The NBA Draft is a chaotic mess of bodies all roaming around with various agendas. Some guys are about to have their lifelong dreams come true. Others are just punching the clock, serving as handlers and security. Many are in the media, actively seeking out quotes, banging out stories before their deadlines and frantically trying to carve out fresh angles to cover an event that couldn’t be more over-covered.
Then there is me.
Throughout the night, I was mainly the doofus walking around looking for nothing in particular — and finding plenty of it.
Between the handlers escorting the players through velvet-roped pathways like VIP cattle, a less-than-stellar wireless connection and a personal approach to the evening best described as “wandering around til I see something interesting,” it was pretty quickly apparent that I was not going to be breaking any Watergate-level stories tonight.
Still, it’s funny what you do pick up.
Here are a few notables.
- John Wall started off the backroom press conference night fittingly with a remark in response to being asked how it feels to know that four of his teammates will also get drafted. “Tonight is a night all of us can reach our dream.” He was talking about “all of us” guys from Kentucky. But it certainly applies to everyone who was picked. That’s the highlight of the night. Watching all these guys kids walking around in giant, expensive suits, smiling like it’s the last day of school. Because, you see, for them, it is.
- Evan Turner has a comical voice. Of the Jim Henson variety. Nice suit though.
- I managed to stake out a prime little alcove from which to paparazzi stalk Epke Udoh as he walked by en route to the media showcase that all the players endure after they’re picked. See, first comes the stuff you see on TV, with the one-on-one on-air interview for ESPN. Then they are escorted back down a loooong corridor through MSG to the NBA media room. Then they go the general media room. Then it’s off to the Craig Sager one-on-one interview. And then comes the special, double-secret probation photoshoot/interview area in which I was not allowed. But as Epke made his was back down the corridor to begin the behind-the-scenes horse-and-pony show, he was flying compared to other guys I had watched. He was racing like he was late. Like me trying to catch the subway on the way to work every morning. While standing there with a few reporter comrades, I was all “I think they’ll wait for you, man” — to which some MSG security guard responded “he’s not hurrying to get to the media — that’s a guy that’s gotta get to the bathroom.” Now, this guy had no connection to Ekpe whatsoever and thus no inside information into the situation, but I would like to think he was spot on.
- Paul George went to my Pacers at pick #10, so I followed him around for a while and asked him a question about how he can help bring some consistency to the Pacers perimeter. He gave a typical answer about working hard this summer but added that he “can pretty much do a lot of things on the court” and that he definitely doesn’t “want to come into a…team that’s on the verge of winning and be a slacker.” He also showed some personality after someone asked him whether he feels any pressure to perform since a lot of Hoosiers wanted the Pacers to pick local hero Gordon Hayward. “Yeah, Gordon Hayward is a good friend of mine…” he said, before being interrupted by the reporter, who noted that “…but he was gone.” “Luckily,” said George, sounding like one of the few people on the planet who legitimately wanted to play for the Indiana Pacers. “I definitely want to do good for the fans and I want to pan out to what they want me to be.” Perhaps more importantly, the guy appears to be a very good dresser. Definitely a best-dressed of the night candidate, which was aided by his cool, I’m-really-enjoying-this demeanor. He even looked excited to talk to Craig Sager.
- While hanging out around the back just chatting with Hardwood Paroxysm legend Holly Mackenzie, John Wall randomly resurfaced amongst us peons, only to be ushered by a few staffers over to a corner where a laptop was set up. He put in some earbuds, sat down in a chair and started talking to someone video-conference style. Turns out it was Big Tigger from BET’s the Basement, who was interviewing Wall for some reason for some outlet. Those of us with cameras and recorders crowded around him like moths to a buglight. He did the John Wall Dance at one point. Video (hopefully) to come.
- Cole Aldrich’s press conference was pretty comical. He had already reportedly been traded to Oklahoma City but it obviously wasn’t official and he was chilling under the lights answering questions about his future in a New Orleans Hornets hat. “[Monty Williams] is going to be a great coach … It’s going to be another great coach to play for.” Only … he never will. He was later asked about playing alongside Jayhawk brethren Nick Collison in OKC. “Oh yeah. He comes back every once in awhile and we go down and play … So just with him on Oklahoma City — or with Julian [Wright] still on the Hornets, it’s going to be a fun next few years.”
There was probably more. I sort of hunkered down in the press room for the second round. The part where the Knicks took Landry Fields was pretty fun. I’ll go through my notes, FlipCam and photos tomorrow, though, and drop a little more “insider” knowledge for you if anything turns up.
* Epilogue: It’s worth noting that I don’t watch NCAA basketball and have almost no idea who any of these players are.