2012 NBA Draft

That’s A Wrap For the Rookies

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The 2012 Rookie Photo Shoot took place at the Knicks’ practice facility on Tuesday, with 39 incoming rookies making the rounds, posing for Panini and NBA Entertainment. It was a six-hour day, broken up by a lunch break reminiscent of a SportsCenter commercial.

Every first round pick from this year’s draft, except for the Magic’s Maurice Harkless, was here. Also here were a handful of second rounders and last year’s No. 5 pick, Jonas Valanciunas, fresh off Lithuania’s eighth-place finish at the Olympics.

We had five guys from Kentucky, four from UNC, three from Baylor and three from Duke. There were three Mavs, three Pistons, three Warriors, three Rockets and three Raptors. But none of the Nets’ three rookies were at the shoot, so the new black-and-white Brooklyn uniforms are still very much under wraps. No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was in the building, sporting the new Bobcats road threads though.

In addition to posing for still photos, the players spoke with NBA TV’s Dennis Scott and the youngest member of the media, 16 year old Karl Towns Jr., who was interviewing players for MSG Varsity. (Here he is with Draymond Green.) Towns is the high school star from New Jersey who played for the Dominican Republic national team this summer and was about five minutes away from being an Olympian. And he’s already about as tall as Valanciunas.

Speaking of Olympians, Anthony Davis brought along his gold medal, and I believe that’s a first for the Rookie Photo Shoot.

Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Oklahoma City’s Perry Jones each tried their hands at the DJ table after lunch, but there was no impromptu dunk contest like when Terrico White stole the show two years ago. And apparently, the Carolina guys like old school R&B, because Kendall Marshall requested some Barry White and John Henson was seen singing along a few minutes later on the other side of the gym.

The photos have been taken, and soon the basketball cards will be printed. Now that the Rookie Transition Program and the Rookie Photo Shoot are over, it’s time for these guys to get back to getting ready for the season.

Long-Awaited Picks Claver, Freeland Finally (Set To Be) Blazers

HANG TIME WEST – They are coming, finally. Eventually.

The Olympics are the last step. Victor Claver will play for Spain as a heavy favorite to medal and Joel Freeland for host Britain as a heavy favorite to not medal. They then become Trail Blazers teammates with enough recovery time on their hands before training camp opens.

That they will become Blazers at all is a development more significant than most international arrivals. Two at the same time is noteworthy. Two at the same time for the frontline, with the chance to immediately join the rotation, is important for a team trying to push back into the playoffs and can use their help.

Claver, a 6-foot-10, 245-pound small forward who can play some power forward, was the No. 22 pick in 2009. Freeland, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound power forward who can play some center, was No. 30 in 2006. That’s a lot of waiting that, at last, faces a payoff.

“I think the time was absolutely right for both of them to come,” said Neil Olshey, the new general manager who joined the organization years after both were drafted. “We’ve got a young roster and they’ve both got a chance to contribute immediately if their game translates from what they’ve done in international basketball. They both play positions where we’re going to need some depth. And they’ve both got transferrable skills. Joel’s ability to rebound, score around the basket, defend multiple positions. And Victor’s length, his ability to stretch the floor, he’s a nice complement to Nic.”


Draft Night Redux: No Blockbusters?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We waited all night on that blockbuster deal, only to walk away from another Draft night without any of the rumored mega deals taking place.

(Houston, we have a problem … and it includes that red and white No. 12 Dwight Howard jersey  that won’t get worn this season)

That’s fine, we’re just hours away from the start of free agency. And the Draft class of 2012 offered up plenty of mild surprises (Dion Waiters to Cleveland with the fourth overall pick, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III lasting until near the end of the first round, etc.), as always.

Ah, the joy of the Draft night drama that was …


It’s not often the 33rd pick in any draft absolutely steals the show from the other 59 guys selected. But Florida State’s Bernard James got the loudest roar from the crowd in Newark last night.


Draft Night Is Just The Beginning For Hawks’ New GM Ferry

ATLANTA — Fast and furious is the way Danny Ferry described his first four days on the job as the new general manager of the Atlanta Hawks.

When he finally emerged from the Hawks’ Draft war room late Thursday night, it was plain to see that Ferry has spent more time grinding away at his new job than he has doing much of anything else, and that includes sleeping.

“This was unique,” Ferry said. “I’ve been here a few days and was not part of the initial preparation that they had. I threw myself into what they were doing and really just tried to observe and participate, when appropriate, ask good questions and let the process play out. I thought the scouts that [his predecessor] Rick [Sund] was organizing did a nice job of doing their work and walking into the Draft with their decisions made and ready to go.”

But the first frantic four days of Ferry’s tenure is just the beginning of  what promises to be an interesting offseason for a franchise in the midst of a transitional phase. As the rest of the Eastern Conference realigns itself behind the champion Miami Heat, a team built to win now and for the foreseeable future, the Hawks have to try to position themselves among that group of teams giving chase.

They went into Draft night with just six players — their core four of Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague along with reserves Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia — under contract. Adding Vanderbilt shooting guard John Jenkins and Virginia forward Mike Scott gives them eight to work with as Ferry goes about the business of trying to build the Hawks into a legitimate threat to the Heat.


Kentucky Comes Out On Top Again

NEWARK — The University of Kentucky basketball program has had a pretty good year.

The Wildcats capped off a 38-2 season with a national championship on April 2. And Thursday, Kentucky became the first program in history to produce the top two picks of the NBA Draft.

We’ve known for quite some time that Anthony Davis would be the No. 1 pick. And a month ago, we learned that the New Orleans Hornets would be the lucky team to get him.

But then the Charlotte Bobcats surprised us a little by selecting Davis’ teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the No. 2 pick. To do that, the Cats passed on Thomas Robinson, who most draftniks had pegged as going second.

Charlotte, of course, needed help at every position and on both ends of the floor. There were multiple reports that they discussed trading the pick, but they apparently decided to keep it, and they apparently decided that Kidd-Gilchrist was the second-best player in the draft.

“It’s crazy,” Davis said of he and his teammate going 1-2. “Michael is a great player. We have two down and four more to go.”

The four more Wildcats followed: Terrence Jones went to Houston at No. 18, Marquis Teague went at No. 29 to Chicago, Doron Lamb at No. 42 to Milwaukee, and Darius Miller at No. 46 to New Orleans (where he’ll join Davis).


Rockets’ Howard Fantasy Up In Smoke

HOUSTON — For the better part of the week, putting All-Star Dwight Howard into the middle of their lineup was the stuff of the Rockets’ dreams.

In the end it was strictly fantasy. A pipe dream.

As the draft approached, general manager Daryl Morey was said to be dealing more than a four-armed casino worker. He sent Chase Budinger to Minnesota to acquire an extra first round pick. Then he shipped Samuel Dalembert to Milwaukee in order to jump up two spots from 14th to 12th.

Those were supposed to be just the first dominos falling as Morey kept inching and climbing his way closer to the top of the lottery selections. Could he get the No. 8 pick from Toronto? The No. 7 from Golden State? The No. 5 from Sacramento? Or even the No. 2 from Charlotte?

Put one or more of those choice selections with a veteran such as Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin and/or Luis Scola and the idea was to entice Orlando with a nice rebuilding package in exchange for Howard.

So, Magic, how would you like to take your pick among Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones?

That bag of three kids is what the Rockets were left holding after they couldn’t swing a blockbuster deal and wound up making all of their own.


Draft Comparisons: Leonard, Marshall, Zeller and Rivers

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — As Draft time rolls around and we learn about the next class of NBA rookies, there’s a desire to compare each to players we’re already familiar with.

No two players are exactly alike and some players are more unique than others. But you can find comparisons by watching video, crunching stats or matching measurements. For this exercise, we did the latter two.

Listed below are four of the top picks, along with the current NBA players they compare with most. For this exercise, we looked at 10 stats from each player’s last season in college, and eight measurements taken at the annual pre-draft combine.

Because we used college numbers and combine numbers, the only current players we could compare this year’s prospects to were the ones who played in college (so no LeBron James or Dwight Howard) and participated in the combine since 2000 (Rajon Rondo is one notable name missing in that respect).

The following comparisons aren’t gospel, of course, but they’re one way to get ready for the Draft on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). (more…)

Thunder Need To Be Careful, Patient

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’ll keep this warning for the Oklahoma City Thunder brief, since everyone has plenty of other stuff on their plate on Draft day.

Be careful. And be patient.

Don’t be hasty in whatever decisions you make tonight and in the immediate future.

We’re sending this warning to Thunder fans really, because the sting of defeat in The Finals lingers. It’s an impossible taste to get out of your mouth. We know because we’ve seen it before. We’ve watched teams overreact and make rash decisions and pay for them later, as Thunder general manager Sam Presti and his staff are surely aware of.

We’ve seen all of these reports about the Thunder’s infatuation with Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal, some generated anonymously but most of them fueled by Beal’s own words:

This year, on the eve of what was shaping up to be the least suspenseful first round in the franchise’s Oklahoma City era, a report surfaced that said the Thunder has sought to trade into the top three.

The supposed target: Florida guard Bradley Beal.

It’s the second report in the past two weeks that has connected the Thunder with trying to move into the top three. Typically, where there is smoke around this time of the year there is, well, more smoke. But the Thunder can’t seem to shake this cloud of speculation.

And this time, the player provided a firsthand account of Presti’s plans.

“He told me he was going to decide what they’re going to do and considered getting up there,” Beal told ESPN.com on Wednesday, relaying a conversation he had with Presti during an interview at the draft combine in Chicago.

In response to these reports (which are cute but have no legs, according to the folks we’ve spoken to regarding the Thunder), we’ll take this time to remind everyone of the Orlando Magic’s actions in the wake of their unsuccessful trip to The Finals in 2009.


Report: Lakers Not Interested In Roy

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You can cross at least one team off the list of potential suitors for Brandon Roy as he makes his return from a seven-month retirement from the NBA.

Roy is apparently not on the Los Angeles Lakers’ radar, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

According to a source familiar with the team’s thinking, the Lakers are not interested in Roy, the former Portland Trail Blazers All-Star guard who retired last December because of knee troubles. Roy, who turns 28 next month, has been working out in L.A. this summer in hopes of returning to the league.

While certainly respecting the player who Roy once was, the Lakers are skeptical that Roy’s body would be able to make it though the grind of a full 82-game season, according to the source. The prevailing thought within the organization is that Roy misses the game and is going through the natural longing process that many competitors deal with shortly after retirement. They aren’t convinced that Roy will be able to physically return to the form that allowed him to average 19.0 points and 4.7 assists over the course of his five-year career. With many holes to fill on their bench and only the mini mid-level exception and veteran minimum contracts to use in free agency to fill them, Roy carries too big of a risk.

The Lakers might not be interested, but there are several teams — the Warriors, Timberwolves, Bulls, Pacers and Mavericks — with legitimate interest in Roy.

Change Has Cost Magic Dearly!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Let the Orlando Magic be the cautionary tale for any team embracing change, on their roster, this time of year.

Roster building in the NBA is a living and breathing thing, one that requires constant attention but not necessarily constant action. The Magic know this better than most, having not only flipped their roster several times in the past eight years but also swapping out the people in charge of roster building more than most.

Our main man Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel lists the count of “high-profile people who have parted ways with the franchise since December” at 17. That’s since Christmas time folks! And that number could grow in the coming hours, days and weeks depending on what happens in the Draft tonight, with Dwight Howard and others in free agency and trades.

But as Schmitz points out, the Magic are not exactly experiencing change anyone can believe in right now:

The casualties so far include one CEO, one head coach, six assistant coaches, one GM, one assistant GM, six scouts and one player-development director.

An entire basketball operations department could go on Craigslist.

The Magic have fired so many folks, they’re making Donald Trump look benevolent.

The 30-year-old kid in the hall, freshly appointed GM Rob Hennigan, whacked the last eight himself after taking the job last week. We probably can stop the concerns whether his tender youth might cloud his decision-making, so my last crack about Rob’s age will be the fact he no longer will be allowed to sit on Santa’s lap at the mall.

It’s a new launch for the Magic, and frustrated fans have no choice but to embrace the unknown. They’ll be saluting or blaming strangers, beginning with tonight’s draft, and that seems perfectly fine with the faithful now that Otis Smith isn’t near a contract and a pen anymore.

And the biggest change hasn’t even happened yet, speaking of Dwight Howard.

Hennigan fielded more questions Wednesday about Howard’s future than whom he might pick at No. 19.

Hennigan deflected the inquiries like a hockey goalie, including mine: What are the chances Dwight will be traded Thursday night?

“You know what? I don’t want to comment on that,” Hennigan said. “We’re going to continue to evaluate everything we can, analyze all the details, any options and scenarios. I don’t know the answer to that.”

Hennigan knows the answer, and a draft-day deal for Dwight is possible. He just can’t go there yet about Howard.

The Magic’s direction depends on Howard’s direction, and what we do know is this: Dwight hasn’t told the club he’s dying to sign an extension.

For fans, there could be some tells in the Magic’s poker game regarding Howard. If J.J. Redick is dealt on draft-day and Jameer Nelson opts out Friday, Hennigan won’t have to keep pretending publicly that there’s a chance Howard is coming back.

Hennigan’s job will turn into a rebuilding project.

There’s that “R” word that no fan of any team wants to hear at Draft time.

Any “rebuilding project” comes with a fair amount of pain for all involved. For a Magic franchise that played in the The Finals in 2009, it has to be a particularly painful way of heading into the summer.

Even worse for Magic fans, this might only be the beginning of an excruciatingly painful chapter in franchise history, depending on just how much change is ahead.