Woo! Lottery time again! For the past ten years we devout ‘Bocker Backers, after another underwhelming, physically enervating, drive-a-sane-fellow-to-drink season, could at least look forward to seeing
Ed Tapscott’s Scott Layden’s Isiah Thomas’s Donnie Walsh’s dour face on the dais, waiting to see how the ping-pong balls bounce…
What’s that you say? The Knicks aren’t lottery-bound this year? You’re kidding? Oh, right. STAT, ‘Melo, playoffs. I almost forgot. My bad.
But even without a NY presence, because Knickerbloggeristas demand TOTAL coverage, your humble correspondents, the nattily-dressed scribe John Kenney and I, were dispatched to the NBA Entertainment© Studios in lovely downtown Secaucus, NJ to get the skinny. Below is a (more or less), unedited, moment-by-moment account of the proceedings. Johnny K’s going to start us off as I was trapped in the city until about 6pm, queuing for an audition for a Leffe beer commercial where they had me say, “So light doesn’t mean light,” about twelve or so times (For serious. This is my life). Johnny-boy, take it away…
JOHN KENNEY, 5:20pm
Robert rather eloquently describes the appearance of the NBA building below, so I’ll begin by saying that, upon entering, I headed straight for the food. Upon filling my plate with fresh pasta, I looked around the room for a place to sit. The tables were interestingly divided into “tables-of-people-I-know-I-can’t-sit-with” (such as Dan Gilbert’s table with a mix of children and Cleveland Browns) and “tables-of-people-I-don’t-know-and-might-not-be-interested-by.” I finally decided to sit by a bald newsman and his elder counterpart. Luckily for me, that counterpart was Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor. After learning that O’Connor was originally from New York and engaging in some chit-chat over Jorge Posada, I was able to turn the conversation to the Deron Williams trade, a conversation which is recapped here. After concluding with Mr. O’Connor, I walked to the media workroom to watch David Stern and Adam Silver attempt to defend the owners’ claim that salaries need to be drastically reduced. I was glad to receive a text from Robert saying he had finally arrived, and although it took us a few minutes to meet up, (side note: Robert was most certainly the only person at the event worried he would be overdressed in jeans) we eventually were able to combine our Knickerblogger-interviewing-powers and set off together to scour the room.
ROBERT SILVERMAN, 6:28pm
So after finally making my way to Penn Station and climbing aboard NJ Transit, I ener this very Gehry-inspired, heavily-secured compound that evidently serves as the corporate HQ of NBA Entertainment. Lawd-a-mercy, I am impressed. Whether it’s Bernard King’s warmup togs in the memorabilia case or the high-class grub (Seared Ahi tuna with Wasabi crème, a freaking Risotto bar), this is a preem-o gala. After some techno-fumbling, John and I locate each other in the press room, where The Commish, David Stern and his uber-ectomorphic consigliere, Adam Silver are slinging platitudes about the
inevitable potential lockout next season. Honestly, I’m geeking about the press room because it looks like…well…a real, honest-to-goondness press room. You have to understand, I (perhaps foolishly) cling to the romantic notion of the mild-mannered muckraker for a major metropolitan newspaper, press tag tucked into his/her fedora and chain-smoking incessantly. You know, ink-stained wretches and whatnot. Maybe I’ve watched His Girl Friday too many times, but part of me still fancies the idea that a newspaper gig is still all high pants n’ fast talkin‘ (in the best possible sense). Needless to say, the real deal is manna from heaven for yours truly.
But ye gods, enough of my mooning/waxing nostalgic! There are NBA professionals out there to be interviewed, GM’s and bigwigs and ex-players galore. So John and I split up to cover as much ground as possible.
JOHN K., 6:35pm
So, you’re not going to believe this, but David Kahn was there, as somehow the Timberwolves fail-proof plan of creating a team of point-guards had not led them to the postseason. After another reporter asked a question about Ricky Rubio’s availability, Kahn responded with one of the most unintentionally funny responses I’ve ever heard.
You know, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on Ricky’s situation – he’s still in season over there – so, I’m not going to say anything on that topic.
JOHN KENNEY (unspoken, internal monologue)
Uh, you know you drafted the guy right? That you promised he’d be coming to Minnesota? The guy didn’t ask about Rubio’s girlfriend, he asked if he was coming to Minnesota!
Anyway, most reporters were disappointed by the answer and walked away, but yours truly hadn’t forgotten who they should REALLY have been asking about…Anthony Randolph! (Full disclosure: I don’t care what the advanced stats say about Randolph, I like him, and I can’t help it. I would need to see an entirely different kind of sports psychologist to get over this. [Robert adds: Ditto]) I mentioned that AR had come on strongly at the end of the year, and Kahn responded by praising his ability, especially given that he is still so young. I was at first baffled by his statement that Randolph could develop into a low-post compliment to Kevin Love, but I suppose it makes sense: Randolph is long and athletic, and Love is, well, not. But could a Randolph-Love frontcourt really defend, um, anyone? I guess the T-Wolves’ fans will just have to trust in Kahn. Don’t laugh.
ROBERT S., 7:01pm
I’m hunkered down with Paul Silas. It took me a few seconds to remember which team he was currently coaching him but luckily, I diverted from my faulty memory by mentioning that I’d seen him play for the Sonics during the ’78-’79 season going up against Bob McAdoo & the ‘Bockers which led to this exchange:
Oh man, Mac was a load. One time, we were going up against Buffalo in the ’74 playoffs and he was just torching Dave Cowens. So Dave comes up to me and asks me to take Mac for a few plays, just so he can catch his breath.
Did you shut him down?
Hell no! He kept hitting that rainbow jumper of his and Dave wouldn’t switch back for the rest of the game! (Silas cackles)
Anyone playing today remind you of yourself?
PAUL (Cackling louder)
They don’t let anyone play like I did these days.
I start to ask if there’s anyone in the draft he’s got his eye on, when a teen at our table, (who’d actually been strip-mining his nose a la Spaulding Smails [and similarly decked out in his finest Yacht Club gear] during the above conversation) starts interrupting, asking Silas a series of rapid-fire questions — what he thought of Rajon Rondo, the Celts, the Thunder — basically doing everything in his power to sidetrack my parlez with Paul Silas. At first I thought he was just an annoying kid, but I snuck a peek at his credentials and it turned out he was in some fashion employed by the Bobcats and was trying to keep a lid on whatever inside dope on the ‘Cats draft plans their coach might have inadvertently spilled. Clever lil’ sprog.
JOHN K., 7:14pm
Joe Dumars is probably a really nice guy, but wasn’t really up to the whole “being-interviewed” thing. Nevertheless, maintaining my unbroken streak of finding random former Knicks attached to the team of whomever I’m interviewing, I got him to describe Tracy McGrady as a versatile defender and playmaker. Mission accomplished.
ROBERT S., 7:20pm
For any of you who watched the Knickerbockers on cable from the late 80’s – late 90’s on the MSG Network©, even when the team was doing poorly, one could always count on some rollicking good fun from the announcing team of Marv Albert and John “Johnny Hoops” Andariese. (the color guy, pre-Clyde). While some may delight in Frazier’s linguistic gymnastics, I think the true broadcasting connoisseur delighted in Andariese’s particular hook. Part of it was Marv seemed to take sadistic pleasure in mocking Andariese with his particular brand of caustic/dry/sadistic wit. Johnny Hoops had the Ed McMahon/”I’ll laugh even though the joke isn’t that funny” bit down pat. More that that, to be blunt, Andariese had (and still has, on the radio) a fascination with basketball players’ bodies that often crossed the line separating an unquestionably heterosexual appreciation of athletic prowess into…well…oiled, Grecian, sweaty, thinly-veiled homoeroticism (you know, like the movie, 300).
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to snicker/reveal any closeted homophobia on my part, but lemme tell ya, our guy John just really dug men’s bodies (Cue Jerry Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”). Any time he described a noteworthy play, as a matter of course, he’d mention that player’s height and pepper his commentary with gushing adoration about said player’s physicality. For example, when he’d say: “The strength of the 6’9″ Charles Oakley in the post is thrilling. He willed himself to outmuscle the (fill in opposing team here) for that rebound. He would not be denied,” you could sense a seething lust just simmering below the surface in way he verbally punched the italicized words/syllables above.
Alas, I can’t seem to unearth a YouTube clip of John A.’s verbal stylings as evidence, but trust me, it was unique. Naturally, when I see him at the Lottery, I have to ask for an interview/express what a fan I was back in the day. We go through a few pro forma questions, “What did you think of the Knicks’ season?” “Do you think Walsh is coming back?” etc. and got the usual, politic responses. Then I asked, “What do you think the team needs to do to take the next step?” and Mr. Andariese said this:
They’ve got to love each other more
They’ve got to know that the guy in the huddle is their brother and would do anything for them. They need to feel the love.
But that’s all there for them, the love, lying in wait.
Effing beautiful. I loves me some John Andariese as only a man can love another man. Men!
ROBERT S., 8:05pm
They start flicking the lights in our buffet tent (just like in a B’way show!) which signals that the ping-pongery is about to begin. Through a circuitous set of tunnels we go and whomp, there we are in on set. Jay Bilas is at his desk (Bilas, to my surprise, has got some serious length/wingspan. I wonder what his athleticism/ridiculous upside is.) The stage manager (the theatrical similarities don’t cease) explains the rules and we settle into our seats. As y’all well know by now, there’s a kid at the Cavs’ podium, dressed not unlike a miniature, Caucasian Malcolm X. He’s seated right next to David Kahn who’s doing his novel best to chat up the kid. This prompts the following exchange between John and I:
You think the kid is trying to work out a trade w/Kahn?
Yeah, the kid’s offering to switch seats w/Kahn in exchange for a top-three protected 1st round pick in 2014
I think Kahn wants to know how to tie that bow tie. Those are hard to do and definitely makes one look smarter. Thinks it’ll help w/future negotiations
The kid is countering by asking for Kevin Love in exchange for J.J. Hickson, the bow tie & lessons on how to tie it.
High comedy, indeed…
ROBERT S., 8:10pm
Oo. We’re shown a live Heather Cox update from Conference Room 3a™, deep in the bowels of NBA Entertainment©, which, we’re informed, has been hermetically sealed and coated with a thick layer of lead to prevent wireless, radioactive, vermin or any other kind of infestation/information-leaking as the ping pong balls are plucked by a phalanx of bean-counters from the prestigious and ethically unimpeachable firm of Ernst & Young LLC. The morally unassailable trio emerges from Conference Room 3a™, wielding Samsonite briefcases (that we can only assume are handcuffed to their wrists) and scurrying to another room to reveal the results of the ponderous proceedings.
Needless to say, the mock seriousness/solemnity of the lottery is borderline hilarious. Criminy, one faux-controversy about David Stern pawing at the bin for the “frozen/bent envelope” so that the Knicks got Ewing back in ’85 and we have to go through all this mishegas.
ROBERT S., 8:13pm
Speak of the devil! David Stern sneaks into the room and semi-awkwardly takes a seat off to the side. No grand entrance, no pomp and/or circumstance, rather, The Grand Poobah himself kind of shuffled in from the side, trying not to draw inordinate attention to himself. On the other hand, Stern seems genuinely thrilled to be there. He’s beaming like the Bar-Mitzvah boy’s grandfather at Rodeph Sholom and quietly clapping and blurting out, “Yay!” at random/seemingly innocuous events like the aforementioned stage manager reading the instructions.
ROBERT S., 8:16pm
So we’ve gone through the high holy picking of the sacred balls and Utah and Cleveland have moved up. John’s going to explain this because I’m confused
JOHN K., 8:17pm
So, basically at this point we knew that New Jersey and the Clippers had each traded top-three picks away. When the Cavs pick via Clippers moved up into the top three, David Stern looked like his grandson had just been named valedictorian and/or scored a date to the prom with Christina Hendricks. Huge, guano-eating grin. Those two picks moving up also made a lot of teams’ selections worse, with the Raptors now picking 5th despite having the 3rd worst record.
ROBERT S., 8:18pm
I kinda agree with David Kahn. Not that the lottery is fixed (I know, I know, he was [semi] kidding), but that once Danny Gilbert’s scion got up onstage, it was all over. For cripes’ sake, the gosh-darn theatricality of it was too perfect. They sent an adorable mite with a freaking tumor to represent Cleveland, a city that was perceived as doomed/tragic/boned even BTD (Before “The Decision”). Of course they’re going to win the lottery and perpetuate the “The Clippers are equally doomed/tragic/boned” meme for not getting any protection on the pick they sent to Ohio as Baron Davis’ dowry. If there’s one thing I do know, it’s dramatic structure and hoo-boy, did Stern deliver the goods like Euripides in his prime.
ROBERT S., 8:22pm
Y’all may not know this, but I have one of the loudest natural speaking voices in Christendom and unless I consciously monitor it, I tend to broadcast my thoughts/opinions to anyone and everyone in the general vicinity. I mention this because when I lean over to John and say, “Doesn’t Kevin O’Connor (The Jazz’ GM) look like the Headmaster of an all-boys boarding school somewhere in New England? Like Philips Exeter, maybe?” My pithy bit of wit is overheard by the entire left side of the bleachers, including Chairman Stern, who, amidst scattered guffaws by his entourage, shoots me a look. For about half a second (but what seemed like an eternity), I thought I was about to be garroted. It reminded me of the time I was at MSG in ’85 and I spilled half a Coke on Dave DeBusschere’s (GM at the time) shoes and he tried to have me kicked out of the arena. But lo, the man himself just slyly smirked and let be, like the Zen Warrior/Monk/Poet/Badass he is.
JOHN K., 8:50pm
So the lottery had concluded, and the crowd had moved back to the Hospitality room to watch the Mavericks vs the Thunder / take advantage of the unlimited cheeseburger sliders. Suddenly, I heard someone whispering about going to the 3D TV off in the corner, so naturally I followed along. Before you know it, I’m standing with Jay Bilas, Heather Cox, and Kevin Johnson (Mayor of Sacramento and former NBA player), wearing special glasses and watching Russell Westbrook fly up the court in 3D. This is the type of thing that happens at the NBA Draft Lottery. Unfortunately, Bilas didn’t describe the product’s tremendous upside or potential, but Johnson did remark that it was quite the experience.
JOHN K., 9:12pm
So, I’m getting ready to leave, and I need to borrow Robert’s phone to call a cab (as mine has died). Mind you, Robert is wearing a tweed jacket, jeans, and hipster glasses. I would have bet up to $50 that he was going to pull an Apple product out of his pocket. But lo and behold, his phone of choosing appears to be from 2001. Robert’s explanation that this particular phone is in alignment with his political ideology fails to convince my collegiate mind, so I let him know that the next decade is calling him, whenever he decides to join. Overall, the day was a terrific experience, and I look forward to joining Robert again next year.
ROBERT S., 9:27pm
I hesitate to mention this, but I’m still getting the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it so here goes…Post-lottery I too was in the dining stent, scarfing up fancy cupcakes when I stumble upon [redacted] having a conversation with [redacted] about some fairly sensitive upcoming [redacted]. It was a seemingly public chat (there were three or four other writers around [redacted]), so naturally, I started taking notes. The convo’s over so I begin to walk away when suddenly, I feel a hand on my shoulder and [redacted] is saying in a clearly threatening tone, “You always listen in on private conversations and take notes?” I stammer something about not knowing it was private and [redacted] gets right in my grill, and says, “That’s on background, got it?” I crumble like Jared Jeffries in the low post and promise not to write about it (not very Cary Grant-esque behavior on my part, I know)
[Redacted] leaves and I’m kinda shaken. I mean, I just got leaned on! And he used journalist-y argot and everything! Part of me really wanted to go back and get into it with him about the laws regarding expectation of privacy and whatnot, but [redacted] was pretty big/tall/scary so I settled for feeling like a real newspaperman who just got the squeeze put on him by a hired goon.
Even better, our little tet-a-tet certainly wasn’t on background so I can certainly regale y’all with the tale here.
C’est tout, mes gars. Oh yeah, one last thing. While the cameras were running I did my darndest to steal some face time. You can see me over Bilas’s shoulder at the 2:14 and 2:49 mark here. I’m the bloke with the beard pretending he’s macking on the (cheap-o) cellular. Shoulda worn my fedora…