By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist
It's time for the 2001 NBA draft! We're coming to you live from my father's house outside of Boston, where I'm joined by my Dad, his golden retrievers (Abbie and Maggie), six pens, seven different newspapers and $40 worth of Chinese food. Dad and I are excited about the draft; Abbie and Maggie are excited about the possibility of a stray sparerib falling on the floor. Everyone's fired up.
The top pick set the tone for the evening: Kwame Brown wore a cream-colored suit and David Stern looked peeved.
As an added bonus, our favorite team (the Celtics) has three picks in the top 21, so this could be a make-or-break draft for the Pierce/Walker Era. And as an added wrinkle from the Comedy Gods, TNT's always-enjoyable studio team (Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith) has been boosted by Hubie Brown and former Celtics coach Rick Pitino! Let the "Larry Bird isn't walking through that door" jokes begin!
In case you missed it, there were four highlights from the pre-game show:
The NYC crowd booed Pitino during the pre-show introductions (God bless them).
Barkley weighed in on the state of the NBA by saying, "You have the Lakers, who are really, really good, and you have the rest of the teams, who are really, really bad." You won't see that quote headlining next year's NBA media guide.
TNT showed a closeup of potential lottery pick Eddie Griffin (who's coming off a checkered season at Seton Hall), and Eddie smiled into the camera with one of those "I'm a nice guy. ... I'm sensitive. ... I'm not gonna punch you" looks. Indescribably funny. Just trust me.
Speaking of funny, there's comedy, there's high comedy, there's transcendent comedy ... and then there's the footage of Karl Malone's outfit from Draft Day '85. The gray sportcoat with the extra-short white tie? That kills me. When will Topps put out "NBA Draft Day Outfit" trading cards? The Malone card and the card of Jalen Rose's red pinstriped Mafia outfit would be the hottest commodities, wouldn't they? This needs to happen.
NBA commissioner David Stern steps up to the podium with some opening comments: "Good evening, and welcome to the NBA draft. As you might or might not know, this will be the last draft involving high schoolers, because I plan on breaking the players' union again and installing a mandatory age minimum for all draft picks. Billy Hunter, you better start running now. I will break you. Do you hear me? I will break
you. You don't want this!"
A common sight on draft night: A millionaire kid on a cell phone.
7:38 p.m.: The Wizards select high schooler Kwame Brown at No. 1; Kwame exults in the Green Room and hugs an unidentified friend who's talking on a cell phone. The NBA ... it's fannnnnn-tastic! I love this game! Kwame slaps on a black Wizards hat to cap off his cream-colored suit, then walks onto the stage for the obligatory handshake with Stern.
(Hey, have you ever noticed that Stern does the same things whenever he's shaking hands with a draftee? It looks like he's smiling and having a conversation during the handshake, but he's really muttering, "All right, congratulations ... now just turn to the left ... no, to the left ... you wanna turn toward the cameras ... listen, stop pointing at your posse, you're ticking me off ... just turn 90 degrees, OK ... you don't want to mess with me ...")
John Thompson interviews MJ for five minutes without asking, "Is it true that you got those broken ribs, because Ron Artest bodyslammed you?" What a wimp. Even Ted Kennedy's car accident at Chappaquidick wasn't covered up as well as the MJ-Artest fight from last week.
The Clips select hometown kid Tyson Chandler at No. 2; he adds a red Clippers hat to go with his light-brown suit. Obviously browns and creams are the hot colors this year. Nothing will ever top the mid-'90s, when everyone decided, "Hey, let's dress like Huggy Bear from 'Starsky & Hutch!' " That was the golden era of the NBA draft. Remember Samaki Walker with the white suit and matching white velvet hat? Ahhhhh ... those were the days ...
All the footage of these high school players has that grainy, Zapruder-film look. It's like one step up from a snuff film. I'm enjoying it. By the way, you know you're watching the NBA draft when somebody in the room says, "Hey, isn't that Momma from 'What's Happenin' ?"
Peter Vecsey smugly and assertively predicts the next four picks: Pau Gasol (Vancouver); Eddy Curry (Chicago); Eddie Griffin (G-State); Shane Battier (Vancouver). Let's hope he's wrong. Does Vecsey become more acerbic and unfriendly by the year, or am I crazy? Maybe he's unhappy that TNT is making him wear Frank Sinatra's old hairpiece from "Cannonball Run 2."
||8:05 p.m.: You know, if the NBA ever released a DVD of Craig Sager's interview with Jason Richardson, it would definitely include subtitles and a director's commentary from Moses Malone.
Gasol (No. 3 to the Grizzlies) looks like a cross between Toni Kukoc, Skeet Ulrich and Ricky Martin. Let's hope that isn't an omen for his professional future. Meanwhile, Dad and I just came to the depressing realization that this draft goes nine-deep in the "blue-chippers" department -- Brown, Chandler, Gasol, Richardson, Griffin, Johnson, Battier, White and Curry -- and the Celts are picking No, 10 and No. 11. That means somebody picking ahead of them needs to screw up and take the high school center from Senegal (Desagana Diop), who has been described by some experts as "a heavier Jerome Moiso."
(Admittedly, we could be in good hands here ... when you're relying on either the Nets, Grizzlies or Cavs to screw up, it's not like you're hoping for a miracle or anything. Still, I'd feel safer if Elgin Baylor was somehow involved.)
Hubie Brown just talked for 36 uninterrupted seconds, even using the "second person" tense for part of the time. I think I'm developing an eye twitch.
Eddy Curry (No. 4 to the Bulls) displays a four-button cream-colored suit with a red shirt and bronze tie, one of the hot new outfits from the Kenny Smith Collection. Meanwhile, Pitino congratulates Bulls GM Jerry Krause with playing a good bluff and making everyone think he wanted Gasol at No. 4 (when Curry was a much better pick for the Bulls). That's like the kiss of death -- getting complimented on a front office move by Rick Pitino. Somebody should just throw a black cat on the stage.
The Warriors throw the first curveball of the draft, nabbing Jason Richardson at No. 5 (and shoving it in Vecsey's face in the process). That might push Shane Battier down to the 10/11 range ... hmmmmm ...
You know, if the NBA ever released a DVD of Sager's interview with Richardson, it would definitely include subtitles and a director's commentary from Moses Malone.
Shane Battier became the first draftee in history to use the word "archaic" in his post-pick interview.
8:08 p.m.: You could tell Shane Battier was headed to the Grizzlies at No. 6, because Stern looked happy walking to the podium for the first time all night. Shane and Stern look like they might head out for cocktails after the draft. As an added bonus, Shane becomes the first draftee in history to use the word "archaic" in his post-pick interview; a confused Sager immediately throws it back to Ernie Johnson.
Dad pipes up, "Where's Troy Murphy? Have they showed him yet?" In case you're scoring at home, Troy Murphy is this year's winner of the "Token white forward who fleetingly reminds Dad of Larry Bird" award. Right now Murphy's sitting in my Dad's special "White Room" with Austin Croshere, Raef LaFrentz, Tom Gugliotta, Pat Garrity and Billy Curley.
Every time Hubie laughs out loud, Abbie inexplicably sniffs her own rear end. This has been going on for years. Just thought I'd mention it. By the way, I think my right eye just closed.
Stern seems petrified as he reads Eddie Griffin's name at No. 7 (for the Nets). Eddie's wearing an oversized, black pinstriped suit, prompting an exchange between me and Dad that's become an annual draft-day tradition:
Me: Dad, how would you describe that suit?
(Dad loves the suits. Dad's still convinced that there was only one three-piece suit during the '98 Draft and each draftee wore the suit and passed it onto the next potential draftee during the night. Interesting theory. Has Bob Ley ever devoted an "Outside the Lines" show to this? I'm babbling ...)
During a TNT commercial graphic for "Classic trades in NBA history," Ernie reminds us that the Sonics and Bulls swapped Olden Polynice for Scottie Pippen 14 years ago today. "That was fair," Barkley deadpans. Meanwhile, with the Cavs looming as the last team who could push a blue-chipper (either Rodney White or Joe Johnson) down to Boston, our room suddenly fills with tension: Dad's in full-mustache twirl mode, Maggie just let one fly and Abbie's gnawing on her third chewy of the night. Everyone's pumped.
||8:21 p.m.: The Cavs take Diop at No. 8! Dad jumps up and screams, "Yessssssssssssssss!" I haven't seen him this excited since I told him that Rene Russo got naked in "The Thomas Crown Affair." And in case you're scoring at home, it's not often you can see a seven-foot Senegalian wearing a gray suit and a light-blue hat. Big day.
The Cavs take Diop at No. 8! Dad jumps up and screams, "Yessssssssssssssss!" I haven't seen him this excited since I told him that Rene Russo got naked in "The Thomas Crown Affair." And in case you're scoring at home, it's not often you can see a seven-foot Senegalian wearing a gray suit and a light-blue hat. Big day.
Here's the question of the day: when David Stern emerges from backstage to announce each pick, where's he coming from? Does he have his own private set-up backstage, with drinks, waitresses, televisions, junk food, a private masseuse ... I mean, what the hell goes on back there? Couldn't TNT show us? It's like this great unknown, like outer space or something.
Detroit takes Rodney White, leaving the door open for the C's to jump all over Joe Johnson at No. 10. With the Celtics on the clock, TNT turns to Rick Pitino for his draft insights on the C's. Yeah, ask the guy who drafted Jerome Moiso. I keep waiting for Coach P to renounce TNT's rights to Barkley and Kenny Smith and offer Travis Knight a $20 million deal. No, I'm not bitter or anything.
The Celtics select ... Joe Johnson! Yippee kay yea! A six-foot-eight swingman with 3-point range! Just what the doctor ordered for a team that threw up more bricks last season than Montresor in "The Cask of Amontillado." Dad and I exchange an awkward high-five and await the next pick, which will almost certainly be an unknown JUCO player named Kedrick Brown (for a potential trade to Portland?). Dad's openly pining for Troy Murphy. It's kind of pathetic. We need to find him a support group or something.
And the Celtics select ... Kedrick Brown! That was the worst-kept secret in the league -- everyone was reporting that Boston promised Brown's agent (Arn Tellem) that they would take him there. Normally, I'd be down on this one but, well ... I'll admit it ... the Kedrick Brown highlights almost made me pass out. He has a high-flying swagger about him, almost like J.R. Rider, but about 10,000 bong hits ago.
Dad and I are trying to figure out what the Celtics could possibly gain by promising Tellem that they would select his client at No. 11. Does that mean Tellem offered to "push" one of his free agent clients to Boston this summer? Did he offer to bump off Kenny Anderson to get Kenny off Boston's cap? Much like David Stern's backstage digs, it's a mystery.
Vladimir Radmanovic went to the Sonics at No. 12, then gave an incomprehensible post-pick interview.
8:41 p.m.: The Sonics grab Vladimir Radmanovic at No. 12, or as I like to call him, "The Radman." His interview with Sager goes like this:
Sager: "Vladimir, how does it feel to be a member of the Sonics?"
Vlad: "Hdgdgfsgs fdhjdjdjd djdjdjd wtwtwgdlkdsn dhwold sgsja."
Sager: "Is your family excited?"
Vlad: "Rfsfsfs kfdhgdmx sjsk dewqushjd bvndshsge.
Houston takes Richard Jefferson, who wasn't invited to New York as one of the Select Fourteen. By the way, they moved the old "Green Room" to the front few rows of the stands for tonight, just so we wouldn't be haunted by the depressing image of the last hasn't-been-drafted guy sitting in an empty room and dying a slow death. The "Who's the Last Guy to be Sitting in the Green Room" contest was always one of my favorite TV subplots -- the Jumaine Jones Draft was a bigger emotional rollercoaster ride than "Terms of Endearment."
Troy Murphy finally falls (to Golden State at No. 14), as Dad lets out an audible groan. That means Brendan Haywood is the winner of the "Guy who lasted the longest in the Green Room" contest. His prize? An extremely awkward, tear-laden handshake with an unsympathetic David Stern about 40 minutes from now.
Maggie's staring at us with that intense, semi-psychotic, "If you don't take me outside soon, I'm baptizing the dining room rug" glare. We need to regroup, console Dad about this Murphy thing and throw Maggie a bone here. Time for a break ...
Apparently we missed the first trade of the day: The Clippers traded the rights to Tyson Chandler and Brian Skinner to Chicago for Elton Brand. Good God! A blockbuster! Did Elgin Baylor just make a good trade or am I crazy? Start stockpiling water and canned goods -- the apocalypse is coming.
I just traded my DVD collection and two Red Bulls to Dad for Abbie and cash.
The wheels have officially come off this draft -- after Steven Hunter went to Orlando at No. 15, we've suddenly entered BAWG ("Best Available White Guy") territory: Charlotte just tabbed Indiana forward Kirk Haston in the hopes of throwing out a full-fledged whitewash next season -- Haston, Garrity, Doleac, Miller and DeClercq. Let's schedule a scrimmage between the Magic and Gonzaga, just for kicks.
BAWG alert, BAWG alert! Michael Bradley just went to the Raptors at No. 17. Next stop: The Rockville Lightning!
||9:35 p.m.: During an interview with Mike Fratello, Celtics GM Chris Wallace just called Joe Forte "Red Auerbach's personal favorite player in the draft." Whoa! Somebody woke up Red tonight! Who's up for some canasta?
I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but every time I hear Hubie Brown's voice for more than 129 straight minutes, I have a seizure. I'm a little scared right now. We're at the 128-minute mark.
Errrrrrrrrrhhhhhhaaaaaaaaahh! Erraaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhahh! hhhhhhhhaahhahahh. AGdgdgdgsgsgaaaaaaaaaaaggggggg! Argggggggggggggggggg! Argggggggggggg! Arggggggggggg! Arggggggggggggg! Arggggggggggggg!
Houston takes Stanford big man Jason Collins at No. 18. The other options were Brendan Haywood, Loren Woods or an unindentified seven-foot corpse that was dropped off at a Manhattan mortuary two hours ago.
With Portland on the clock at No. 19, Dad and I enjoy another NBA draft tradition -- wondering who the Blazers will tab as this year's "Best Available Prospect With A Really Shaky Past." We narrow the possibilites down to Zack Randolph and Jamaal Tinsley; Randolph shapes up as the funnier pick because he would be tutored at the four-spot by Shawn Kemp and Rasheed Wallace, and probably share a condo with Erick Barkley. Let's just say I won't be running out and buying up Zack's rookie cards if this pick happens.
Yup, the Blazers take Randolph. That was too easy.
Cleveland takes Brendan Haywood at No. 20, ending Haywood's 30 minutes of Green Room Hell. Another winner pick from the Cavs; Haywood could become the next Eric Riley, if everything falls into place. I'll bet my vintage Shannon Tweed video collection that Joe Forte becomes a better pro than Haywood ... hell, I'd even include "Scorned."
(Hey, speaking of Forte ... he's still on the board ... and Boston's up next ... hmmmm ...)
Pau Gasol looks like a cross between Toni Kukoc, Skeet Ulrich and Ricky Martin.
9:22 p.m.: The Haywood pick prompts a classic exchange between Barkley and Kenny: Chuck jokes that MJ was Carolina's last great player when Kenny (a UNC grad) fires back, "Hey, you keep talking and I'll blind you with my championship rings." Good stuff ... nothing beats ChuckTV. He raises everyone's game. Can't somebody slash one of his hamstrings so he can't make an NBA comeback?
Pitino believes the Celts could be looking at "Troy Parker" at No. 21. Troy Parker? Wasn't he in "Boogie Nights"? Hey, at least Pitino wasn't in charge of the last four drafts in Boston or anything. Um ...
(All right, I can't resist: "Milt Wagner's not walking through that door, Louisville fans! Pervis Ellison isn't walking through that door, and Darrell Griffith isn't walking through that door. And if they walked through that door, they'd be old and gray!")
Joe Forte falls to the Celts at No. 21! Dad and I are fired up right now. Even the dogs are fired up -- Maggie just belly-flopped on Abbie and they're rolling around on the ground. Good times ... good times.
As the New York crowd howls in disgust, Vecsey reports that the Nets dealt Eddie Griffin to the Rockets for Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins, Kermit Washington and the No. 23 pick, or as I like to call it, "C-R-A-P." Is there a worse franchise than the Nets? And how 'bout Hall of Fame punchee Rudy Tomjanovich coaching Hall of Fame puncher Eddie Griffin?
Mmmmmm ... leftover Chinese food.
During an interview with Mike Fratello, Celtics GM Chris Wallace just called Joe Forte "Red Auerbach's personal favorite player in the draft." Whoa! Somebody woke up Red tonight! Who's up for some canasta?
||9:49 p.m.: Portland takes the Spanish Guy, not to be confused with the Senagalian Guy, the Haitian Guy, the Yugoslavian Guy, the Turkish Guy, the Greek Guy, the Lithuanian Guy, the French Guy or Pau Gasol.
Vecsey reports that Nets GM Rod Thorn just traded a dollar to Jerry Krause for two quarters and a dime.
Wrapping up the Griffin deal, the Nets select somebody named Brandon Armstrong in Houston's spot at No. 23. That doesn't stop Hubie Brown from explaining how well Armstrong will fit in with the Rockets before he's quickly electroshocked by the TNT producers.
After Vecsey reports that the Knicks don't have enough to trade for Chris Webber, the New York fans start an impromptu "Vecsey sucks! Vecsey sucks!" chant. Highest of high comedy. You have to love the Big Apple sometimes. Rarely ... but sometimes.
Portland takes the Spanish Guy, not to be confused with the Senagalian Guy, the Haitian Guy, the Yugoslavian Guy, the Turkish Guy, the Greek Guy, the Lithuanian Guy, the French Guy or Pau Gasol.
We have just had the first-ever draftee to crash the proceedings from the stands!!!! The Sixers had selected Seton Hall's Samuel Dalembert at No. 26, when Dalembert suddenly and inexplicably hopped out of the stands in -- you guessed it! -- a cream-colored suit to shake hands with a terrified David Stern. Dad's convinced that Dalembert dressed up in casual clothes, then accosted Kwame Brown in the men's room and hijacked Kwame's suit so he could crash the main stage if he got selected.
You know, I've been sitting down for so long that my DeSagana Diop just fell asleep.
To round out the first round, the Grizzlies roll the dice with Jamaal Tinsley (his stock was dropping like a dot-com this week) at No. 27 and the Spurs grab Tony Parker at No. 28. As an added bonus, Parker pulls a Samuel Delambert and emerges from the stands for the handshake with Stern. Hopefully this will become a new tradition in the NBA draft -- the Random Main Stage Crash.
One final note: I think Barkley summed up this entire draft when he analyzed the Parker pick with this beauty: "I don't know that much about him, but they got him in the first round, so he must be a good player."
That's pretty much how I felt during the entire 2001 draft. We barely know any of these potential draftees anymore, and yet there's always enough to make the NBA draft telecast a worthwhile night. The jokes, the comedy, the suspense, the clothes, the interviews, the traditions? it always ends up being one of my favorite TV nights of the year. I can't explain it.
Actually, maybe I already did.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2. Starting the week of July 23, he will write three columns a week.