Over the past two weeks, I received so many e-mails of the “Have you had your fantasy hoops draft yet? Who did you take?” variety that I decided to keep a running diary of my draft, which happened two nights ago in a clandestine Massachusetts suburb. I thought it would serve as a blueprint for how to construct the perfect team … instead, it serves as a blueprint for disaster.
Before we delve into the draft, here’s everything you need to know about our league:
(Note: We don’t award any points for drug suspensions, ejections, domestic violence incidents, impregnated groupies or newspaper quotes in which the player referred to himself in the third person, although those things are in the works for next season.)
Just for the record, this column is heavy in NBA-ese. Either stop reading now or forever hold your peace.
On to the running diary …
7 p.m.: Just drew the seventh pick. My pre-draft “Top 7” list reads as follows: Shaq, Kobe, KG, Duncan, Antoine, McGrady, Stackhouse. Antoine’s the best bet to be sitting there at No. 7 — he averaged a combined 40.2 per game in our draft last season. Not shabby.
(And since mitigating factors like “missing 15-20 shots per night,” “making more turnovers than a bakery chef,” “being despised by referees to the point that they can’t even make eye contact with you,” and “possessing the innate ability to turn off your fans to the point that they’ll boo you on Fan Appreciation Night” don’t factor into our draft scoring, well … Antoine’s looking pretty damned good.)
7:05: Picking first: Team O.J. Since neither Joe nor Anthony could make tonight’s draft in person, Joe is calling in by phone, which makes sense, because it’s not officially a roto draft unless somebody’s calling in by phone and killing everyone else. That’s why we’re calling them Team O.J. And, of course, I’m the one taking Joe’s phone calls and telling him who has been picked.
7:06: Joe takes Shaq. “Heeeeeeee-yahhhhhhhh!” he screams into the phone. Bastard.
7:08: Picking second, an agonized Dave asks me: “Duncan or Garnett?” I shrug, finally saying, “I’m not telling you … I think it’s a pretty easy choice though.” That flusters him even more. Nothing beats head games in Round One.
7:09: Dave takes Garnett. Kobe and Duncan go next. Suddenly I’m looking at either Antoine, McGrady or Stackhouse. I don’t think I can handle Jerry’s “31 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist” routine again. He ends up on my team every year. We’ve gotten together more times than Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson. It needs to end.
7:10: Fortunately for me, George & Louis take Stackhouse as the crowd giggles and chuckles. Time for my first potshot of the night: “Are we in the fourth round? I think I just blacked out. What round is this?”
7:12: Lee takes Alonzo at No. 6. Let the kidney jokes begin!!!!!
(George gets off the best one: “Lee, I think your team just went on dialysis.”)
7:13: I’m debating between Antoine and T-Mac at No. 7. Antoine plays 45 minutes a game and has carte blanche to keep shooting until his right arm falls off. The only potential danger? If ‘Twan ever got injured — God forbid, knock on wood — it would destroy my favorite team (the Celts) and my roto team. The dreaded Double Whammy.
7:14: Screw it, I’m going with Antoine. Little reaction from the crowd, although my Dad turns to me and says, “I don’t like my team.” Of course, he hasn’t taken anyone yet. He makes this joke every year, and it cracks me up. My Dad kills me.
7:14: The Petes grab Stevie Francis at No. 8. Bookies wouldn’t lay odds on my Dad taking Paul Pierce here … and he eagerly snaps him up. Two Celtics in the first round! That hasn’t happened since Bird and McHale in 1986! Good times.
7:16: The Rookies earn our immediate respect by 1) picking quickly and 2) making two solid picks at No. 10 and No. 11 (J-Kidd and Dirk Diggler, a center in our draft). Suddenly, I’m three picks away and hoping McGrady or Vince will be there … if this happens, I might pass out.
7:20: Joe calls for a first-round update. We have this exchange:
- ME: “… Then George took Stackhouse at No. 5.”
7:25: Lee takes Shareef, then the Strip-T’s take Grant Hill (No. 16 overall), allowing me to dust off the old “Hey, the first guy with a limp has been taken!” joke.
7:25: Dutch tabs Dikembe Mutombo. Everyone takes turns imitating Dikembe’s husky, throaty accent and saying things like, “But Dutch, don’t you know, I’m a fourth-rounder,” and “Dutch, I’m sorry I only scored four points last night.” Good stuff.
7:27: After Jon takes Elton Brand, Dave takes Ray Allen with the No. 19 pick. There’s a deferential silence. Great pick, about five spots later than Allen should have gone. He’s ready for a monster season, and everyone knows it. “Nice job,” I finally tell Dave, like he just saved a kid from a burning building or something.
7:28: Team O.J. grabs two injured guys (C-Webb and Iverson) to team with Shaq. Yikes. Scary team on paper. Dave follows by taking Gary Payton (No. 22) to a barrage of snickers, then mumbles to me, “I hate that pick.” The Ray Allen pick seems like three years ago. Roto drafts can swing that fast.
7:30: At No. 23, Jon throws out Karl Malone’s name, everyone laughs … then Jon asks if he has been taken yet. Savvy roto move. Toss a guy’s name out there, gauge the reaction, then say you never intended to take him. It’s a Jon staple. He ends up taking Stephon Marbury, a team cancer even in roto hoops. He’s like roto anthrax. Nobody’s ever won with him.
7:31: After Dutch takes Michael Finley at No. 24, the Strip-T’s follow with Karl Malone, prompting Lee to quip: “Stackhouse, Hill and Malone … it’s the 1995 All-Star Team!” Another joke we make every year. I’m convinced we hold the same draft every year — the same things happen, the same people sit in the same places and we make the exact same jokes. And we always laugh hysterically every time. What is it about roto drafts?
(By the way? Shhhhhhh … MJ’s still out there … don’t say anything … shhhhh …)
Now I’m debating between Jermaine O’Neal (my second-highest center) and Baron Davis (my sleeper to become a Top 20-caliber guy). Agonizing. I like them both … but they’re not MJ.
7:40: I shore up my center spot with O’Neal, hoping Davis slips to the fourth round. Picking after me, the Petes start swearing … they planned on taking O’Neal with their next pick. Yee-hah! That’s always fun. The proverbial “roto roster block,” if you get my drift.
7:41: Andre Miller, Vlade Divac and Shawn Marion get snapped up. The Rookies start the fourth round with Lamar Odom, prompting a round of jokes like, “Are you drafting him a bong with the fifth pick?” and “Hey, the first confirmed pot-smoker has been taken!” Little do we know then.
7:42: Dad begrudgingly picks Glenn Robinson at No. 32, then looks over at me with one of those “Did somebody just fart?” looks on his face. He hates his team. I can tell. Meanwhile, I’m realizing that Baron Davis might slip to No. 34, if only …
YES!!!!! The Petes take Rasheed Wallace at No. 33! The draft could have lasted 150 rounds and I wouldn’t have taken ‘Sheed — there’s nothing more frustrating as a DirecTV owner than having ‘Sheed and subsequently watching him get ejected from West Coast Games all season. It’s like torture. You’re lying in bed at 1:00 saying, “No, Rasheed, don’t go over there, don’t say anything, NO, don’t get mad, don’t … just … don’t … DAMMIT!!!!”
You know, when a fantasy draft falls into place exactly how you want it to fall, it’s a beautiful thing. It almost brings tears to your eyes. I eagerly snap up Davis and proudly proclaim myself as the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing. Time to turn up the heat … everyone in this room will hate me within 15 minutes. I’m dying for someone to screw up.
7:43: On the heels of a surreal, “33-point, 26-rebound” game from Sunday night, Lorenzen Wright is taken by Jon (at No. 38) to a barrage of “WOW!”s. Wright was the Monkey Wrench pick this year, the guy who submits a huge game right before the draft, gets taken about five rounds too early, then haunts that team all season like Kimberly haunted Dr. Michael Mancini on “Melrose Place.” Never fails. Put a fork in Jon.
7:43: Speaking of forks, Dave takes David Robinson at No. 39, as we giggle gleefully. “Could somebody get Dave a candy bar?” Lee asks. “I think his blood sugar just crashed.”
Dave looks ill. He looks like he might throw up. He officially has the Byung-Hyun Kim Face going.
7:50: We’re into the Solid Guys portion of the draft: Ratliff, Jones, Cassell and Mobley get picked in rapid succession. Dutch does us all a favor and grabs Nick Van Exel at No. 45. You can hear the collective sigh of relief … Nick the Quick has been looming for about six picks. Nobody wanted to pull the trigger. Now Dutch and Dave look like they might start throwing up on one another.
(Note on Van Exel: He started off hot, and he puts up good stats every year … but if you take him, you’re constantly terrified that you’ll be watching SportsCenter one night and this will happen: They’ll come back from a commercial, Nick’s picture will be in the corner of the screen, the anchor will have a really grim look on his face, and you’ll just start screaming, “Nooooo … noooooooooo!!!!!!!”)
7:52: Since I need a token Yugoslavian guy on my team, I take Peja Stojakovic with my fifth pick (No. 47). Solid choice. Greeted with dead slilence from the crowd. Always a good sign.
“I think the wheels are about to come flying off for the Rookies,” I whisper to my Dad.
7:54: There are two sure-fire ways to make everyone laugh at a roto hoops draft:
2) Say the words, “I’ll take Shawn Bradley.”
If you can ever fart while saying the words, “I’ll take Shawn Bradley,” you might cause full-scale pandemonium.
Needless to say, the place is in shambles right now. The Rookies just took Shawn Bradley and wheels have scattered in every direction. Meanwhile, I finally get to dust off my favorite roto draft joke: “In other words, ‘Pass.’ ” Always a crowd-pleaser.
7:55: On the heels of taking Steve Nash in the fifth round, my Dad grabs Keith Van Horn in the sixth round. At this rate, we’ll be naming his team The Crackers by Round Nine.
(Speaking of crackers, I have no problem hopping on White Chocolate with the next pick. He has been dying for his entire career to carry the load on a lousy team. It’s his Maravich-ian destiny. Viva la cocoa!)
7:59: Dutch takes Antonio Davis at No. 57. After every draft, we decide to combine Antonio and Dale Davis into one Super-Forward, but by the next year we once again forget to institute it. The Uber-Davis would definitely be a first round pick.
Now we’re into the sketchy section of the draft, the You-Never-Know Guys — Bonzi, Anthony Mason, Danny Fortson, Juwan Howard, Ron Mercer, even Derrick Coleman — head cases and injury risks who will either have monster seasons or singlehandedly break your team. This is where roto drafts are won and lost. And what scares me the most is this: I might actually take Coleman if he’s sitting there at No. 67.
8:03: Mason, Fortson, Battier, Wesley, Howard and Mercer drop in quick succession. Now I’m on the clock. I need a forward. I don’t feel like dealing with Ben Wallace’s “15 rebound, 4 point” games. Stromile Swift is a year away. I can’t take Brian Grant, because I refuse to pick anyone on Miami or New York (nothing worse than those 73-71 box scores — they make you want to puke).
Yup … there’s only one real choice here. He’s the Jeffrey Dahmer of the NBA, a legitimate roto serial killer. He’s broken more hearts than Julia Roberts. And now, he’s on my team.
“I’ll take Derrick Coleman,” I tell a stunned crowd.
|***** ***** *****|
That’s probably where the wheels came off for me. Actually … that’s definitely where the wheels came off for me. The Coleman fiasco provoked the biggest ruckus of any pick in the draft, as well it should: For God’s sake, I took Derrick Coleman in the sixth round! What was I thinking? Was this how Larry Brown felt after trading for him? You look at his numbers, you get seduced by his potential, you start thinking, “Maybe he can turn things around this season” … and the next thing you know, you’re steering the boat into an iceberg. Totally, completely indefensible.
Here’s the weird thing: When I made the pick, I felt 100 percent confident about it. He’s in the best shape of his career. He’s getting big minutes. Few power forwards are more talented than him. Maybe this will be the season he puts it all together. And it’s like all logic was thrown out the window. Now I’m stuck with him all season. I might as well just fold my franchise.
And I never really recovered for the rest of the draft. In the seventh round, I somehow talked myself into The Enigma That Is Damon Stoudamire. Wait, it gets worse: In the eighth round, I took Vin “Pass the Flapjacks” Baker. Coleman, Stoudamire, Baker. Does my team have any chance with that trio? Any at all? Of course not! WHAT WAS I THINKING? I should have just gone the whole nine yards and drafted Joe The Alcoholic Counter Guy from my local Store 24 in the 10th round.
Anyway, after a promising start — Antoine, McGrady, O’Neal, Davis, Stojakovic and White Chocolate — I derailed like the train from “The Fugitive.” I can only win this thing if my Top 6 stay healthy and Baker, Coleman and Stoudamire somehow regain All-Star form. Like that will happen.
As for the rest of our roto draft, here were the highlights:
Not only was this the funniest moment of the draft, it might have been the funniest moment of my life. Of course, Dad took Mihm in the 13th round, just for comedy’s sake.
|The Sports Guy’s Draft|
|Here’s how draft night unfolded for our beloved Bill Simmons:
1. F Antoine Walker
(Sadly, Penny hasn’t filled Kevin Johnson’s shoes as the “Resident superstar who plays 50 games every year and kills whichever roto team takes him,” because Penny can’t even stay healthy for 50 games. That was always my favorite part of any roto draft back in the day, when a rookie franchise would take KJ and we would all smile knowingly. KJ was like the high school slut who spends time with everyone on the football team … then a new transfer comes in senior year, starts dating her, and everyone on the team gets a big kick out of it. That’s what KJ was like. We all went a few rounds with KJ. I miss having him around.)
(Speaking of painful, during the 11th round, my Dad accidentally called me “Gus.” I wish I were making this up.)
They took him in the fourth round. And next to their pick, where I was jotting down notes for this diary during the draft, I had scribbled down the notation “The first pot-smoker is off the board!”
You couldn’t make this stuff up.
(The NBA … it’s FANNNNNNN-tastic! I love this game!)
Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.