By the time you read this . . . I will already be dead. No, sorry, I just had to write that. By the time you read this, it will be Thursday, June 27th. The day of the 2013 NBA Draft. The draft is the big day for all of us. Particularly the Utah Jazz who have 3 picks and a lot of cap space (in a few days) to deal with. Even if the team doesn't make any moves we're going to be talked about a lot.
One thing that isn't talked about a lot is what happens in New York City on Wednesday. The NBA's head office is in New York. And all the players (as in: more than just all the players who get drafted) are in New York in the days leading up to the draft. Some guys get here early and do the media circuit. Other guys are still flying all over the country going on interviews and barely make it in time. New York is one of the biggest cities in terms of the "haves vs. have nots" disparity on our planet. And our game, the NBA game, reflects this as well. There are Haves and Have Nots in the NBA. This trickles down to the NBA Draft as well. Some guys have it all, already. They are promoted before even signing their first contract. Some other guys, well, they have to take the back entrance into the building.
I got a chance to see a bit more of this specifically with what went down on Wednesday. If you remember our Draft Combine Odyssey you may remember that it was mired with obstacles and foes to be vanquished. I'm not going to make this post as long as that first one . . . but there were some silly things that happened today as well.
Things started off normally as Preeti (who plays the role of The Preet on the internet, at @AllThatPreeti on twitter -- she never tweets.) drove me to our local airport, in Detroit. She doesn't get to do that much and it's always an adventure when she's behind the wheel. You know it's going to be a fun ride when our conversation starts off with "My friends think I'm a dangerous driver, do you?"
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Anyway, after the excessive pat down sequence in security (because when you think of an international criminal mastermind you think of an 30 something Aziz Ansari sized man who writes for a sports blog) -- which deviated into a conversation about where Trey Burke will land -- I made my way to my gate. Of course, my gate was the last gate on one side of the entire McNamara terminal in Detroit. As fates would have it I made it just in time for them to delay my flight. And then another flight delay happened, this one was "We don't know, I think weather related . . . there could be weather." I wasn't worried about that because I called the hotel to see if my room would be ready. And it wasn't. And they had full occupancy last night. And they too wouldn't know until I got there. So, things were going great.
Time was tight already with these delays and I needed to change into business clothes on the way to Manhattan somehow in time for Wednesday's media availability. I was in "travel clothes" at that moment in Detroit, and still needed to make a detour into Brooklyn (where the hotel was) before getting down to business. Business, which if you are on the right e-mail lists, was to start at 11:30 am. My flight wouldn't even leave Detroit for a few hours.
When I landed I got the bright idea to, perhaps, change at the airport before going to the hotel. New York City bathrooms quickly made that an impossibility. My cabbie was a 19 year old Punjabi boy who drove his cab like he was still living in India. No turn signals. Weaving in and out of traffic without a care in the world. And constantly complaining about how bad all the other driver's were. I immediately reconsidered my answer to Preeti earlier this morning when we talked about the perception of what a dangerous driver actually was.
We eventually made it to the hotel in one piece and as the fates would have it, there was a room available for me. It was roughly the size of a bread box but it was all I needed. I did my own quickchange impersonation and made it just in time to get into some seriously bad traffic.The elderly Central American cabbie could only mutter "Es la vida" while dropping me off at the wrong part of times square. I would not get to the Media availability until a little after 1 pm.
The media stuff started at 11:30 am, but the real show did not start until 12:30. And while things sometimes run long, I know this would end right exactly when it was supposed to end around 2:00 pm.
The funny thing was that in the history of the 30 team NBA there have always been 14 lottery picks. While they are not always locks, for the most part the NBA is good at identifying who is going to go where in their yearly drafts. The media availability for today was for just 13 players: Steven Adams, Anthony Bennett, Trey Burke, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Carter-Williams, Sergey Karasev, Alex Len, C.J. McCollum, Ben McLemore, Nerlens Noel, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, and Cody Zeller.
Of course, no one was allowed to talk about who the 14th guy was supposed to be, why he is no longer there, and what exactly happened.
But these players were set up in the 5th floor ballroom ("Majestic") of The Westin -- New York at Times Square in two groups. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
I ran the last few blocks to get to the hotel in a disheveled mess (why did I decided to wear a shirt and tie in humid New York!) and startled a media guy on his way out. "NBA! MEDIA . . . HERE?" He pointed up to an escalator and exited the building. The security guys were watching and I said " NO TIME!" and they let me up into an elevator.
Mu-ha-haha. The fools!
The elevator made one stop and then C.J. McCollum (and one of his boys) hopped on. Exclusive off-the-record interview with a player that I wouldn't have gotten a chance to talk to because his media availability was over? Why yes, yes indeed.
Well, I can't go into details there but I got off on the 5th floor, and he was going up to the penthouse. So this is totally a "haves vs have not" situation in the NBA. Dude hasn't done anything in the league yet and he's royalty in a Times Square luxury hotel.
I signed into the banquet room and received my credentials.
You have received a +2 NBA Credential, and a random Pin that you can't sell, it's a quest item
And it was mostly over by the time I got there. (Now doubly glad I got to talk with CJ beforehand) I scanned the room for a) any player there that the Jazz may have a chance to pick, and b) looked for the one who had the fewest people around them. Michael Carter-Williams, I choose you!
Michael Carter-Williams is on the all-star team for being a soft spoken guy. So the recording I have of him is very bad. But what I do have is an honest answer. Because it's taking so much time to upload I'm just going to transcribe my question. (Everyone else was asking about what teams he has worked out for -- which you can get from hoopshype.com btw, and other dumb things like his Mom's blog.)
Amar: Do you think it's important to be the #1 point guard picked in this draft?
Michael: (Sigh) Competitive side of me says yes. The smart side of me says no. [I just want to] go where I'm going to be the best fit.
Over all he's not interested in trying to be "the Man", he's looking to add what he current is to a team that may need that. It's almost noble to understand your limitations and accept them. I like that he does admit that he wants to be the #1 PG in this draft, but it's even better that he understands that for that to be the case he may be going to a team that's not going to be one he can help, or one that can help him.
I did not get much time to talk with any of the other players on the record or record their answers. (See, this is where a MyLo is useful) And the NBA PR taskmasters were going around saying "last question, last question!" and wrapping things up. This is where all the flight delays and bad traffic add up. But if it wasn't for those things I wouldn't have gotten to talk to CJ McCollum in an overly candid way.
Wednesday wasn't a complete success, there were only 13 guys and the availability was short, and it was really impossible for me to have made it any earlier. But it wasn't a complete failure either. I did get a chance to spend time with almost all the guys I could have physically spent time with. I also got to re-connect with familiar faces. Scott Howard-Cooper was next to me at the MC-W table and we had a nice chat. He's all class. I also got to meet some other reporters again (the guys from the Detroit Free Press, for example). And I did more mingling with the NBA PR people that I did see at the Chicago Draft Combine, like Mike P. He actually gave me the lowdown on what I missed, and instructions on how to get to times square faster from Brooklyn than by cab. He's a really nice guy, not at all what you would expect from someone who works for a very closed organization (the NBA).
There were a number of very interesting observations to be made and gained from the day before the draft. The first was just how different THIS event was from the Chicago Pre-Draft Combine. The Combine is super chill. It's a natural environment for so many of the participants, from the college players, to the coaches, to the scouts, and to the former players. It's like returning to your family church, of sorts. Some of the guys helping out with the drills at the Chicago Combine were players who started out as college kids there, and then went on to have their entire pro careers, and are now giving back to that cycle of love for the game.
Everything was open, and natural. Yes, the PR people were there at the combine making things run more or less on time, but there it was about the game. At this event it was all about the polish. Fancy hotel in Times Square. Everything was on precision time. The players, no longer wearing their bball gear, were visibly uncomfortable in designer suits. The normally bombastic voices and high level of camaraderie stiffens and the voices softens in a sea of recording devices. If the Combine was the jungle, this was the Zoo. And a Zoo run by very tight rules.
What I saw today was just a preview of the clockwork presentation and precision of the NBA Draft. The NBA Draft is a ceremony, not a basketball event. I love it, but now that I've seen so much more I understand much more about the league, the players, and these events. And I don't just mean that in the hotel holding 60+ future, potential, young millionaires that there were scores of attractive women wearing evening gowns milling about the hotel bar and lounge at 1 in the afternoon.
And while Wednesday didn't yield a lot of blog-worthy info, I came here for tomorrow, for the NBA Draft. And the reason that I care about the NBA draft is because I care about basketball. I care about the natural environment that these great players come from. The things I saw at the combine reconfirmed in me that basketball is my religion.
It's a religion I get to see worshiped daily from the window of this hotel in Brooklyn, New York. Where tomorrow I will be reporting live from the NBA draft. And I'll be reporting about the NBA draft because I love basketball.
Which in the world of haves and have nots, is the common currency for all of us.