July 2018
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Sights and Sounds of the 2018 NBA Draft

The NBA Draft is a spectacle like no other. What’s it like experiencing it from the inside?

Heading into the Barclays Center for the NBA Draft, word on the street was that the powers that be had decided to restrict the almighty Shams Charania and Adrian Wojnarowski from tweeting out picks and trades before they occurred. It figured to make the night that much more suspenseful, and give the fans in the arena their money’s worth.

So much for best laid plans. By the end of the night, Woj had figured out 60 different synonyms for the phrase “will select,” whereas Shams dispensed with the pleasantries altogether and simply added the word “Sources:” to the beginning of every tweet. Naturally, this author’s phone kicked before the first round was over.

Nonetheless,In the hour leading up the draft, one name was all the buzz: Michael Porter Jr. Fans saw the reports that he was falling, and by the time the Suns were on the clock, there was a fervor in the building that the former number one overall recruit in this class could fall all the way to the ninth pick.

He did, and much to the fans chagrin, he kept falling. While the boos didn’t quite rain as heavily as it was made out in the media, Kevin Knox certainly heard them loud and clear. He seemed to take it in stride, suggesting later that if the fans’ angst was good enough for Kristaps, it was good enough for him. Much like his dad, appropriately dressed in a blue suit with an orange tie and pocket square, Knox seemed to have a sense of what was coming, tipping his hand before the draft that he’d soon be calling the Garden his home.

Porter, on the other hand, kept dropping, not only passed on by the greatest player of all time and by whoever is running the Sixers, but by the man who once drafted Kobe Bryant—twice. By the time the Logo passed on him for the second time, all those wise Knicks fans in the building seemed to realize that someone who wasn’t good enough for Jerry West probably wasn’t worth fretting over.

Porter’s fall from grace capped off a crazy lottery that saw Luka Doncic and Trae Young get traded for one another and Mikal Bridges—once the apple of many a Knicks fan’s eye—see his dream of playing for his hometown Sixers go up in the smoking heat of the Phoenix desert. By the end of the night, the Knicks ended up with perhaps the greatest sum total of pure talent in the draft in Knox and mystery man Mitchell Robinson. They’ve played together before in the 2017 McDonalds All American Game, when they were the East Team’s second- and third-leading scorers, respectively.

By the time Robinson was picked, the place had mostly cleared out. The draft, in person, moves a lot slower than it does on television, thanks mostly to the inability for fans to hear the relatively insightful ESPN television crew. In their place, the in-arena commentary is provided by Dennis Scott and that doofy white guy who together offered…what are the opposite of insights? Outsights, perhaps? Let’s go with outsights.

The highlight of the night for yours truly came when Grayson Allen was selected by the Jazz. I commented that he was going to be a hell of an NBA player but probably needed to stop being such a dick, at which point the two young ladies next to me commented that they’ve “met Grayson, like, five times, and he’s totally the nicest guy, like, ever. You really shouldn’t talk about people you don’t know.”

Shockingly, they were both Duke students.

The interaction helped make the draft a once in a lifetime experience, along with seeing Knicks jerseys with names like Shumpert, Felton, and Novak on the back. No one, however, beat the young teenager I saw who duck-taped a “3” next to the “1” on a Stoudemire jersey, and covered up Amar’e’s last name with “Ayton.” I guess he thought the genie from Aladdin was helping out in New York’s draft headquarters.

It was par for the course in an altogether strange evening. The Knicks rebuild laid another couple of blocks in the foundation as attention now turns to what should be a rather uneventful free agency period. If Knicks fans thought they needed patience before, the front office doubled down on that Thursday night. Only time will tell if the wait will finally pay off, but for now, New York can feel good about a draft night that was widely praised in larger NBA circles.

New York doing things that everyone else doesn’t think are crazy. A welcome change if there ever was one.

On to July 1st.

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