Before ballers started faking college for 15 minutes before going pro, I actually looked forward to the NBA Draft. Now only hoops junkies with an Armenian translator on retainer care about the process.
But this year, thanks to DeMarcus Cousins, is different.
Cousins is the first guy in a looong time to actually bring some genuine intrigue to the NBA Draft. Why? Because though he’s a top talent, he’s also a major league a-hole. Just ask his teammate at Kentucky, Daniel Orton. Read more…
In 2002, Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson sat at a press conference after his team lost in the NBA Playoffs and launched into a famous diatribe about practice. You know the one, we don’t need to explain. While coaches and old white people everywhere were horrified at the brash young man’s attitude, practice-hating kids everywhere rejoiced at someone giving voice to their concerns.
(NBA 2K10: “This time…we are talkin’ bout practice!”)
Fast forward seven years. The world is a very different place. Athletes communicate via Twitter instead of press conferences. Allen Iverson is a grizzled journeyman at the end of his career. And 2K sports just announced plans to create an entire freaking video game devoted to practice, “2K10: Draft Combine.” The world has gone completely mad.
It’s easy to understand Ricky Rubio’s reluctance to leave the sun, style and nightlife of Spain for Minnesota. But when UNC’s Wayne Ellington said he was hoping to be drafted by his hometown 76ers, I did a double take. Wayne! Anyone who even survives 18 years in Philly is blessed. Why do you want to go back?
Above would be exhibits A and B. That’s Wayne’s girlfriend, a 19-year-old college student in Philadelphia, and suddenly his desire to stay close to home seems a little less crazy.
The Clippers’ selection of Blake Griffin with the first pick in the NBA Draft last night was a forgone conclusion, so most of the draft drama was centered around Spanish point guard sensation Ricky Rubio. Over the past couple of weeks, Rubio became one of the most fascinating prospects in draft history — he doesn’t want to play in a small market or a cold city, his agent didn’t let him work out against other humans (which led to the strange one-on-none workout in Sacramento), he still has a huge buyout in his European contract, and nobody can really agree about how good he really is (he could be the next Steve Nash or the next Dan Dickau, and neither scenario would be surprising).
In other words, Ricky seems to be rejecting Minneapolis as his future home. Any threat to not come to the NBA isn’t really financial leverage, since his contract is slotted based on his position in the draft. But he could be pulling this stunt to try and force a trade to a city that’s more to his liking, such as New York. He might also be wondering (like a lot of other people) why the Wolves took another point guard (Johnny Flynn) with the #6 pick. Here’s what Mr. Rubio told MARCA (via FANHOUSE):
“We are going to speak with the [staff] of Minnesota and see what’s happening, because, in some hours, we may be in Minnesota or in another place.”
He’s either expressing confusion over the Wolves’ intentions of keeping his son, or he’s basically telling them they better trade because there’s no way Ricky’s coming to play there.
After being drafted, ESPN’s Mark Jones asked Ricky to compare his game to that of a current NBA player. To which he simply replied: “I’m Ricky Rubio” (to the amusement of the MSG crowd). Scroll to the 3:20 mark of this video:
Surely I’m not the only person who thought of this when I saw the interview:
After Minnesota picked Flynn, it looked like Stephen Curry might fall to the Knicks, and it was no secret that he wanted to call MSG his home. But the Warriors didn’t get the memo and picked him, sending the Knicks fans on hand into depressed hysterics. It was only fitting that the boos rained down on Jordan Hill, who had no chance to win over the New York crowd in such a short period of time. At least he’s probably better than Renaldo Balkman.
The other strange development of the night was Brandon Jennings‘ last-minute decision to not attend the draft at the advice of his agent, who seemed uneasy about letting his client end up like Rashard Lewis, who famously slid way down the draft board while TV cameras watched his every emotion. Well, as it turns out, Jennings went 10th to the Bucks, then decided to show up a few picks later to get his photo op with David Stern. Now, if Jennings turns out anything like Lewis, he wouldn’t have cared when he was drafted.
HOOPSHYPE has a good recap of the draft up, and Kings fans are going to need to steer clear of hairdryers and bathtubs after reading that they’ve got the next Larry Hughes on their hands. The suit of the night, without a doubt, belonged to James Harden:
(Mustard suit + bowtie = smooth)
There were some other things going on in the sports world last night, including the resolution to one of the stupidest athlete spats in recent memory. With the Yankees heading to Queens for a weekend series with the Mets, the tensions between Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Bruney once again became back page news. But the NY DAILY NEWS reports that it was all settled last week, when Bruney sent a clubhouse attendant over the Mets clubhouse to apologize to K-Rod on his behalf. I was accused of some anti-Yankee bias in my original post about this matter, but really, c’mon, sending an attendant to apologize for you? How lame is that? I would’ve loved to see that exchange at K-Rod’s locker.
A lot of major league pitchers struggle, and a lot are sent to the minors to work through their troubles. But few actually go to their team and ask to be sent down, like the Pirates’ Ian Snell has done. Snell is 2-8 this year with a 5.36 ERA and awful 1.624 WHIP. He had actually been throwing better as of late, but said he thought it was best for the team to be sent down because he was bringing too much negativity to the team. I can’t decide if this is an alarming lack of confidence and perseverance on Snell’s part or a refreshing selfless decision done in the interest of helping his team and his own career. Regardless, Snell has actually been slightly better this year than last, when he had a 5.42 ERA and even more god-awful 1.765 WHIP, and he threw a full slate of 31 starts. Here’s what Snell told the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE’s Dejan Kovacevic:
“I don’t want to point fingers and make excuses. I just made a better decision for myself, my career and my life.” I asked what he needs to do: “Nothing. You guys don’t understand it unless you played baseball. You don’t understand it, and the people at home don’t understand it. I’m just going down there, get my thoughts together and do well.”
I think he just needs a hug, not a stint in AAA.
Before we get to today’s links, I feel like taking a few minutes to watch the “Smooth Criminal” video again. There’s no doubt that Michael Jackson was a weird dude, and possibly a perv on such a level that he doesn’t deserve our grief. But is it so bad to spend a day remembering why we loved the guy? All that other stuff will come back around soon enough.
Now let’s get on with those links:
• Ever wonder who that lady is who gives the draft picks their hat before they walk over to meet David Stern? Wonder no more.
• Vijay Singhattempted to bail accused swindler Allen Stanford out of jail, but was told he couldn’t because he isn’t an American, according to CNBC’s Darren Rovell. This is like the first time I’ve ever heard about Vijay being a really generous guy, and it’s to someone who probably stole a bunch of money from him.
• According to this AFP story, “Gay clocks wind-aided 9.75″ at the US Track and Field Championships. Miss California is unimpressed.
• Frank Thomassays he’s “close” to retiring, which will be news to the one person in the universe who doesn’t already think that Frank Thomas is retired. That person being Frank Thomas, of course.
• A man has now been arrested in connection with Karen Sypher’s plan to extort cash from Rick Pitino. Why was Lester Goetzinger so willing to help out in this scheme? Were sexual favors involved or something? Oh, actually, they were.
• Wimbledon’s in full swing, and a rising star you might want to keep an eye on (or both your eyes on, really) is Caroline Wozniacki out of Denmark. She’s the #9 seed and has advanced to the third round. Here she is enjoying some time off the court:
(Not the right way to get into the NBA, you’d think.)
The NBA’s got its horror stories too, like Arizona prospect Chase Budinger being questioned about whether he had some side action going on (seriously, even if Budinger had three different girls to get down with, would that really affect his draft status? Should it?). Curiously, Tyreke Evans, a medium-to-high lottery pick, doesn’t seem to have been hampered by what would seem to be a relatively major red flag: complicity in a drive-by shooting.
If there’s one sport most closely connected with the art of trash-talking, without a doubt, it’s basketball. Cripes, the And 1 Tour gives a guy a microphone and puts him on the court to yap at the players. So it’s frustrating to see the David Stern NBA now populated by mediabots, personified best by notorious hothead Rasheed Wallace’s epic “Both teams played hard” interview.
(To Jennings’ credit, he’s just eating the basketball. That’s incredibly poor technique.)
Fortunately for all of us, Brandon Jennings has not been drafted by an NBA team, so nobody has beaten the will to speak candidly out of him yet. Jennings, already something of an iconoclast for his decision to spend his year between high school and the NBA in Europe rather than in college, was asked by the Sacramento media about fellow lottery prospect and European Ricky Rubio and how he compares. The result, as seen on the videos at the KINGS BLOG of the SACRAMENTO BEE, was good, old-fashioned playground smack talk:
Former University of Washington senior forward/center Kent Jon Brockman has spent the past few weeks finishing up his college career no differently than your average UW senior: enjoying his last weeks in Seattle, cramming for finals, finishing papers, and going to the gym. It’s a grueling time for any college senior, let alone one hoping to get picked in June 25’s NBA Draft.
(”Hey guys, it’s me, I’m right here!” )
Imagine Brockman’s surprise when he navigated his magical internet machine over to ESPN.COM and read that he looked good working out for NBA scouts in Los Angeles this week. Considering Brockman had told NBA teams he wouldn’t be working out for anyone until the NBA combine later this month, ESPN’s snafu could potentially put Brockman in the position of defending a secret workout that never happened. How did resident draftnik Chad Fordget it wrong?
Mark Titus is a guard for Ohio State with 30 minutes of playing time under his belt. (That’s 30 minutes total, not per game.) He lead the nation last year in 3 point percentage and points per shot (one shot taken, a successful three pointer). But he’s also got one of the best athlete blogs out there. So when he tongue-in-cheek announced his intention to enter the NBA draft, it promised to be a funny and instructive look at the draft process through a prospect’s eyes.
But this is the NBA we’re talking about, so you knew they’d find a way to ruin everybody’s good time. They called Titus and told him to remove his name from the draft “or else.” Because god forbid they allow a kid to have a little fun.