overthinking the idiot box

June 27, 2005

Everything you ever wanted to know about sports on TV.

At The Buzzer
The NBA Draft: It's Draaaaaftastic

by Alan Bloom

There will be basketball played next season. The NBA has reason to revel, having averted a possible lockout when players and owners agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement. No work stoppage? Great! Do the good times stop there? Well, the Finals did just go seven games, which, in effect, is a Godsend for the league. Having a game seven for the title was the only way the relatively dull match-up of Spurs versus Pistons could attract casual viewers. I told you that no one would be watching. Game Seven proved to be the miracle that the league sorely needed.

If you're an NBA fan, this is great, right? Game seven, assurance of basketball for the remainder of the decade, these things are all well and good. But the attraction I'm looking forward to does not bow until Tuesday, June 28th. It's the time for basketball junkies to glimpse into the future: it's The Draft.

Compare that to the NFL, which takes two days (!) to complete seven rounds, most of which are spent by commentators critiquing obscure players at less than glamorous positions, such as offensive lineman. Honestly, how much can I hear about how many pancake blocks some behemoth had his senior year?
NBA TV recently unveiled a few Draft features on their on-demand service. ESPN's promotional guns will be blazing as soon as game seven comes to a close. The NBA Draft may not be as highly publicized as the NFL Draft, but it is the most accessible of any sport. Why? The reasons are two-fold. 1) There are only two rounds lasting a mere couple of hours. 2) There is a strong familiarity with a majority of the players being selected, mostly thanks to college basketball. Compare that to the NFL, which takes two days (!) to complete seven rounds, most of which are spent by commentators critiquing obscure players at less than glamorous positions, such as offensive lineman. Honestly, how much can I hear about how many pancake blocks some behemoth had his senior year? Baseball is even worse with a draft that lasts somewhere in the neighborhood of 700,000,000 rounds comprised mostly of high school kids who the public has had no exposure to. Hockey (should it return), has similar difficulty by virtue of the fact that so many Europeans are involved, thus alienating North American viewers.

The importance of the draft cannot be overstated. Successes, as well as failures, for NBA teams are often the direct results of Draft Day, a day that has ascended into a marquee event worthy of being staged at hallowed Madison Square Garden in New York City. Like so many things in this world, the events that will unfold and shape the lives of the incoming crop of rookies and the teams who draft them is left to chance. Life is a lottery and this year's winners are the Milwaukee Bucks. However, the 2005 draft class does not present a clear, consensus number one pick like LeBron James (#1 in '03), Tim Duncan ('97) or Shaquille O'Neal ('92). When debating who to select among Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams, and Chris Paul, the Bucks will have their hands full. Bogut's name is the one that tends to be bantered about the most as the Bucks' eventual pick, though it is not clear whether or not the 6'11'' Australian will be the next strong inside force or the next Kwame Brown, the top overall pick in 2001 and already relegated to obscurity.

Spotlighted players include Bogut, Paul, M. Williams, Gerald Green, who is the top high school prospect among the crop (a commodity which will be eliminated for at least the next six seasons after this draft thanks to the new CBA), and Spain's Fran Vazquez. They are considered by experts to be among the top picks. Vazquez, Roko Ukic, and others are emblematic of basketball's global appeal and an indicator as to how large the ever-expanding talent pool that teams have to select from has become.

A gentleman and a scholar, that Hubie.
Perhaps most of all, I'm looking forward to Hubie Brown, a true student and professor of the game, rattling off analysis on what he likes (and dislikes!) about each player selected and how they will fit into the scheme of the team who selected them. Brown will extol pearls of wisdom coated with such fluency and proficiency in the sport that one might nominate him for a Peabody award based solely on this one night. John Thompson, by contrast, may only mumble a few hastily thought-out comments while continuing to lose sleep over how his unstoppable Georgetown Hoyas lost to Villanova in the 1985 NCAA National Championship. I can only hope that ESPN has the good sense to leave Bill Walton at home on this day. Though Walton is full of unintentional hilarity (it would not be out of character for him to call former number one overall pick — and bust — Michael Olowakandi "The greatest player in the history of Western Civilization," if Olowakandi were to have a rare stretch of solid productivity), it's often too evident that he simply does not know what he is talking about.

Of course, what gala would be complete without a fashion watch? Style (Flamboyance, arrogance, ego, that sort of thing) is very important to an NBA player. This makes it crucial for a rookie to have their best duds on when their name gets selected and they proudly stroll up to the podium to shake the Commissioner's hand.

This is the day. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, and on and on and on — they were all rookies once. The prospect of finding the next NBA phenomenon among this class is so tantalizing, I can barely contain myself. Will the Bucks take Bogut or Marvin Williams? Will high school sensation Gerald Green's potential be realized? Will the Lakers get that point guard they so desperately need? Will the Suns finally get some size in the middle? Is Chris Paul really the next Jason Kidd? Will the Knicks blow it again?! This is your last warning, June 28th. Hurry up and get here so that I can watch!

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