First things first: Best wishes to the great Peter Gammons for a speedy recovery. Like everyone else from New England, when I heard the news last night, it was like finding out that a family member was headed into surgery. Great writer, great guy, great career. I hope he comes back stronger than ever. And that’s that.
I also wanted to mention Pedro’s return to Fenway on Wednesday night. For some ridiculous reason, certain local Web sites and radio personalities have been urging fans to boo Pedro even though …
A. He was the greatest Red Sox pitcher of the past 100 years;
B. He was a key member of the Sox’s first World Series championship in 86 years;
C. We all knew he was leaving in the winter of 2003, when the Red Sox refused to discuss a contract extension with him, then traded for Schilling and gave him a contract extension. Like any star pitcher would have stayed in Boston after that, especially someone who carried the team’s pitching staff for six years.
In fact, when the Red Sox were coming back to win Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, Boston fans were delirious not just because we avoided a sweep, but because a victory meant Pedro would pitch in Fenway one more time. Believe me, I was there. That’s all anyone was talking about that day: “We gotta win, we gotta see Pedro in Fenway one more time.” Everyone knew he was gone after the season. To pretend anything else after the fact is disingenuous.
I just can’t imagine how any true Red Sox fan could ever boo Pedro Martinez. It’s insane to me. Schilling said it best on the Sons of Sam Horn message board: “You can’t possibly want to boo this guy. What you got a chance to see for a 4 year period, imo, included 3 of the most dominating pitching seasons in baseball history. I don’t care about 1 ounce of off the field stuff, you got front row seats to one of the premier pitchers in the games history and arguably a few of the greatest Red Sox pitching lines ever put up. He left, he got more money from New York, and he didn’t sign with the Yanks. no one outside of Theo, Larry, Pedro, Tom and John Henry knows even one of the intimate details of how it went down, both sides can agree to disagree. Bottom line is he was a major part of bringing a world series to Boston and one of ‘the 25’. IMO give him a big ass standing ovation, then after pitch one rattle his ass as best you can, we’ll need the help I think.”
Done and done. I can’t even believe this is an issue. And honestly? If the NBA draft wasn’t taking place on the same night, I would have flown 3,000 miles just to cheer Pedro in Fenway one last time. I’ve written it a million times, but when he had it cooking, there was just nothing else like it in sports. Every time he stepped on the mound, anything was possible. And I mean, ANYTHING. Twenty strikeouts. A perfect game. You name it. You know a pitcher is great when you find yourself paying scalpers double the price for box seats even though you’re broke.
Anyway, I wish I could be there. And I hope the fans at Fenway do the right thing. Just had to mention that.
As for the NBA draft, without stepping on the annual running diary, I wanted to quickly zoom through the top-nine teams and discuss what they might do. I’m just concentrating on nine because there are only nine guys who matter in this draft — Andrea Bargnani, Brandon Roy, Tyrus Thomas, LaMarcus Aldridge, Adam Morrison, Rudy Gay, Randy Foye, Rodney Carney and Shelden Williams. After that, it’s a crapshoot. So let’s figure out where those guys are going.
The conundrum: Andrea Bargnani probably isn’t worth the No. 1 pick, but the Raptors aren’t getting any offers to move down so they could take him a few spots later and pick up something else. There were WWWBS rumors that Indiana wanted to move Jermaine O’Neal for Charlie Villaneuva, the No. 1 pick and a complementary set of eyebrows, but Toronto would be giving up too much there. If the Raptors were smart, they would trade this pick to Seattle straight up for Rashard Lewis — a borderline All-Star with a great contract who has more value than anyone in this draft.
(By the way, WWWBS is the acronym for “World Wide Web bull—-.” Seriously, has one of those 40,000 NBA rumor sites ever broken a trade? Look, I love reading all the rumors and mulling them over like any other basketball fan. But if I started a Web site tomorrow under a pseudonym with the words “NBA” and/or “Draft” in the URL, then just started making up trades, do you realize that every other NBA-related Web site and blog would run with those rumors like I had some semblance of credibility? We might need to work on this.)
WHAT THEY SHOULD DO: Try to trade the pick and take Bargnani a few spots later. The Portland rumor makes the most sense (the No. 1 for the No. 4 and Jarrett Jack) because Portland could secure Morrison in this spot and make their fans happy, which will be the first time that happened in about 10 years. In a semi-related note, this is what drives me crazy about the draft — five teams in the top eight could desperately use someone like Morrison (Toronto, Portland, Charlotte, Houston and Minnesota), and Portland DESPERATELY (that’s right, all caps) needs him … which means he should have the most value. So why would anyone think he’s going lower than the top three? The answer: Because this is a truly crazy draft.
WHAT THEY WILL DO: Why not just grab the guy they like? It’s not like they’re settling for Junior Tschkivilli here; Bargnani earned PT in one of the best Euro leagues and we know he’s not a stiff. More importantly, he has a chance to become Italy’s first great NBA player and has been dealing with pressure/fame/adulation/projections at an early age (much like Gasol with Spain, Nowitzki with Germany, Okur and Turkoglu with Turkey, Ginobili with Argentina, even Marciulionis with Lithuania and Petrovic with Croatia). If there’s a common thread with foreigners who succeed in the NBA, they always seem to be the ones who become larger than life back home. They HAVE to succeed; nobody back home will accept anything less. I like gambling on these guys.
Anyway, that’s why I think Bargnani will make it. If he hailed from Croatia, I wouldn’t be as convinced. I know, I know … kinda weird.
THE PICK: Bargnani.
Another team that keeps getting thrown into dumb trade rumors that will never happen. Why should the Bulls trade out of this spot? They’re positioned to contend from 2008 to ’16 with Hinrich, Deng, Gordon, Nocioni, Chandler, the No. 2 pick, New York’s No. 1 next year and $25 million-$30 million in cap space. Shouldn’t they wait to see how next summer plays out (much better free-agent class, much better draft) before they start making blockbuster deals? What’s the rush?
WHAT THEY SHOULD DO: Draft Brandon Roy, this year’s “Guy Who Everyone Knows Will Be A Very Good Pro, But Somehow This Doesn’t Translate Into Him Being A Top-Three Pick” guy (a la Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Caron Butler). If they wanted to emulate Phoenix, Hinrich plays the Nash role; Gordon plays Barbosa; Roy plays Raja Bell (giving them better offense as well); Deng and Nocioni play smaller versions of Tim Thomas and Boris Diaw; and Chandler handles the boards and protects the rim. That would be the ballsy move.
WHAT THEY WILL DO: I think LaMarcus Aldridge is the guy — along with Chandler, they would be covered in the “set picks, rebound and block shots” department. Just just for the record, I like Tyrus Thomas more than Aldridge — I haven’t been the biggest Aldridge fan since Big Baby Davis shoved him around in the NCAAs and made him settle for turnarounds in the low post, and if BIG BABY DAVIS can do that to you, what the hell is going to happen during an 82-game NBA season? But they have the cap space to woo another 3/4 type (like Al Harrington) this summer AND have another $15 million left for next year’s free-agent class. So it’s a logical pick.
THE PICK: Aldridge
On paper, the Bobcats should absolutely grab Morrison because they need a crunch-time scorer. But now that MJ has the car keys in Charlotte, I can’t imagine them taking a white guy with a goofy mustache and diabetes who can’t guard anyone. Jordan always gravitated toward athletes in Washington (Kwame Brown, Larry Hughes, Courtney Alexander, Bobby Simmons, etc.) and nothing will be different now — I bet he sees Morrison as one of those Dan Majerle-types that he always destroyed back in the day. He won’t take Morrison. I’m telling you.
WHAT THEY SHOULD DO: Draft Roy. It’s the only acceptable pick. Stick him with Ray Felton and there’s your backcourt for the next 10 years. By the way, if you’re a Bobcats fan (which raises the bigger question, why the hell are you a Bobcats fan?), and you hear the words “With the No. 3 pick, the Bobcats select, from the University of Connecticut …” just turn the TV off. Trust me.
WHAT THEY WILL DO: There are whispers that Roy could drop because of his knees (both MCLs were repaired in college); even though he’s a can’t-miss pro, the collective sphincters of NBA teams always seem to tighten up on draft day. (That’s why I’m holding out hope against hope that he somehow drops to my beloved Celtics at No. 7.) Considering that the Bobcats have already had bad luck with Emeka Okafor’s ankles, and MJ has a history of being seduced by players in workouts (remember the Kwame-Chandler fiasco), I could totally see them screwing up and taking Rudy Gay here. But they wouldn’t do that to their fans, right? Um … right?
THE PICK: Roy.
The Blazers are sitting there doing back flips because nobody grabbed Morrison. It’s either make this pick or sell 2007 season tickets for half-price. Remember, this was the same team that drafted Martell Webster too high at No. 6 by using the NBA’s first-ever “maybe he won’t pan out, but at least he won’t get arrested” reasoning.
WHAT THEY SHOULD DO: Take Morrison, then frame Darius Miles and Zach Randolph for a liquor store robbery to get them off the salary cap. If Charlotte shocks everyone by taking Morrison, then LaMarcus Aldridge goes in this spot, Shelden Williams goes to the Hawks, Brandon Roy goes to Minnesota, and the Celtics will make the Portland trade (more on this in a moment).
WHAT THEY WILL DO: Draft the ‘stache. If he doesn’t become a good NBA player, I’m giving you all refunds for this column.
THE PICK: Morrison.
They made a promise to Shelden Williams here. Everyone swears it’s true.
WHAT THEY SHOULD DO: Here’s my question: Why promise a guy with no chance of going in the top four that you’ll take him fifth? Are they trying to distract everyone from last year’s Chris Paul/Marvin Williams and Boris Diaw debacles with a fresh dose of idiocy? And how could you possibly take Williams over Thomas when Thomas killed him in the NCAAs? It’s just common sense.
WHAT THEY WILL DO: Exercise a complete lack of common sense. One mitigating factor for Hawks fans: My dad loves Shelden Williams; he’s my dad’s favorite player in the draft. He’s adamant that Williams will be a 20-10 guy. We’ll see.
THE PICK: Williams.
A tough spot because the Timberwolves can’t trade KG, they need someone who can play right away and Rashard McCants just had microfracture surgery (which means we won’t be seeing him next season). Roy would have helped them the most, but he won’t be there. Randy Foye is a nice consolation prize. Then again, Thomas wasn’t supposed to be here at No. 6. And with Kevin McHale drafting, anything’s possible. He’s “that guy” in your fantasy football draft who’s always capable of taking a kicker or a defense in Round 3.
WHAT THEY SHOULD DO: I wouldn’t kill them if they drafted Foye, re-signed Marcus Banks and traded Marko Jaric and Ricky Davis for Kenyon Martin. That’s an instant playoff team if the Bad Ass Yellow Boy is healthy, and if not, then I’m leaving KG off my Hall of Fame ballot in 10 years (even though I don’t have one). But it’s pretty hard to pass on Ty Thomas.
WHAT THEY WILL DO: Thomas. Can’t you see him and KG clicking? He’s also a pretty good fallback plan if they ever plan on trading KG for multiple parts (a good idea since he’s two more losing streaks away from going on a three-state killing spree).
THE PICK: Thomas.
The Celtics have been intentionally elusive for the past few weeks. Nobody can get a handle on the them, not even Chad Ford, a man who teaches international conflict in his spare time. But I have a pretty good feel. At least I think I do. Keep in mind the following things:
A. They’re trying to extend Paul Pierce’s contract. They want to win now. Right now. This moment. They know he has 2-3 years of in-his-absolute-prime basketball left and want to build a contender around him.
B. They desperately want a point guard … unfortunately, there are no sure things in this draft. The closest is Marcus Williams, who could end up being a lefty version of Mark Jackson with his passing and playmaking skills. Unfortunately, he has a few things working against him: the incredible laptop scandal (Red Flag No. 1); UConn’s stunning exit in the NCAAs (Red Flag No. 2); the whole “I have no problem being overweight and out-of-shape for these pre-draft workouts” (Red Flag No. 3); major questions about his outside shot (Red Flag No. 4); his defensive ability (Red Flag No. 5); and his attitude (Red Flag No. 6). In other words, just call him Six Flags. I can’t imagine the Celtics taking him after finally assembling a team of good chemistry guys after the Davis/Blount trade.
C. Did you know that Orien Greene and Brian Scalabrine played a combined 2,172 minutes last season? Yup. It’s true. So basically, ANY TOP-7 PICK WITH A PULSE at guard or forward will be an upgrade for the Celtics.
D. Danny Ainge has been pretty easy to figure out in the draft — he gravitates toward polished guys who produced in college on a big stage. Hence, the Delonte West/Tony Allen picks two years ago, as well as the spirited attempt to trade for Chris Paul’s rights last year. In other words, he gravitates toward guys exactly like Foye.
E. There’s a chance they could be moving this pick as part of a Godfather offer to Philly for Allen Iverson, either on draft day or on July 1. There’s also a chance they could pull the trigger on the much-rumored Portland trade (the No. 7 pick plus Dan Dickau for the No. 30 pick and Sebastian Telfair) because Telfair is a better option at point guard than any free agent or rookie. And there’s a chance they could trade down to New Orleans for the No. 12 and No. 15, then move the No. 12 pick and Dickau for Telfair. Let’s just say that this pick is in play.
WHAT THEY SHOULD DO: Foye is ready to play right away, has a big-game pedigree in college, has a name that sounds cool … here’s really nothing NOT to like. Just give him Orien Greene’s minutes and they’re five wins better next season. Just take him, for God’s sake.
WHAT THEY WILL DO: Either keep the pick or include it in the Iverson deal. Whatever happens, Foye goes in this spot.
THE PICK: Foye.
If Charlotte takes Rudy Gay (quite possible), the Rockets are guaranteed a top-seven guy. If not, they’re looking at “glass half full” guys like Ronnie Brewer, Rodney Carney, Gay and my illegitimate brother Cedric. They’ll go after the best available 2/3 guy who can make 3’s. That’s what they need.
WHAT THEY SHOULD DO: Trade up to get Roy. Unfortunately, they have no assets other than Yao and T-Mac, and the sentence “Hey, what if we threw in Luther Head?” only works if there’s a laugh track in the background.
WHAT THEY WILL DO: Take Carney. At the very least, he’s a terrific 3-point shooter. Although it’s a little worrisome to count on someone for 82 games who couldn’t even play hard for 30. And by the way, you know if Berman were doing the draft, we’d be subjected to a “Rodney Chile Con Carney!” joke.
THE PICK: Carney.
9. GOLDEN STATE
The Warriors don’t have a specific need but could use an upgrade at every position except two-guard. There’s nothing worse than rooting for a team like that. By the way, didn’t you love to hear that they’re shopping Junior Dunleavy, whose contract extension hasn’t even kicked in yet! That Chris Mullin is savvy. Please tell me why I’m not running an NBA team.
WHAT THEY SHOULD DO: Go big and draft Patrick O’Bryant, the 20-year-old center from Bradley who may have set the record for most times described as “mildly intriguing” over the past six weeks.
WHAT THEY WILL DO: Probably something much dumber … you know, like pick another guy who looks good on paper and disappears in big games. On the bright side, maybe it was destiny for the Bay Area to have an NBA star named Gay.
THE PICK: Gay.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book “Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.