We have a confession. As much as we love college basketball, the arrival of the NCAA Tournament always elicits a psychosomatic reaction of indefinable negativity and nausea as soon as some old white guy starts unveiling the teams and seedings. Then it occurred to us that for the majority of our lives, our soundtrack for the Tournament, our Virgil through the underworld of college hoops, has been one man – Billy Packer. Now say what you will about him – he’s a wet blanket, he’s a big conference honk, he’s often wrong and is singularly unapologetic about it when he is proven so, he is a dick, but…well, just go ahead and say what you will about him. Go ahead, get it out. There, better now? Still, the man had been broadcasting at the highest level of his sport for more than a quarter of a century, and his departure is rightfully being treated with the proper respect due a broadcaster of his stature.
By the way, we’ve sort of recused ourselves from commenting on Gallinari because we know precious little about him. But I have to say after watching some of his highlight reel…mmm, not so much. That pick could get ugly, quick.
I should have known better than to think that Larry Bird was having a good day. Oh wait, he picked up Josh McRoberts, too. I take it back.
Is it me or did Robin Lopez just make David Stern his prom date? Where’s corsage, Ropez? Bad form.
The Warriors just got a lot skinnier. Great. Seriously, how does a guy that doesn’t break two bills help you inside? Yuck.
Or not. Didn’t the Bobcats just draft a point last year? REALLY don’t understand that pick.
Joe Alexander is super-pumped. Still, doesn’t moms know how to tie a tie?
Brook Lopez to Charlotte has to be the no-brainer of the lottery. God what a boring team, poor JRich.
Look for the Kevin Love Celebrity Diet in the next issue of US Weekly. Shit, he looks great, too bad he’s going to a city renowned for its barbecue.
One of us is a Kings fan. Chad Ford’s last mock draft had Bayless dropping to the Kings. I didn’t think there was any way that would happen, but the Westbrook pick sure makes it a lot more possible. Frankly I just don’t get it, Bayless will make teams very, very sorry.
And after all of that, Pat Riley was just full of shit. Of course that could change.
By the way, love having Stephen A. doing the interviews this year. Means you can hit the mute during a completely meaningless segment.
With the exception of those moments where I need to get more beer or pick up my son at pre-school (A twofer trip!), we will be following the draft live tonight. Feel free to shoot us any questions or comments you might have.
The first question on the minds of a good 70% of our loyal readers’ mind is what the Warriors are going to do. I frankly don’t think even the greatest of NBA insiders could tell you what they will do, because most of what comes out of Nellie is a bluff. Like the really hot Jason Thompson thing, which actually could be some kind of double-bluff. Here, however, is what I think they should do.
Koufos, Thompson, and Donte Greene all have skills and I could see any one of them succeeding in the NBA. But what they are is big men with nice outside games who I don’t exactly see mixing it up inside and pulling down boards. Sound like anyone else you know? So given that Nellie doesn’t even like Harrington I can’t see getting another one. Neither do I see Anthony Randolph if he’s available, because they also don’t need a young, athletic, unpolished forward with the body of a piece of rebar. This is a 48 win team with leaders and scorers – what they need is role players, specifically a banger who can rebound. If they don’t trade their pick and the exception (very possible) for a veteran to fit that role, my first choice would be the underrated Darrell Arthur. If he’s gone then screw the prognosticators and take burgeoning man-child Marreese Speights or J.J. Hickson, one of the toughest inside players in the draft. I think all three of these guys are being underrated and all could play the role the Warriors need them to.
We kid about the proliferation of mock drafts, an offcourt exercise that increasingly seems to get more attention than anything that actually unfolds oncourt, but the truth is we love them. We love their fluid nature, the prognostication based on whispers and outright lies, the inconsistencies, the way futures of both teams and players can both be treated like a boardgame. Mostly, though, the growing popularity of the draft as spectator sport is based solely on one universal quality of sports fandom – hope.
Idealism and prophecy. Greil Marcus wrote an entire book in which he postulated that these two are inextricably tied to what defines America. If that is the case, then perhaps nothing serves as a better microcosm of that theory than the mock draft. Fans of every NBA team practice the greatest, often most illogical, levels of idealism. It marks the only time of year that Grizzlies fans actually have hope. The prophecy that is the mock draft offers realization of that idealism for those who make the right choice and doom for those who do not. The problem is, it’s mostly delusional.
The truth is that no single player has impacted the playoff fortunes of their teams since Deron Williams and Chris Paul, and even the fortunes of those two teams did not turn until their sophomore campaigns. I guess you could say that Dwight Howard single-handedly turned the Magic into a playoff team, though without some significant help he can continue to make vacation plans for the third week of the playoffs. Really no draft since 2003 has itself made a team into a legitimate contender, and really that was only Lebron. Wade needed a second option (Shaq) and Melo looks like he’ll need a third (I also should mention that Darko, Mike Sweetney, and Jarvis Hayes went in the top 10 that year.)
The NBA draft deals in instant gratification, but history tells us it won’t come for a few more years. Outside of the homegrown Spurs, every other title contender relied primarily on trades to reach that status. This year’s fortunes will likely be aided by this year’s draft machinations only for teams that are already close. The Warriors, taking their 48 wins into the lottery, are a good candidate (Though with the trade exception and Nellie’s disdain for anyone under the age of 28, a trade is likely.) The Heat, just a couple of years removed from a title and with a potentially frightening trio (if they’re not stupid) of Wade, Marion, and Beasley, are another. If you’re buying season tickets in Memphis, however, to get a jump on the playoffs, simply because Eric Gordon could put up 20 a night, you’re probably going to end up very disappointed. But you’re probably used to that by now.
Since returning from our sabbatical, we’ve been doing nothing but research on the NBA entry draft. We’ve pored through eligible player profiles, read up on all the pre-draft camp scuttlebutt, and spent hours sorting through Chad Ford’s garbage. Mostly, though, we’ve been checking out the numerous mock drafts, an exercise that seems really important to a lot of people and laughingly meaningless to most, kind of like The Grateful Dead. Although it is undoubtedly the biggest growth sector in sports journalism, we couldn’t help but notice a glaring need that the Draft Mockeration industry had yet to address, namely the 3rd round. How was it that literally every single mock draft ignored prognostication of a round that has produced such greats as Drazen Petrovic, Craig Ehlo, Don Nelson, and Chris Engler? Then we remembered that the NBA got rid of the 3rd round after the 1988 draft, but by that time we had already done our mock. We didn’t call in sick to work for nothing, so here goes.
61. Miami Heat
C.J. Giles/6’11”, 235/Oregon State
At one point projected as a late first round/early second round pick, Giles falls to the Heat after a negatively-viewed performance at the Orlando pre-draft camp, where he showed up a week late and stole a TV.
62. Seattle Supersonics
Drew Neitzel/6’0”, 180/Michigan State
63. Memphis Grizzlies
Igor Milosevic/6’4”, 195/Crvena Zvezda, Serbia
64. Orlando Magic (via trade with Minnesota)
Fran Vasquez/6’11”, 230/FC Barcelona
The Magic trade up to draft Vasquez again in hopes of double-dog daring him to play in the NBA.
65. Los Angeles Clippers
Sasha Kaun/6’11”, 250/Kansas
Insider reports suggest that the Clips pick Kaun simply because Elgin Baylor is a huge Chaka Khan fan, but Baylor contends he hasn’t forgiven Khan since she left Rufus in ’78.
66. New York Knicks
Jaycee Carroll/6’2”, 175/Utah State
In an attempt to improve the locker room atmosphere, the Knicks draft the WAC player of the year, a married 25 year old former Mormon missionary who majored in teaching Spanish. In three weeks he will be seen “makin’ it rain” with Zach Randolph at a strip club in Lower Manhattan.
67. Milwaukee Bucks
Hakan Demirel/6’3”, 190/Fenerbahce Ulker
The Bucks shore up their backcourt by drafting a 38 year old Turkish BMW salesman.
68. New York Knicks (from the Charlotte Bobcats)
Stephen Curry/6’3”, 185/Davidson
Realizing he made a big mistake by going back to Davidson while guys like Bill Walker flirt with the first round, Curry hops a plane to NYC where David Stern promptly uses the Bobcats pick to select him for the Knicks.
69. Chicago Bulls
Joch Mikrobertsvic/6’10”, 240/KK Zagreb
This unknown lefty showed up out of nowhere late in the Croatian league with nothing but a McDonald’s All-American MVP trophy. Although he posted solid numbers in the Adriatic League, he also displayed a poor attitude, an unwillingness to mix it up inside, and a borderline hunchback.
70. New Jersey Nets
Kojo Mensah/6’1”, 180/Duquesne
Being drafted here merely so the Nets can ask Kojo Mensah who he is and why he’s leaving a perfectly usable scholarship.
71. Indiana Pacers
Henk Norel/6’11”, 212/Alicante (Netherlands)
73. Atlanta Hawks
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute/6’8”, 232/ UCLA/
“Hi, I’m Luc’s phone. But he’s not going to answer because…Luc is a dillweed. So even though you called him like 2 years ago to tell him he should have declared for the draft while teams thought he was still a lottery pick and not a borderline NBDL player, he’s not calling you back.”
74. Miami Heat (from Sacramento Kings in exchange for 2009 4th round pick)
Kevin McKenna/5’4”, 125/Miami Dade High School
The Heat’s “GM for a Day” contest goes horribly awry when winner Margie McKenna selects her 14 year old son. It is later discovered the selection was actually made by Pat Riley.
75. Philadelphia 76ers
Reggie Huffman/6’7”, 216/UAB
Huffman is a 27 year old Junior who has forfeited his last year of eligibility to concentrate on his degree. He did the same in high school and also served four years in the Air Force. Nobody likes a one-upper, Reggie.
76. Toronto Raptors
Kalen Grimes/6’9”, 250/Missouri
Like Reggie Huffman, Grimes sat out his final year of eligibility to work on completing his degree. Unlike Hoffman, his departure from the Missouri squad was hastened by his cracking some dude in the head with the butt of a shotgun.
77. Denver Nuggets (via trade with Portland)
Haywood Jablowme/6’10”, 235/Phuket U.
A complete mystery to just about everyone, the Nuggets were apparently tipped about this Thai league big man by Blazers’ GM Kevin Pritchard. Pritchard did not comment on the pick as he could not stop laughing.
78. Washington Wizards
Derrick Caracter/6’9”, 265/Louisville
The ironically named Caracter is perhaps the only player in the draft who holds the distinction of being suspended for breaking curfew twice…in the same night. This is not a joke.
79. Cleveland Cavaliers
Tanner Bronson/5’11”, 170/Wisconsin
Bronson showed the scoring improvement every year of college that pro scouts like to see, raising his average from .2 his freshman year, to .3 as a sophomore, to .4 his junior year, finally topping out at .5 as a senior. The Cavs are holding their breath that he hasn’t peaked too soon.
80. Golden State Warriors
Rafael Hettsheimeier/6’10”, 260/Brazil
Draft Trivia: Before relocating to South America in the early 1940’s, Hettsheimeier’s grandfather played for the German national team, a country that ironically his family is no longer allowed to legally enter.
81. Portland Trailblazers (via trade with Denver Nuggets)
Davon Jefferson/6’8”, 215/USC
82. Dallas Mavericks
Lorenzo Mata-Real/6’9”, 240/UCLA
83. Minnesota Timberwolves (via trade with Orlando)
Dramatic Squirrel/8”, 11 oz./Habitrail
The Synergy between You Tube videos and analyzing basketball ability reaches its apex when the TWolves select this online favorite.
85. Houston Rockets
Baker Dunleavy/6’5”, 205/Villanova
In case you thought Mike Jr. was the biggest ninny in the family, realize that Baker played in the Netherlands for a team called the Matrixx Magixx. The WNBA thinks that’s kind of gay.
84. Utah Jazz
Trent Plaisted/6’11”, 240/BYU
86. Phoenix Suns
Tron Smith/6’3”, 210/St. Mary’s College
87. New Orleans Hornets
Rob Kurz/6’9”, 232/Notre Dame
Weighing the NBA against an offer from the Matrixx Magixx.
88. San Antonio Spurs
Joey Dorsey/6’9”, 265/Memphis
When asked who had the best draft overall, Jeff Van Gundy cites the Spurs for this pick saying it gives them the toughness they needed for another championship run, a comment considered outlandish until the Spurs win the 2009 NBA Championship thanks to Series MVP Joey Dorsey.
89. Sacramento Kings (Compensatory Pick)
As amends for the infamously officiated Game 6 the NBA gives the Kings an extra draft pick, which they use to draft 12 kids from Guam so that they can reappropriate their 2002 Western Conference Finals Champions t-shirts.
90. Los Angeles Lakers
Glen Dorsey/6’2”, 299/LSU
After spending their first two picks on jump-shooting Euros, the Lakers finally address their interior defense.
91. Detroit Pistons
DeAndre Jordan/7’0”, 260/Texas A&M
The draft’s biggest slider, Jordan is found after 3 hours in the Green Room weeping naked in a fetal position and eating his tie.
92. Boston Celtics
Sebastian Telfair/6’0”, 183/Abraham Lincoln H.S.
With the last pick in the third round Danny Ainge finally reaquires the guy he gave up Brandon Roy for two years ago.
“There is 1 guy that shows up on far too many mock drafts this year that just screams big white bust. And I don’t mean the good kind, like Lotta Topp. I mean like Jon Koncak, Joe Klein, Patty O’Bryant (face it – he’s white), Lampe, Frederick Weis, and Tim Young (that one still stings, even though it was in the 2nd round). And that guy is Kosta Koufus. Do you see him going in the 1st round?”
M: I think Koufos is definitely going in the 1st round, in fact Chad Ford currently has him going to your Golden State Warriors (though we doubt that happens). And in truth he should be, if for no other reason that Hedo Turkoglu needs a Euro uglier than himself in the league. It’s unfair to lump the Greek buzzard with those other guys – he may end up being a stiff, but he’ll be his own stiff. He’s not a banger like Koncak or Klein, and he’s not dead on arrival like those other guys. Koufos can shoot, that’s the big difference, and if he can mix it up even a little bit there’s room for a guy who’s 7 feet and can consistently hit the mid-range jumper. Even if that room is as LeBron’s caddy.
I’ll tell you who looks like the bust of the draft to me – JaVale McGee. The similarities to O’Bryant are frightening, even down to the Irish surname. Seriously, check out a youtube clip of him and tell me this couldn’t have been Patrick O’Bryant’s highlight reel.
Speaking of which, here’s a youtube clip from one of my favorite potential sleeper/busts in the draft, Jason Thompson. Biggest surprise? The Rider student body is hot. Almost makes up for a Communications department that is about as sophisticated as Hayward High’s.
R: Agree on the Koufos assessment. I think he should be a pretty good player in the league. He’s big and he’s skilled and virtually every PF/C in this draft is some kind of gamble. Having said that I understand why people are dubious about him. Probably my least favorite thing about the institution of the one-and-done rule is the insistence of pretty good prospects who had below average seasons to enter the draft solely on the basis of their stock prior to college. Jordan, Greene, Koufos, Hickson were all at least borderline Lottery picks if they’d been able to go from the Preps to the Pros, they couldn’t, they had average NCAA years and are entering anyway. Part of it is probably a personal problem. I like the rule and think it works wonderfully with the Beasleys and Roses and even Mayos of the world, who reinforce their early hyperbole. But the criticism of it creating collegiate mercenaries is only reinforced by the aforementioned four, whose accumulated college success are a one game NCAA tournament appearance and an NIT Championship. But you should see their AAU highlight reels on You Tube.
As for the bust prediction, I’d agree with McGee if I still thought people had him pegged as a late lottery pick, but anymore both the Armani and Armchair G.M.s seem to have him going from the late teens to late twenties, which sounds about right. This is a kid who dominated athletically against underwhelming competition, in an underwhelming conference, who looks like Austin Daye’s younger brother and whose resume highlight presently is a couple of forwarded You Tube clips (let’s be honest, if they edited three minutes of you and I playing basketball and set it to Talib Kweli’s “Just to Get By” we’d probably look like late lottery picks also.) To me in order to bust there has to be an almost unanimous sense of the picks unbustability. Your previous reference to Sweetney is a great example. I’d lay my busts out as follows:
1) Anthony Randolph – Chard Ford has him rated as a Top 5 talent on the basis of intangibles.
2) Alexis Ajinca – Three days ago this guy was barely in the first round, suddenly he’s a Lottery Pick. This did not turn out so well with Mouhamed Saer Sene.
3) Russell Westbrook – I actually like Westbrook a lot. But I like him going to the Pacers or Kings or a late Lottery team. There were questions about Westbrook in terms of position transition coming out of the season and I’m not sure those questions have been sufficiently answered. Westbrook’s two best qualities are his strength and athleticism, aren’t those usually qualities associated with Power Forwards? Sure he can play some point, sure he was effective when Collison went out mid-season, but if you take him at 4,5,6 you’re basically drafting your franchise Point Guard, and I’m not sure he’ll ever be fully effective without some other Point Guard or distributor to play off of.
This all brings up an interesting thought. In terms of the differences between the NBA and NFL Draft, and there are myriad, isn’t the biggest one the following: at the time of the NFL Draft the draft makes sense, and in retrospect it makes virtually none. It’s impossible to assume, from a college evaluation standpoint, that the back-up running back for a mediocre Minnesota Golden Gophers team (Marion Barber) is going to be a better pro than the enigmatic Longhorn who helps carry his team to a Rose Bowl win (Cedric Benson). Benson as the fifth pick, given his collegiate output, wasn’t farfetched three years ago, now he can’t get claimed off waivers. Good luck trying to glean who are your Tom Bradys and who are your Heath Shuler’s or for that matter who are your Peyton Manning’s and who are your Heath Shulers. Inversely the NBA Draft is completely chaotic early on. The importance of workouts, the inability to assess comprehensive career output given the sheer number of preps, one-and-dones and Euros, the constant posturing of agents and coaches and General Managers. But when you look back on the draft, and who picked where, you think “yes, of course.” Look at 2003. You have one of the greatest, and certainly the most touted, High School players in the history of the sport, you have an NCAA Champion as well as 3 other players who had just appeared in the Final Four, and you have a mystery Euro who no one’s really seen and who most recently was playing hoops in gyms where spectators could smoke. Of this group who do you think is going to be the bust? But in 2003 no less a G.M. than Joe Dumars passed on Anthony, Bosh, Wade, hell even Hinrich, to take Darko. So this year if Ajinca ends up drafted before Hibbert (and International Bigs are the basketball equivalent of the Commodities Market, he could 5, he could go 50…Saer Sene vs. Pavel Podkolzine) would it really shock either of us retrospectively if Hibbert ended up the better pro?
The Northern reticulated monk squirrel is a curious creature. A tireless worker during most of the year, it hibernates exclusively in the buttes of Northern California from April to the middle of June. In fact the Northern reticulated monk squirrel would be an apt analogy to yours truly, whose literary industry is in near dormancy from the end of the NCAA Tournament until the NBA draft, were it not for the fact that we just made up the Northern reticulated monk squirrel. But we leave the issue of its existence or lack thereof to old people on park benches, vaguely unsettling Park Rangers, and other squirrel scholars greater than ourselves. The important thing is WE’RE back.
In the next few days we’re going to take a look at the NBA draft – who falls where, who could surprise, who could disappoint, who should have stayed in school, who should have left earlier, and creative ways Rodney Guillory can expense Red Lobster now that O.J. Mayo has gone pro. We’ll do this as a simple back and forth between the two of us, and in an unprecedented interactive feature, we’ll also address questions from our loyal readership as long as they’re pertinent and don’t involve soft porn or people we went to high school with.
M: Let’s start with Derrick Rose, who has quickly become the de facto #1 overall pick. I love Rose, a big, powerful point with innate point guard instincts. But does it bother you at all that he was nowhere near the consensus #1 pick for 9/10ths of the college season?
R: Yes and no. No one was talking about Carmelo Anthony as a potential top 3 pick in 2003. At least not before the tourney. That last 1/10th of the season you’re referencing is realistically the season for most college basketball fans, even most serious ones. I mean realistically isn’t Rose’s performance against UCLA in a Final Four a better barometer than how he played against UAB in December? I’ll admit I’m biased here. I think Rose has to be the pick for Chicago. We know the Bulls have been in a perpetual identity crisis since the end of the Jordan era. Presently they’re a potential offensive power masquerading as a grind it out team. Rose can make everybody better offensively (including Hinrich) and he isn’t a sieve defensively. You draft Rose you change the culture of the Bulls. I love Beasley, he’s a better player, but I’m not sure if this isn’t one of those rare cases where the Bulls need not the better player but the better fit. Though ignoring Beasley ignores the Bulls glaring weakness since they lost Eddy Curry, their lack of low post scoring. But they’ve ignored it for four consecutive drafts, what’s a fifth? Besides, Paxson is obsessed with taking Final Four products. Since Hinrich in 2003 the Bulls have drafted at least 1 Final Four alum every year, 2004 (Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Chris Duhon), 2006 (Tyrus Thomas), 2007 (Joakim Noah) and the one year they didn’t, 2005, they didn’t have a pick. Not saying it makes sense, just saying it’s been their culture.
Here’s the better question, given Beasley was the presumptive #1 for said 9/10ths of the college season, and given that he did nothing in the tournament to deserve dissuasion from that position, why is Miami so intent and finding an excuse to draft someone else? I doubt even David Thorpe or Frank Martin (who, interestingly, was his high school coach) think the presence of Udonis Haslem is a legitimate reason not to take Beasley.
M: I actually agree with you, I’m just raking a little muck to make a couple of points.
The first is to beware of the player who made his rep solely as a result of the NCAA Tournament. Rose and Melo do not fall into this category. They were already in the conversation as best players in the country and leading top tier teams on a weekly basis against other top tier teams. Their performance in the Tournament simply solidified their position in the lottery and moved them from the middle to the top.
Then there’s the borderline first round prospect who moves into the lottery simply as a result of Tournament performance. We’ll call him, oh I don’t know…the Patrick O’Bryant. Looking at the latest mock drafts, which player may qualify as this year’s Patrick O’Bryant? I hate to say it because I like the guy, but it’s probably Joe Alexander. Alexander was barely in the first round prior to the Tournament and now may go in the top 10. In Alexander’s defense, this may be a case of his being overlooked during the regular season simply because he played in a state which even a guy as square as Dick Cheney can make incest jokes about. Alexander did lead a top team in what was likely the toughest conference in the country, so comparing him to a stiff like O’Bryant is unfair. Still, there’s something vaguely troubling about picking a guy in the top 10 who would have been in Ryan Anderson territory prior to the Tourney.
The second point I want to make is how quickly we all seem to have forgotten about Michael Beasley. NBA teams (most notably the Heat, I might add) began tanking months ago for the chance to draft this guy, and now the Heat can’t wait to trade out of the 2 spot so they DON’T have to draft him?! Granted Pat Riley has a little more experience than I do evaluating NBA talent, but I can’t believe the prospect of a Wade/Beasley combo for the next several years wouldn’t have you dancing down the street like Gene Kelley. Not drafting him because you have Udonis Haslem is like not buying a Ferrari because you have a Passat, and I have a Passat. I love that car, but the day you offer me a Ferrari it’s going in the Demolition Derby.
R: When reading on the Heat’s seeming insistence on avoiding the best player in the draft I kept telling myself “only Pat Riley…” but this is the same Pat Riley that won an NBA Championship two seasons ago, after winning myriad in the 80’s. What happened to the Heat? They didn’t just look bad this season, they looked bad. They looked shoddily tossed together, poorly coached and unmotivated. Part of that, of course, is assembling a roster of aging dudes and waiting for the inevitability of said roster bottoming out. But age is the case with Boston and I like their chances of functioning as the big three decay, in part because they’ve got parts. Miami doesn’t. Riley’s spent almost a decade drafting high scoring, one dimensional combo guards and swing men to varying degrees of success (Caron Butler and Dwayne Wade…yes…Dorrell Wright and Daequan Cook…not so much…), which is why his apparent fascination with O.J. Mayo is an inevitability. Still, the draft is incredibly scattershot. In 2003 almost every mock draft around had the Heat taking a burgeoning offensive talent who would redeem Riley’s recent Miami swoon and restore interest in the Heat. That South Beach Savior? Maicej Lampe.
M: I also seem to remember that the other team in the top 10 reported to be interested in Lampe that year was the Knicks. Turns out they did like him, they just didn’t like like him, eventually taking him in the second round. I guess you could say they averted disaster, at least until you realize they selected Mike Sweetney with that top 10 pick. Scott Layden, the Lusitania to Isiah Thomas’ Titanic.
There is a point in any vacation when the undeniable pull of reality begins to weigh heavier than the call of leisure, and no amount of spa treatments, in-room movies, or overpriced mojitos is going to make the looming spectre of Monday morning any less forboding. The same holds true with blog sabbaticals, such as the one we’ve taken for the last month. As we sat on the hypothetical lanai of our virtual timeshare, enjoying our cyber vacation in the wake of the NCAA Final and the symbolic end to the college basketball season, we knew something would interrupt our reverie and draw us back into the blogging fray, Buzz Bissinger be damned. Maybe it would be the arch ceremony of the NBA draft. Maybe Bobby Knight would take a job coaching the Lady Blue Devils. Maybe Eric Musselman would update his blog/resume to include that summer he spent as the hot dog-eating coach at Camp North Star.
But in what feels like a fait accompli conclusion to the O.J. Mayo Era at USC, the school and player justified our decision to follow them this season by providing the most inevitable story in college basketball short of Kelvin Sampson seeking treatment for cell-phone addiction. To recap, former Mayo confidant Louis Johnson told ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” that Rodney Guillory, mentor/father figure to Mayo, had given money and gifts to the hoops phenom for years, most of which was financed by high-powered agent Bill Duffy’s BDA Sports. The story includes a Ronnie Lott-owned car dealership in Tracy (the Central Valley’s Oakland to Stockton’s San Francisco, no compliment intended for either), and visits to the Red Lobster in Inglewood and a store called Men’s Land in Carson. The Profumo Affair this was not.
Unfortunately there is no entertainment to be derived from this sordid affair, at least until a sex tape of Keena Turner and the tall, ugly Kardashian sister somehow emerges. Besides the sheer inevitability that the coupling of USC and a fatherless, suggestible prep phenom would produce, the story has a cast of characters as utterly irredeemable as that of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”. Guillory’s role as head villain is cemented by his having a credit card for a seemingly phony charity for sickle-cell anemia (if not for his expensing a meal at Red Lobster). USC and head coach Tim Floyd, whose office Guillory sat in as Mayo’s letter of intent was being faxed, have just about exhausted their supply of Faustian bargains. Duffy, thus far relatively and strangely absent from criticism, was either directly funding Guillory or had a gross lack of organizational oversight. As for Johnson, despite his self-flagellation and penance on ESPN, it’s pretty clear that had he not been frozen out of Mayo’s inner circle, his whistle never would have been blown. In fact, it could be said that the most innocent character in this mess is O.J. Mayo himself, which is not meant to exonerate him any more than it is to say that Rodrigo was more innocent than Iago.
And so our look at a tumultous year in the life of a basketball phenom comes to an ignominious conclusion. For Mayo, this should matter little. Ironically, just two days ago ESPN’s Chad Ford reported that Mayo’s draft stock was rising as NBA teams, “are reporting that their background checks are coming back as positive for Mayo”. USC will either continue operating as the most well-paying college program in the country or finally collapse under the weight of the Mayo and Reggie Bush scandals. And somewhere in Inglewood, a lonely man will weep into his Buffalo Shrimp as his expense card is denied.