Friday, July 31, 2009
The best thing that ever happened are the NBA Network's replays of old NBA Drafts at this time of the year. They start with '81, but I missed that this year (my DVR is limited to two shows at a time, and since one is always rolling on Bravo, competition is fierce for the second slot). Here are my thoughts about the '82 telecast.
-A recap of the rookie stars of '81 has still photographs of each of the ballplayers, the types of action photographs you'd expect - except they have what looks like a senior picture for Buck Williams. He's in a red sweater; his chin is in his hands; he's about to head to 3rd period English to read The Canterbury Tales.
-I miss the gruffness of Larry O'Brien, treating the fans in the Felt Forum like a middle school Principal, "if you don't quiet down we cannot get started with our assembly this afternoon. The Akron Fire Department rock and roll band is here to perform for you. Please be quiet."
-Jerry Buss is here; James Worthy is not. Fast forward 27 years and Buss can't be bothered to show up for the trophy ceremony for the Lakers title win. LA is the most jaded one time in a row winner ever; the Buss family sends a 19 year old to pick up the trophy; Coach Phil is just going to work home games; Kobe's going to pass twice per quarter; Adam Morrison's going to turn the channel in the middles of the third quarter.
-Terry Cummings is in jeans and a polo shirt looking like he just got off his shift at Baskin Robbins.
-Eddie Doucette, in the kiss and cry area, just told Bill Garnett that he didn't have a good jumper. Look for that in 2009:
Stu Scott (interviewing DeMar DeRozan): You were sort of a bust at USC, DeMar. And you have too many D's in your name given how you don't play any.
BEST THINGS LOUIE CARNESECCA SAID: "There are gonna be some surprises and there are gonna be some that's not so surprising." "Gimme that potato - I'll take it!"
GUY WHO MAY BE DEAD: Keith Edmondson
Here came the weird academic portion of the draft - Edmondson said he couldn't attend the pre-draft camp in Hawaii because he didn't want his grades to slip. Sleepy Floyd said he had to take the LSAT because he wanted to go to law school. Paul Pressey cut off questions by asking Al Albert his views of the Malthusian catastrophe dilemma.
Stu Scott (to Brandon Jennings) What will you be doing to get ready for the leap to the NBA?
Jennings: Most importantly will be studying for the quantitative analysis section of the LSAT. I want to emulate Justice Floyd.
Doucett also went to his ironic nickname commentary bag selectively.
To Fat Lever: there's nothing Fat about you!
To Sleepy Floyd: there's nothing Sleepy about you!
To Lester the Molester Connor: best name in the draft! So weirdly appropriate!
Then Quentin Dailey beat Connor down for stealing what should have rightfully been his nickname.
Too bad I missed the '81 draft.
Doucette: Buck Williams! There's nothing Buck about you! Sharp sweater! When's your lunch period?
Sometimes, as I watch the old drafts, I take naps. Sure, a greater commitment to my craft would require that I rewatch the material that I slept through. But you will not see that here. When I fall asleep after Lancaster Gordon got picked, that's the end of my thoughts on the '84 draft. No, I didn't sleep through 1983, they haven't aired it. I mean the draft. I was 12 in 1983 and slept through a healthy portion of that year. I has Mrs. Gimbut for 7th grade English and that was a bad scene. I got fined for the condition of my textbook when I returned it at year's end; it had obscenities in it; the truth is it was that way at the beginning of the year and I spent months worrying about what would happen when I turned it in. They were particularly vulgar as well, scatological, the types of things that even at 12, I thought were a little beneath me. I think I was less bothered that Mrs. Gimbut thought I was the kind of kid who wrote dirty words in his grammar book than that those would be the particular words which I thought amusing. Like I was 1983 version of Beavis and/or Butthead.
For the first time this week, I see a scenario where I could make use of Twitter. Not after Michael Jackson died, but after the Knicks took Kenny Walker in '86.
-Moustache David Stern looks like he's just come back from a key party. Five will get you ten the phrase dirty sanchez has come out of that mouth.
-A good subtheme for the mid 80s drafts was the preponderance of draftees wearing tuxedos. Sort of like the Pete Rose/Kane run at Wrestlemania - out of nowhere, 3 straight years in this stretch - TUXEDO!! --
It was Olajuwon in '84. The Dream's 5th on pretty much everyone's all time center list, mine too - and that makes him the best center ever not to make the current version of my all time team:
-Dream's on the next team, with Baylor and Stockton and Erving and Rick Barry and Barkley. Shoot, that gives me the top 18. 2 slots left for a top 20! Son of a bitch. This is clearly my ADD kicking in, my utter inability to see a potential for a list and not make that list...2 more for a top 20...Pettit. Yup. Pettit. Moses?
Moses or Admiral? Moses. Done.
-I liked Barkley in the maroon jacket; his mixture of weirdly naked honesty and total bullshit was evident in the kiss and cry interview, he says he has an "inability to play defense" which is three hundred steps further than any modern draft pick will go in knocking his own ball - and then immediately came back by saying "I feel I could learn a lot from Mark Iavaroni." If I ever meet Chuck, that's the question I'm gonna ask him "tell me about the life lessons you received from Mark Iavaroni."
-Jack Ramsey, 25 years after picking Sam Bowie over Jordan still draws paychecks for his basketball expertise, which is astounding. Sort of like Bill Buckner having a defensive drills video or Dick Cheney talking about foreign policy. At some point, you have to turn in your keys.
-Carnesecca, in his last draft, props up the Bowie over Jordan choice by saying it will allow the Blazers to move Mychal Thompson to his more natural power forward position. Way to look three moves ahead, Deep Blue. Thomspon was the top pick in '78, the year where the Celtics got Bird at #6 and sat on him for a year when he went back to school. GSW had #5 and took Purvis Short. That is my very, very, very first Warriors memory. And yet I remain a fan. This tells you a lot about me.
-Lancaster Gordon gets picked; Lancaster is a funny name - I had a student once named Lukie Pusey, he was related (brothers, I think) to the football player formerly named Luscious Pusey. They are large black men. Do with that what you will.
-Otis Thorpe responded to being picked by saying "The Day Has Arisen!" - which is one of the great, totally overlooked "Hello, World" sports quotations of all time.
-I always rooted for Patrick Ewing and those early 80s Georgetown teams. This wasn't acceptable in the early 80s; the Georgetown teams were clearly framed by the embryonic Sports Industrial Complex as the heels; John Thompson was big, black, angry guy and he had black angry players, and they wore grey and played in DC. I've written about this before, although maybe not in this space - trying to dig in the dirt to find the formation of my personality, which seems to be that of estranged outsider, viewing myself oppositionally - "I'm not you people." Politically and culturally I was as different from my surroundings as a teenager as was possible - and as an adult, the choices I've made have continued to place me as an outlier; if you see me in a meeting at work I'm sitting as alone and uncomfortable as if you saw me in the cafeteria in 8th grade. I don't know the chicken/egg on this, but sports certainly fed the machine - and when I'm 12 years old living in rural Ohio chanting "Let's Go Hoy-as!" it felt similar to talking about gay rights or the need for tax increases, both of which I also did at the time. This might just be lifelong social anxiety disorder; I'm thinking if that A&E show Obsessed did an hour on me at any point in my life I could pretty easily fit into that frame.
-BET Awards are tonight. That's unrelated, but I assume it's gonna be a thing. I watch them every year anyway in my annual attempt to catch up on hip hop culture "so that's autotune...gotcha." But tonight's gonna be a thing.
-Aw, man Wayman Tisdale caught me a little bit. He's got the "it's all in front of me" hitch in his stride, 24 years later it's all behind him. There's never been a single day in my life I didn't at least consider my own death. It fills me with abject terror. I completely get the afterlife/reincarnation myths; I want a way out too. There just isn't one.
-Benoit Benjamin apparently averaged 4.6 blocks a game at Creighton, I assume that's senior year and not career, but I'm not looking it up. Which seems crazy until you watch this clip - and he's blocking a bald dude's shot - not a shaved head dude - but a guy with a receeding hairline/male pattern combo that absolutely means he's 43 years old.
-There's no evidence of this, because I said it to myself and no one else was around (see the above for how that might have happened) but there was a GSW game a couple of years after this where I said "I'd trade Washburn for Bias right damn now." Here's all you need to know about Chris Washburn, right after he's picked Bob Neal said that the way he notified NC St that he was declaring for the draft is that his mom called Jimmy V to tell him he wasn't coming back to school. It's never happened to me, but sometimes I'll hear a story about a parent calling the college about one of the students; and that always gives me the creepy chills. I don't claim any special powers, but I went away to school when I was 17 and there is literally no circumstance where I would have had my parents involved with my instructors. My bar on bad athlete behavior is crazy high; make me a GM and I'm going to make my living taking character risks, but this was just stupid.
Chuck Person. And better than that is the interview with Person's wife, who appears to still be in her wedding dress - they got married the Saturday before the draft - now, I am not the guy to rail about how divorce laws are unfair to men and that women are golddiggers and We Want Pre-Nup and all of that; that's not the world in which I live - but if you get married the Saturday before you are a lottery pick in the National Basketball Association you are just setting fire to money. The only way Chuck Person could have been dumber is if he celebrated getting drafted by overdosing on cocaine or if he took Chris Washburn third.
-Vecsey's reporting as almost done the Worthy/Scott to Dallas for Tarpley/Aguirre deal. Hard to imagine a thing like that getting forgotten. But it was 1986, the Poltergeist of NBA Drafts. I think somewhere in the middle of the second the Cavs took JoBeth Williams. Rodman went 27th and he isn't in the top half dozen of head cases from the 1986 NBA Draft.
-Pearl Washington looks a little like Beetlejuice from the Stern show. Pearl Washington is a bad as can and he knows he's the best.
-Hey John Salley - in 23 years you're gonna be in a Costa Rican jungle losing a game show to the guy who played Richie Valens.
-I was wrong about David Robinson. Whenever I'm asked "name something that you turned out to be really wrong about" I always think about Robinson; I thought he'd bust - he was a finesse guy and he had the growth spurt, and hadn't had top competition, and there was the prospect of the 2 year Navy deal (which Rick Barry says he should take - Rick Barry, analyzing the top pick in the NBA Draft says Robinson should leverage his Naval commitment so he can become a free agent; now, putting aside the merits of the advice, this again points to the differences in coverage of these events in just twenty years; if Jay Bilas said that the top pick in the 2009 draft should not sign with the team, should take a couple years off to become a free agent and make more money, the network would fire him before the 2nd pick; twenty years ago, at least one analyst was actually analyzing - now, everyone's in bed together; ESPN and the NBA are corporate partners; the same way all of the networks/newspapers/cable channels and the US government are corporate partners - when an actual question that is outside the accepted frame is asked at a White House press conference - it's not the Administration that needs to freeze out the questioner - the other journalists do that for them, they carry the water - if someone raises to Obama the hypocrisy of his condemnation of Iranian oppression while permitting our own, that person is excised from the realm of mainstream debate - the league doesn't have to do it, ESPN will do it for them)
-Anyway, I thought Robinson would bust - and I remember this interview from the draft where he said he was "learning to love basketball" - and all I saw were red lights. He was passionless! Where's the fury and the fire and the snorting!
Yeah, I was wrong. And not wrong because it just worked out that I wasn't wrong. I was wrong because none of that stuff matters. The yelling, the screaming, the crying - it's all bullshit. Kobe doesn't win the title because he juts out his jaw and "wants it more than he ever has" - Kobe wins because he's real good and Orlando's not. That's it. Sometimes the screamers win, sometimes the quiet guys win. Sometimes it's Leader Quarterback Swaggering Guy who raises the trophy, and sometimes it's Eli Manning, who I once called Johnny Drama. The yelling and slapping the floor is fun to watch, but it doesn't matter. Fortunately, I learned that, so the corollary to this is when Tim Duncan (another finesse, passionless center headed for San Antionio) was being debated before his draft several years later, I was out front in saying the guy was going to be an all time superpremium star. It's good to learn things.
-Neal and the whole TBS crew rips the Kevin Johnson pick. They were wrong. If I can do more of these (particularly in this century where it started to emerge) there's a theme that would develop in criticizing draft picks - you don't criticize big school guys who stayed at least 3 years, 'cause they know how to win and why draft on potential (Vitale's still in this pocket. That guy is embarassing.) and that meant for awhile ripping all the high school picks (go to school! They need to go to college! How can you take Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor!) and then it became about ripping the European guys (they're soft, don't you know) and it never seems to matter how many Trajan Langdon's there are or how many Pau Gasol's there are - every year (one year, it was a TNT year, I recall Barkley just killing, just killing as culturally soft the entire continent of Europe, which falls under the Iavaroni side of Barkleytalk) you'll hear a run of "take Tyler Hansbrough! Tyler Hansbrough's a proven winner! A winner! A Tar Heel! Wooooo.
None of that explains why they botched the KJ analysis. And this year I thought both Ty Lawson and DeJuan Blair, big school vets, were really underdrafted, so don't get too locked into anything I'm saying.
Except for that Washburn stuff. That stuff's dead on.
C Olajuwon, Moses, Robinson
F Barkley, Baylor, Erving, Barry, Pettit, Havlicek
G Stockton, Isiah, Cousy
In my head the last guy out is Elvin Hayes. What about KG? KG's better than Cousy but I need a third guard. KG over Hondo? KG over Robinson? Probably, right? Yeah, KG over Robinson, I don't need that third center. What about that 3rd guard - Cousy over GP and Kidd? GP, extra underrated by the way. GP or Kidd, first of all, let's establish is it GP or Kidd? Kidd couldn't shoot or play defense like Payton. GP or Kidd? Either one over Cousy? Where are we on this?
Note that I've missed two drafts - NBA TV does show the '81 draft, but I didn't catch it this year; maybe next - and I've never seen the '83 draft listed (that's Ralph's draft; I can't offhand recall ever seeing it, so that would be a fun watch - I was a big Ralph kid, I think the first hoops meme that I ever bought into was the all court big man; everyone who ever played even one pickup game understood intuitively that there's a tradeoff in basketball - size is good, 'cause closer to the basket makes hitting shots easier to do - but ability to handle the ball is good, 'cause you do have to go up and down. But then came Ralph - taller than anyone and he had handle. When I was 11, that was superfreaky.
As it turned out, Ralph spent some time on the GSW bench before he wrapped up, napping next to Wash.
Craig Sager (before the cross dressing): What do you know about Phoenix?
Tim Perry: It's Hot! It was a hundred thirteen out there!
More upset than Perry was Dell Curry (thanks for your boy, Dell - unless we deal him, then the hell with both of you) on location at the Hornets first draft party as he had just been taken in the dispersal draft; you could see his gears turning as Charlotte made Rex Chapman their first ever pick and then TBS threw to Curry, "so - what do you think about Rex Chapman."
He thinks they just took an off guard is what he thinks. He thinks a white star off guard from UK has been taken by an expansion team and now Dell Curry's got to fight for minutes on a 15 win team.
-Rony Seikaly had great hair. He was the Greek JFK Jr. Definitely the most spongeworthy of Orangemen busts.
-There's a "bull-shit" chant after the Bulls take Perdue; that's curious NY fan behavior and I'm unsure of its motivation - draft watchers know there are 2 types of picks NY fans regularly boo (1) picks by NY teams and (2) picks that swipe players away from NY teams.
So this has to fall into one of the auxillary categories - (3) picks who NY fans believe are overdrafted (4) picks by teams NY fans hate - you're tempted to say this is (4) but it's really too early for full on Ewing/Jordan era Knick/Bull hate -- so I'm going to say it's a Tyler Hansbrough pick, that they didn't yet have the "over-rated" chant available to them in '88 and the wave somehow didn't seem applicable, so they went with "bull-shit."
If Nellie deals Steph Curry in that Amare trade; I'm going to chant "Fire Russo" at my TV.
-Why did I remember Jeff Grayer as a white guy? Was it because Fred Hoiberg was white? Was Fred Hoiberg so white that I decided everyone associated with Fred Hoiberg was also white? Jeff Hornacek was white. Was Marcus Fizer white? Let's decide together that Marcus Fizer was also white.
-I enjoy the David Stern "you people are such rubes" smile as he approaches the podium - Vince McMahon has always had the same smile "you are the dumbest people on the face of the earth, thank you for the house in Boca."
-Rick Barry is way, way too excited for the prospective Clipper lineup of DannyManning/CharlesSmith/ReggieWilliams/GaryGrant/mystery off guard. And Joe Wolf coming off the bench! The '88 Clips are a dreamworld of magic.
Am I recalling correctly that some type of emotional condition happened with Pervis Ellison - a depression, a social anxiety disorder (which, given his nickname was Never Nervous, would have qualified as irony) 'cause if there's ever been a number one overall pick who looked more downcast, it eludes me. Ellison's downright glum after taken by the Kings. And his picture has scratches on it -- okay, there's a thing Turner did with the insert photos of the guys with this draft - they had these cat scratches on them, like the cast of In Living Color was getting drafted (who goes third in that draft? Carrey/Foxx are 1-2 given future events, I guess Damon has to go third, right?)
-Everyone's got hats! Hats! Glorious hats! Hats began to pop up the year before, but now, every pick, handed a hat - look at all the hats! Shiny Arsenio Hall suits and aerodynamic haircuts are starting to emerge. The 90s are coming!
-Bob Neal just compared the NBA draft to a political convention, because the fun part is "seeing who is going to get nominated next." Bob Neal has clearly never attended a political convention.
-Randy White is Mailman II, in case you were unaware. He comes from a small town, he went to LaTech, he has similar size/speed numbers and similar senior year statistics. He even worked out with Malone's trainer! He's almost a clone! If White had an extra 14,000 rebounds and knocked up a 13 year old girl he'd be going to the hall of fame too.
That convention metaphor apparently percolated in Neal's head all year as he opened up with it in '90, the NBA Draft is like a convention because you're "not exactly sure how it's all going to turn out." I'm trying to imagine Bob Neal on his couch watching a political convention, "It's gonna be Dukakis! They're gonna go with Dukakis! Over-rated! Over-rated! Clap-clap-clapclapclap."
-Rick Barry just called this the Top Gun draft. Is it filled with latent homosexuality puncuated by an appearance by then do-able Meg Ryan? Will the Heat take Rick Rossovich in the 2nd? If Derrick Coleman and Snapper Jones burst into You Lost Than Loving Feeling then it's all going to make sense.
(Meg Ryan raises the possibility of two separate lists - celebrities who you once wanted to sleep with but now no longer do - or celebrities who you still would sleep with just because they're famous, like you were a 20 year old girl nailing Jimmy Page in 2009. I'm gonna say...Meg Ryan's on the second list.)
-Jones grabs Gary Payton's earring, says Charles Barkley has an earring and that means GP might be a good leader. Raises more questions than it answers. An analyst wouldn't touch a ballplayer's ear bling today; and it's good to note that in 1990 seeing a ballplayer with an earring was enough of a curiosity that its taken note of. I wonder when that happened with tattoos - Rodman's the start of that right - Rodman got the tattoos and it was framed as a sign of his emotional instability, and now there's more ink on the average NBA court than in the entire back catalog of Hi and Lois strips.
-Denver takes the artist formerly known as Chris Jackson. It was near the end of the 95-96 season when he made his national anthem protest; that was the end of his 6th year with the Nuggets, in that year he had career highs in ppg, apg, minutes, and steals/gm - the following year he was a part timer in Sacramento and never started even one more game after that. There's only one type of political speech allowed in American sports, and that is God Bless The Greatest Country on the Face of the Earth; God's Chosen Country, America! You stand for the patriotic song and you remove your hat and don't even think about going to get a hot dog in the 7th inning stretch at Yankee Stadium! If you don't stand here and recognize that God Blesses America you get out of this (partially publically subsidized) stadium. (edit, completely coincidentally, I just heard the podcast from Dan Patrick's radio show today; he and Rich Eisen talked about not only this topic, but of the specific example of Abdul-Rauf getting his house burned down after his anthem protest. In other places, I've acknowledged my fundamental bafflement that someone could construe the United States of America as requiring compelled political speech, and would be moved to burn down someone's house if not getting that political speech from another. Patrick/Eisen were talking about Jim Brown's criticism of Tiger Woods in the recent Real Sports piece - their take was it's not the 60s anymore and sports fans don't want politics mixing with sports. The analysis is wrong on every level. Sports and politics always mix. National anthems, subsidized stadiums, shows of establishment support like politicians throwing out first balls - shows of military force like the Blue Angels, shows of support for military actions are regularly requested at stadiums, American flag pins are still worn by the CBS NFL pregame crew on Sundays, the corporate hegemony in American life is upheld as good and right and beyond question - sports are drenched in politics, the messages are just so ubiquitous that we don't take note of them. 70,000 people all being compelled to stand as one and salute the state flag is a political act; we don't do it before movies, we don't do it at concerts; we don't do it at the comedy club - we do it at sporting events and it's done without question. And in the 60s the same type of sports fan who would hate an athlete who was outspoken politically today hated the athletes who were outspoken then - it's instructive to read the contemporaneous articles on Bill Russell - or on the Smith/Carlos protest. Muhammad Ali was not beloved hero to all; he was the most polarizing figure in the history of American sport. But he wasn't just hated - he was also beloved - and that's what the sports media misses - yes, there is a sports fan (and maybe most of them) who would hate a high profile activist athlete, a real counterculture, anti-establishment political voice in the Jim Brown tradition - but, just like the 60s, there is a not insignificant number who yearn to hear something more substantive from a hero than "buy my shoes." In a classroom lesson I'll often say something like "the most important thing I need you to get from today is______." If there's one thread that runs through my thought about sports and politics - it's that what mainstream media calls political is only a fraction of what is actually political - the far more constant, pervasive, insistent political messages embedded in sport are the ones hidden in plain sight.)
-Dennis Scott says he's going to give Orlando "100% every night even if it's cold or hot."
Have to admire that kind of postal service like commitment to his craft.
-Has there ever been a more cartoonish, over the top looking heel than Dwayne Shintzius? I'm half expecting him to get drafted by Cobra Kai. On a totally unrelated note, Mike Awesome really meant to kill himself, right? It wasn't an autoerotic asphyxiation thing like David Carradine and Karl Malden?
-I would have made the Owens/Richmond deal too. Now, I was 20 and had the mancrush on all-court big men, as earlier noted - so it's understandable if I was blinded by the Billy Owens pyrite. Nellie didn't have any of those excuses. I hate the Warriors. They're gonna give up on Brandan Wright and he's gonna be a good player and the Nellie apologists will say "well, he needed the change of scenery, sure was nothing Nellie could do!"
Meanwhile we win 40 games and spend another year going nowhere.
-'Member how UNLV was everything that was wrong with everything? The ultimate poster kids for a dirty, tainted program?
"We decided we wanted to stay to get our degrees"
-Stacey Augmon, talking about the UNLV seniors.