher than John Wall heading into college last year?" he asks. Dad and I are moving on. We're totally over that Game 7 loss. As far as you know.
6:30: Buch reports on another trade: OKC traded the rights to Bledsoe to the Clippers for a future No. 1 because of the "any time you can trade for a future No. 1 from the Clips, you have to do it" rule. It's just the rule. Perfect third guard for the Clips. I'm a fan. By the way, the biggest upset tonight: Andy Katz (a +600 underdog) used more hair gel tonight than Bucher.
6:33: Weird one for me: I've learned never to doubt San Antonio's picks, but it just took someone I had penciled in as a bust (Oklahoma State's James Anderson). This is awkward.
6:38: As if Portland fans weren't bummed out enough about their owner losing his mind and firing an excellent GM, the ESPN guys just had an extended "What the hell is happening in Portland?" and "Will Greg Oden ever be healthy?" conversation. This is why they don't allow me on studio shows -- because I absolutely would have made the "If the NBA doesn't work out for Oden, he can always go into porn I mean, did you SEE that thing, Jeff?" joke, followed by an unblinking Van Gundy staring at me for 20 solid seconds.
6:43: Our past three picks: Craig Brackins to New Orleans (some slight Carl Landry sleeper potential); Elliot Williams to Portland (blah), Trevor Booker to Minnesota (our first senior!). Can't get over the fact that Pritchard -- fired earlier in the day -- is still running Portland's draft. If I were him, I'd be in Portland's war room loudly calling other GMs and saying things like, "I have an offer for you: I'll trade you our No. 23 pick, and in return, YOU HELP ME PULL THE F****** KNIFE OUT OF MY BACK!!!!! Do we have a deal????"
6:45: Atlanta takes Damion James, the Texas scorer who has a hygiene fetish and showers four times a day. (Not making that up.) He's the Bizarro Pau Gasol. In other news, I went 6-for-24 in my mock draft. Where's my Finals MVP trophy?
6:53: Just had our sixth commercial for "Knight And Day" in less than 2½ hours. Always funny when studios do that -- instead of convincing you to see the movie, they convince you to actively hate it.
7:00: Our past three picks: Dominique Jones (Memphis), Quincy Pondexter (OKC for New Orleans) and Jordan Crawford (picked by Nets and swapped to Atlanta for Damion James and No. 31). Crawford was my last "I think that guy could be in a nine-man rotation on a good team" pick. Really like him. Scorer, gamer, head case I'll put up with the last one if I'm getting the first two. And now that he's off the board, I'd take the 6-foot-9 tennis player who just won a 70-68 fifth set at Wimbledon over any of the remaining guys on the board. I'm not even kidding.
7:11: The Vasquez interview cheered me up. Unlike just about everyone we've seen, he was delighted/giddy/candid and basically reminded us that, yeah, it's a big freaking deal to get drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. Highlight of a fairly tedious night.
7:12: Orlando takes Daniel Orton 29th so Kentucky can break the "five guys in the first round" record. So if you're scoring at home, the Magic took Kentucky's second-string center to be their third-string center. Their scouts loved the way he applauded teammates, played in garbage time and handled layup lines.
7:18: With the last pick, the Wizards selected swingman Lazar Hayward and, of course, traded him right to Minnesota. So after drafting three point guards in 2009, David Kahn upped the ante by adding small forwards (Wes Johnson, Martell Webster and Hayward) in 2010. I continue to be glad he's in the league.
Something I'm not as glad about: what's happening to the NBA draft. Safe suits, safe interviews, safe analysis, safe everything. I've been typing, pausing, rewinding and fast-forwarding for the past six hours and the only three things I can remember are the "Knight and Day" commercials, Vasquez coming out of the stands and poor Van Gundy struggling to stay excited. My four suggestions to spruce it up:
Suggestion No. 1: Have real NBA players conduct the interviews with the rookies after they get picked. I'd pick three of the league's most gregarious stars (I'm thinking Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Grant Hill) and have them do it for every pick, almost like an NBA version of "The View." Wouldn't that loosen up the rookies a little?
Suggestion No. 2: Have two funny NBA players (I'm thinking Jared Dudley and Chris Kaman) rate the outfits of each pick as the draft goes along. Yeah, like you'd change the channel.
Suggestion No. 3: A David Stern cam. Put a camera on his tie and let's see where he goes between picks. I've always wanted to know.
Suggestion No. 4: We don't need a real sideline reporter for the draft. We're not breaking real news here. So what about Ron Artest? You're telling me he wouldn't want to prowl the crowd and interview parents, fans and coaches? Who's a bigger attention hog than him? More importantly, didn't we learn from the 2010 Finals that you can never have enough of this formula: "Ron Artest + live microphone"?
Here's the thing: It's not 1993 anymore. It's not even 2003. All the things that used to make the draft so entertaining (uncertainty of picks, bad wardrobes, lack of hard information, embarrassing interviews) have been slowly beaten out of the draft by wily agents, enterprising Internet reporting, 24/7 news coverage and an acquired sophistication among prospects who watched the previous generation of prospects shatter the unintentional-comedy scale every June. We need to keep pushing the envelope. We need to create the comedy. We need to make this a fun night again. I'll keep my fingers crossed. Until next year.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com and the author of the recent New York Times best-seller "The Book of Basketball." For every Simmons column and podcast, check out Sports Guy's World. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sportsguy33.