2008 Blatant Ripoff of Bill Simmons’ Draft Diary

So I log-in to my blog for the first time since February, only to find that its busiest day occured not two weeks ago. After my favorite NBA player, Joakim Noah, found himself cuffed and shoved into the back of a police cruiser, it seems searches for websites commenting on Noah’s overall worthlessness as both an athlete and a human went on the rise.

I’m happy to oblige.

Tonight is the 2008 NBA Draft, and I decided to dust off the old blog and challenge myself to a running draft diary, like those written by one of my heroes, Bill Simmons of ESPN. My mouth is always running on draft night anyway. And given that tonight is, in my opinion, a very important draft night for the Orlando Magic, my home team, I’d like to have a proper record of the next four or five hours. When the Magic draft the next Tayshaun Prince or Tony Parker, I want to be able to remember the night it happened.

That said, the odds are against us. The Orlando Magic haven’t made an intelligent draft pick since 2000, when they picked eventual Rookie of the Year, Mike Miller. Of course we traded him soon thereafter…but that’s neither here nor there. Since 2000, with the exception of the no-brainer selection of Dwight Howard in ’04, the Magic have made an inspired number of bad selections. Jeryl Sasser. Ryan Humphrey. Reece Gaines. Fran Vasquez. Guys who lasted in the NBA about as long as Forrest Griffin will last next Saturday against Rampage Jackson, though it’s a given that Griffin will put up more of a fight.

Orlando is due for some success, and this draft class appears to have enough potential for a solid guy to slip. As of this moment, I’m hoping that guy for us is Western Kentucky’s Courtney Lee.

7:26: Jay Bilas, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Stu Scott discuss how the Knicks might get back on track. The group consensus: draft a great player to build around. Interesting concept. Someone really ought to get Isaiah Thomas on the phone.

7:30: Shot of the Bulls war room. Shot of Derrick Rose. Shot of David Stern at the podium, speaking over the baleful booing of the Madison Square Garden crowd. Stern just forced a smile and gave props to the young stars and not-so-young stars who made this season one of the most successful in league history. Pretty sure Joe Crawford, Bennett Salvatore and Dick Bavetta know who he’s talking about.

7:37: With the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select Derrick Rose. Shocker. You have to love the cocky sneer on Michael Beasley’s face. Almost as sweet as learning Derrick Rose’s nickname growing up was “Pooh”, as in Winnie The. Turns out he’s got “Poohdini” tattooed on his shoulder. I really need to know these things.

7:41: Whose idea was it to stick Stephen A. Smith on person-to-person duty? He does seem unusually sedate tonight, asking just two general questions. But it’s early. Miami is on the clock. This should be good…

7:42: With the second pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the Miami Heat select…Michael Beasley. It’s no secret Pat Riley isn’t in love with this kid. Can’t wait to see where he lands in, say, the next hour or so.

7:48: The T-Wolves take O.J. Mayo. Stu Scott asks Jay Bilas: You say O.J. Mayo is the most NBA ready player in this draft. What do you mean by that? Jay billas says, well, what I mean is that O.J. Mayo is ready to step on the court and play in this league, more than any other player available. Well put, Jay.

7:52: Via satellite, Pat Riley talks about Miami’s due diligence in making their pick, and how excited he and the Heat staff are to bring Michael Beasley into the fold. Not buying it. Yet.

7:54: The Oklahoma-bound Sonics take Russell Westbrook at 4. According to Stu Scott, a half-smiling Kevin Durant is saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Right. Westbrook is solid, but he’s not a true point. Not really. I’m surprised Seattle didn’t go with Jerryd Bayless here.

7:57: Stephen A. Smith just posed the hard-hitting question, “Russell Westbrook, what are you?” According to Westbrook, he’s a point guard. I stand corrected.

8:01: The Grizzlies take Kevin Love. This breaks my heart. I was really hoping to see Love slip to Charlotte, to be paired with Adam Morrison. We haven’t seen such a devastating white man combo since Bird and McHale. Love has a bad back, bad knees and he’s out-of-shape…BUT apparently he can throw a chest pass 94 feet, and routinely sink shots from halfcourt in practice. Not a bad choice for the Grizzlies. If he’s a success, they’ll make some other team very happy in a one-sided trade.

Of course, the Grizzlies drafted another great white hope, Bryant “Big Country” Reeves, back in ’96…and we all know how that turned out.

8:07: The crowd in Madison Square erupts with boos at the Knick’s selecting Danilo Gallinari. His nickname is the Rooster. Reebok already made his signature shoe. It has a rooster on it. Cool story, Hansel. According to ESPN’s panel, all he’ll need to do is turn the Knicks into a winning team, and he’ll win the New Yorkers over. Gallinari and Renaldo Balkman have quite a bit of work to do.

8:12: The Clippers go with Eric Gordon from Indiana. Great choice. He’ll be starting in place of Cuttino Mobley before long, if not right away. If it weren’t for Indiana’s wasted season and controversy, I think he’d have gone higher. He’s somewhat undersized, and could never survive as a combo guard in the NBA, but a steal at 7 nonetheless.

8:14: Stephen A. Smith points out that everybody drafted so far thinks they can play point guard, but he won’t knock ’em. I’m sure this goes double for Kevin Love. And is it just me, or is Smith being kind of a bitch?

8:18: Joe Alexander goes to the Milwuakee Bucks. I love this guy. Fundamentally sound, but in the words of Jay Bilas, a “freak of an athlete”. Born in Taiwan. Speak’s Mandarin Chinese. Cute as can be. What’s not to love about this guy?

8:21: Stephen A. listens to Alexander talk about his work ethic and excitement to win games with the Bucks, then with sass that would make Tyra Banks feel inadequate, says, “So I guess what you sayin’ is, Milwuakee is lucky to have you.” Since when is Stephen A. Smith a moody black woman?

8:25: The Bobcats, undoubtedly depressed from missing out on the Great White Hope of Kevin Love, throw themselves under the bus and draft the little guy, D.J. Augustin. Augustin was great. In college. As much as I love Jameer Nelson, he’s proof positive that undersized college superstars never stack up in the pros. ” Then again, Bilas just about puked on himself from excitement in mentioning Augustin’s 6’2″ wingspan…Brook lopez looks more confused than anyone from Stanford ever has. They did you a favor, big man. Have fun in Jersey.

8:30: The Nets select Brook Lopez. Can’t really go wrong with a smart, strong seven-footer. In two or three years when LeBron makes his move to Brooklyn, Lopez is going to be so glad he slipped a bit in this draft. He’ll never make an all-star team, but if Jay-Z’s enduring seduction of King James pans out, he’ll probably win a ring or two.

8:33: Stephen A. Smith points out to Brook Lopez that he is 7 feet tall, 250lbs, and has a mean streak…then asks, in disbelief, why it took so long for him to get picked. I’ve been saying Smith has been begging to get his ass kicked for awhile, but this takes it to a whole other level.

8:35: I’m confused. The Pacers score with Jerryd Bayless at 11, but do they need him? They’ll acquire T.J. Ford in a trade by the end of the night, and still have Jamaal Tinsley. He’s the best player available, but not sure he’s what they need in Indianapolis. Can’t wait to see how Stephen A. Smith questions whether or not Bayless can play the point.

8:37: Smith points out that Bayless isn’t considered a true point. Bayless says he is. Smith smirks and sends it back to Stu Scott. This isn’t getting old. At all.

8:41: Sacramento jumps the shark and takes Jason Thompson from Rider. Bilas says there is nothing spectacular about his game, that he’s “solid” and, an old Bilas fallback, “has a great motor”. The Kings must be thrilled.

8:42: Michael Beasley is still on the Heat roster.

8:46: With the thirteenth pick, the Trailblazers take Brandon Rush from Kansas. To me, and just about everyone else who knows basketball, this kid is going to be the story of the ’08 draft. Portland is going to be SCARY. He’s a great scorer and defender, a natural leader and has good size for a shooting guard. I was really hoping he’d be available for Orlando at 22, and then again can’t understand how he wasn’t taken sooner.

8:49: Andy Katz makes a formal apology on behalf of Reggie Theus and the Kings for selecting Jason Thompson. According to Theus, Thompson was “the best big man we worked out”. It’s the draft equivalent of hitting on a girl in a bar, saying, “I may not be the hottest guy here, but I’m the only one talking to you.” Winner. The Kings are really going places.

8:51: The Warriors waste no time in taking Anthony Randolph from LSU, who will, in my opinion, make Kwame Brown look like a good choice. Even taken 14th. He will prove the ying to Brandon Rush’s yang, the bust of the ’08 draft class. A stiff breeze could snap this kid in half.

8:54: Dicky V makes his first appearance. The draft, according to him, started with the fourth pick. He can’t believe Minnesota passed on Kevin Love. This is the same guy who was elated when Orlando selected perennial benchwarmer J.J. Redick. What is it with Vitale and out-of-shape white guys with bum joints?

8:55: Vitale salutes the Reggie Theus and the Kings for drafting Jason Thompson. I rest my case.

8:57: The Suns take Anderson Verejao’s twin, Robin Lopez. I’m glad. Now Orlando can’t take him. Did anyone other than David Stern and me notice the creepy way he grabbed David Stern’s arm during their photo-op handshake?

9:00: Always wondered what Brook and Robin Lopez’s mother looked like. Huh.

9:03: Philly takes Marreese Speights, which kind of sucks, because I was hoping Orlando could take him. Knew he’d never slip that far. I see him developing pretty quick in the league, especially on a team with the kind of intensity Philadelphia has. Between Rose to the Bulls, Beasley to the Heat, Toronto’s Jermaine O’Neal trade and this pick, the eastern conference is fast becoming far more competitive than I’m comfortable with. Orlando had better really knock it out of the park at 22.

9:07: The new contenders in Toronto take Roy Hibbert. He’s not great, but when you throw him into the mix with Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal, Toronto now has arguably the most dominant front court in the NBA. Hibbert can’t lead a team, but with his size and skill he can put in some solid minutes off the bench. As much as I hated Toronto before, this rockets my loathing into the stratosphere. This is injustice. If Jose Calderon isn’t eaten by a canadian snow leopard by the end of summer, I’m shopping for new religions.

9:13: The candid shots of Brook Lopez pre-draft selection just made my night. I always suspected they kept the questionable attendees in the back, without lights on them, in case they don’t got picked right away. Leave it to a Stanford man to point out the obvious. I like how they cut it right when a confused Lopez, asking who coached the Nets, said, “Lawrence Frank?” Ten bucks says the following clip of him asking “Who the f— is Lawrence Frank?” is on YouTube by tomorrow afternoon.

9:14: The Wizards take JaVale McGee from Nevada. Not sure who that is. By the end of the ’09 season, I’m guessing that’ll still be true.

9:15: The Pacers and Blazers swap Bayless for Rush, with some other riffraff thrown in for salary cap consideration. As much as I love Rush, the Blazers already have Brandon Roy and needed a point guard (no offense to Steve Blake), and Bayless will prove to be the best in the pack. I swear Kevin Pritchard is a sick genius. With a healthy Greg Oden…I…hold on…I think i need to sit down.

9:20: J.J. Hickson will join LeBron James in Cleveland. He’s a bit light to play the four, but he’s got the athleticism and knows how to score. Not a bad pick for the Cavs. In other news: Darrell Arthur is still on the board, and Orlando is two picks away. I’m not even going to let the thought cross my mind. No way.

I’ll say this too: this year’s draft has been light on entertainment value. I don’t think I’ve heard Bilas mention anyone’s upside once, Stephen A. Smith, despite his transition from obnoxious black man to sassy soul sista, is receiving limited screen time. I’m banking on things picking up in the second round.

9:27: The Bobcats take Alexis Ajinca from France at 20, another seven foot beanpole. This leaves Darrell Arthur on the board for Orlando, and with the Nets picking first, who already took a big in Brook Lopez, I can’t help but assume they’ll go small at 21. I’m officially crossing my fingers…

9:33: The Nets take Ryan Anderson from Cal. I swear to GOD if Orlando takes Kosta Koufos I’m going to throw up on myself, and seeing the Lopez twins’ mom will have nothing to do with it. It’s all Koufos.

Darrell Arthur…Darrell Arthur…Darrell Arthur…Come on, Otis Smith.

9:38: Orlando does not take Darrell Arthur. They take Courtney Lee, who easily could’ve been snatched up in the early second round, for cash considerations. He’s a talented guard, sure, but we just passed on the next Antonio McDyess. Way to go, Magic.

For the record, I know I said I hoped Courtney Lee would be our guy. I’m glad we snagged him. It’s just hard to believe we’d pass up such a talented power forward, when we literally have none on the roster, for a two who may or may not turn out to be a contributer.

9:42: Utah takes Kosta Koufos. Better them than us. He’ll fit in fine with Mehmet Okur, and with the general Salt Lake City populus. I don’t think anyone has forgotten the look of fear in Ronnie Brewer’s eyes last year.

9:48: Seattle also passes on Arthur in favor of Congo native Serge Ibaka, who currently plays in Spain for L’Hospitalet. One of his teammates is the Orlando Magic’s 2005 draft selection, Fran Vasquez, who has not and probably will not come to America. Ever. I’m beginning to think the NBA GMs know something about Arthur the rest of us don’t. This is kind of ridiculous. Maybe the Sonics will have better luck. I mean, if moving to Oklahoma City isn’t a sign of good fortune, I don’t know what is.

9:55: The Houston Rockets take Nicolas Batum from France. Could be the next Rudy Gay. Could be the next Thabo Sefolosha. Only time will tell.

9:57: ESPN reports that Arthur remains in the green room because of an undisclosed kidney problem. Holding it this whole time couldn’t be good for that. Just go, Darrell. At this point no one’s even watching anymore.

9:59: Wendy Nix cracks an uncomfortable joke with Mike D’Antoni about reigning in Gallinari by talking to his father if he acts up. Mike’s face says, “Oh yeah, we played together, didn’t we? Huh.” See, it’s funny because D’Antoni and Gallinari Sr. played together, like, years ago, which we already knew because they’ve shown us the photos and commented on it several times. Actually it isn’t funny or interesting. Huh.

10:01: The Spurs select guard George Hill from IUPUI. Of course he’ll be an allstar by 2010.

10:06: Portland trades for the 27th pick from New Orleans. How much you want to bet that cheeky bastard Pritchard takes Darrell Arthur right here?

10:07: Shock and awe. Portland (by way of New Orleans) STEALS Darrell Arthur off the board. According to team doctors at Kansas, Arthur’s kidneys are fine. According to Jay Bilas, he can “really slide his feet” and “really move in a straight line”. No word on his upside, motor or wingspan. You can take a leak now, Darrell. You’ve earned it.

10:11: Stephen A. Smith takes it noticably easier on Arthur, his voice softened, his questions…not really questions, other than, “We’re going to send it down to Doris now, who’s with your mother, is that okay?” The estrogen is really flowing now. Good thing the green room is empty. Ten bucks says Smith is caught sobbing and/or sharing appletinis with Arthur’s mom as soon as he’s relieved of his person-to-person post.

10:15: The Grizzlies take Donte Green from Syracuse. Jay Bilas thinks he’s got a lot of tools, he’s just missing the key to the tool box. Okay, Jay.

10:22: The Pistons take D.J. White from Indiana. Like Eric Gordon, here’s a guy who’d have probably gone higher if the Hoosiers hadn’t had such a busted season. He’ll fit in nicely with Wallace, McDyess and Maxiell. Though at this point I’m convinced Detroit can draft anyone late in the draft and turn him into an impact player.

10:23: Stu Scott mentions Isaiah Thomas, as the last Hoosier taken by Detroit before White, and it draws audible boos from the New York crowd. Gotta love it.

10:27: The Celtics are about to pick. They finished 66-16 last season, and I’d just like to point out that Orlando beat them twice last season, accounting for 1/8 of their total losses on the year. Thank you.

10:31: Boston selects J.R. Giddens from New Mexico, who started out with the Kansas Jayhawks and, according to Bilas, despite some problems on and off the court has all the tools. No comment on the toolbox.

And that’s that. For a draft that seemed to be so up-in-the-air, there weren’t too many surprises. I’m still not convinced Beasley is staying in Miami, but as time passes I’m starting to believe. Hopefully Courtney Lee will rise to the occasion, and Orlando will have an effective off-season in trades and free agency and score some help in the front court. After tonight, Chicago, Miami and Toronto are all officially very scary.

Godspeed you, Dwight Howard.



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