Let’s call this one Draft Diary X. Roman numerals work nicely for Wrestlemanias and Super Bowls, so screw it: Why can’t it work for my 10th annual running diary of the NBA draft?
I remember the first one back in ’97 for my old Web site, when I was typing along happily at my dad’s house as new Boston uber-coach Rick Pitino called Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer his “backcourt for the next decade.” We later found out that the Ricktator was measuring the decade in dog years. Fast-forward nine years to yesterday, when the Celts moved the No. 7 pick for Sebastian Telfair and his 350-person entourage, leading to my father screaming on the phone, “He’s a 5-foot-11 point guard! You know what he’s going to be with more playing time? A 5-foot-11 point guard!!!! I saw him in that documentary, by the way: Not only would I not want him on my team, I wouldn’t want him in my house!”
Needless to say, I don’t think dad liked the trade. I’m on the fence. (Oh, who am I kidding, I hated the trade, I wanted Randy Foye.) But let’s not let this negativity affect Draft Diary X. Without further ado …
7:30 p.m. ET — We’re coming to you live from the New-And-Improved Sports Guy Mansion! Our studio hosts from Madison Square Garden tonight: Dan Patrick, Jay Bilas, Greg Anthony and Stephen A. Smith (available tonight in Dolby Digital Surround sound). ESPN kicks off the show by playing a Who song from 30 years ago, once again proving my theory that you do NOT want to borrow an iPod from anyone who produces a sports telecast for a major network. Well, unless you’re over 50 years old.
|NBA Draft Central|
Check out ESPN.com’s complete NBA draft coverage. Plus
• Raptors Take Bargnani No. 1
• Who Are the Big Winners?
The big question: Are we all OK with the first pick of the NBA draft being named “Andrea?” Just want to make sure. Speak now or forever hold your peace.
7:33 — Here comes David Stern! He’s wearing a pink tie and looking especially gregarious as he plugs the WNBA All-Star Game at MSG on July 12. Hold on, lemme just make sure that’s programmed into my TiVo. Just give me a second …
7:38 — With the first pick, Toronto selects … yep, Andrea Bargnani. Three minutes ago, Bilas called him a “solid prospect with a chance to be a solid player.” Their fans must be delighted. Meanwhile, the MSG crowd quickly starts chanting “over-rated!” Stern might have to have them sprayed with one of those super-powerful fire hoses before the Knicks’ first pick.
7:38 — Classic wide angle of everyone in Toronto’s War Room applauding the pick. That didn’t seem staged at all. No, really. That’s followed by Bilas telling us, “He does not rebound, he does not post up, he is not physical. He needs to work on his body.” You have to be fired up if you’re a Raptors fan right now.
7:41 — Our first challenge: Stu Scott interviewing Bargnani without an interpreter working for either side. This is fun. Bargnani sounds exactly like Furio on “The Sopranos.”
7:42 — Already, our first trade! Andy Katz (looking like Tony Bennett) reports that Chicago will pick LaMarcus Aldridge second, then trade his rights to Portland for the No. 4 pick, Victor Khryapa and future considerations. Meanwhile, Aldridge makes an incredulous Stern put on a Texas Longhorns hat for 2.3 seconds during their photo op, inadvertently messing up the commish’s hair. That’s it, Aldridge isn’t getting one call from Bennett Salvatore or Dick Bavetta for the next 10 years.
7:42 — Bilas tells us that Aldridge has “great feet.” I was just thinking that.
(That reminds me, I think this could be the draft where Bilas creates the phrase “long length.” Just a gut feeling.)
7:44 — Random note: I really enjoy the name “LaMarcus.” It’s like his mom was sitting there thinking, “I like the name Marcus, but it could use just a little more oomph.” If the Sports Gal and I ever have a boy, I’m pushing for LaBill Simmons. That name can’t miss. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m destined to only have daughters. I never should have written that “Grading the Wimbledon Babes” column for my old Web site in ’99, that’s what killed me. Karma is a bitch. Wait, am I thinking out loud again?
7:45 — Hey, if you’re one of the other teams in the lottery, wouldn’t you be psyched that MJ had final say over the Charlotte pick? Here’s a guy who just spent the last three years playing golf and gambling … now he’s supposed to have an opinion on the 2006 draft?
“Yeah, I really like this Morrison kid. Oak and I saw a little of him one night when were playing poker and smoking Cubans at Tiger’s house. He looked great!”
7:49 — Charlotte takes Adam Morrison. Love that pick. Come on, come on … cry. Come on. Do it. Cry. CRY! CRY! (Damn. No crying.) Have to say, I’m a little stunned by this one. Never thought MJ would take someone that he could have dunked on relentlessly back in the day. By the way, we learned before the draft that Morrison’s suit from tonight will be cut up and put in special edition Topps trading cards. What the hell is happening to this country?
7:50 — I’ll give you a choice: Either I could run Stephen A.’s Morrison/diabetes rant in all caps, or we could just move on. You’d rather just move on? Done.
(Hey, did you know that Morrison’s favorite DVD is “Ultimate Fighting,” his favorite book is “The Art of War,” he listens to Metallica when he works out and he cried when Rage Against the Machine broke up. I just learned all of those things in the last 20 seconds. Sounds like he needs a girlfriend.)
7:52 — Fresh off ranting for 72 consecutive seconds in the pregame show, Dick Vitale (via remote) derisively calls all the big guys in this draft “soft” and adds, “Stephen A., I think you would agree with me, baby!!!” Maybe not the worst moment of my life, but it definitely cracked the top five.
7:54 — Portland takes Ty Thomas at No. 4 to complete the Chicago deal. Superb job by the Bulls. I love that pick for them, and not just because he’s a “freakish athlete with a 7-foot-3 wingspan” (Bilas’ words). You can go to war with Ty Thomas. Very logical draft so far — everything’s been low-key and conservative, even the suits and the family reactions. Where are the sobbing 300-pound moms this year? Did we forget to order them?
8:00 — Atlanta keeps its promise and drafts Shelden Williams fifth. Another solid pick, even if his nickname is “The Landlord” (sounds like a bad WWE gimmick).
By the way, I wish the WNBA draft had promises, just so we could see a team break a promise and draft someone else, followed by the crying player awkwardly running up to the podium in high heels and screaming, “You promised! You promised me! I TRUSTED YOU!”
8:03 — Not only do Stu and Shelden look like long-lost brothers, but their interview just brought back memories of Sinatra’s reaction to Luther Campbell in the “Sinatra Group” sketch on SNL. I think Shelden just revealed that he’s J.J. Redick’s designated driver tonight. Or maybe he said that he was excited to play in Atlanta. I couldn’t tell.
8:04 — You know what scares me about the NBA draft every year? I always find myself agreeing with Dickie V — for instance, he thinks the Landlord could have an immediate impact as well — even though he’s always screaming with a red background behind him. You figure it out. Which reminds me, my old intern Jamie e-mailed me just to ask, “Where the hell is Dick Vitale being interviewed from, the core of the earth?”
8:06 — You know the draft hasn’t officially started until Greg Anthony wonders, “Hey, shouldn’t the Hawks have been thinking about a point guard there?”
8:10 — And with the sixth pick, Minnesota somehow ends up with the best player in the draft: Brandon Roy. Funny how it always works out that way. With the new rules and his hesitation move alone, he’s good for 16-18 points a game next season and 3-4 All-Star appearances down the road. Of course, Stephen A. thinks Minnesota just solved their point guard problems, even though Roy is a natural two-guard. Let’s just move on.
|Another NBA mystery|
Allow me a quick tangent …
It’s April 19, 2006, the final day of the season. The Celts have the sixth-worst record and plays host to Miami; Minnesota is at No. 7 and plays host to Memphis. The C’s do the honorable thing, play hard at home and whup Miami’s third-string with their kids. Going against Memphis’ third string, Minnesota does the dishonorable thing and completely tanks the tail end of the game. I mean, COMPLETELY. To the point that Mark Madsen plays 30 minutes, goes 1 for 15 from the field, misses seven 3-pointers (yes, you read that correctly), conveniently “forgets” to guard Brian Cardinal on the game-tying 3 in the final 20 seconds of regulation, then misses three straight 3s to kick off the second OT (check out the play-by-play if you don’t believe me). Mark Madsen basically shaved points in this game.
I’m telling you. I have never seen a professional team throw a game this blatantly, in any sport, at any level. Even the 1919 Black Sox would have been mortified.
So what was the end result? They moved into the No. 6 spot, Boston slid to No. 7.
Look at the box score. Seriously, take a look. Before this game, Madsen shot nine 3s TOTAL during the first six years of his career. Did he get suspended after this tank job? No. Did anyone get suspended or fined? No. Does anyone remember this other than me and my dad? Apparently, no. And then the T-Wolves get rewarded with a better pick? What a joke. I don’t know where the WWE ends and the NBA begins anymore. And yes, I’ve been waiting to rant about that for two months. So there you go.
8:13 — Genius idea by ESPN to stick a microphone on Rudy Gay when he’s about to slide out of the top seven. Just a lot of mumbling and head shaking so far. That’s followed by a debate about Gay’s potential, with Greg Anthony arguing that Gay will be better than people think and Stephen A. countering with, “I haven’t seen him play that much.” Take THAT, Greg Anthony. Mess with the bull, you get the horns!
8:16 — Boston selects Randy Foye for Portland, although Stern has to go through the charade of pretending that Boston picked him and Foye has to wear a Celtics hat. Why can’t they just say Portland picked him right now? What are we waiting for? Never understood that one. That leads to a three-minute session of everyone raving about Foye, capped off by my bitter father calling just to say, “This sucks, I really liked Randy Foye, as did everyone else sitting there. This sucks. My whole night’s ruined. I might take tomorrow off from work. I’m really bummed out. I can’t believe this.”
(See, sometimes it’s nice to be 3,000 miles away from your parents.)
8:18 — Coming in late to the Foye Compliment Orgy, Dickie V. screams, “He’s Dwyane Wade, baby!” and immediately disappears.
8:20 — Here’s why you have to love the NBA draft: It’s the only show where you could ever see a graphic like, “WOULD MOST LIKE TO MEET: HIS PARENTS.”
8:21 — True or false: If Houston drafted Reggie Bush right here, everyone in Houston would be OK with it.
(I say true.)
8:22 — The Rockets take Gay at No. 8, but apparently they’re trading him to Memphis for Shane Battier, even though none of the ESPN guys feels obligated to ask the question, “Wait, Battier makes $8 million a year, how can this work under the cap?” Undaunted, Bilas gushes, “Incredibly athletic, he’s 6-foot-9, he’s got really long arms, a wingspan of about 7-foot-3, he plays bigger than he is, he’s got every skill, every piece of ability you would want in a player.” Well, except for competitiveness. But hey, who needs that?
(Post-draft note: We found out two hours later that Stro Swift was included from Houston’s end. Love that trade for the Rockets — they desperately needed a reliable swingman who could play D and drain 3-pointers. Nicely done. The VP of Common Sense would have swiftly approved that deal.)
8:29 — The Warriors take Patrick O’Bryant, a mortal lock for the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars who has the most Irish-sounding name of any black athlete since Troy O’Leary. Not a bad pick. Let’s cancel the scheduled Chris Mullin intervention for tomorrow.
8:34 — Stu’s highlight of the night: Starting off his O’Bryant interview with the question: “Before the NCAA Tournament, nobody knew who you were. What’s the best thing about your game, Bryant, that people don’t know?”
(Stu yeah! No, seriously, Stu yeah!!!! Plus, we just found out that O’Bryant wants to be a chef and cooks cheesecake for his teammates. See, this is why we should have had Ozzie Guillen sitting at the main table tonight, for moments like this.)
8:35 — Tony Bennett reports that Minnesota and Portland are swapping draft picks — Roy to Portland, Foye to Minnesota. That’s it? That’s the trade? None of the ESPN guys seem remotely fazed. I knew Kevin McHale couldn’t just pick the best guy in the draft without somehow screwing it up. I would have bet my Ndudi Ebi rookie cards on it.
8:36 — Our first wild-card pick of the draft! Saer Sene and his 7-foot-8 wingspan go to Seattle at No. 10, despite the fact that he learned to make a layup off the correct foot just 12 months ago. (True story.) On the bright side, he averaged three points a game in a Belgian professional league this season. He’s the homeless man’s Desagana Diop. We might need to disband the Sonics. Seriously. It’s time. Enough is enough. Even the ESPN guys are killing this pick.
(By the way, why isn’t Stern miked for the draft? I’d love to know what he tells these guys. And why aren’t some of these kids wearing Suit Cams? Wouldn’t you love to see Sene’s vantage point as he walks up to the stage and shakes hands with an old guy who’s 18 inches shorter than him?)
8:41 — How does Orlando top last year’s Fran Vasquez pick? Wait, I know … by taking Redick and his bad back. And you’re not gonna believe this, but Dick Vitale loves the pick. Even crazier, I’m agreeing with Dickie V again. He’s right, Redick produced in college despite dealing with an inordinate amount of pressure for a college kid. Solid pick for the Magic. I think Dickie V has me brainwashed. He’s like the Tom Cruise to my Katie Holmes.
8:45 — Stephen A. screaming … Stephen A screaming … Stephen A screaming …
8:47 — Hilton Armstrong goes No. 12 to New Orleans. I’m almost positive that was the name of one of Steven Seagal’s movie characters in the late-’80s. And if it wasn’t, it should have been.
(Note: We’re officially in “killing time until the Knicks pick” mode. If the Knicks take Marcus Williams, that’s it — I’m retiring the draft diary. That will never be topped. By the way, did you know he’s leading all NBA rookies in steals right now? Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be here all week.)
8:53 — Uh-oh, Philly just took a Swiss guy who was born in South Africa (Thabo Sefolosha), then traded him to the Bulls for the No. 16 pick and parts unknown. Seriously, we might want to scrap the whole “draft picks wearing hats of the teams that picked them” thing and just give them a Kangol NBA cap or something. Enough is enough.
8:56 — Note to the ESPN guys: Next year, just tell us which guys in the draft AREN’T athletic. Much easier.)
8:58 — My friend Nick Aieta e-mails me just to say, “I can’t wait until Bob Cousy tries to say the name ‘Thabo Sefolosha’ during a Celtics game next season.” Agreed. Meanwhile, a harried Dan Patrick announces the details of the Telfair/Foye trades and says, “I feel like I’m landing jets here.” Wild night so far.
8:59 — The unequivocal highlight of the draft: Patrick throws it to the podium for Utah’s pick, only Stern hasn’t emerged from his secret lair yet, followed by Patrick filling time with “Where’d he go?” jokes, then Stern emerging, taking a dramatic pause and saying, “Dan, I was sitting in the back listening to your pithy comments.” He actually seems ticked. Dan quickly fires back with an awkward “I like Paul Tagliabue better” joke. I feel like they’re orchestrating this just to liven up my diary. It’s too good to be true.
That’s followed by one more nasty look from Stern, then Utah taking a mortified Ronnie Brewer (who has a “Wait, isn’t that the city with no black people?” look on his face). Apparently, he can’t shoot consistently from the outside because he broke his arm when he was a kid. But if that right arm could bend, he’d be right back in that thing. Meanwhile, his dad looks exactly like Sam Jackson in “A Time to Kill” and seems like a 50/50 bet to scream “Yes, the Jazz deserve to die AND I HOPE THEY BURN IN HELL!” My head is spinning. This is turning into the greatest draft ever. I’m not kidding.
9:00 — Dan Patrick is gunned down in cold blood by Bennett Salvatore.
9:02 — I have to be honest, I don’t have a firm handle on Brewer’s athleticism right now. Is it world-class? Nuclear? Off-the-charts? Rock-solid? Bilas is slipping. Meanwhile, we finally found out about the Roy-Foye trade — they swapped picks and Minnesota picked up “cash considerations.” Sounds a little nefarious.
9:04 — New Orleans takes my illegitimate brother, Cedric. Wingspan, athletic, raw, tools, blah blah blah. I’m getting woozy. And not to nitpick with the Worldwide Leader, but instead of learning tidbits in the info graphics, “Childhood pastimes: Built treehouses, hunted squirrels and rabbits,” couldn’t we find out stuff like “SUV, Hummer or sports car?” and “Number of unemployed buddies who will be moving in with him?” I find that stuff much more interesting. Maybe it’s just me. All right, it’s definitely me.
9:10 — Chicago takes Rodney Carney for Philly at 16. “Great athleticism,” Patrick says quickly, followed by Bilas screaming, “Don’t do my act, Dan! I will punch you in the face! Back off! Just back off! As God as my witness, I will punch you right in your smug little face!”
9:15 — This is awkward: They’re discussing reasons why Marcus Williams slipped (character issues, out of shape, the laptop scandal), and, umm, he’s sitting right there. And he can hear everything. Umm, guys? He’s right there. Guys? Guys? Meanwhile, Indiana just reached for Shawne Williams at No. 17, followed by Stern ominously saying, “Shawne is not here.” The wheels have come off the 2006 draft.
9:31 — After Washington takes a giddy Ukrainian dude who looks happy just to be on national TV (never a good sign), Patrick interviews Larry Legend (looking disgruntled, like he spent the whole night trying to unsuccessfully trade Stephen Jackson and Jamaal Tinsley) and the Kings jump on Rutgers gunner Quincy Douby (one of my sleepers in this draft), followed by DP joking, “He can really light it up.” And that brings us to our featured attraction of the evening …
“THE KNICKS ARE ON THE CLOCK!”
ESPN wisely works the MSG crowd into a hostile frenzy by showing the obligatory “KNICKS UNDER ISIAH THOMAS” graphic. Has there ever been rioting at an NBA draft before?
9:34 — Stephen A. on the No. 20 pick: “I’M A BORN AND RAISED NEW YORKER, OK? YOU HAVE GOT TO GET A DOG ON THIS ROSTER, I DON’T CARE WHERE YOU FIND HIM. I DON’T CARE, YOU GOT TO GET SOMEONE WHO WILL BE IN PEOPLE’S FACE, SOMEONE WHO’S HARDCORE. YOU LOOK AT ISIAH THOMAS AND HIS DRAFT HISTORY … YOU KNOW THAT HE KNOWS TALENT … THIS PICK HAS GOT TO WORK. IT’S GOT TO WORK!”
(Translation: The Knicks need to pick someone good.)
9:36 — There are those moments in sports when you expect something great, and then it actually happens. And then there are those rare moments in sports when you expect something great, and something even greater happens. This was one of those moments: The Knicks on the clock, the crowd pushing for Marcus Williams, and then …
–Stern: “With the 20th pick, the New York Knicks select … Renaldo Balkman.”
(Crowd explodes in horror.)
–Stern (over the boos): “Renaldo is not here.”
–Patrick (without missing a beat): “And it’s probably a good thing.”
(Shot of a beaten-down Spike Lee laughing hysterically.)
9:36 — That was fantastic. Everyone kept e-mailing me to write about Isiah and the Knicks last week … what else was there to say? OF COURSE Isiah was meant to coach this team as his final job in the NBA before retiring to a life of greeting people at casinos and doing informercials. If somebody clogs your toilet, you ask him to clean up the mess. That’s just the way life works. I’m telling you, we’re going to remember the Isiah/Knicks Era the same way we remember things like Enron, the Hindenberg and the Bay of Pigs. It’s reached that level. I don’t know what else to say. Honestly. I have Knicks fans e-mailing me every day asking me if it’s OK to root against their own team. What else can you say at this point?
(Wait, I know … Renaldo Balkman!)
9:37 — A stammering Bilas sets off three minutes of Isiah-bashing by saying, “This to me is a stunner, I’m stunned. This is a second-round player. Nobody else would have taken him in the first round,” followed by Greg Anthony using the word “befuddling” and Stephen A. (maybe for the first time ever) admitting, “I’m almost speechless.”
I mean, when Stephen A. is almost speechless …
9:39 — Who’s going to be the first one to make the obligatory “Is it possible that Isiah thought he was taking Rolando Blackman?” joke. Screw it, I’ll do it.
9:40 — Just when this draft couldn’t get any crazier, my beloved Celtics just bought the 21st pick from Phoenix to take Rajon Rondo, the Kentucky guard who Chad Ford touted all summer because he mistakenly thought Rondo was foreign. Unfortunately, Rondo can’t shoot. This is an understatement. As Bilas says, “Teams in the SEC didn’t even guard him.” Put it this way: The list of NBA teams that won an NBA title with a point guard who couldn’t shoot looks like this:
On the other hand, my Celtics moles told me that Rondo absolutely DESTROYED Foye and Williams in their workout a few weeks ago. So who knows?
God, I’m a sap …
9:43 — My dad’s reaction: “So we have two new point guards, but one of them’s 5-foot-11 and the other one can’t shoot? And I’m supposed to be happy about this?” Tough to argue with that one. I’m not even going to bother telling him about Rondo’s freakishly long fingers. Maybe tomorrow.
9:45 — Just trying to cheer myself up by thinking about all the Knicks fan/friends I’m e-mailing tomorrow with “Renaldo Balkman!” in the subject heading. That’s gonna be fun.
9:49 — The Nets grab a relieved Marcus Williams at No. 22, followed by Stern shaking his hand with one of those “Let’s hope this is the last time we cross paths, mister” looks on his face. That’s followed by Bilas questioning Marcus’ body fat by saying, “14 percent body fat is fine if you’re hibernating.” I’m thoroughly enjoying the Marcus Williams Era already.
9:51 — During the Williams interview, ESPN chickens out from running a “MUST IMPROVE: KLEPTOMANIA” graphic.
10:00 — Well, I got one wish granted: The latest “miked up” montage with Rudy Gay included his conversation on stage with Stern. Here’s how it unfolded:
–Stern (shaking hands): “Congratulations, OK.”
–Gay: “Thank you.”
–Stern: “That’s very exciting.”
–Stern (turning): “Look out there to the camera.”
And … scene.
All right, maybe it was better NOT to know.
10:02 — Bilas on Rondo vs. Kyle Lowry (Memphis’ 24th pick): “If those two got into a fight, I’d pick Lowry.” Don’t worry, it was even more confusing when it happened in real time. Everyone’s punchy. What a draft. I can’t wait for the Knicks’ 29th pick — at the rate we’re going, Isiah could draft Barbaro and we wouldn’t be surprised.
10:13 — After the Cavs take Shannon Brown at No. 25 (intriguing), the Lakers grab Jordan Farmar (even more intriguing) and Phoenix sells its pick to Portland for cash (with the Blazers grabbing Sergio Rodriguez). I love Phoenix’s performance tonight — they should have just put those two first-rounders on eBay. Way to look out for your fans, guys.
And what about Portland’s wheeling and dealing? They’re like a drunk college kid randomly putting together an NBA Live team at 4 a.m. What a bizarre night. I can’t get over it. We may have to retire the draft diary with Draft Diary X. I’m not sure this can be topped.
10:20 — The Mavs take Maurice Ager at No. 28. He puts his head in his hands and starts sobbing hysterically as his entourage congratulates him. It’s about time we had some emotion tonight, dammit. Ager walks up to the stage in a triple-breasted, oversized beige suit, goes to shake hands with Stern and immediately gets whistled for a foul on Dwyane Wade.
10:27 — Now it’s time for Isiah Thomas’ last-ever first-round pick! The crowd sounds angry, Spike Lee looks semi-catatonic, the ESPN hosts look terrified, Stern looks relieved that it’s almost over.
Ladies and gentleman, Isiah’s last first-round pick he will ever make in the NBA …
(Drumroll please …)
Temple guard Mardy Collins! Wow, that was anticlimatic. The consensus from the ESPN guys seems to be “not bad.” But you know what? That’s the perfect place to end Draft Diary X. Mardy Collins isn’t just the answer to a trivia question some day, he represents the end of an error, er, era. What a night.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His book “Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.