The Confusion of the NBA Draft

A few notes I have after the detritus has finally settled over last night’s draft:

1. Kevin McHale lets Minnesota fans down once again.  Draffs a potential superstar in O.J. Mayo and then deals him to Memphis for Mike Miller and Kevin Love, the latter will be very good, but I’m not sure that will be enough to keep fans from continuing to turn on the team. I expect another year of RandBall calling them “the McLovins.”

2. Did Pat Riley get outvoted on Beasley?  Every time I hear him talk about the pick, it sounds like he really, really didn’t want him.

3. Portland’s front office is smarter than yours. Brandon Rush wouldn’t have been a bad fit, but to turn him into Jerryd Bayless is a frickin’ steal. Bayless, Roy, Oden, Outlaw, and Aldridge. NICE.

4. New York Knicks fans will boo anybody. Why they weren’t expecting Coach Pornstache to draft Danilo “The Big Cock” Gallinari, I don’t know.

5. Joe Alexander makes me want to watch Bucks games. So does Richard Jefferson. Good job, Milwaukee.

6. Kevin McHale should be glad he doesn’t suck as much as Michael Jordan in a front office role.  D.J. Augustin is going to get burned on the defensive end in the Association early and often.  Brook Lopez will eventually thank Charlotte for passing on him so he can have a career.

7. Brook Lopez, trading away Jefferson and getting Bobby Simmons’ expiring 2010 contract is as blatant a play for LeBron James to come to NJ/Brooklyn in 2010 as anything else I’ve seen yet. Danny Ferry, you have two years to deliver.

Anything y’all liked, hated, or want to note?

Photo: AP/Frank Franklin II

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Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

Your basic evaluations as to which high profile freshmen should be declaring for the Association or should decide to stick around for another season in the college ranks.

Derrick Rose, Memphis – Guaranteed lottery pick, and depending upon the franchise that lands the first overall pick, could go #1 in the draft. Regardless of what happens against Kansas tonight, should punch his ticket to the Association.

Michael Beasley, Kansas State – If you are averaging 26 points and more than 10 boards a game in your freshman year in college in a conference like the Big 12, you are probably ready to go pro. Those are numbers beating Carmelo Anthony’s marks, and if Beasley had someone else to play with outside of Bill Walker the Wildcats might have gotten further.

Jerryd Bayless, Arizona – Already declared, might have wanted to stay another year. It may not be fair or right, but he reminds me a lot of a bit less polished version of Gilbert Arenas (and no, it isn’t necessarily because he wore “0” at Airzona too.)  He’ll probably turn out fine, but a year actually being coached by Lute Olson and a more open offensive system would have been better for him.

Eric Gordon, Indiana – I really don’t know if there was any other choice than for Gordon to leave.  There was too much instability and uncertainty about NCAA violations that Kelvin Sampson left with that Gordon might have been stuck with a school that could be punished severely. He was consistently good in conference, but faded when hitting the Big 10 and NCAA tourneys.

O.J. Mayo, USC – Started out his freshman year flat, got much better as Pac-10 conference play rolled on and grew into his role as leader.  Honestly, he needs to stay one more year and then he’ll be set to go. There are some shot creation situations he could use some more work on, at least from what I could see when I watched USC games this season.

Kevin Love, UCLA – After watching him just get boxed in by Memphis’ front-court tandem on Saturday, he needs to spend another year in Westwood lifting weights and focusing that post game further. The Tigers had players that are the caliber of guys Love will see in the Association — and he just looked kind of schlubby in comparison.

Photo: AP/Matt York

No Love Lost Here.

Normally, I wouldn’t be all that interested in the usual piece about UCLA center Kevin Love returning to his home state tonight as the Bruins take on the Oregon Ducks in Eugene. It’s full of the usual stuff about the son of an Oregon star who spurned his father’s alma mater, etc. and how the crowd in Eugene’s going to be ranting against him. But this ish between Kevin’s dad Stan regarding the slights made by Ernie Kent seems, well, a bit divo:

Stan Love tells a story of how UCLA Coach Ben Howland and North Carolina Coach Roy Williams helped Kevin carry workout equipment into and out of a practice gym while Oregon Coach Ernie Kent “kept one eye on his BlackBerry and never lifted a finger.”

Dan Cogan, an Oregon sophomore and president of the Pit Crew, the gold-and-green-wearing students who will number about 1,700 and who have weekly meetings to get ready for new opponents, said indignation and resentment toward Love, who played at Lake Oswego High near Portland, is more pointed than it might be toward another in-state player who left Oregon.

“Stan did go to Oregon,” Cogan said. “When Kevin first committed to UCLA, Stan chose to take a shot at the basketball program and the university, so we don’t consider him to be a Duck. He’s a traitor, that’s what he is.

“Kevin, we have mixed feelings. I saw him play in high school and he’s the best high school player I’ve ever seen, but there’s a lot of guys from Lake Oswego who have a lot of negative feeling toward Kevin. There’s a lot of people up there who think Kevin is pretty high and mighty. And his dad is worse.”

It’ll be fascinating to see how much heckling Kevin and his dad actually get, but I’m amazed by what the whims of teenage boys and slighted parents can do. It seems weird that a sort of blood feud has opened right up, with the rabid nature of collegiate fans turning on the father, who betrayed them in a sense.

But really, coaches not picking up weights for your son is a slight in the recruiting of blue-chip athletes? Seriously, pick a better example — that just makes Stan Love look like a complete douchebag — and according to some Oregon faithful and those who followed Kevin through his high school career, he probably is.

Go Ahead, You Can Laugh All You Want, But I’ve Got My Philosophy.

Bill Simmons occasionally issues a really idiotic column or blog entry from time to time, and the most recent on the hate for the supposed upcoming “O.J. Mayo Era” is pretty stupid (if not outright repellent). He’s right about one thing: with Mayo headed to USC and talented big man Kevin Love headed to UCLA, next year’s games between the schools will be an awesome rivalry to watch (and will keep me and my UCLA alum co-worker jabbering at each other all season.) Thanks for jumping on the bandwagon, after ignoring it while living in L.A. for so long.

The problem is, Simmons has to drop this stuff:

The bigger picture: With Mayo joining a loaded USC team and Love playing 20 minutes away for a Final Four team, that’s looming as a dynamite rivalry and the most intriguing media subplot for the 2007-08 season. After all, Love represents everything good about basketball (unselfishness, teamwork, professionalism) and Mayo represents everything we’ve come to despise (showboating, selfishness, over-hype). If Love were black, this would be a much easier topic to discuss. But he’s white. So even though there’s a natural inclination to embrace Love’s game and disparage Mayo’s game — you know, assuming you give a crap about basketball and care about where it’s headed as a sport — there’s also a natural inclination to hold back because nobody wants to sound like the white media guy supporting the Great White Hope over the Black Superstar Du Jour.

But you just did, Bill. Either cop to it or shut up; don’t just brush it off as a philosophical difference. We have a few selective elements about both Mayo and Love, both filtered through news media, with its own series of professional biases about what is good and what is bad, and sports media, often, is no different. Simmons goes on to say that Mayo’s style is neither good or bad, but just what it is, even though he doesn’t like it much. Did he ever consider that Mayo may have tossed the halfcourt alley-oop to himself because he was having fun? Or that Mayo got T-ed up by an official who had it in for him? Does he remember that the McDonald’s All-America game is a FREAKING EXHIBITION and doesn’t mean jack?

Let’s hold off on judging Mayo’s game until he’s in the cardinal red and Love’s until he suits up in powder blue. The problem with assessing how exceedingly talented players like Mayo and Love play in high school is that high talents are playing above the rest of their competition by leaps and bounds, and that isn’t always reflective of what we see in the college and pro arenas.

In the next paragraph, Simmons says that players coming in want to be Kobe, Vince Carter, or Agent Zero rather than Steve Nash, using LeBron as an example:

Just look at what happened to LeBron’s all-around game when he reached the pros — blessed with an innate passing gene that gave him a choice between becoming the next Magic or the next MJ, he said “Screw it, I’m going for my points” and went the MJ route. I will always be disappointed about that choice.

Bill, be disappointed in LeBron’s teammates and the Cleveland front office — the reason James has had to play to the MJ role of scorer is because no one else on that team can score on a consistent basis. Management and the coach expect him to do it all. However, it’s not a Bill Simmons column without a Celtics mention, and in saying that this has been one of the worst regular seasons in recent memory and tying that in to the era of NBA AAU ball, he says the Celtics were lifeless and unconcerned about their losses, as if they didn’t matter.

During their 18-game losing streak, nobody ever got kicked out of a game, knocked someone into a basket support, threw a frustrated punch … hell, even the coach didn’t get kicked out of a game. There was a passive, pathetic, indifferent response to everything that was happening. Not a single person stepped up. As somebody who travels with the team told me, “If you were with these guys every night and saw how little these losses affected them, you’d never want to follow sports again … the losses just bounce right off these guys.”

There’s no winning with most sports observers — if you don’t show passion, you don’t care, but if any of those Celtics kids got angry, got caught up in the heat of the moment, like knocking someone into a basket support, that player would be a pariah, suspended, and viewed as everything that’s wrong with the sport of basketball. Part of being a pro athlete is trying to shake off the losses like they don’t affect your game, so you can go back and do better in the next one.

It’s not a white thing or a black thing … it’s a basketball thing.

Right. If you have to say that in the first place, then the truth really lies somewhere in between. The problem is that Simmons writes that there’s room for both of them, which there ought to be — flashy guys like Mayo do things that make me say, “WTF; that was awesome!” and get me tuning in; folks like Love make me appreciate every little thing about the game (i.e., Tim Duncan). I’m going to love watching both of them in Pac-10 play next year. Don’t implicitly lionize one and demean the other. Both games have a place in the college hoops landscape, and eventually, in the Association.