Notes from Newark

Here are some scattered observations from my Draft wanderings:

  • My favorite thing I saw outside the stadium aside from the spirited games of 2-Ball was a middle-aged guy in a BYU polyester golf shirt and matching belt trying to find a friend. In describing where he was relative to the parking lot, he said “I can hit my driver to it from where I am.” Classic Newark.
  • I was credentialed for the Draft late Wednesday, so when I went to check in to the draft they didn’t have my information and I had to get my picture taken and a pass printed on site. This was no big hassle, except I still have a black eye from an (assumedly) inadvertent elbow I took playing hoops last weekend. I had just gotten my stitches out Thursday morning, and the fading, light-purple circle around my eye now looks like artistically applied eyeshadow. Great first impression, and a great look on my press pass. The other “hiccup” was that, in part because no one has heard of me and in part because I have a goofy first name, the person printing my pass decided that my middle name, Andrew, made a lot more sense as a first name than Beckley. While I can’t argue with that logic, I had gotten all gussied up in a suit for my first Draft, and this reminder of my anonymity was a tad deflating.
  • Everyone hates LeBron James and David Stern. But mostly LeBron. Through out the night, the NBA showed top ten lists on the jumbotron hanging above the floor: best drives, best passes, best dunks, etc. As you might imagine, LeBron was involved in a number of these plays, and any time he was on screen the entire stadium, as if by Pavlovian reflex, booed lustliy. Some fans held up “Jimmer = the real King James” signs, which only shows that LeBron is the reference point for just about everything NBA related these days. David Stern hardly fared better, though you had to love the satisfied look on his face as he read names and announced trades through the collectively voiced displeasure. To him, all that matters is that people were there, and that they cared about the NBA.
  • This probably shouldn’t have surprised me considering that often 21 or 22 year old players are considered “old” for draftees, but I was struck by how green almost all the players in the green room looked. Surrounded by their families, they look less like men ready to reach the pinnacle of their profession, and more like a bunch of kids wearing really really nice suits. It really drove home what a risk picking a 19 year old can be, even if his ceiling is tremendous. There’s a reason that around four top ten picks don’t pan out at all each year. Selecting someone at this point in their lives, as they are still forming the person they will be, is an inherently risky proposition.
  • Speaking of unknowns in suits, Bismack Byombo made an immediate impression. His arms are super long and his hands are huge. It’s the kind of thing that really strikes you when you see an NBA player’s dimensions set against everyday object–as when Byombo grabbed his chair to pull it out and sit down.
  • Fran Fraschilla is living the life.
  • There were some flags in the audience and it seemed like some of the foreign picks had plenty of countrymen in attendance. Then Kyle Weidie point something out to me: a bunch couple of the groups had brought multiple flags and doing their jump around like mad men routine for every foreigner picked.
  • I don’t know if it was his little brother or what, but someone at Kawhi Leonard’s green room table was a dead ringer for the limo driver, Argyle, from the original Die Hard.
  • Jan Vesely got a great smooch from his sweetheart when he was drafted. What a first impression! Twitter was aflutter with claims that the Czech prospect had “won the draft,” proof that this event is properly enjoyed more as a pageant than anything else.
  • During his presser, a very sharply dressed Marshon Brooks expressed a sentiment that I’d imagine was widespread throughout the attending draftees. As reporters asked him questions of varying levels of relevance “what do you know about how the Nets play” (a little) to “who do you think is a second round sleeper” (Andrew Goudelock, who was picked by the Lakers), it was evident that he preferred to be just about anywhere else given what had just happened. Eventually he flat out said he wanted to get out of this interview get with his family, and then celebrate. Imagine the best thing ever had just happened to you, and now you have to answer somewhat inane questions from strangers instead of celebrate with your family.
  • There’s an awkward dynamic between the live event and the telecast that only gets more so as the draft goes on. Jay Bilas has the unenviable task of saying something about each player who gets drafted, and trying to give an honest appraisal of the player’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s great for a TV audience, but this feed is simultaneously broadcasted over the PA when the player is drafted, so he, if his ears aren’t ringing from the enormity of his accomplishment, has to listen to Bilas talk about his “Matador defense” or “poor judgment” as he walks across the stage. Imagine graduating from college, and as you walk across to get your diploma, a strange voice in the background bemoans your Class Attendance Efficiency, or general lack of maturity.
  • Walking around the Draft, I found it impossible to keep up with the trades as they were happening. I was constantly being informed of things twenty minutes after they happened “oh ya, Norris Cole got drafted in the first round by Miami, who got Chicago’s pick. Where have you been?” My response: “At the Draft!”
  • I then thought about NBA front offices, and how they each, presumably, had a plan for every conceivable scenario they could imagine. But then there are teams like Sacramento and Detroit, who held picks seven and eight of the first round. Sacramento’s GM Geoff Petrie’s plan appears to be “get fired for moving down in the draft and spending a truckload of money to get older at an already filled position before just picking a player who was available at the original spot.” It was a meticulously constructed disaster. Maybe it’s true that absolutely no one wants to be in Sacramento. I have more sympathy for Detroit. Brandon Knight is a smart, basketball-obsessed kid with tremendous potential. However Knight didn’t workout for Detroit because few imagined he’d slip that far. He’s an awful fit with their organization, so I wonder if that was the kind of move that happens in the five minutes between picks, rather than the months of planning preceding the big night.
  • I’ve privately doubted how Adam Silver’s appearance and public personality will translate as the NBA’s head honcho if he ever gets the job. I’m not sure his performance reading the names and trades of the second round exactly laid those concerns to rest, but I have to say I got a tickle out it. There was something very refreshing and fun about watching Silver try out his commissioner voice on players like Chukwudiebere Maduabum and Targuy Ngombo.
  • Undrafted: the Big East Player of the Year whose brother was ACC Player of the Year and is now an NBA rotational player. Ben Hansbrough, I did everything I could to hype you up; the internet has failed us both.

This was fun. Now, how about Summer League? Please?!

Andrew Mason out.

Twitter: @BeckleyMason


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  1. [...] Beckley Mason of HoopSpeak had an interesting draft from the looks of his recap, but this quote about Bismack further heightened my interest. Speaking of unknowns in suits, Bismack Byombo made an immediate impression. His arms are super long and his hands are huge. It’s the kind of thing that really strikes you when you see an NBA player’s dimensions set against everyday object–as when Byombo grabbed his chair to pull it out and sit down. [...]

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