Posts Tagged ‘2011 NBA Draft’

Rookies Say The Darndest Things

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve got dreamers, late-bloomers, trail blazers and twins, oh and at least two guys — Kyrie Irving and to a lesser extent Derrick Williams – who are supposed to be franchise saviors.

The NBA Draft is the gift that just keeps on giving, year after year and player after player. The 2011 edition was no different, with tons of colorful sorts from lands near and far joining the party.

The rookies, whether they realize it or not, will probably never be more entertaining than they are right now and in the next few months, when all of this is still new to them, before they are no longer blinded by the lights, cameras and non-stop action that is the daily grind of NBA life.

Of course, we are not talking about Wizards rookie Jan Vesely, who seemed more than a little bit comfortable with the bright lights shining on him and his girlfriend, Eva Kodouskova, on draft night.

But even without the cameras around, the new guys can’t help but make you smile. Because rookies say the darndest things sometimes. After spending a few days with them leading up to the big night, we gathered a couple of examples to share with you:

“Well, I truly believe that Duke is a professional program.  The way we prepare, practice, we practice like professionals and that’s what he taught me and that’s what I’m going to carry to the next level is how to prepare like a professional:  Countless hours of film, breaking things down in practice, preparing for the next team, thoroughly.  There’s not one team that I thought we were unprepared for, even when I was hurt.

“So being a part of the Duke program and shadowing the coaches when I was hurt, I really learned a lot how to prepare like a professional.  When I was playing it was a little different, because things were happening really fast.  But when I was hurt, things ‑‑ it slowed down for me.  So I really got a chance to learn from them, learn from the coaches especially.”

– Irving on why Duke is such a great training ground for future professionals

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Big (Man) Issues To Address

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – No offense to Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely or Bismack Biyombo, the biggest of the big men drafted in the top 10 of Thursday night’s Draft, but they are not the biggest name international post players that we’ll be keeping our eyes on in the coming weeks.

Sure, without a summer league to watch them perform in that makes it a little tougher to track their immediate progress, and there’s no telling when we’ll see Valanciunas in his Raptors uniform.

But there are two other NBA bigs that will have our undivided attention as we head into an uncertain July. Nuggets center Nene and Grizzlies center Marc Gasol are the headliners in a free agent class whose star power and depth pales in comparison to the flashy class of 2010 (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, etc.), a group still awaiting word on a new collective bargaining agreement before they can begin the process of deciding their futures.

As promising as that international crop of big men from the draft is supposed to be, and Valanciunas is considered by most the best long-term big man from the 2011 class, none of them will be as valuable as either Nene has been and could be to the Nuggets or Gasol has been and could be to the Grizzlies.

We are talking about two low-post anchors for Western Conference playoff teams, as opposed to long-range projects that no one is sure will be impact players in the league anytime soon.

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Jimmer-Mania Headed For Sacramento

NEWARK – The celebration was interrupted at the start, delayed a little longer and then held mostly behind closed doors for No. 10 pick Jimmer Fredette.

Sure, the Prudential Center got a dose of “Jimmer-Mania” during Thursday night’s draft, but nothing like we might have seen had Fredette not been a part of a three-team trade that saw him put on a Milwaukee Bucks hat to make his ceremonial walk across the stage to shake NBA Commissioner David Stern‘s hand, only to swap it out later for a Sacramento Kings’ lid.

Instead of making the normal media rounds like most of the other draft picks, Fredette remained sequestered in a private room in the bowels of the arena as the details of that trade were worked out.

By the time he did emerge from the back, it was clear that former BYU star was just relieved to finally be able to celebrate properly.

“Took a while waiting back there,” Fredette said. “But it’s a great moment for me and my family, and for the Sacramento Kings organization. Hopefully their fan base is excited, because I’m really excited to get out there and start the season with them and have a great year. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Not anymore than the folks in Sacramento.

The 10th pick in the draft was the only one to receive a shout out from the mayor of the city he will call home for the start of his professional career.

Former NBA star and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson made his approval of the Kings’ pick public immediately.

“Jimmer is exactly what the Kings need right now,” he said in a statement. “He’s electric, a fan favorite and a competitor. Together with Tyreke [Evans], they will create one of the most dynamic, young guard combos in the NBA. Congrats to the Kings on an exciting pick.”

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Weak Draft … Says Who?

NEW YORK – They’ve all heard the chatter.

They know that their group Q-rating as a draft class is in the tank. They’ve listened to all of the “so-called” experts detail how inferior they are to previous draft crops, and to a man the Class of 2011 insists they will have the last laugh.

“People are going to always have their opinions,” Brandon Knight said. “People thought our class at Kentucky was weak and we made it to a Final Four. Kyrie Irving is a great player. Derrick Williams is a great player. Tristan Thompson is a great player. There are a lot of players in this draft that could explode and become superstars. You can’t rally sit here and say this is a ‘weak’ draft when you don’t know what guys will become.”

Sorry Brandon, but that’s exactly what the pundits do this time of year. Assumptions are made, based sometimes on flimsy evidence. It doesn’t matter that the know-it-alls have already dismissed this draft class as awful, without them so much as creasing the court for a summer league game.

“As a group, none of us believe this is a weak draft class,” Thompson said. “I feel people might say it’s a weak draft class because we don’t have your LeBron James or your Yao Ming or your stamped franchise guys. We have a lot of guys that are talented that, maybe two or three years from now, might be perennial All-Stars. People have their opinion, but we’re going to keep working hard and try to prove everyone wrong.”

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Draft Day: The Moving Parts Festival

NEW YORK — Monta Ellis deserves credit for being the man to get this all started a few weeks ago. And sooner or later someone’s going to give the wacky days of trade chatter and pure speculation leading up to the NBA Draft a name.

Trade-rumors-a-palooza?

The Great Speculations?

Basketball’s International Moving Parts Festival?

We’ll keep working on that. In the meantime, it’s time to dive in and sort through the all the mess just hours away from the 2011 Draft and see if we can’t make a little sense of all these rumors:

Ellis Might Not Get Moved

For all the drama surrounding Ellis in recent weeks, he might not go anywhere. Both Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News and Ken Berger of CBSSports.com have confirmed the same things regarding Ellis:

According to an NBA source, new Warriors coach Mark Jackson has made at least two phone calls to Monta Ellis to tell Ellis how much he would love to coach him.

Here’s a full report and breakdown of the latest Ellis info by CBSsports.com’s Ken Berger, who has been all over this situation and everything I’ve heard is totally consistent with this.

It’s an open secret around the league that Ellis and his representatives are starting to believe that this might be the right time to move him to a title contender.

Ellis is in his prime, has put in many years with the Warriors, and two sources indicate that there has been some frank general discussion between GSW management and Ellis’ camp about his future, the team’s future, and whether the two should remain entwined.

Big point: Ellis loves playing at Oracle Arena. He apparently also appreciates what Jackson has been telling him.

But he’s wondering the same thing many execs around the league are wondering: How else could the Warriors get a necessary bigger player if they don’t trade Ellis?

Iguodala Stays Put As Well

Andre Iguodala‘s name has been linked to as much trade bluster as anyone in recent weeks, including Ellis. And yet there seems to be nothing solid in place heading into tonight’s festivities, as Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer explains:

In recent weeks, the Sixers have discussed trades involving swingman Andre Iguodala with both the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers, along with various other teams, but have yet to find a deal they deem worthy of execution.

Two factors seem to be slowing the Sixers’ willingness to deal Iguodala: the impending change in ownership and the impending lockout.

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Kanter Keeps Eye On Washington

NEW YORK – Like every other player here for Thursday night’s Draft, Enes Kanter would love to hear his name called first when NBA Commissioner hits the stage with that first card in his hand.

And there are rumblings that if there is a surprise to be had by Cleveland with that first pick it could be Kanter. But if things don’t go according to plan, Kanter has his eyes on another destination that he feels would be an ideal fit.

Kanter continued to rave about the Washington Wizards and his love for D.C. and the “international feel” the city has. For the Turkish-born Kanter, that feel could be crucial during his rookie season. It certainly helps that he’s gotten a public endorsement from the face of the franchise, John Wall, and talks regularly with Wall about the benefits of starting his NBA career with a friend to help him make the transition.

“I would love to go to D.C.,” Kanter said. “It’s an international city, [President Barack] Obama loves basketball and I would love to play with John Wall. I think it could be a great team, Washington.”

Add the 6-11, 260-pound Kanter to a core that includes Wall, JaVale McGee and Jordan Crawford and there could be reason for excitement for Wizards fans, especially if Kanter turns out to be the type of player some league insiders think he could be.

“In two or three years this could be the guy we’re talking about as the best player in this draft,” a Western Conference executive said Wednesday afternoon. “He’s a big, physical kid with lots of room to grow. And he’s a better and more polished player than he was before this season began.”

Kanter didn’t get a chance to show it on the floor, having been ruled ineligible by the NCAA to play at Kentucky during his freshman season.

That didn’t prevent him from working on his game, though. He worked out with the Wildcats all year and says the court time, even if it was just practice, helped him smooth out the rough edges in his game. The proof came during the predraft workout season, where Kanter impressed at every stop, including two stops in Cleveland, the team with the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the draft.

The Wizards have the sixth pick but according to reports have been trying to move up in the order, perhaps as high as No. 2. Kanter believes he could go that high, though he didn’t want to guess to what team. The Timberwolves own the No. 2 pick.

Wherever he lands, Kanter certainly won’t lack anything in the confidence department.

“I think with the right team I will be great,” Kanter said when asked where he sees himself in five years. “I would say All-Star.”

Spurs’ Parker On Trading Block …

NEW YORK – Go ahead and add Tony Parker‘s name to the growing list of veteran stars being rumored to be on the trading block.

Never mind that Parker recently professed his eternal love for the organization, Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich and all things Spurs (check the video above). The Spurs haven’t even dignified the rumor, first reported by Yahoo! Sports, with a response.

But as we’ve learned, where the 2011 (or any other) Draft is concerned, basically nothing and no one is sacred. Parker’s name has been mentioned previously, but this latest chatter is particularly intriguing because of the teams rumored to be involved. More from the Express-News:

Yahoo! reports that the Spurs have talked to Toronto, which is picking fifth, and Sacramento, which is picking seventh, about their first-round draft picks.

Parker, who turned 29 last month, is considered to be the most marketable of the Spurs’ “Big Three” because of his age and potential replacements at the position in George Hill and Gary Neal.

But still, it’s a shocker the Spurs would want to trade into the upper part of what most observers believe is a shallow, weak pool of talent.

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Hang Time Podcast (Draft Special)

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With The Finals in the rear view, it’s time to turn all of our attention to Thursday night’s Draft.

The names change from year to year, but the circumstances remain the same. Some lucky team (Cleveland is the big winner this time around) is hoping to find the player(s) that can deliver them from the necessary evil that is the Lottery.

Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Brandon Knight and Enes Kanter have all been mentioned possibilities for the Cavaliers for one of their two top four picks (No. 1 and No. 4) in this Draft. And that’s if the Cavaliers don’t decide to move one of those picks for more assets and the ability to move down the Draft order and still get what they need with two chances to strike it rich.

With so much on the line, we had to stack the lineup for the The Hang Time Podcast Draft Special. NBA.com’s college basketball guru Chris Dortch, editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, breaks down the players. Longtime Cavaliers writer Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Plain Dealer sets the scene for us in Cleveland. And HT’s West Coast bureau chief and NBA.com’s draft specialist Scott Howard Cooper helps us make sense of it all, both the domestic and international draft scene, after his trip to Italy for the adidas Eurocamp.

LISTEN HERE:


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine and Sekou Smith of NBA.com, as well as our super producer Micah Hart of NBA.com’s All Ball Blog.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

Heir Jordan No More

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Has it come to this for Vince Carter?

The one-time heir to Michael Jordan‘s throne (one of many proposed successors) could find himself on the move come Thursday night, when the wheeling and dealing of for the 2011 Draft kicks into high gear.

Actually, Carter could simply be moved off of the Suns’ roster, bought out of the remainder of his contract for $4 million, per my main man Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. Carter would be a Draft night footnote for the Suns in their quest to get younger:

“We are in constant conversation all day, every day with virtually every team in the league, trying to see if there’s anything we need to get an additional pick or if there are other ways to improve our team,” Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said. “Like most of the conversations in the NBA, they usually don’t come to fruition. We’re trying to take everyone’s temperature.”

Since 2004, the Suns have traded or sold five first-round picks. Of the three first-round picks they kept, Alando Tucker and Earl Clark are gone and Robin Lopez no longer is considered unavailable on the trade market. This 13th pick would be their highest selection they kept since drafting Amar’e Stoudemire ninth in 2002.

“At some point, we have to get younger,” Babby said. “We want to begin with the draft to infuse younger players into our team.”

It would be yet another sad twist in the cruel ending to the career of one of the most exciting players the league has seen and easily one of the most talented players of his era.

Watching past drafts on NBA TV the last few days was a reminder of just how much promise is heaped upon the shoulders of some of these prospects as they enter the league. Carter’s arrival was one of the most anticipated I can remember, not that he was the No. 1 pick or anything (he went fifth overall in 1998 behind Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby, Raef LaFrentz and his North Carolina teammate, Antawn Jamison), but because he offered that rare, above-the-rim ability that so few of his contemporaries then or since could match.

To see him tossed aside like he could be in the coming days, after all these years, is just a reminder that Father Time remains the only true undefeated champion in all of sports.

Cavs Right To Pause Before Draft

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – After spending the past few days quizzing team officials from around the league, we’ve decided that it’s not only prudent for the Cleveland Cavaliers to pause for at least a few minutes and take one last look at their strategy before Thursday night’s NBA Draft, it’s a necessary move by an organization that owns two picks in the top four.

Even in a year when the Draft is considered to be top heavy with superstar talent (2003 and 2007 come to mind from recent years) or super deep with quality players at nearly ever position (2004 and 2008) , it pays to proceed with caution when you have one of the top picks. There is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism as the days leading up to the Draft turn to hours and them minutes.

This is, after all, the future of your franchise that is resting on you making the proper choice. Or, if we’re arguing semantics, it is the “right decision” about the player you choose to lead the organization out of the lottery some day.

But in a year such as this one, when the Draft class is seen by most as thin on “superstar” talents, it’s imperative that a team with a top pick operate with extreme caution.

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