· Let’s stay with this idea that NBA fans are relieved the Finals are over so the focus can switch to the Draft, which this year, seems to garner more interest. Bill Simmons tackled the subject this week, offering some ideas to salvage the credibility of the playoffs. Ken Berger of Newsday wrote a great piece, suggesting the quicker the focus can switch to the draft, the better so fans can get this miserable season out of their memory. From 1984-1998, the NBA Finals gave fans a chance to see some of the best basketball ever played, so it’s sad to say that Simmons and Berger are right about the state of the game. This year, the Finals were the low point on an overall terrible season of basketball and, with two franchise players available, this draft is so interesting because it provides the few casual NBA fans left with the exact thing that might save the popularity of the league: a change. It’s a chance for a whole new brand of players, two that could potentially change the face of the league, to inject some life into the NBA when it needs it most. Major League Baseball had the home run chase and fans (David Stern as well) are hoping Durant and Oden will strike the same chord. It’s pretty lucky that Durant and Oden are coming into this league after one of the worst years in memory, hopefully they don’t provide the NBA with yet another disappointment.
· Portland GM Kevin Pritchard claims he is still undecided on the No. 1 pick and will have a better idea after Oden comes to Portland tomorrow and Durant visits Friday. Apparently everyone in Portland wants Oden, which is funny because up until the national championship game, the “Greg Oden is overrated” bandwagon was nearly full. Something tells me that stupid bench press carries more weight (no pun intended… I swear) than it should. Pritchard’s best quote regarding the decision: "Look at the first half of Durant's game against Kansas. Watch that game and tell me it's an easy choice." I love this guy.
· On the Durant front, Adidas and Nike are apparently in a bidding war for the young man’s services. Durant’s agent is apparently asking for something in the ballpark of 50 million but Durant is interested in going the Stephon Marbury route (with shoes, not incompetence) and offering a cheap pair of shoes so kids can afford them. He is a lock for world domination, I’m sure of it. On a sad note, Durant visited Seattle this week to get a look at his probable first NBA city. He is expected to announce his retirement shortly.
· Today marks the deadline for undecided players to announce their intentions for the draft. I’m sure the final list of draft entrants will be readily available today, but we’ll cover that Wednesday. The great Andy Katz is all over several players decisions and, more importantly, what it means to their respective college teams. In case you’re reading this before the official list comes out, here’s what we know so far:
· Dominic James is making the right choice and going back to Marquette.
· JamesOn Curry is making the wrong choice and staying in the draft. He thinks Chicago is taking him at No. 49 but not everyone is so sure. He may pull a Randolph Morris and not hire an agent at all so he could head back to school and become a free agent after the season.
· Ramon Sessions is supposedly killing his workouts and will stay in the draft.
· I, probably like most people, know little about Dominic McGuire from Fresno, but here’s a Q & A with Gary Estwick of the Fresno Bee to enlighten us all. McGuire hired an agent and is in the draft.
· DeVon Hardin from Cal is staying in the draft, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Katz reported Hardin’s goal was to be in the top 20 and supposedly New Jersey has interest at No. 17 (didn’t they want McRoberts also?) and Golden State at No. 18 as well.
· Katz said draft longshots Maureece Rice (George Washington) and Charles Rhodes (Mississippi State) are heading back to school.
appears to be staying in the draft and he just
skipped a workout in Chicago. He claims it was due to injury but at the
this article it says he is staying in the draft and has shut it down because
Isiah Thomas, in his infinite wisdom, has promised the No. 23 pick to Chandler.
Last week I read an article that Thomas promised he’d take Derrick Byars if
he could. I don’t know what is going on in that man’s head but I know, given the
precedent he showed last year, a
devastatingly awful strange decision
will be made.
· The most interesting draft article I read this week was from SI.com’s Luke Winn, who wrote about the incredible rise and ubiquitous presence of Internet draft services, most notably NBADraft.net and DraftExpress. It’s pretty fascinating how these sites began from such modest foundations and turned into resources that both players and NBA executives frequently consult. In a year where Joakim Noah bashed mock drafts and their “basement-dwelling creators,” Winn’s article smashes some of the preconceived notions about the Internet draft movement’s shaky legitimacy. It quickly becomes evident how serious these guys are. As far as the mock draft debate, the founders of the sites admit they are pretty unreliable at the end of the day, but Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, in one of the better quotes in recent memory, knows why: "If it was up to me, we'd just scout players and not have a mock draft at all. How am I supposed to predict the stupidity of 30 NBA GMs an entire year in advance?" He is my hero. Ryan White of The Oregonian takes his own look at the Internet’s unique way of following the draft, finding some interesting stuff regarding Portland’s pick at No. 1.
· Chad Ford has some rumors. It’s Insider only so I’ll just tell you what he said. Apparently the Wolves are really interested in Spencer Hawes at No. 7. I’m not sold on Hawes because nearly every power forward in the NBA is either stronger or more athletic than him, but he seems to have a lot of suitors. Only time will tell if I’m truly smarter than most NBA GMs. Ford thinks Thaddeus Young is staying in the draft, citing an interest in being in the top 20. That shouldn’t’ be a problem.
· Speaking of Hawes, he worked out for the Sixers and Celtics to pretty decent reviews.
· Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times took on the unenviable task of speaking with Sixers GM Billy King. They appear to be high on Nick Young.
· The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Sekou Smith continues to lord over this draft with an iron fist, turning in another great feature, this time of Al Horford. Featured inside: Joakim Noah has something to say!
· I’ve always been interested in the effects that undecided draft entrants’ decisions have on their college’s incoming recruits. Luckily Whitelaw (not making that name up) Reid of the Daily Progress in Charlottesville has me covered with this feature on Sean Singletary and how his decision on the draft will affect Sam Zeglinski, an incoming point guard for the Cavaliers.
· It’s looking more and more like Al Horford and Brandan Wright will go, in some order, at No. 3 and No. 4 so the Celtics pick at No. 5 may be the key to the rest of the lottery. The Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy takes a look at the options, which basically include a trade or any of up to eight players.
· Aaron Brooks is one of the more likable players in the draft as evident by this feature assessing his draft chances. His lack of size and his scoring mentality probably have him destined for the second round but Brooks has always been confident.
· Al Thornton has come a long way and after working out for the Celtics, Danny Ainge thinks he’s the second-best offensive player in the draft. Hopefully his long journey will contain a Sixers jersey.
· So I guess Brandan Wright, being the masochist that he is, had an incredible workout with Milwaukee Friday. The joke is once again on the hapless Bucks, who have no chance at getting him. That didn’t’ keep the local columnists, like Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times, from wishing. After the recent diss from Noah, who refused to work out for the Bucks, and the defections from all their stars of the recent past, the Bucks appear to be the NBA’s least desirable franchise right now. Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel hopes this offseason helps Milwaukee bring back the old days.
· Good to see some features on a few of my favorite mid-major players last season:
· When I covered Delaware and the CAA in college, one of my favorite players to watch was Loren Stokes, who is highlighted in this well-done feature from Brian Hendrickson of The Columbian. Hopefully he gets a shot somewhere.
· The Nets and Knicks worked out Jared Jordan. Isiah Thomas apparently really likes Jordan, raising the tally of players he’d like to draft to 14.
· Jamaal Tatum is one of the better defensive guards I have seen in awhile and apparently NBA teams are taking notice. Whoever drafts him is getting a lot of value.
· I’ve heard next to nothing about the Clippers pick at 14 but they seem to be looking for a point guard. Acie Law and Javaris Crittenton worked out for the Clips Wednesday. They must not be optimistic that Shaun Livingston will locate his left knee any time soon.
· Oh, and Yi Jianlian has a blog on NBA.com. The entire concept baffles me. I know bloggers don’t get a lot of credit but I will say this of them. They speak fluent English. That seems to be a prerequisite. Yi Jianlian, breaking the ethnic barrier of blogging. Maybe our government ccan learn from the blogosphere and repair our poor relationship with China.
Wow, that was exhausting. Back with hopefully much less on Wednesday.