Friday, June 29, 2007

A Draft Unlike Any Other

I'm warning you now, this is going to be one of those epic posts because I just don't know how to shorten it any more.

As many of you know, I was fortunate enough to attend last night's NBA Draft as a member of the media and let me tell you I had a lot of expectations for this. I've always said the NBA Draft is my favorite draft because it's a synergy of my two favorite things: professional basketball and college basketball. And I thought it would be a ridiculous idea to timeline what my night was like. I seriously brought a notepad with me everywhere I went so I could get approximate times of when every ridiculously funny/entertaining/awesome thing happened to me. So without further adieu, here it is:

5:00 pm: I arrive at Madison Square Garden, press pass around my neck, and as I walk through the doors I am greeted by none other than NBA legend Bob Lanier. Huge dude, and he said hello to me but that was about it.

This is Bob Lanier playing basketball.

5:10 pm: So I went down to the floor of the Madison Square Garden Theater figuring I'm sitting with all the bigwig media at the Draft like right next to the player's green room and the ESPN set. Of course, I can't find my seat, so I go to the front of the arena to look at the sheet with the seating list. It says "Metro New York, Balcony Left". This sounded bad but it actually was pretty decent. I ended up right near where Fran Fraschilla would do his reports on foreign players.

5:15 pm: I realized that they only gave myself and the other writer from Metro one press seat for the two of us. So being the intern I had to move my stuff and sat down in the "China Hoop" seat. I'm praying they don't show up.

6:15 pm: This is only for Greg: the media food was chicken parm, pasta and salad stuff.

6:30 pm: This other guy who used to work for the Daily, but was doing some freelance stuff for the Detroit Free Press got an interview with Mike Tirico, so I joined the fun and eavesdropped a bit. He admitted to being a Tigers fan, so he lost a little bit of respect in my book.

6:45pm: So I'm trying to kill some time until the draft actually begins and I noticed all the players were on the floor getting settled in the green. So I went down there to see if I could talk to anybody. Everyone seemed pretty busy fiddling with the laptops they had set up on every table. Except for Acie Law. He was all alone, so I saddled up and started talking, figuring that if he didn't want to chat the worst he could do was tell me to go away.

Me: So you have any idea where you're gonna go tonight?
Acie: Nah man, no clue
Me: I don't see you dropping lower than the Hawks.
Acie: That's what my agent said too but you never know. I just want to get drafted.
At this point Billy Gillespie, his coach at Texas A&M and now the coach at Kentucky walked up.
Gillespie to Acie: Hey man, how you feeling?
Gillespie to Me: How's it going?
Me: Hey coach, I'm a Michigan fan, have fun with Legion this year.
Gillespie: (uncomfortbale laugh)
He then turned back to Acie and I decided it was best to walk away before I said something absurd and got myself thrown out before the Draft began.

But seriously, I hope the enigma that is Alex Legion rips apart his entire team at Kentucky.

7:00pm: I noticed Spike Lee out right behind the green room (where the players all sit) and I just couldn't resist. Walked up and said hi but I don't think he really heard me. I do think I got a head nod from him though.

7:15pm: I returned to my seat on balcony left and luckily China Hoop hadn't showed up so I was good to go for the rest of the night. About 5 minutes after I sat down Andy Katz came running by frantically talking about both the Boston and Knicks trades that ended up going down later.

7:50 pm: I sat through the first four picks on the balcony, but after Conley got picked I decided to head back to the interview area for the rest of the night. I figured that would be the best way to get some real inside info for this blog.

7:55 pm. I figured I'd go back with Conley. And when you watch on TV, you see that all the picks shake Stern's hand and then basically proceed straight to an interview with Stuart Scott. To be completely honest the entire stage area is really small. Stuart Scott is actually like right next to Tirico, Mark Jackson, Steven A., and Bilas. BUt after the interview with Stu, the draft pick moves onto an interview with ESPN radio, which i right near Stuart's little desk. From there the draft pick is led through the far aisle of the theatre with tons of fans right near them trying to get interviews. They leave the theatre and head through a series of hallways that lead to another interview area for everyone but ESPN. But all the while, they are basically walking down the hallway of the theatre, so fans are only held back by one of those line queue ropes that you see at movie theaters.

But back to my point here with Conley. As he was heading out of the actual theatre and into the series hallways, there was a Michigan fan just berading him mercifully. I wrote it all out so everyone could understand how hilarious this was, especially because it was so loud.

"You cocksucking Buckeye. Fuck you. You think you're all high and mighty because you beat Michigan twice. Dirty cocksucker. Go back to Columbus! Or better yet have fun losing 65 games next season playing for fucking Memphis. I'm gonna buy NBA League Pass just so I can watch your career go down the fucking shitter!"

I was standing pretty close to Conley and his entourage because I was following them to the press room, and I just couldn't hold in my laughter. The guy got thrown out almost immediately, but I would be willing to be that he thought it was well worth the price of admission.

8:00 pm: More funny Conley stuff. As he was walking down the hallway to the press room there was this guy with a sock puppet yelling at the top of his lungs that he was Steven A Smith and he had a camcorder with him. Apparently the guy is a youtube legend from doing this last year. He was asking Conley some absurd questions like if "Oden had ever taken advantage of his size in a sexual way during their years of playing together".

I loved all the hate Conley was getting. If you remember, he absolutely demolished Michigan this season.

8:30 pm: So when guys get lead back through the annals of Madison Square Garden they are brought to a series of rooms that is basically all media. It's basically a gauntlet of interviews. They start out with NBA TV and an interview with Kenny Smith, then a press conference for all the print media, then an interview with NBA Radio on Sirius, then with MSG Network, then with some sort of foreign media, and so on and so on. In all, once a guy gets picked, he can expect atleast two more hours of being asked the exact same questions over and over again.

By the time I got to the back with Conley, I had missed the top 3's interviews with the print media. I sat for Conley's interview and was waiting for Jeff Green seeing as he is a DC kid. But he wasn't allowed to come out for his interview because his trade to the Sonics wasn't final and the NBA didn't really want him to be answering questions about playing for the Celtics even though he wasn't going there. So when Green didn't come the next guy up was Yi and the horse of Asians that followed him. Seriously there were like 100 Chinese media people there. Everybody wanted to know if he was actually going to play for MIlwaukee because he purposely didn't invite them to his workout since he had no desire to live in a place with like 7 other Asians. It was funny because all the Chinese media seemed more upset about it than Yi himself.

8:45 pm: I went back to the TV interview area to take a look at what it was like and what do you know...I stumbled upon Kevin Durant. I thought to myself that this might be the only time I get to talk to him, so I lied to the guy. It's not the first time I've lied and it unfortunately won't be the last. I told Durant that I had player high school basketball for the same coach as he did, Stu Vetter. And for anyone who actually knows, the closest I've gotten to playing for Stu Vetter was going to his basketball camps as a middle schooler. But I just went with it and told him I player at St. John's/Prospect Hall, the school where Vetter coached at before Montrose Christian (the high school Durant went to). We had a nice 2-3 minute convo where I basically made up every word that came out of my mouth. I'm not proud of it, but hey atleast I got to talk to Kevin Durant one-on-one for a little.

9:00 pm: By far the most entertaining point of the night was Joakim Noah's pres conference. The guy really loves the spotlight and he loves to talk. He was pretty hilarious and I just couldn't resist asking about his seersucker suit with a bowtie. Here's how the exchange went between me and him in a large press conference of 30 people. Literally this is him starring me right in the eye:

Me: What made you go with the bowtie and the seersucker tonight? Going against the trend?
JN: A funky look, isn't it?
Me: I like it
JN: Thanks a lot. You know, I'm going to be me. I think the bow tie was definitely a great look tonight. I think the suit was really, really funky. I said it was going to be funky. I've got a lot of love from the suit so far.

Other highlights from his press conference were him giving one of the MSG security guards his cell phone number because "after this shit is over, we gonna get it poppin' tonight. You ready to get ridiculous?" There was also the moment when Darren Rovell, the old sports business writer for ESPN, asked if Noah was happy about going to Chicago because of his marketability there. Noah's response (this is in the most sarcastic voice you could ever imagine):

"Oh, I feel so marketable, you have no idea. I'm so marketable: YES! (raises his arms in the air) That's exactly why I wanted to go to Chicago; to be marketable."

I realized afterwards that I should have brought a camera. But whatever.

9:20 pm: I walked by Jay Mariotti from Around the Horn and he looks really old in person.

9:30 pm: Nick Young, the Wizards first round draft pick came into the interview room, so I felt a DC obligation to be there for it. He was pretty generic, but it did seem like he had a man-crush on Gilbert. For a guy like Gil, I think that's a good thing.

10:00 pm: At this point pretty much all of the guys from the green room had been picked so the press conferences were few and far between. Plus my deadline at Metro is 10:30 and with the Zach Randolph trade having been just announced, I was kind of running all over the place. Things definitely calmed down after this. I had a sidebar on Noah, but it only made the online edition of Metro, which sucked.

11:00 pm: Now that my work was done, I decided to settle down in the actual audience for most of the second round. The true faithful were remaining because there was a mass exodus once the Knicks picked at 22. The fans were just killing Steven A. Smith the entire time. There was this one guy who was just grilling him about "Quite Frankly" being cancelled. I think he went something like this: "Hey Steven A, quite frankly, what are you doing late night tonight?" That one got Mark Jackson to crack a smile.

Midnight: So the Draft had come to a close and I was kind of milling around getting a final look at this mecca of awesomeness. And right as I'm about to turn around and leave I notice my man, Jeff Green standing alone looking kind of bored in his new Sonics hat. The guy had not really been allowed to leave and party with his friends and family until the Boston-Seattle trade was finalized. So of course I had to talk to him.

We ended up having a good 20 minute conversation about a lot of different things. We talked about DC, Georgetown, Maryland high school sports, and a lot about how pissed off he must be that he isn't wasted yet. He was a really down-to-earth guy and it was definitely a great way to end the night off.

My new favorite Jeff Green. This pic is obviously a little old seeing as JJ is in it, but he needs the publicity.

And that's that. I put a ton of expectations on this night and had been looking forward to it for weeks and I couldn't believe how it lived up to all my wildest dreams. I met so many different people and I didn't even really mention all of them in this blog post. I'll probably have some sort of actual Draft analysis in a couple days or something, but I'm really just trying to digest what I just went through last night. It was the culmination of my young years as a sports fan. Just disgustingly awesome.

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