NEW YORK - For my money, there are few stranger human experiences than hanging out at a trendy nightclub. You don't go simply to get drunk, because there are tons of bars that'll let you do that. You don't go there simply to dance, because you could do that at any random place.
No, you go to a nightclub just for one thing: to take it all in. You go because you can say you either saw some famous person in his/her warded off VIP section, or, if you're lucky, you go so you can say you actually hung out with that guy. You go because the atmosphere just feels electric, and because, for lack of a better way of putting it, it's just the place to be. All that is worth dropping tons of money to, realistically, stand around and take it all in.
And yet, it works, and so many people have such great experiences doing it. Why? Taken on their own, all the separate experiences in a nightclub aren't really that fun. The drinks are overpriced (or, if it's open bar, the cover is ridiculous), the dance floor is crowded, the music is often bad, famous people are separated from you and the patrons can often be too rowdy. But when you throw all these things together, somehow, it all makes sense, and you feel good for being one of the few people allowed to take in the whole experience.
That's pretty much how I feel about the NBA Draft after witnessing it firsthand for the first time.
Via Mike Prada/SB Nation
In essence, the NBA Draft is like a trendy nightclub for diehard NBA fans. The Theater at Madison Square Garden, where the draft is held, technically seats 5,600, but that figure is misleading. At least third of those seats are taken by media members, VIPs and family of the draft picks, leaving only a select few seats actually open for fans. Tickets don't even go on sale until 11 a.m. on the day of the draft, and they're given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. It's pretty much just like standing in line for a nightclub. Once it reaches capacity, good luck actually finding your way in.
There's also no clearer distinction between the fans and everyone else. The front of the room is divided into three distinct areas - the green room, which, it should be noted, extends up several rows into the stands for non-lottery picks and their family, the media area and the ESPN booth. This is your VIP area, if you will. Behind all them, though, lies where the fans sit. As a fan, you're so close to the action, and yet, you're also so far.
Oh, and the fans that show up? Yeah, they're the diehards you see on television. Most nightclubs have a dress code that (essentially) requires you to dress up to even get in. The NBA Draft doesn't have a dress code, but they might as well. Off the top of my head, I saw the following jerseys: Ron Artest with the Bulls, Tom Gugliotta with the Bullets, John Starks, Hakeem Olajuwon, Willis Reed, Jason Kidd with the Nets, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Omri Casspi, Ben Gordon with the Bulls, Reggie Miller, Kobe Bryant wearing number eight, Kevin Garnett on the Timberwolves, Al Harrington on the Knicks (no joke), Shawn Bradley on the 76ers and John Stockton. If you weren't wearing a random basketball jersey, you were simply out of place. Considering the demand for these tickets, the NBA might as well just go all out and strictly enforce a "jerseys only" dress code.
Mike Prada/SB Nation
But really, it's what happens inside that makes it like a nightclub experience. When the draft begins, there's a palpable excitement in the room. Things eventually hit their peak right around the first pick of the NBA Draft, when all that buzz gets bottled up and released.
After that, though, things taper off a bit until the second round, when the only people left are the ones who probably had too much to drink anyway. Once that happens, all hell breaks loose, and we hear chants like "JEFF VAN GUNDY," "SEXY SILVER" and "USA! USA!" Those guys are like the drunk nightclub patrons that realizes the only way to get the attention of the VIPs in the club is to act completely ridiculously. It's tough to tell whether the chants are because they're bored, drunk or just want to be on TV, but regardless, they're very much like the kind of things one would do when they had too much to drink at a club.
So when it was all said and done, I couldn't shake the nightclub analogy. The room is small, but loud as hell. The patrons dress up and act like they actually want to be there. The VIPs are warded off in their own sections, snickering at the crazy things fans are doing. The whole thing, on it's own, seems awkward. But when thrown together, it's hard to imagine too many better sporting events to attend.
Mike Prada/SB Nation
SOME OTHER THINGS OF NOTE
John Wall walks into the wrong room
John Wall tried to play it cool when he was finally officially made the number one pick. He didn't smile on his way up to the podium, until David Stern of all people told some joke that made him laugh. But for as smooth as he was going up the stage, he and his massive entourage of people were not so smooth as they made their way up to the press area. On their way up the stairs, someone took a right turn into some random side room, and improbably, Wall and his group followed him. Everyone behind Wall suddenly stopped and fell back on each other as they all figured out what to do. A couple minutes later, Wall finally slipped by everyone and continued going up the ramp as a ton of fans wondered what the heck was going on.
Mike Prada/SB Nation
Yup, that's a Nets fan with a vuvuzela. That woman to his left? That's his mother (or a relative, either one). Yeah, I'm not sure I'd let my kid bring in something like that.
Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards' strange, strange draft
It takes a special person to make a team's fanbase feel weird about a draft where they ended up with the number one pick, but Ernie Grunfeld somehow found a way to do it. First, he traded for Kirk Hinrich, a $17 million player for the next two years that's there pretty much to babysit Wall (as if Wall needs a "mentor" anyway. Remind me again why Sam Cassell is on the payroll?). Just as a point of comparison, the Thunder got the 18th pick (or one pick behind the Wizards) for one year and $2.1 million of Daequan Cook and the 32nd pick. The Wizards, on the other hand, got the 17th pick for two years and $17 million of Kirk Hinrich. You tell me which was the better buy.
Worse ... hello, Ernie, you just gave the Chicago Bulls the chance for two max free agents! Can you imagine a team with LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in the starting lineup? Will anyone ever beat that team? Now, because of Ernie Grunfeld's infatuation with Kirk Hinrich, we're only two steps away from something like that happening. If the Rockets can get every Knick lottery pick for the next three years for that kind of cap space, can't the Wizards at least get something of value from the Bulls too?
For more, let's go to our Bulls expert.
The funny thing is this could all work out. The Bulls could strike out, Hinrich could be what the Wizards need and Kevin Seraphin could be a diamond in the rough. But man, Ernie does know how to be a buzzkill.
On the bright side ... Kevin Seraphin is funny
I know nothing about Kevin Seraphin as a player, but he's already one of my favorite people based on his press conference after being picked. Here's video:
To break it down, the following things happened:
- Seraphin walked in with a Bulls cap on and immediately said through his translator how excited he is to be in D.C.
- He nearly got up and left in the middle of a reporter asking a question because he didn't know any better.
- He said through a translator that he hasn't really lifted many weights.
- On the final question, apparently annoyed with how his answer was being translated, he immediately started speaking pretty perfect English. Why have a translator up there? He said he didn't want to say anything wrong, or something like that.
- He tried to demonstrate how he plays by banging his fists together. Yes. The Wizards have always needed someone to literally pound the opponent into submission (and I mean literally).
- He cut off his own translator twice, once to make sure it was noted that he was excited to play with John Wall, and once to make sure people knew that, oh yeah, he can also score.
Most of the other press conferences were boring. This one was great.
The Thunder win the draft again
Quick, what was the one thing Oklahoma City lacked in their series against the Lakers? If you said size and length, you win. But with the 21st and 26th picks, it was going to be a tall order to move up, right?
Not when you have Sam Presti in charge. First, he got the 18th pick for basically nothing. Then, he convinced New Orleans to trade out of the 11 spot for Morris Peterson's so-so 2011 contract and the two later picks. At that spot, he took Cole Aldrich, the tough, physical role-playing center the Thunder desperately needed to rebound, defend post players, score a bit in the post and set mean screens for Kevin Durant. Imagine how much more open Durant will be coming off curls with Aldrich setting screens instead of Nenad Kristic. Finally, he swindled the Clippers into giving up a future first-round pick for that 18th selection.
To recap: the Thunder started the day with two late first-round selections and ended up with a starting-quality center AND a future first-round pick from a perennial lottery team, all for taking on some 2011 expiring contracts from cash-strapped teams. Hey Wizards, if your plan is to stockpile picks and prospects, just do what the Thunder do.
The Timberwolves lose the draft again
I'll just give Canis Hoopus the floor here:
The Minnesota Timberwolves started the night with 5 picks and they ended up taking on additional salary while grabbing Wes Johnson, Martell Webster, Lazar Haward, and a few Euro players that will go over really well in a season ticket pitch.
Oh, but it's worse. Not only did the Timberwolves select Johnson, a nice, but wholly unremarkable player that belongs in the late lottery, but they also allowed the Kings to pair DeMarcus Cousins with Tyreke Evans. Say what you want about potential chemistry problems there, but that could be a duo from hell. Then, they somehow lost a trade to a general manager that was about to be fired.
I will say this though - when David Kahn realizes his team needs one position, he sure goes all out for it. Last year, it was point guard, and he drafted three of them. This year, it's small forward, and he acquired three of them. Maybe he can move on to centers next year.
Finally ... JOHN WALL!
I'm as overwhelmed as anyone by what happened tonight, but really, this all kind of summed up everything for me.
It was a wild, wacky night, but it was also a great night. Kind of like hanging out at a nightclub.