Yeah, yeah, I know: Last year’s NBA draft diary was supposed to be my swan song. I was tired of spelling European names, watching the Blazers take their annual head case, wondering why they never showed David Stern’s secret lair before he came out on stage, sitting by helplessly as the Celtics screwed up another draft and everything else. But if people like George Foreman, Shannon Tweed, Dominik Hasek and the Eagles can keep coming back, then why not me?
So I’m back for another year … under wildly different circumstances. I’m living on the West Coast now, so the running times will be Pacific Coast Time. My father (stuck in Boston) has been replaced by my buddy Joe House, who’s 23 years younger, has a more polished NBA body and brings a tremendous amount of upside to this column (although Dad will be sorely missed).
Speaking of upside, there’s no Hubie Brown this year — he’s coaching the Grizzlies. I miss him already. The fantastically acerbic Peter Vescey is nowhere to be seen. And since ESPN is showing the draft this year — with Stu Scott and Dick Vitale involved, no less — that means I’ll be forced to find new and creative ways to, um, get my point across about the announcers, given that I’m writing for ESPN’s internet site and all. Yes, I’m speaking in code.
OK, enough foreplay. Onto the draft …
4:30 p.m. PT — David Stern gets booed by the crowd at MSG! Then they start chanting, “Fire Layden!”! How dare they?!?!? Within 90 minutes, Stern’ll have the entire crowd liquidated.
4:32 — Hey, does anyone else think that LeBron is the next Danny Almonte scandal waiting to happen? There’s no way he’s 18 years old — he’s at least 25. Don Yaeger and Lester Munson need to get to the bottom of this. By the way, Jay Bilas just raved about LeBron’s “explosion ability” and Greg Anthony just broke out the word “upside” for the first time tonight. This could be a long three hours.
4:33 — According to Anthony, barring injury, LeBron is “definitely headed to the Hall of Fame.” I’m glad we cleared that up.
4:36 — LeBron goes No. 1 to the Cavs. House thinks LeBron borrowed his white suit from Morgan Freeman right after filming finished on “Bruce Almighty.” Regardless, it’s a watershed day for the league — LeBron’s the first “I have to get tickets because this guy’s in town” guy since MJ, isn’t he? I’m a little giddy.
4:36 — Quote from Mike Tirico: “There (LeBron) is with his Mom, Gloria. Gloria sacrificed a lot. Gave birth to LeBron when she was 16 … on their own at 19, living on assistance, food stamps, and now here they are … it’s a great American story.”
(What about parents who stayed together, worked hard, provided for their children and put them through school? Since when did not practicing birth control and lucking out because of DNA become a “sacrifice”? I’m confused. Let’s just move on.)
4:37 — Turns out that LeBron’s wearing No. 23 in Cleveland. Nice. Paying props to MJ. Wise move. “Oh, that’s so cute,” says the Sports Gal, who’s immediately kicked out of the room.
4:40 — With the Pistons on the clock, Tirico casually throws out Len Bias’ name as he rolls off previous No. 2 picks. Just stab me in the heart next time.
4:41 — Darko Milicic goes second, followed by him kissing a bunch of Serbian men on both sides of the cheek in succession. I wish I were making this up. “We just saw 15 kisses!” House screams. Sadly, Darko decided not to kiss David Stern — that wouldn’t have just been the funniest moment in draft history, that might have been the greatest moment of my life.
4:42 — House and I just had this exchange:
House: “We just saw more kisses than the average episode of ‘Queer As Folk’!”
Me: “How would you know? You watch that show?”
House (after a long pause): “Wait, don’t put that in the column!”
4:43 — During the montage of Darko highlights, House screams, “Look at the guys he’s playing against — I think he just posted up Scotty Thurman!” I haven’t seen House this riled up since HBO cancelled “G String Divas.” Both of us agree that the Pistons will rue the day they passed on Carmelo Anthony. What’s the difference between Darko at age 18 and Raef LaFrentz at age 18? Anything? Aren’t they the same guy? And you’re passing on the guy who just posted the best college season in 15 years? Really?
(I really thought Joe D. was smarter than this. Then again, I’m the same guy who wrote, “Years from now, we will remember ‘Yao Ming over Jay Williams’ the same way we remember ‘Bowie over Jordan,’ ‘Traylor for Nowitzki,’ ‘Carroll for McHale and Parish,’ ‘Aguirre over Thomas’ and every other great draft day blunder in NBA history. The lesson, as always: I’m an idiot.)
4:44 — Shift to an interview with Michele Tafoya, a terrified Darko and his interpreter … Darko couldn’t possibly be more uncomfortable. Here’s a guy who, just last month, went to work out for NBA teams and brought one outfit for the entire week … now he’s speaking extemporaneously on live American TV. Not good times. He looks like Ed Norton in “Primal Fear” right now.
4:47 — At No. 3, Denver happily takes the MJ to Darko’s Sam Bowie: Carmelo Anthony. Need I say more? By the way, he’s wearing a sixtuple-breasted gray suit, capped off with a sky-blue Nuggets hat. I think my Dad has this outfit.
4:48 — Transcript of Stu Scott’s interview with Carmelo’s Mom, Mary:
Stu: “I’m here with Mary … gotta be an emotional moment … what’s running through your mind right now.”
Mom: (Sobs uncontrollably for 10 seconds.)
Stu (leaning closer): “Is this a dream for you?”
Mom: “Yes” (more sobbing).
Stu (practically sitting on her lap): “At one point did you know your son was not just a special person but a special basketball player?”
Mom: “I wanna say …” (more crying)
Stu: “It’s OK … tears of joy, I’m sure. We’ll come back and talk to you later.”
4:49 — Now here’s an unforgettable moment: Dick Vitale just broke two Draft Day records in the same rambling monologue about Carmelo. First, he used the word “upside” three times in eight seconds, lopping two seconds off John Thompson’s mark in 2001. Second, he shattered Hubie Brown’s 2002 record for an uninterrupted draft rant (48 seconds) by speaking for an astounding 70 seconds straight! Without a breath! That might never be topped.
4:50 — Did Craig Sager trademark the question “What does this moment mean to you?” If so, Michele Tafoya owes him royalty money.
4:51 — House: “You can’t say anything about Tom Tolbert in your column, right? They’ll edit it right out, correct?” Um, correct.
4:53 — Toronto takes Chris Bosh at No. 4 … he’s like a young Keon Clark, only without the baggage and the bong collection. Plus, tonight he’s wearing a mustard-green triple-breasted suit capped off with the purple Raptors hat. Nice. Should they just give him SARS now or wait until he gets to Toronto?
4:58 — At No. 5, Miami takes Dwyane Wade … Eddie Jones, pack your bags! More importantly, was “Dwyane” a misspelling on the birth certificate, or was his Mom making a statement? And was Wade the first draftee ever to bring a baby son wearing a suit with cornrows? I’m brimming with questions.
5:02 — This year’s catch phrase: “Long.” Pat Riley just said it twice in six seconds about Wade. I’m telling you, this adjective has a ton of upside.
5:04 — There isn’t anything quite like the sound MSG makes when a white stiff center gets taken way too early — it’s part laughter and part incredulity. That’s right, you guessed it … the Clippers just took Chris Kaman at No. 6. Unbelievable. With some luck, he might develop into the next Chris Mihm, with a splash of Curtis Borchardt.
5:05 — Wow, Kaman’s Dad is named Leroy. Leroy Kaman??? That’s right up there with “Marcus Giles” and “Karim Garcia.” I think he’s the latest addition to the Reggie Cleveland Group.
5:06 — Bilas wants us to know that Kaman can dunk with both hands when he’s near the basket. “Congratulations,” says House sarcastically. We’re both outraged. Don’t these teams ever learn? When the season starts, will the rest of the league form a line to start dunking on Kaman, or will they go on a game-by-game basis?
5:08 — Well, the 2003 NBA Draft has officially started: After a Clippers pick, one of the announcers (in this case, Tolbert) said, “I’m not sure I understand this one.” That’s like the ringing of the bell on Wall Street.
5:09 — All right, I’ll ask: Couldn’t Nike just turn that one-minute commercial with Jermaine O’Neal and Paul Pierce into a 30-minute show? Would anyone be against this?
5:10 — With the Bulls up at No. 7, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention this: The Celts and Bulls were one Jay Williams motorcycle accident away from swapping Antoine Walker and the No. 20 for Jamal Crawford, Marcus Fizer and Donyell Marshall. Unfortunately, Williams thought he was Erik Estrada … now the Celts are stuck with Antoine for another year. And yes, I’m a little bitter.
5:12 — The Bulls grab Kirk Hinrich at No. 7 … he’s apparently borrowed Steve Nash’s hair for the evening.
5:15 — Milwaukee takes TJ Ford at No. 8 … he’s wearing a Tiger Woods mask for some reason. I’m not sure about this one; how good can somebody be when they’re 5-foot-10 and they can’t shoot? And what about Sam Cassell? I’m confused.
5:20 — When it comes right down to it, few moments in sports are more secretly exciting than the Knicks making a first round pick at MSG. They just took Michael Sweetney at No. 9. Nice pick. I like this guy. In fact, I won’t even make a sarcastic comment about the Knicks now having 19 undersized power forwards on the roster.
5:21 — Jarvis Hayes goes to the Wiz at No. 10; he’s the guy with a twin brother named Jonas. What are the odds of these guys switching identities and hoodwinking a groupie over the next eight months?
5:29 — The Warriors grab Frenchman Michael Pietrus at No. 11 … House is dubious over anyone who couldn’t crack 13 points a game in a French professional league. And with reason. Undaunted, Jay Bilas calls Pietrus a “freak athlete.” And Tolbert rightly kills the Warriors because they already have Junior Dunleavy and Jason Richardson. This pick is running the gamut of emotions.
5:33 — Seattle takes Nick Collison at No. 12. Another nice pick. For God’s sake, he tossed up a 30-20 in a national title game; Chris Kaman couldn’t have matched that if he were playing against the Tennessee Lady Vols. I don’t understand this league sometimes.
5:35 — Dick Vitale talks for 61 uninterrupted seconds.
5:39 — Ouch. Memphis just took the top guy on Boston’s board: UNLV’s Marcus Banks. That one hurt. I can almost imagine Hubie in the war room: Here’s a guy who played ALL FOUR SEASONS in college … he’s from a good family, he doesn’t have any illegitimate kids, and he has a TON of upside … he also gives us FLEXIBILITY at the one in case Jason Williams gets Goofy … I feel very, VERY good about this pick.
5:43 — Chris Bosh! Kirk Hinrich! Carmelo Anthony! The Rookies! Starring in “NBA Live 2004” … EA Sports, it’s in the game!
(You know, I think we need to see this ad another 45 to 50 times tonight.)
5:44 — Seattle takes Luke Ridnour to go with Collison … they’re stockpiling white guys to go clubbing with Brent Barry. After Tolbert praised Ridnour, Bilas hissed, “(Ridnour) can’t guard the chair I’m sitting on, and he couldn’t bench 185 pounds one time.” Then Vitale slammed Greg Anthony, saying, “You’re right about Banks … just like you, he didn’t have a shot from the perimeter.” This is great — everyone’s taking shots at each other. Does this mean I can start throwing out some barbs at Tolbert and Vitale?
(My editor’s verdict: “Um, no.”)
5:45 — House and I are having an “Upside vs. Ceiling” contest: He has the total number of times we hear the word “Upside” in the first round, I have “Ceiling,” and he’s spotting me six. I like my chances right now; it’s 6-2. If only I had chosen the word “long” over “ceiling” …
5:47 — Orlando takes Reece Gaines, who should start immediately for them. Maybe in Round 2, they can draft someone who will convince Grant Hill to retire so they can have his cap space.
5:48 — With the Celts on the board at No. 16, my Dad calls for the first time to say, “This is a disaster … my first six choices on my board are gone. The only point guard left on the board is Troy Bell … I watched him for the past four years… he’s hot and cold. He’s a backup. We’re gonna take him, I can feel it.” I haven’t heard him this upset since I told him that Zack Morris was joining the cast of “NYPD Blue.”
5:50 — Thank God. The Celts just took Bell, but according to Andy Katz, he’s headed out of town in a trade. If the Celts took him, my Dad might have strapped a dirty bomb to his body and driven down to the Fleet Center. Meanwhile, my Celtics mole calls to tell me the trade: The Celts get the rights to Banks and No. 27 from Memphis for the rights to Bell and No. 20. Well done. I think Jerry West might be running late for his weekly canasta game with Hubie Brown.
5:52 — Mmmmmm … Mesquite Flavored Baked Lays …
5:58 — You know, I could watch David Stern say the name “Zarko Cabarkapa” all day. Zarko just went to the Suns. Bilas tells us, “He’s been compared favorably to Nikolaz Tschkivilli.” Enticing. That’s like saying, “As a comedian, he’s been compared favorably to Paul Rodriguez.”
6:00 — Not only does Zarko have a translator, the translator’s wearing a pinstriped suit with no tie and pants that don’t match. Absolutely superb. He looks like a contestant on the “Gong Show” or something. Meanwhile, the poor Polish guy (Maciej Lampe) is sitting by himself in the front row … he just won the Jumaine Jones Memorial “Who’s Gonna Be Last in The Green Room?” Award. He looks depressed as hell. Someone should tell him that they’re doing the draft backwards.
6:04 — With the Hornets up at No. 18, House screams, “Take the Polish Guy!” Nope. They end up taking Xavier’s David West. Xavier pumps out power forwards like they’re coming off an assembly line, don’t they?
6:06 — As Tolbert does a Bill Walton impersonation, my puppy Doozer begins chasing her own tail. That was fun.
6:09 — Utah pick Aleksandar Pavlovic wins the Sam Delambert Memorial Award — he just crashed the stage from the stands to shake hands with a stunned David Stern. I love when that happens. Isn’t it amazing that an impostor hasn’t dressed up in a three-piece suit, crashed the stage and pretended to be a first-rounder? How has this not happened yet?
6:11 — Andy Katz reports that Pavlovic worked out for 22 different teams over the past month … hey, anything to get a free meal.
6:13 — Here come the Celts again … they just took Dahntay Jones for the Grizz at No. 20. And thank God. Is anyone else totally discombulated by this draft? Everyone has made defensible picks except for two people: Elgin Baylor (not surprising) and Jerry West (very surprising). I mean, Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones? What round are we in?
6:20 — Atlanta just took a guy named Boris. “He’s very long,” Bilas tells us.
6:22 — The Nets take a Euro guy. Whatever. At least the league improved the quality of footage for the European guys this year — it doesn’t have that grainy surveillance look any more. Glad they worked on that.
6:25 — Bilas just said, “The Sports Guy’s running diary is very long.” On the bright side, here come the Blazers! And there’s a high schooler named “Outlaw” still on the board! And he has some baggage! This is too easy.
6:31 — Yep, the Blazers take Outlaw. Unbelievably believable. That pick was so predictable that Tolbert had a joke ready for it. By the way, I wish I could buy stock in things like “Qyntel Woods and Zac Randolph will corrupt Outlaw before training camp ends.”
6:36 — The Lakers take Illinois’s Brian Cook, who immediately becomes the third-best guy on their team, passing that Pargo guy. Meanwhile, the Polish guy is four more picks away from hanging himself.
6:42 — I’ve been sitting down for so long that my Sofoklis Schortsanitis just fell asleep. You don’t mind if I rush through these last few picks, do you? I didn’t think so.
6:47 — Last two picks: Carlos Delfino to Detroit, Ndidu Ebi to Minnesota. I have absolutely no opinion whatsoever, other than Ebi’s first name is pronounced “Doody.” That’s right, “Doody.” Where are Spaulding Smails and Carl Spackler when you need them?
6:50 — Picking for the Celts, Memphis takes … high school center Kendrick Perkins. 6-foot-10, 285. Nice. There’s some Eddy Curry potential there. Then again, there’s some Thomas Hamilton potential. “He has a tremendous upside,” Danny Ainge tells Tirico. That’s good to know. I was worried he just had upside.
6:57 — Some Brazilian guy just went to the Spurs … according to Katz, the Brazilian guy’s stock rose because there was a “tape circulating about him” that everyone was trying to get their hands on. He doesn’t elaborate. Was this like the Tommy Lee-Pamela Anderson tape? Was he steering a speedboat with his genitals or something? I need answers.
7:02 — With the first round in the books, David Stern turns things over to deputy commissioner Russ Granik as the crowd chants, “We want Gran-ik! We want Gran-ik!” I’m not ending this column until my man Luke Walton gets picked.
7:07 — Classic sequence: The Knicks finally taking the Polish guy at No. 30, followed by him pointing at the crowd, MSG going bonkers, and then the New York fans cheering him on throughout his entire interview with Tafoya. As an added bonus, he’s wearing a cream-colored four-piece suit, topped off with a blue Knicks cap. And he’s fighting off tears. You have to love the NBA Draft. That might have been my favorite dumb NBA Draft moment of all-time.
7:15 — Walton goes to the Lakers at No. 32 … right city, right situation. I’m happy. As for everyone else tonight, LeBron and Carmelo are obviously sure things. I think Collison, Wade and Banks will get major minutes next season. Darko looks like he’s in the right place. Reece Gaines will get some run in Orlando if he’s any good. Same with Pavlovic in Utah. And Doody in Minnesota.
Other than that? Who knows? Any time there’s a draft where A) almost everyone makes the right pick, B) you have a bunch of New Yorkers cheering lustily for a Polish guy, and C) the new owner of the Celtics calls me at home to ask, “So what did you think of the trade?” you know it’s a strange night. But I missed both my Dad and Hubie Brown. Desperately. If only they could swing an interview with Hubie to salvage the night …
7:25 — Voila! Via satellite, Hubie talks about the influx of Europeans and actually uses the phrase “Tremendous upside potential.” Holy mackerel! That interview didn’t just have upside, it wasn’t just tremendous, it didn’t just have potential … there was tremendous upside potential!
And on that note, I’m heading back into retirement. That’s my last Draft Diary ever.
(See you next year.)