Thursday, June 29, 2006

NBA Forgets E in ESPN

Pedro Martinez had nothing last night, leaving nothing to watch but the NBA draft. Or so I thought.

So much for David Stern's reputation for showmanship. As news, the draft didn't make any. As art, it was an excruciating blut that managed to be both too frantic and too tedious to watch without real pain. Let's put it this way. When Stuart Scott is not the worst element of your sports television show, you've got a cosmic bomb on your hands.

Boo-Ya's fawning interviews with the lucky draftees were as awful as ever, but they were easily outstunk by one of the grossest, most basic errors in TV. ESPN could not keep up with the event it was covering. Viewers channel-surfing the event (and that's just how most fans watch drafts) had no chance of figuring out what was going on. Hell, some of the draftees couldn't.

Thabo Sefolosha, a pleasant young man from Switzerland, was the 13th pick of the first round, and delivered the winning quote. Before Scott could gush a question, Sefolosha glanced upward at the baseball cap atop his head and asked "Should I still be wearing this hat?"

Sefolosha may not have a pro quality jumper, but he can handle the ball of reality. The cap he was wearing bore the 76ers logo. That was the team that putatively drafted him, except Sefolosha, Scott, and the audience all knew his rights had been traded to the Bulls well before the pick was made. None of ESPN's eye-torturing graphics pointed this out, so any Sixer or Bulls fan watching the graphics for an update wasn't just uninformed, but misinformed.

Why? Stern's Napoleon complex, which is reaching rubber room dimensions, demands that trades aren't official until HE announces them from the podium. The audience? Stern holds them in the contempt evident in every pregame player introduction in the league. If those boobs get off on that freak show, they'll put up with whatever I dish out.

Failure to recognize trades rendered the proceedings unintelligble, as the league's franchises swapped picks with the abandon of Wall Street fantasy leaguers on a crystal meth binge. The Bulls may not be done yet. I'll bet at least one draftee went out to party with friends and family last night and woke up this morning convinced he's playing for a team that already traded him.

This dealmaking frenzy, of course, is a strong indication the NBA's front office masterminds placed little value on the draft in the first place. Teams who think there are difference makers available look to trade up in drafts, not sideways. Portland and Chicago swapped the 2 and 4 pick when they could have had the same players standing pat.

Danny Ainge, never one to be left out of a dealmaking frenzy, rated Boston's 7th overall pick so highly he essentially traded it to the Blazers for the chance to dump Raef LaFrentz's contract, and that's not a bad deal, all things considered. Ainge also acquired two more point guards, thereby shoring up one area of his team that wasn't a glaring weakness. Some front offices get hooked on a particular roster slot. In the '90s, the Jets had about 14 tight ends and the Red Sox a half-dozen first basemen/DHs.

Drafts are not-ready-for-prime-time programming and always will be. The NFL knows better than to put its hugely popular draft into the 8-11 p.m. broadcast slot. Drafts are lists, and while people love lists, they love reading them, not watching them.

Long before Jim Grey made his latest plunge into the special world of the Lakers, I switched off the set. I was daydreaming about earlier NBA drafts-the one in which Ainge was selected, to be specific.

Back then, the NBA draft wasn't televised. It began at noon on a Tuesday, attended by a small crowd of reporters and season ticket holders crammed into the Blade and Boards club at the old Garden. The first two rounds took less than 90 minutes, Red Auerbach came out to tell us how he'd swindled them all once more, we ate cold cuts and potato salad, then went home by 3 p.m.

Trading perfectly good corned beef for Stuart Scott is a very, very bad deal.


Post a Comment

<< Home