Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stay Hungary

The Hungarian Nic Batum just got picked. It's midnight and everyone else who was posting on this is obviously deep into their lives by now. We can say goodnight, now, right? Goodnight.

The Twitters Are Exploding

Lakers and Mavs trolling the league right now. I'm sort of enjoying the befuddlement of the scout types at trying to assess "the best player ever to come out of Qatar" and whoever this Chuketcetera Congo-by-way-of-Bakersfield (put your own Grantland footnote reading "oofs" next to this) dude with the 0.7 PPG is, and I sort of enjoy it every year. But I'm always kind of peevish at successful teams treating these picks as if they don't give a shit. Of course, there's no real reason why the Lakers or Mavs should give a shit about these picks -- Ben Hansbrough has as much of a chance of helping the Mavs as does that more-or-less notional African guy in a Zapruder-grade game tape. But at the same time, there's a troll-y whiff to all this.

Also I think it might be time for Stuart Scott to go to bed.

Tyler, The Uncreated

Jeremy Tyler seems like he'd be an interesting story, right? He bailed on high school, went to go get that money in foreign professional leagues and kind of got it, while apparently not getting much better at basketball. But a two-year journey to nations defined by generalized fervor, unrelenting paradox and intense weirdness -- Israel and Japan, in this case -- and assorted frustrations and exertions in those foreign lands would seem to be the sort of thing that would teach all sorts of hard and valuable lessons inevitably denied those of us who spent our late teens concealing pony kegs and bluffing about Foucault at various institutions of higher learning.

Or, maybe it's more accurate to say that such a thing would seem that way to those of us who spent our late teens concealing pony kegs and bluffing about Foucault at institutions of higher learning. Because for Tyler himself, who remains a good athlete in a big body and who apparently still has some getting-better to do, the experience seems to have been roughly as terrifying as you'd expect, if you think about what it would actually be like to be a 17-year-old from Los Angeles in a clammy gym in Haifa with some thickly accented dude calling you a faggot and making you run suicides.

The lesson, maybe, is more than just an exercise in umpteenthery on the projection tip. Or that, but also a reminder of how young and fragile and multiply parlous these particular people-turned-transactions actually are. Jeremy Tyler is 19 years old, and will be lucky to stick with Golden State next year. He made some money abroad and could make it again if it comes to that, but he doesn't know what he's about -- or even really know how to figure out what he's about -- any more than any other 19-year-old does. As with everyone hearing their name called tonight, it's hard not to wish him well. It's strange and sad how much closer his basketball/narrative journey seems to the end than the beginning, though, considering where we all were -- and where he actually really is, in the broader sense -- at that ridiculous age.


JORTS! (Classic Bilas-trying-not-to-be-amused-by-himself take, too) I'm working on something more interesting than this about someone else, but I am kind of delighted that affable hamsteak and serviceable-ish rebounder Josh Harrellson got picked and talked about. That is all.


A Great Miracle Happened Here

Except for the part where the Blazers traded Andre Miller. I blame Brandon Roy, and without Miller and his golden lobs, that team is headless.

Biggest Losers

Someone should give Terrence Jones and Jeremy Lamb a hug. Or each his own. Up to you, bro. And buy them a dinner or two, so long as it doesn't violate NCAA rules. Those guys should have woken up as millionaires tomorrow.

The *Other* Morris Brother

Michigan fans are eagerly waiting to learn about the fate of Darius Morris, the Wolverines' erstwhile point guard who declared for this weak draft rather than returning to college for an outside chance at a Big Ten title and another year of jump-shot drills. Morris is a "big point guard" at 6'4", and beyond that...he's...good at dribbling a lot with his right hand? Actually, no question--that's what he's good at. And at taking awkward shots in the lane which make you cringe all the way until they make it to the bottom of the net. Even seeing one halfway down is not enough assurance that it was a good decision.

Morris is a telling microcosm for a draft governed by lowest-common-denominator reasoning. He has a bad jump shot, no left hand, and he lacks elite athleticism. This last condition is what Jay Bilas diagnoses as "not yet [being] a great athlete," which itself is not great. (After all, how many humans, basketball players or otherwise, develop elite latent physical skills any time after birth?) Still, Morris impressed some NBA scouts enough during his workouts that he was projected as high as a mid-first-round pick at various times precedent to tonight's depressing spectacle. If he sneaks into the back end of this first round, go to bed knowing that he will be paid guaranteed millions for the next three years, at least, all for being not awful enough on a night when every pick after the first has induced some kind of nausea.

Serpent and the Rainbow, Part Infinity

There's not much I can say about how incredibly sad I find everything the Nets do that I haven't already said a longish time ago and also slightly more recently. Their last NBA Draft in Newark seems savvy enough -- MarShon Brooks, for those who haven't seen him, is really good at scoring the basketball. (This is also true for those who have seen him) But the whole shabby, craven process through which they extricated themselves from my home state -- you remember it, it's the one that makes that honeybaked nightmare Clay Bennett look comparatively benign -- trails a stink that will take a long time to get out of that arena. I don't know what this says about me, but I'm sort of proud of the fact that I'll never care about that team again. Call it venal or petty or whatever else -- definitely the first two, and a couple of others besides -- but given all the things I overlook because I enjoy watching sports so much, I guess what pleases me about showing this particular zombie out of my sports-watching life is that I can still even find the door.

Other Fish

Getting increasingly excited about the other things my DVR is clocking right now. Real Housewives of New York, I'm looking at you.

Mirotic City

I know it's been a while since we've seen this many Central and Eastern Europeans taken in the first round, so ESPN's broadcast team can be forgiven for not being as well-versed in Balkan geography as they could. That said, Stu Scott calling Nikola Mirotic Serbian, while the network ran footage of him in a Montengro Jersey is incomprehensibly stupid.

Sure, It's A Steal

The other day Glenn Kenny tweeted something "wait until you call something haunting, or else how do you know, you know?" That's probably how it should be with draft steals, but I feel secure in calling Kenneth Faried a steal for the Nuggets. He's one of the few players in this draft—forget about the bottom of the first—who has one truly elite skill. And as we all know from people like Kevin Pelton, rebounding translates well from college to the pros. It's like DeJuan Blair never existed in the minds of people drafting. I also like that when it came time for his interview, there was a sense of calm, inevitability, and little else. Too many players feign a politician's enthusiasm or play it way too cool. Faried knew it was going to happen, it did, and his pro career started. It's funny, I defended the Heat's "Yes We Did" rally all spring, but at the same time, if you're Kenneth Faried, making the NBA is neither a surprise nor something to act jaded about. It's time to go to work. But not without a hometown crowd to remind you that this matters. There's just a long way to go from here.

I don't know where in the modern era Ibaka could have purchases that coat. It's not the color so much as it is the collar.

Relentless Heart Motor

I am always and everywhere in favor of nice things happening to people from Newark, and Kenneth Faried's plus-ones were all very welcome. But between Bilas just saying adjectives and Scott describing him as "the greatest rebounder in the history of the modern era," I'm thinking that maybe someone should do something about the microphones.

Although there was a nice moment of confusion by way of Scott's talking about his parents "bringing him to the courts in Newark." My brother-in-law was thinking of those as halls-of-justice type courts, and the mission as being more of a scared-straight type thing. (Also, I'm under no illusions about Faried being anything but a better-socialized Balkman, but 1) I like Balkman and 2) Denver, in J.R. Smith and Faried, now has two epically idiosyncratic Jersey people on their roster, which certainly does not make me like them less)

Re: Spin

As a guy who does not usually watch the NBA draft and is really more interested in watching Jeff Van Gundy, hero of his early manhood, get tired and start to spout extremely technical word salad than he is in seeing where which player he hasn't heard of goes to which team he doesn't really care about, I am now thinking that the Republican debates would be significantly improved by having ten-minute interruptions during which pundits judged the candidates while the candidates were listening. The NBA draft seems at this stage to embrace the Heisenberg principle, and it seems a failure of rival entertainments that they don't.


Things I saw in twenty minutes during a dinner on which I almost choked:

- Gregg Popovich discussed as "George"

- Landry Fields confused for Carl Landry

- The Knicks drafting a guy about whom the nicest thing said was that he is going to work on treating basketball like a job

- The Pacers trading for another not-good-enough point guard

- The Timberwolves assembling 300 point guards and 400 forwards who can't really bang

- Someone referred to as a "future interim general manager"

- A draft ticker which looked like a practical joke. Redundancies and reaches everywhere. Do NBA general managers realize that there actually will be basketball after the lockout? They know what a lockout is, right? If so, why does this draft look and feel like something happening at 4 AM on the last night of college?

Dear Television 2

The Rockets and Wolves have agreed to trade J Flynn and Montiejunas to Houston for Brad Miller, 23rd pick and future 1st

: Nuggets get Andre Miller back from Portland for Raymond Felton. Probably swap picks.

Plug Me In

Projecting Stuart Scott's voice throughout an arena -- any arena -- is not a good look! Everyone can hear him when you do that. You have to know that shit, guys. (Also, as long as the draft is in Newark, maybe Redman could get to announce the picks in the second round?)

Dear Television

This Spurs/Pacers deal was made about half an hour ago, even sooner, since Twitter had it then. I fail to see why it couldn't be mentioned sooner. Maybe it was on the crawler; I didn't see it. It shows you just how secondary basketball next year is to draft night, and how little sense this coverage seems to have of any basketball that came before it. Even the previews make no difference. The draft crew has months to prepare and is still woefully uninformed, which is even less excusable than Brandon Knight knowing nothing about the Pistons. It's their job to know. Instead, they throw around language whose only relevance is to itself, and describe what's going on with NBA teams like they never really knew them to begin with. Except for Jeff Van Gundy, of course. He's gone soft. Shouldn't he have killed someone by now? I guess, like Bilas robbed of his venom, Van Gundy has been relaxed by the doldrums.

Joey Litman just called me enraged. He came home for the Knicks picks, and between that and this coverage, has decided to swear off the NBA for months and months and months.

The Best of Bilas

Jay Bilas has a Twitter feed and scotch-intensive rapport with Bill Raftery has done a lot to make me kind of like him, and I already liked him for being in "I Come In Peace." (I like to think that he still calls Brian Benben sometimes, just to say what up) But I'm not totally buying into him in the Mel Kiper/designated-player-ranker role. I have no problem seeing the next ten players (per some random and undefined criteria) appear along the bottom of the screen. But I feel a little insulted at the suggestion that Bilas -- a busy man who lives in the United States and watches and talks about college basketball for a living -- has an opinion on Davis Bertans, guard of Lithuania. That said, I trust him on Nolan Smith. Especially the 'solid citizen' part. Bilas would know -- he has been checking his voting record.

Gate Crashers

We've finally reached my favorite part of draft night. The stakes are lower-and the names less familiar, but it's always fun to see which players bought tickets in hopes of stepping over that rail and "surprising" David stern.

So Sad Bilas

I don't get why he is all subdued and even-handed tonight. Where are the barbs? The outrage? The needless ripostes buried in sentence upon sentence of self-made jargon? It was there at the very beginning, actually only really with Irving. Have I read him wrong all along? Is about truth to power, and making hype quake in its boots through a science all his own? Or is Bilas a dick who realizes that, if the target is a future All-Star, it's not really bullying? Without him, the draft just isn't at its hallucinatory best.

I am pouring myself some wine.

Also, people drafted naked. That's where this league is headed.


As a guy who wears cargo shorts and flip flops eight months out of the year (you do know that Chicago is a beach town) I'll make no more comments on this, but Kahwi Leonard has been easily topped by the guy who has an airbrushed David Stern t-shirt.

Keep Sleeping On Pacers

Longer, weirder, faster than you ever think, they just got even more of that in George Hill. Even Hansbrough ... he's far from orthodox, at least not in terms of what he does or how he does it.

Kenneth Faried to the Knicks would have been a good one.

Spike believes in Donnie Walsh. I always wonder if there's ever communication between him and the front office.

Grunwald's look screams "I have a yacht idling outside".

[Really Bad Violent Femmes Joke]

Hand size is the new wingspan.

I think Bilas hinted earlier that there is a wingspan appropriate to one's given frame. Is that true?

How did they decide who got to wear the hat and who didn't? Jimmer was the first for a while.

About time for some trades to happen.

Kawhi Leonard's suit

Oh gosh. A man capable of such lapels will not love Indianapolis. He will think of where I-65 can take him.

"A Power Forward Who Can Step Away"

Sounds like Morris knows how to control his temper or some shit.

Someone on Twitter said that Jimmer's contract is meme central, but I favor the Morris relative, bald and bow-tied, who was slapping Marcus Morris's hand like crazy when he was picked, but was still wearing a Suns hat.

I am trying to figure out what shape that pocket kerchief was supposed to be in.

Everybody is moved by something in the draft. What that is tells me a lot about you.

Of all the twins on this list, only "The Lopez Twins" have really become a brand name.

Brotherly Love

It's easy to become jaded and cynical, but Marcus Morris seemed genuinely sad that he and his brother are being separated for the first time. Either that, or he was pissed that Markieff got picked first.

They Really Made Us Care

Damn, I have spent entirely too much time thinking about the relationship between Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. And now, with distance between them, we can see it for what it really was. Even if JVG is kidding around a little. Jackson texted him in advance, out of respect and shit.


I'm No Athlete

But I keep thinking about Brandon Knight's interview. I like to think that future NBA players have a rough idea of what's going on in the league. They would be fans, students of the game in the loosest sense, and maybe even curious about their own prospects. I had always assumed that, when the draft started to come into focus, they would think about how they might fit into the lottery—and the teams attached to it. If nothing else, out of sheer curiosity. And as it got closer and closer to that moment where it all became real, you think they would at least do their homework and learn about potential future workplaces. Now, I know Knight didn't work out for Detroit. But this pick, even if no one gave a fuck about it, wasn't exactly improbable. And Knight, who prowess in the classroom is as famous as his game, had no idea what awaited him in Detroit. SMH.

Mychal Thompson

"Are you a domineering father who brutally subordinated your own son's ambitions to your own disappointments like something out a prewar Austrian novel, or are you more of a dude who was happy to pass on what you knew to someone you knew would make use of it?"

"I think the answer to that is fairly clear from my stoic demeanor."

Oh Word?

What time does the draft start?

Can't Wait For These Kings

Tyreke Evans. DeMarcus Cousins. Jimmer. The end is near, and only one, maybe two, will come out of this season alive.

Jon Barry is just listing players on the Kings. That is his prognosis.

I will never get used to Mark Jackson being a coach. He will really like being mic'ed up, though.

Kemba Just Feels Right

The NYC point guard as an archetype is good for the NBA. We haven't had one of note since Steph started eating vaseline. To everyone outside of the faithful few, believing in the New York point verges on anachronistic. I still believe that we'll get a transcendent NYC point guard every 10-15 years to restore our faith in the institution.

Basically I'm saying Kemba Walker is "Deadwood".

Stuck In My Gut

I don't know, I just really trust Kemba. I get that Irving is the uber-PG of the draft, but Walker really has the makings of a "wait, he was drafted there?" player. He also was "clutch" and had "heart" in ways that didn't seem circumstantial, or simply being better than a bunch of people who could barely walk.

No one should rock a puby goatee on draft night. Go full beard or keep it clean. Come on.

Joey Litman has noted this, but Kemba could be the return of the New York point guard, which might not actually be a good thing.

"Dancing at the Apollo ... meeting the President". Kemba = folk hero.

"It feels like the day I gave birth to him." -- how moms see the draft. Plus Kemba's mom with an applause line? This is your 2011 moment, unless Jimmer gets drafted.

Sorry if I sounded bitchy about Bismack. Felt like he was turning into the web's Jimmer.


I am struggling to come up with a clever way of pointing out how odd it is that this dude being drafted by proxy by Michael Jordan will do orders of magnitude more to make the American public aware of just how many people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo than a thousand earnest NPR dispatches and failing miserably!


Nobody loves a meta-draft question in the middle of an actual draft, but I have one, and it is this. Is it a problem for the draft, from the action-movie-beauty-pageant perspective, that the biggest moment comes first and all subsequent moments are at least theoretically less important and lower-stakes than the moments that preceded them? That is, the draft is all about the agony of clocks counting down, uncertainty, and the perils of choice. So why the fuck should we care who goes 17th if we already know who went first? But then, it's also the case that there's very seldom any suspense over the first pick, so maybe it makes sense that the draft starts with the obvious and then wades into more obscurantist/purist territory as it goes, like we're all essentially acknowledging that Sgt. Pepper's is whatever and the real question is where Slanted and Enchanted fits in. Maybe the draft is the rock-geek version of Miss USA. Kyrie Irving was more fun in high school.

About the Biyombo Triple-Double

I don't mean to ruin the one good thing about this draft (I couldn't tell you a thing about all these scorers from big schools coming up soon), but Biyombo's whole rep rests on the Hoop Summit. He has a really cool name, as Stu notes, and there needs to be a Biz Markie joke STAT. That triple-double, though: Every single player on the USA team got to the rim at will in that game, since the international guards sucked. They also tried to go to the basket every time they decided to create, since it was easy and not many of the USA players could shoot. And a lot of them, however athletic they may be, don't go all that hard, or just explode toward the basket (outward or upward). So Biyombo got a lot of chances to swat balls that he knew were headed right at him, and plenty of time to set up and anticipate. You see where this is going. I just hate and hate and hate.

John Henson Is So This Draft

I know he stayed in another year to improve, to win, and to avoid the lockout's uncertainties. But he missed his chance at immortality. Every draft does kind of have a signature player. That player usually ends up going high because he seems like what this draft is all about, even if there's an element of resignation in that. It was sort of supposed to be Biyombo, at least on the Internet. Henson—athletic, skilled without being competent, somewhat clueless, and the kind of prospect who hits on just enough of the criteria to matter—could have made that dream come true for him and his family, and no matter what happened in his career, we would know him as Mr. 2011.

Don't you think that, at this point, NBA fans should be able to tell these former Eastern Bloc countries apart? Maybe even know a thing or two about them?

"I have not so strong body [as Chris Bosh]".

To Jimmer

I'm not quite sure just when I became aware of how ridiculous it was for Marv Albert to scream, "He gave him a facial!" as loud as he could, or just when I became aware that Marv Albert had to know as he was screaming it that just how ridiculous it was to scream about one man giving another a facial. Both are settled facts with me; I can't remember life without them. Which made me savor the shock of the new I felt when I read Rick Telander define "jimmer" as "to give someone a sudden facial sans dunking" in the Sun-Times this morning, a bit of definition-making that will leave me, I realize as I watch quick cutaways to the man himself, perpetually unable to look at Jimmer Fredette without thinking of basketball pundits in a shady backlot somewhere in the San Fernando Valley, doing things involving towels and klieg lights.

Love Love Love JVG

"V-V-V ... the big Lithuanian guy. That wasn't even a good hide by me. I'm terrible with names."

"Why do they clap in draft room? They know who they're picking!"

The Cavs just drafted Tristan Thompson. Why do I feel like every pick tonight could be for Kahn without us realizing it? THIS IS THE DRAFT OF THE KAHN.

Guest Blogger, and Enes Kanter Expert: A Chair

Mark my words, Enes Kanter is the future. Have you seen this kid play? He's an absolute fucking beast. Kid has every tool in the box. NBA body? Check. Runs the floor? Yop. Soft shooting touch? Yessir. Low-post moves? For days, son.

Look, I don't want to toot my horn, but I've been out there with some of the best. No one would ever confuse me with Luol Deng, but I can hold my own on the defensive end, and believe me when I say this; nobody, but nobody has worked me like Kanter since Yi JianLian.

That T-Wolves Cap + Utah

It's almost supernatural. First off, it's the mark of Kahn, which means that Derrick Williams's head might go flying off, or vaporize, at any moment. Also, everything about their uni seems tailored to Kevin Garnett's Marvel psychedelic super-villain vibe (once in Boston, he turned into a Daredevil bad guy from the late 1970's), and on anyone else, it's a bad Halloween get-up. "I am Rubio, I roar, I roar!"

Jazz hat here looks like a ski trip I once went on. Kanter dedicating his season to Kentucky is sort of like when ladies get married to serial killers in prison for life.

Cleveland Has Made a Decision

I don't think I've ever heard of a player stacking the stands like Irving did here. Keep an eye on this one, marketing-wise. Bilas says he has an "unusually good" feel for the game, which is neither unusual, nor simply good. Is that the same as "really good?" Bilas will always cut you down with a little "not the greatest passer", but he didn't quite lean into it this year. It's almost like this is the down-market, recession-era draft where no one can get too excited about beating up anybody else. We've all got to go home and die on the couch when it's over. Well, not Kyrie Irving. Bilas has a scratchy, sagging couch and high-powered arrows stashed underneath. So he just sleeps real easy.

Everything I hate about Austin Rivers's persona, I like about Kyrie Irving.

Dandies on the Streets

Poorly-fitted vests, pastels, makeshift drum kits that still stand up straight ... is this a Newark subcultural niche I don't know about? Maybe this is leftover stuff from Boardwalk Empire and it's littered all over New Jersey now. Gotta use it for something. Player most like to have a water-spraying flower? You tell me.

My future is Adele.

Dirk Will Not Save You

There are a lot of Euros in this draft. Real honest-to-goodness pale face Euros—not international players, from Brazil or some place in Africa, or French dudes with dark skin. We haven't seen them in droves like this since ... I don't know, around the time Chad Ford made his first million and Darko stopped dodging bullets and started ducking Larry Brown. It also happens to be the year that Dirk Nowitzi won a title. He was the first of this Euro-movement, and always the best. His most embarrassing defeats came when Avery Johnson tried to make him hard; as Luke O'Brien wrote on Deadspin, Dirk sort of proved to all of us that being soft, or finesse-y, could be its own ind of tough and indefatigable. My question: Does Dirk's title do anything to change the way Euros are discussed tonight? Half the folks weighing in on tv tonight are brain-dead, and the rest will get exhausted and fall into cliches at some point. Will Dirk come up as a game-changer? Has he indeed change the meaning of soft? Or are all Euros soft until they prove that they are soft-tough (tough-soft?) like Dirk? In other words, did Dirk simply succeed in raising the bar the way Larry Bird did for the other whites?

I have no idea if Donatas will soar as a player, but he has an awesome, sardonic sense of humor.

This Draft Is Like College Baskeball

Totally unpredictable and exciting because it might totally implode on itself. The structure is mush, the hierarchy non-existent, and teams seem intent on turning it into an outright black hole. Fuck a star being born. This is a collective effort to approximate when one ends. I would not be surprised if we woke up tomorrow and found out some teams had forgotten to choose. Or no one in the first was ever going to start. Perfect intro to a lockout, I suppose.

In other news: Jimmer got rhythm, ya heard!

Why The Hell Not

I wonder if they're going to drive Jimmer into the ground because there's nothing else to talk about. Certainly, "Kyrie Irving is underratd" didn't go anywhere, even after Seth Davis argued that he would be a top 3 point guard in 3 years (those are very similar numbers). Davis is telling us how important is that Jimmer is totally into his YouTube channel. Steve Smith recanted on any man-crush of any time when Kemba came up—it was a running joke with Jimmer—maybe because the expression started to seem a little, you know, queer? Jimmer is some thing you win at a carnival, or rescue from a giant glass box with a claw. Kemba is a man in training.

Kanter sounds like cancer. I can only hope he lives up to that joke.


Tonight is the 2011 NBA draft, as underwhelming a specimen as we've seen in forever. That won't stop me, or anyone else I know, from typing profusely. All my typing will be here. I will not waste my energy yet on picking apart the NBA-TV projections ... suffice it to say that Chris Paul is better than everybody, Josh Smith to the T-Wolves makes me know how Jeremiah Weed feels everyday, shots of Jimmer heading into the break produced squeals of "that's my guy!" and "man-crush" from the studio crew, and Kamla thinks that Jonny Flynn's internal monologue sounds like this:

"Yo! I was the Number 6 overall pick. So I'm pretty good, right?"