With apologies to the Sports Guy…

We are coming to you live from the palatial basement of DDB in beautiful Carmel, IN. I have a bowl of Margarita’s salsa with a bag of Tostitos Hint of Lime chips in front of me, and an ice cold Boulevard Pale Ale to my right. We’re ready to watch the lottery picks of the 2003 NBA Draft. Why just the lottery picks? Well, I realized too late that I didn’t have much around for dinner so I only think I can go about 12-13 picks before the real hunger kicks in.

One of the more interesting drafts in recent memory. The top three picks are all but locked in, and have been for several weeks. The foreign invasion looks to be as strong as ever. And, most importantly to America’s sports fans, two Kansas Jayhawks are possible lottery picks. So let’s get started.

Have I mentioned how I think ESPN taking over the NBA is going to kill the league? Seriously, Mike Tirico as the lead announcer? This guy is about as charismatic as a bowling ball. He makes Bryant Gumbel look like Soul Brother #1. There’s a reason why he does so much golf. Stuart Scott is the devil. Wait, if he was the devil, he wouldn’t have to suck up to people in a manner that makes Ahmad Rashad look reserved. He’s just a horrible broadcaster with a tired act. And I think we can all agree the Indiana Pacers only signed Tim Hardaway to get him out of the studio. I haven’t even mentioned Bill Walton yet. Tom Tolbert is good, but I think his sarcasm gets lost in the format. Greg Anthony was the surprise of the year with his insightful commentary, but he’s too close to his playing days to be critical of people. I know they need time to prove themselves, iron out the kinks, etc, but I don’t think Marv, the Czar, Ernie, Kenny the Jet, and Chuck over at TNT lose sleep about the ESPN crew gaining on them.

“With the first pick, the Cleveland Cavaliers select LeBron James.” Have there been less surprising words ever spoken? A Cinderella story, from the hard knock streets of Akron, to a $90 million shoe contract, all at the age of 18. And what a bold statement, wearing the all white suit. Remember the classic Jordan interview on Letterman, when they were talking about why the NBA banned the initial Air Jordans due to the lack of white? Props to LeBron for striking out on his own and making an inclusive gesture like that. We’re all about the big tent in 2003. While we’re talking money, is anyone at Iowa State looking into taking legal action against the Cavs for their new logo? Tantalizingly similar to the most recent incantation of the ISU logo.
Is LeBron the next Jordan? That I can not say. I saw some footage this week of him playing two years ago, when he was quite a bit shorter and less athletic. He was scoring at will on people without exploding to the rim. Good, solid fundamental basketball. That base is why I think he’s going to succeed. Hopefully he can keep his head on straight.

At number two, the Detroit Pistons select Darko Milicic. I’ve been trying to tell you for years that Larry Brown is a genius and the best basketball coach on any level. He just spent seven years putting up with Allen Iverson, got to the Finals once, and had a really good run there. As his tinkering starts to grow tiresome and Iverson gets ready to jump the shark, why not take a job with a team that was in the conference finals and has the #2 pick in the draft? Seems like a good move to me, but no one else would have had the imagination, creativity, and passion to make the move. Only Larry.
Can we get some non-grainy video for these Euros some year? Are they still using Beta cam over there or what?
Otis Thorpe for a future #1 pick. Smart move by whoever was running things in Vancouver. Last year the Grizz won the most games in their history. That means they’ve never been in a playoff run. Why were they trading first round picks for Otis Thorpe, who had been playing since about 1960? Did they think old man Thorpe and Bryant Reeves were going to set the Western Conference on fire for a decade or two?
Kudos to Michelle Tafoya for using the word “outspoken” with someone doing their first ever-English language interview. That kind of derailed things, didn’t it?

With our final lock pick, Denver goes with Carmelo Anthony. Dude exudes cool, calm, and style. I have some questions about his ability to dominate in the NBA right away, but I keep thinking George Gervin when I look at him.
How about all the St. John’s fans becoming ‘Cuse fans when the cameras are on them?
He had buttons, but I don’t think there was a lapel on Carmelo’s jacket.
Classic piece of sports journalism by Stuart Scott jamming the microphone in Carmelo’s mother’s face when she was clearly completely broken up. 30 seconds of awkward.

So now the real draft begins. Every pick can bring a surprise, an outrage, or a steal.

4 – Toronto – Chris Bosh. You know, it’s one thing for a Shaq or Kenny Anderson who completely dominated as freshmen to declare for the draft early. But when kids I never heard of, who had nice, but not incredible seasons do it, I think there are big problems with the draft entry process. I think I heard Chris Bosh’s name twice all season. And now he’s the #4 pick in the draft.
I always thought suits were cut to cover up flaws in the man’s body. Have a gut? The right fit can camouflage. 18 and skinny? Tailor the jacket a little to give the appearance of a physique. Chris Bosh should shoot whoever made his suit. He looked like he weighed about 110 pounds. At least put some shoulder pads in there that look ridiculous, but cover up the fact there are junior high girls with bigger guns than him.

5 – Miami – Dwyane Wade. My first “Whoa!” of the night. Miami has 73 swingman-type players, and they draft another one? I know Eddie Jones is on the downside of his career, but he’s got 157 years left on his contract, making him untradeable. Caron Butler didn’t quite become the next Paul Pierce, but he had a nice rookie year. Wade is a really good player, and I think I have more faith in his NBA potential than my Marquette friends. But if he’s bringing the ball up for the Heat on a regular basis, Riley has truly lost it.
Impressive performance by Mrs. Wade, although she could have used a Kleenex. And how about the little Wade in the matching suit? Very nicely done by Team Wade all around.
The NYC fans booing Pat Riley still, almost ten years later, was great too.

6 – LA Clippers – Chris Kaman. He’s big, he’s white, and he can shoot with both hands. He’s drafted by the Clippers. Let’s go ahead and give him the early lead for Most Likely to Bust. If you have 18% body fat and you’re skinny, something tells me you’re not impressing people with the number of times you can bench 185 pounds. I would like to have beers and watch a game with his dad sometime, though. He seemed fun. Looks like Eric Piatkowski will finally have someone to hang out with on road trips.

7 – Chicago – Kirk Hinrich. Best pick of the draft!!!! When even the commish is surprised, you know something interesting has happened. I’ve been saying for months Hinrich is the better NBA prospect than Collison. Whether he’s Stockton, Hornacek, or Kerr remains to be seen. But I think, baring injury, he’ll have a long, solid career. I always think it’s funny when, in post-draft analysis, people say that it was a big surprise that player X was drafted higher than expected. Some of this morning’s commentary has those words about Hinrich. He was projected at 8 or 9! That’s a 1-2 spot increase. Hardly a monumental move, like Mike Bibby going #2, that affects the entire draft.
KU fans around the country were reminding each other how Hinrich outplayed Jason Williams when they were freshman, so it would make sense for Kirk to replace Jay. Getting rod of Jerry Krause is already paying off.

8 – Milwaukee – TJ Ford. You knew someone would break down and do it. Give into the auro of TJ Ford and decide to ignore all the obvious deficiencies in his game. Has anyone’s stock ever dropped as much as TJ’s? With the exception of Dick Vitale, who probably saw TJ play twice all year, everyone says this kid is a big red flag at the next level. I loved the fact Vitale compared TJ to Mike Dunleavy. There was something very appropriate about that. Nice of the Commish to straighten Terence’s hat for him as well. He was probably just glad there was a player close enough in height to reach it. If TJ is 6’0 ¼’ I’m the King of France.

9 – New York – Mike Sweetney. Great moment, the Knicks select a Georgetown player and everyone in the Garden goes nuts. Crazy insane times. You know there were guys calling their cousins Sal, Vinnie, and Rocco to discuss getting season tickets so they could pick up playoff tickets in April. Somewhere, Joey Tribiani was yelling “KNICKS RULE!!!” off a fire escape. Can’t wait to see how an undersized forward with a history of weight problems does in the Big Apple.

10 – Washington – Jarvis Hayes. Probably my favorite pick of the draft, if only to hear him and his twin brother talk trash on each other through Scott and Tafoya. Another team picking a player they already have three of, though. Clearly, the Wizards weren’t interested in getting Christian Laettner and Nick Collison on the same team. Some draft preview had Nick going here and mentioned they could have the two best white players to sit the end of a Dream Team bench together. Nice.

11 – Golden State – Mickael Pietrus. Clearly trying to capitalize on the success of Tariq Abdul Wahad. Oh, and I guess Tony Parker too. The pick was greeted by absolute silence. Is it better for the New York fans to boo your pick as a horrible reach, or greet it with ignorant silence? And this is team #4 that took a pick that has no clear path towards playing time. “I don’t know what they hell you’re doing,” Tom Tolbert. Line of the night regarding Clippers North.

12 – Seattle – Nick Collison. Genius pick. Pure brilliance. Rewarding hard work, commitment, and success in college. Granted, I think Nick’s going to have to work hard and hope he can reach Ed Nealy levels of success, but still, you have to admire the Seattle GM’s foresight. He’s 6’10’’ but doesn’t jump well. He relied on exceptional position and moves to score in college. That will only get you so far in the NBA when you have a three-inch vertical. Was Vitale right in saying Nick only lost 30 games in high school and college? That’s crazy. Nice moment when Nick wiped his face after his mom kissed him. Also a good line when he said he’d have to “learn every trick in the book”. At least he’s honest. That’s why I love Nick. Looks like staying that extra year paid off.

Other comments:

· Did they keep Vitale in his Florida office in an attempt for him to not talk over others? Or do they know he has no clue about what it takes to be a player in the NBA and this way they can minimize the damage he does to his reputation by cutting off his ridiculous comments? Backlash against international players? Are you serious? “We don’t like their hard to pronounce names and soft games. We demand that the first round be reserved for good, American kids, that used our tax dollars to slide through school until they were good enough to get drafted. If the foreigners want to play, let them play over there.”

· Speaking of Vitale, how many times is he going to say “ding-a-ling-ding” when referring to LeBron. I’m sure as soon as the media starts tearing LeBron down, Vitale will be out there defending him, saying they need to give him time to develop. Well you helped create the legend by broadcasting his high school games, calling him the best high school player you’ve ever seen, and talking incessantly about the money. Check the mirror, Dick.

· So who wins the Paul Pierce – Jermaine O’Neal match-up anyway? Looks like Jermaine just keeps taking Paul to the hole, but the Truth continues to light it up from outside.

· Loved the EA Sports commercials with The Rookies. High marks for having the high, stripped socks on Hinrich. Good to see Chris Bosh already refusing to mix it up inside.

· One final commercial note, there’s a car dealership outside Indy called Kutchie. Seriously. Makes me think of Paul O’Neal every time I see the commercial.

· Satin hats? Let’s hope this fashion trend the NBA is forcing on us doesn’t catch on. I’d much prefer the 70s hats with the spongy material in the front and the mesh on the back.

· “Fire Layden! Fire Layden!”

· Is it just me, or is the draft becoming more and more like college recruiting? Is it safe to say Kwame Brown is Lester Earl? Chris Kaman could become Chris Burgess? It’s becoming more and more about potential that’s unknown, rather than potential that’s based on a track record. There are plenty of college All-Americans who have washed out in the NBA. Seems to me like the margin for error goes way, way up when you start dealing with 18-19 years olds who need to mature mentally, emotionally, and physically plus learn how to play at the highest level. But I’m sounding like a bitter old man, so I’ll cut this before it turns into a full-fledged rant.

· Why all the talk about how LeBron and others came from hard times? In these troubled economic times, did ESPN feel the need to justify the money the players are going to make by reminding everyone about how tough they had it growing up? I would imagine a pretty high percentage of players drafted into the NBA over the last 25-30 years encountered some kind of financial difficulty when they were growing up. Quite frankly, that has nothing to do with their innate athletic ability. So don’t tell me it’s a great story because LeBron grew up on food stamps. The fact he was rolling around in a Hummer before he made it out of high school kind of takes away the cache of that story. It’s a great story because he’s a phenomenal talent with charisma that very well may be the next great thing in sports. Nothing more, nothing less.

· And with that, I retired for dinner.