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NBA Draft Notes

If the 2004-05 season ended five days ago with the Spurs regaining the crown, then the 2005-06 campaign unofficially began last night with the 58th annual NBA Draft, held at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden. HoopsAvenue.com was there, with notes on what its like to experience the draft first hand.

7:00- the gates open outside MSG, (if you’ve never been, most fans enter near Penn Station on 7th Avenue and its unlike entering any other arena. While you can see the arena’s structure from the outside, when you walk in its almost as if you are entering a stadium inside of a building.) The Knick City Dancers greet fans with sweatbands and towels- as a diehard Nets fan, I promptly wipe the sweat from my brow all over the orange and blue Knicks logo.

7:02- As the crowd begins to enter, the talk among the predominately Knick contingency voices their overwhelming affection for Channing Frye. Some Illinois fans are seen as well as a large contingent of Syracuse enthusiasts- there is only so much orange one person can take.

7:05- After walking through the lobby and towards the Theatre, which is separate from MSG itself, the NBA shows that even in the off-season the marketing and draining of millions of corporate dollars doesn’t stop, as fans are given War of the World T-shirts and posters and handheld radios compliments of AMEX.

7:07- Arriving in my seat in the 300 section, I notice that the overly priced ticket I bought is in prime location, dead center and not too far back. I also learn after riding on a train in from Jersey for the past few hours, that Utah has swapped picks with Portland. The fans next to me start exclaiming that they must be going after Deron Williams of Illinois...we’ll see. (We also found out Jiri Welsch was traded to Milwaukee, but no one seems to care). One thing you notice about the setup of the area is that the "green room," which sometimes appears to be backstage or in an off location is actually right down by the front of the stage by all the fans. ESPN’s NBA shootaround crew are stationed to the left of the stage, with Stuart Scott’s interview zone behind them.

7:10- Uber-Knick fan Spike Lee makes his way through the crowd to applause. He seems focused on thinking of new targets to yell at with the retirement of Reggie Miller.

7:10-7:30- I notice that even after the season lets out, everyone loves to rock a jersey. Some of the more notable replicas seen; Bryant Reeves (Grizzlies), Darko Milicic (Pistons), Patrick Ewing (Georgetown), Jameer Nelson (Magic) and of course only in New York, a Mike Sweetney jersey.

7:30- David Stern walks out to a loud chorus of boos and some cheers. One thing you can’t tell on television is how loud and raucous a crowd is at a draft

1st Pick- Andrew Bogut is announced, some fans start a chant of Sam Bowie. The two or three Bucks fans in attendance seem pleased.

2nd Pick- Marvin Williams. Big ovation from the crowd, as the Carolina fans in attendance; family, alumni and those on the bandwagon go crazy.

3rd Pick- Deron Williams. The obvious choice to run the Jazz is greeted warmly, but some fans yell that the second coming of Stockton, he is not.

4th Pick- Chris Paul. Loud ovation for another ACC star, some of the Carolina contingent begin to chant, "Overrated!" Dick Vitale is shown on the screen, beginning his annual spiel of how this kid who went to college will excel at the next level.

5th Pick- Raymond Felton. The crowd once again goes wild as that makes two UNC players in the top 5. Almost 25 family and friends of Felton are sitting behind me, ecstatic that their boy will be staying in the Tar Heel state...and probably the fact that they’ll get to meet Nelly now.

6th Pick- Martell Webster. The first surprise pick, a lot of people didn’t expect Webster to go this high. I notice in between picks that on the ESPN studio setup, nobody seems to notice that Jay Bilas is there. Stephen A. Smith, Greg Anthony, Mike Tirico, they all converse in between picks, but Bilas just sits there with his hands folded.

7th Pick- Charlie Villanueva. Another first round shocker, the UConn faithful applaud loudly. Right after the 6-11 forward exits stage left, the hype begins for the Knicks selection.

8th Pick-Before Stern walks out, the crowd is loud the entire five minutes leading up to the selection. A lot of "Gerald Green" chants go around, followed by some "Channing Frye" uprisings. The buzz continues as the Commish steps to the podium, then all of a sudden, like a Roman emperor speaking to a crowd, there is a complete silence with everyone standing on their feet, then Frye’s name is called to a mostly warm reaction.

9th Pick- Ike Diogu is picked, there are a lot of shocked fans in the crowd. Some of it is because they didn’t expect him to go so high (I personally am upset because I wanted to see him in a Net uniform), the rest is probably because supposed top 5 pick Gerald Green is still on the board.

10th Pick- The Laker fans next to me begin a "Gerald Green" chant of their own. One of them has been talking from the beginning how he wished Green would be available...and now he is. (If you’ve never been to a draft, I say that any real NBA fan who lives in the area MUST go. It’s a few hundred people who all have a deep passion and knowledge of basketball and who talk nothing but hoops for four hours.) Andrew Bynum is selected and there is a sense of confusion by the crowd, but the Laker fans next to me heads drop in dismay as their buddies laugh at them. I wonder where Kobe is at this moment?

11th Pick- One thing I notice, I don’t know if they showed a clock on the screen at home, but the one above the draft board, it always goes to 0:00 and then it takes another minute or so, or whenever Stephen A. Smith stops talking, for them to go to the next pick. Fran Vazquez is the pick and the confusing looks continue through the crowd.

12th Pick- A heated argument breaks out next to me about who is better, Julius Hodge or Rashad McCants. Everyone keeps it cool though, which is what makes actually being at the draft great. Each fan has their own guy they want to see make it as well as their team loyalties, even the Michigan State alum by me who shouts for Alan Anderson before every pick. Yaroslav Korolev is taken. The first reaction for most fans is one of bewilderment, but then you realize it’s the Clippers and it all seems to make sense.

13th Pick- Stephen A. begins yelling throughout the theatre, that how could two star UNC players not get picked before some of the foreign prospects. What do you know, Charlotte takes Sean May, building a Carolina connection for the Bobcats. I can only start to think about a few years back when Chicago loaded up on Duke players...that worked out well.

14th Pick- McCants is drafted next, making Stephen A. look like Nostradamus. The Carolina delegation in the crowd has been quite vocal these past 10 minutes.

15th Pick- The Nets fans by me all want Hakim Warrick, who I wouldn’t mind but would rather have Joey Graham. In utter disbelief, they take Antoine Wright. Knicks fans begin to smirk at the Nets fans in the crowd who definitely wanted a forward.

16th Pick- Joey Graham is taken by the Raptors- some Nets fans sigh. I begin to think though that the previous pick for Wright wasn’t so bad, since they have needed outside shooting for the past 4 years and this kid can supposedly light it up. Plus he was a consensus top 10 pick and maybe luckily slipped into NJ’s hands.

17th Pick- Danny Granger is announced to subtle applause.

18th Pick- Gerald Green goes to Boston, quite fitting that he puts on that color uniform, don’t you think? His crew sitting behind the green room cheer wildly, while a lot of the crowd begins to exit. A "Boston Sucks" chant begins in the back as New Yorkers make sure to show their ever-loving admiration for Beantown sports.

19th Pick- In between picks, Roy Williams walks through the crowd to the delight of the Tar Heel fans. I feel like starting a Let’s go Duke chant. I then think that Hakim Warrick would be a perfect fit for the Grizzlies to team up with or replace Stromile Swift. Warrick is picked up by Memphis and the Syracuse fans go wild. Still no one has said a word to Bilas off-camera.

20th Pick- Julius Hodge, a Harlem naitve receives a warm ovation, perhaps one of the biggest of the night. He probably seems the most happy of any draftee to be there, pumping his fist in the air and smiling the rest of the night through.

21st Pick- Phoenix takes Nate Robinson who a lot of people seem to have forgotten about. The crowd likes the pick and then likes it even more when they learn he may be a Knick as part of the Quentin Richardson-Kurt Thomas deal.

22nd Pick- Jarrett Jack. A guy next to me exclaims afterwards, "Man, the ACC is runnin’ this @#$!" Indeed they are.

23rd Pick- Francisco Garcia. Nice applause but the New York native is absent from the festivities.

24th Pick- Luther Head. Decent reaction from the crowd, but they are beginning to disperse at a faster rate, with about 70% just waiting around to see the Knicks at no.30.

25th Pick-Johan Petro. The Anti-France bashing begins and most fans laugh at the pick. There is a slight buzz after the announcement of the potential trade of the 22nd pick (Jack) to Portland for the 27th and 35th picks.

26th Pick- There seems to be less on the trade front in this draft as compared to year’s past. Greg Anthony gets about a makeover in between commercial breaks, he loves the face makeup. Jason Maxiell is the pick for the ‘04 champs, some of the crowd overly support the pick, some loathe it. Hate it or love it, this underdog is going to one of the top teams in the NBA.

27th Pick- Portland takes Linas Kleiza and almost in unison the crowd says, "Who?" Fans search frantically in their Draft handout booklets to find out who was just taken.

28th Pick- Ian Mahinmi. Most of the crowd may not know who he is, but they love it when a player comes from the pay seats through the fans and onto the stage.

29th Pick- Wayne Simien is chosen to a decent ovation, although I’m sure Dickie V. will burst a vein yelling about how 28 teams could pass this kid up.

30th Pick- The buildup to the pick, the Knick fans overwhelmingly want Chris Taft. When David Lee’s name is called though, they are PO’d and many leave disappointed, a seemingly annual ritual at recent drafts.

2nd Round Notes:
Russ Granik must be the most loved man in the building as he gets a huge response from what is left from the crowd. Before every pick they chant his name and you can tell he eats it up. The fans like Salim Stoudamire at 31 and as typical with Duke players, there is some love, mostly hate when Daniel Ewing is taken at 32. The next two picks consist of Who’s? (Brandon Bass) and Ooooh’s (CJ Miles). I notice that when Granik comes to the podium, Bilas is the only one on the ESPN crew who pays attention to the pick. There is a lot of love for Ronny Turiaf who is sitting in the crowd. They loudly chant his name before he is selected by the Lakers and his family gives hi-5’s to all the fans around. I stick around ‘til the Nets at 43 and don’t even bother looking up who Mile Ilic is. Exiting Hakim Warrick walks by the lobby, shaking hands and signing autographs as well as Fran Vazquez. I leave somewhat disenchanted by my team’s selections, but glad to have come to the event. All I can wait for now is summer leagues to get started and training camp to roll around, only four months left until the new season officially begins.

About the Author

Seth Berkman writes for http://www.hoopsavenue.com

Seth Berkman