Growing up, I watched basketball with my father a lot. Sarge was mainly into college basketball and was 'ok' with watching the NBA. That meant that I watched a lot of college basketball. So, once the NBA Draft came around in late June, I would be excited to watch to see where all of the guys would end up. The way the NBA does the draft is the best event in sports....hands down. You have drama with teams talking trades all day leading up to the actual draft to see if they can make their team better by stealing a draft pick or off loading a huge contract for a guy who isn't working out for them. Around this time of year, every one is double and triple checking their twitter account to see if NBA draft/rumor guru Adrian Wojnarowski drops what basketball heads call a 'Woj bomb'. Woj has correctly predicted all kinds of transactions from free agent signings that no one saw coming to what teams are looking to do on draft night. He has become a legend almost overnight. He definitely has added to the fun of keeping up with the NBA Draft.
Then there's the actual draft itself. When I worked for the NBA, I got to see the 'behind the scenes' view from Madison Square Garden. While it appears orderly on television with just the commissioner coming out and announcing teams draft picks, it is absolutely CRAZY around the venue. Its a controlled crazy....but its crazy. Players that are invited to attend the draft are showing up with crazy suits, huge entourages, and family members. You also have loads of media, bloggers, and other basketball players that are all jockeying to either get in or be noticed to scouts or agents. Just to put this all in context, players that are getting drafted are getting younger and younger, so most of the kids getting drafted literally are one year removed from going to their high school prom and it shows. I remember listening to a future draft pick (who's had a so-so career...but I won't name him) get really nervous and ask anyone that would listen 'What happens if the team that drafts you doesn't think you're any good when you get there?' Everyone pretty much gave him the 'Just make sure you signed the contract' answer. Every interview with the media leading up to the actual draft night is painful and awkward because most of the time (with this year being an exception) teams that are high in the draft are usually bad teams that even a number pick can't help right away. And they field questions like 'Do you think you're the piece they need to contend?' or 'How are you planning on working with (the team's star player)?' Most of the players give stock answers, but you can tell they are super nervous.
As a basketball fan, I always loved this night. You got to watch highlights of guys you heard of and guys who you haven't. Also, for some weird reason, I always loved seeing the guys stand up and put the team hat on. Do they bend the brim? Do they half way stick the hat on their head? I admit, I'm a little strange like that. One thing that I did not enjoy was....seeing the guy who was invited to attend, but slip in the draft. Just seeing them sit there alone with their family is tough to watch. Which, of course is good TV, so the cameras do the tight close up of the poor guy. The thing that shocked me a little when I attended was how long guys actually stay at the draft, even after getting drafted. I remember the year I was there, Andrew Bogut was the number one draft pick and he was drafted around 7:30 and didn't leave MSG until around midnight.
So this year has already produced a few head scratchers: The trade between Boston and Philly for the number one spot, The Knicks claiming that Porzingis is being made available, the Lakers trading away their former number 2 pick. Should make for an interesting draft tonight. The NBA Draft is like Christmas morning for basketball fans with all of the positive talk about the direction of the team they root for....especially for fans of bad teams that for one night get the spotlight. But ultimately, there can only be one champion at the end of the year and nine times out ten....the player or players you draft won't help your chances alone. It will take free agent signings and luck. But its always fun to dream!