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How I ended up withColeman and Baker

The Sports Guy entered his fantasy basketball draft with loads of optimism. He left it with Derrick Coleman and Vin Baker. He explains what happened in between.

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.

bill simmonsBefore we delve into the draft, here’s everything you need to know about our league:

  • Points are determined by statistics in five categories — points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks — all added together. For instance, if Antoine Walker notches 2,000 points, 900 rebounds, 300 assists, 100 steals and 50 blocks this season, his total in our league would be 3,350.

    (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.)

  • Each team picks 16 players, with designated starters for every scoring period — one center, four forwards, four guards and a “10th man” (wild-card player). You can make roster changes every three weeks (picking up free agents, changing starters, etc.). Trades are allowed, especially if you’ve been drinking.

  • Important note to the IRS: There’s no prize money at stake. We’re doing this thing for pride and pride alone. As far as you know.

  • We draw cards to determine the draft order and pick in snake-fashion — No. 1 picks first, No. 2 picks second … onto the No. 10 guy, who picks last in the first round (10th overall) and first in the second round (11th overall). During the actual draft, trash-talking, snickering, guffawing, sabotaging and harrassing are legal and encouraged.

  • Here was our draft order: 1) Team O.J. (Anthony and Joe); 2) Dave; 3) Jon; 4) Dutch (the defending champ); 5) George & Louis (the Strip-T’s); 6) Lee (The Commish); 7) Me; 8) The Petes; 9) my Dad; 10) Easy Money (an expansion franchise, represented by high schoolers Willy and Mike).

    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.

    Vin Baker7:09: 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.”

      JOE: “Mwaaaaaaaaaa-haaaaaaa-haaaaaa-haaaaa!”

    7:22: Dad takes Antawn Jamison, the Petes follow with Vince Carter, and I take Tracy McGrady … who I almost picked in the first round! Does it get any better than that? Is there a better roto feeling on the planet than having the guy you almost took in Round One slip to Round Two?

    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 …)

    7:40: Lee snares MJ right in front of me at No. 26. Dammit. Now I’m in trouble. We’ve reached the old Cutoff Point; all the Sure Things have been taken. Somehow this always happens right when I’m about to pick. It’s uncanny.

    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: Rose, Bibby and Mashburn go in quick succession. Safe picks.

    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.

    7:53: The Rookies take Ben Wallace at No. 51, not realizing that he’s a forward in our draft, not a center. We give them a mulligan (and a ton of grief), and they’re totally flustered; now they’re huddled in the corner, papers flying, voices raised, totally panicked.

    “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:

    1) Fart.

    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.

    8:01: Joe takes Bonzi Wells with the last pick in the sixth round. Would anyone like a spare cadaver ligament?

    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.

    I followed those beauties up with Jeff McInnis (token Clipper — I love those guys), Eddie Robinson (token injury gamble), Tom Gugliotta (token washed-up white guy), Super Joe Johnson (token likable Celtic), Calvin Booth (token “I just drank two Miller Lites and I’m feeling tipsy” pick), Eddie Griffin (token head case) and Todd MacCulloch (token goofy white guy). Nothin’ special, with the exception of Super Joe, the 2002 Rookie of the Year.

    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:

  • The Rookies rebounded from the Wallace/Bradley fiasco with a tremendous maneuver, drafting Wallace again as a forward in the eighth round. One of the all-time dastardly roto ploys: You draft someone at the wrong position, everyone crosses them off, you decide you don’t want them … and you pick them again two rounds later. Great way to get everyone at a roto draft to despise you.

  • My Dad drafted Wally Szczerbiak (eighth round) and Mike Miller (12th round) to go along with Nash and Van Horn. When I joked that my Dad was one Chris Mihm away from an official whitewash — a starting five of white guys — Dad paused for a second, then asked, “Is Mihm a forward or a center?”

    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
    2. G Tracy McGrady
    3. C Jermaine O’Neal
    4. G Baron Davis
    5. F Peja Stojakovic
    6. G Jason Williams
    7. F Derrick Coleman
    8. G Damon Stoudamire
    9. F Vin Baker
    10. G Jeff McInnis
    11. F Eddie Robinson
    12. F Tom Gugliotta
    13. F Joe Johnson
    14. C Calvin Booth
    15. F Eddie Griffin
    16. C Todd MacCulloch

  • Penny Hardaway lurked for about 15 picks before Dutch finally summoned the courage to take him in the ninth round (84th overall). Nobody wanted Penny. He has just burned too many people over the years. Still a lot of open wounds there.

    (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.)

  • The old guys started slipping as the draft went on. Lee picked Allan Houston in the ninth round … about 10 picks after he had already been taken. You hate to see that happen. (Too bad stuff like that never happens in the real NBA Draft — that would be funny.) And watching Lee try to spell Hiyadet Turkoglu’s name on our Big Draft Board was like watching Willie Mays in the ’73 World Series — just painful.

    (Speaking of painful, during the 11th round, my Dad accidentally called me “Gus.” I wish I were making this up.)

  • I recovered from the Coleman Fiasco in time to get three of my “staple” jokes in before the end of the draft: “Will you get to use his CBA stats?” (after my Dad took Scott Williams in the ninth round); “Would you like some complimentary anti-clotting medication?” (after Dave took Hakeem Olajuwon); and “Next round, he’s taking Shea Ralph” (after Dutch took Penny Hardaway).

  • My buddy Dave is married with two small children … needless to say, for the second year in a row, he drank three Bud Lights and spilled a fourth one all over the floor.

  • Finally, I was driving home after the draft and listening to sports radio when I heard that Lamar Odom had been suspended for five games for violating the league’s drug policy. After nearly careening into the divider, I turned on my car light and spent the next few minutes weaving between lanes, shuffling through my papers and trying to figure out who had taken Odom in our draft. Then I found it …

    The Rookies.

    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.