Thursday, June 26, 2008

Draft is today!

I watched some Andy Katz interviews with draft prospects. There wasn't a whole lot to learn, nobody said anything super interesting. I was shocked at just how stoned/sleepy/laid-back Michael Beasley looks in conversation -- I really do think part of the reason his drive is questioned is because of the demeanor. But, uh, hello? Tim Duncan?

Just saying, Kevin Garnett isn't the only personality-model for success in the NBA.

Also, Eric Gordon gained major points with me for rocking the cardigan:

It's a shame the whole outfit looks so new and unpressed and uncomfortable for him, but at least he picked out some solid duds. His choice of the cardigan tells me he has really developed his game and it is very polished. He's ready for the grown-up league but he's determined to do it the right way. He can play the point and make the perfect bounce-pass entry to the post. He can shoot the three with confidence. That cardigan in that interview, that's got to be worth a draft slot or two. I'm just hoping he goes to Seattle (#4), New York (#6), or the Clippers (#7). I just don't feel like the fans in Milwaukee, Memphis, or Charlotte will appreciate his natty style.

Also, I like O.J. Mayo, I like that he's modeled his game after Earl Monroe, I like that he shoots and plays defense and seems to be able to handle a lot of crap. I really wanted to enjoy his interview. And honestly, he looks like he has a nice suit, and I quite enjoy that shirt he's wearing and I don't think the handkerchief is over the top. But something about the facial hair, the earring, the toothiness, just rubbed me the wrong way. Which is sad, because it must have taken a long time to get those lines (his hair and his beard both) so clean and perfect. But yeah, he looks like the guy who you hang out with a lot but never asks about your girlfriend, and if she's ever around he seems annoyed by her. Then he invites you and your lady to his beachhouse for the weekend, and it finally seems like the two are getting along. He finishes the last beer and asks if you can run down to the store to get some more, and you gladly go because you're so happy that your gf and your bff are finally talking. But when you get back from the store, there's your lady all nekked on her knees in front of O.J. with his pants down. And then he has the nerve to be like "hey hey don't get upset man we've been friends for a long time don't lose your cool."

Ok, maybe I'm reading too much into it. In the interview itself he actually just seems like a nice guy, who works his ass off and is confident in his abilities because of it. I like that.

Anyways, for tonight, here's what to watch for:

  • The suits! Flashy, tacky, expensive. NBA Draft fashion is nouveau riche on steroids. In the coming years a lot of these guys will hire publicists and stylists, but for tonight, they're on their own and trying to look good. And sometimes they mistake "loud" for "good." And it is HARD to find clothes when you're that tall anyways. So yeah, draft fashion is must-see. What do the clothes say of the prospect? It's a murky relationship, probably best left alone, but I'll give it a shot. If a player looks classy, subdued, his suit fitting perfectly and the fabrics looking rich but not over-the-top? That probably means he's taking this all in stride, that his game is mature, and that he doesn't get rattled in big moments. He understands the subtlety of style, and he'll understand the subtler points of the game of basketball. He's Pat Riley's kind of player, and Pat Riley's kind of dresser. If the player's outfit looks like he got it off the clearance rack (Horford - the one on the right. I have no beef with Brewer's orange/brown combination) from the Big & Tall store, well that just might mean he cares a lot about winning and not about personal glory. He can't be bothered to worry about fine textiles, his focus is on basketball and winning. He may not have a developed isolation game, but he'll dive on the floor for the loose ball, fight over screens, and close out on shooters. You can count on him for at least 3 offensive rebounds every night. He's a Jerry Sloan player. Now, if your guy shows up in what looks like a rented suit or tuxedo and looks more like the caterer than the star? He's not long for this league. He couldn't commit to buying a suit, he doesn't believe he's gonna last, and in the NBA, you have to believe in yourself because no one else will believe in you. Finally, what if your player shows up in a loud, high-contrast pinstripe, bright colored suit that doesn't fit right? This player is at a crossroads, he's kind of the NBA Eliza Doolittle. His initial goal when coming in might be to win the slam-dunk contest, not the NBA Finals. But with his high-flying athleticism and daring ball-handling, he might be able to be sculpted into a great defender and solid offensive player. This player has a lot of potential, but he's hit or miss as a prospect. He could end up killing an inexperienced coach's career, or having the life sucked out of him by Larry Brown, or finding a happy medium with a Don Nelson type. If the player shows looking like he ordered his suit from a pimp catalogue, this could be a problem, as he might be in the league for the fame, riches, and ladiez, and not to win. And finally, you have the individuals, the ones wanting to do their own thing. They'll probably be a whirlwind on the court, your quintessential hustle guy. But how does he fit in with the rest of the team? Will he get along with his teammates? That's the big question.
  • The GREEN ROOM. This is the room where the 16 highest rated prospects sit backstage, waiting to have their names called, surrounded by cameras and reporters. At the beginning it's all fun and party, but eventually there's only one person left. How the last green room invitee reacts to this enormously awkward situation says a lot about his game. If he seems unfazed, still confident, just patiently waiting for his moment? That is someone you can trust to take free throws at the end of a close game. If he starts fidgeting, darting his eyes, shifting in his seat? This guy might play a great game for 45 minutes, but don't give him the ball at the end of the game, he's liable to choke. And if he starts crying? This is a huge warning sign -- crying in the green room signifies that you were treating the goal as your ultimate goal. But this is the beginning of a career, not the end. Once in the NBA, a player is going to have to work harder than ever before to carve out a place for himself, and someone treating the draft as the be-all, end-all has too limited of a horizon.
  • And finally. WARM FUZZY THOUGHTS!! Besides All-Star weekend, the draft is as uplifting and warm as it gets in the NBA. We get to watch these young people achieve a life-long dream. And we'll know that not only was every single one of them blessed with extraordinary talent, but that they also worked hard enough to take advantage of that talent. They've made sacrifices, taken risks, and worked their asses off to get to this place, and we get a chance to applaud them for it. So be happy for them! Starting tomorrow, possibly for the first time in their lives, they'll be competing against players who are bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter than they are. They'll have to work 10 times harder than ever before just to stay in the league. Old friends and family that they'd forgotten about will pop up out of nowhere needing money or game tickets. New friends they never knew they had will show up with sob stories about being down and out and needing a few bucks. Fake investment advisors and people trying to sell them crap they don't need will descend on them like vultures. And they'll have to deal with all of this while trying to begin their professional careers. Starting tomorrow, everything is zero and they're all trying to create themselves from scratch. As fans we'll criticize their games, their personalities, their work ethics, everything. But tonight, we celebrate the people who were willing to work hard enough to achieve their dream.

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