NEW YORK — The 2014 NBA draft at Brooklyn's Barclays Center saw a second straight Canadian go No. 1 overall, yet another injured big man heads to the City of Brotherly Love, a couple of mystery men land in the top 20, an unforgettable moment for a prospect whose NBA career ended before it ever got started, and what seems like an awful lot of solid decision-making by the front offices we so often take to task. Between all that drama and the end of deputy commissioner Mark Tatum's maiden voyage through announcing picks 31 (French forward Damien Inglis, headed to the Milwaukee Bucks) through 60 (former Baylor forward Cory Jefferson, bound for the Brooklyn Nets), there were plenty of lovely little grace notes that didn't make their way into one of our other posts.
Here, then, are 12 things that I found fun as I tried to navigate rumors, catch some commentary on the TV in the media center in the bowels of the Barclays Center, and — like everyone else — keep tabs on what Woj tweeted was coming up next:
1. So, about Zach LaVine's reaction ...
The high-flying, hyper-athletic UCLA product went from sunny Los Angeles to snowy Minneapolis on Thursday, going to the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 13 pick. When ESPN's cameras cut to him, body-language and lip readers might've thought he seemed something less than stoked at the switch:
Zach LaVine to the Timberwolves! pic.twitter.com/qeliuD8zeH
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) June 27, 2014
In the interview room, though, the 6-foot-6 guard said what went through his head was less "Woe is me" than "Whoa, this just got real."
"Just, 'I can't believe this is happening,'" LaVine said. "I've been waiting for this my whole life. I saw the cameras come over, but it was just like a rush of emotions, still. I had to put my head down."
Whether you buy that likely depends on if you feel like the 'Wolves reached in selecting a raw talent who floated at times in Westwood and who believes he's a point guard but might not project as one in the NBA. But that's LaVine's story, and he's sticking to it.
"I'm ecstatic right now," he said. "Words can't describe how I'm feeling."
None that you're allowed to say on TV, anyway. (Although if ESPN's Tom Penn is any indication, you can get away with a little slip of the tongue every now and again.)
2. Asked and answered:
My favorite back-and-forth of the evening came during the interview session for former N.C. State swingman T.J. Warren, who joined the Phoenix Suns with the No. 14 pick:
Are you going to keep dunking on everybody?
T.J. WARREN: Yes, sir.
Here's a sense of what that might look like, since we can apparently expect it to continue:
3. Asked and ... huh? My other favorite exchange, for a very different reason, featured a reporter with The Source magazine and Adreian Payne, the Michigan State stretch four with the colorful ensemble selected by the Atlanta Hawks at No. 15:
A veteran's poise there, Mr. Payne. I'm not sure if Big Boi or Three Stacks are jealous, but I'm sure they're proud.
4. For Lacey: Our friends at the Yahoo Sports Minute have the story behind Payne's unique fit, which honored the late Lacey Holsworth, a cancer patient whom Payne befriended during his time in East Lansing and who passed away in April.
"It really has a meaning behind it," Payne said.
5. Deeper than the game: Speaking of meaning, some more words from Baylor's Isaiah Austin, whose mid-first-round "selection" by the NBA and subsequent eloquence about finding reasons to press on after a diagnosis that means he'll never play professionally represented an unquestioned highlight of Thursday's proceedings:
I don't want to be just an inspiration to people who play basketball. I want to be an inspiration to people all over the world. [...] People have different obstacles in their life that they're facing. I want them to know that they can push through anything, because I've done it. Everyone in this room has pushed through an obstacle in their life in one way or the other. So I just want them to know that they have the power within themselves to do it if they keep faith and a positive attitude.
6. Hi, Rihanna: After the Boston Celtics drafted him with the No. 17 pick in the first round, former Kentucky swingman James Young spoke about his famed trip to Barclays back in April to take in a Brooklyn Nets game alongside pop superstar and noted attractive human Rihanna.
"I got to talk to her a little bit," said Young, who — naturally — signed a management deal with Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports shortly thereafter. "She's a cool person. A sweet lady." (A sweet lady!)
I'm not sure how often Ri-Ri gets up to Faneuil Hall or North Station these days, but if she's ever in the area, Young said he'd be all too happy to invite her to come check out one of his Celtics games next season.
"Yeah — I mean, of course I will," he said. "Who wouldn't?"
7. Stick-handling into traffic: While Young's going to begin his career in Celtic green, his former Wildcats teammate, Julius Randle, will don the forum blue and gold of the Los Angeles Lakers, who chose him with the seventh overall pick in Thursday's draft. He seemed pretty excited to join a Lakers team that, even when terrible, remains the talk of Tinseltown ... although that particular excitement did have him getting a little bit lost when he realized that another local squad had just grabbed its league's brass ring:
L.A., what do they care about? They don't have a football team. They have hockey, the Kings, or whatever, but L.A., they won a championship. The Lakers — when you think of L.A., you think of the Lakers. That is no disrespect to the hockey team. You just won a Stanley Cup. That's pretty ridiculous. A Stanley Cup is ridiculous. So, congrats to them.
Congrats to them, indeed.
8. Jabari Parker, already giving his agent heartburn: No, for real, the second overall pick really, really likes the idea of being with the Milwaukee Bucks: "I feel like I'm going to be able to grow with that organization, and I'm trying to be a throwback player, only stick with one team. This might bite me in the butt years from now, but right now, I just want to stick with whoever's rolling with me."
That includes his family and, presumably, whoever's in charge of regional tourism in the upper Midwest.
"It's not really a long drive" from where Parker grew up in Chicago, he said. "My parents can easily access me, and also I get to enjoy that Great Lake water again."
Jabari Parker for Great Lakes Tourism. Who said you can't get the big endorsement deals in Wisconsin?
9. Dap Game Nik Stauskas: Get some, young fella:
The Toronto-born swingman and former Michigan sharpshooter was pretty amped when the Sacramento Kings called his name at No. 8. But don't get confused amid all that excitement — Nik and his dad Paul were clearly prepared enough to throw down a predetermined multi-step handshake that they'd thought of on Wednesday night.
"I always just throw up the 3-goggles, so I thought it was only appropriate I did it here," said Stauskas, who drilled 44 percent of his long balls in each of his two seasons in Ann Arbor.
Was he concerned about his dad being able to pull it off with the cameras rolling?
"A little bit, yeah," he admitted. "It was a little pressure, but he got it right, so I'm happy."
Less happy, you'd imagine: Wolverines head coach John Beilein, who caught some friendly fire from an overeager Stauskas as he leaned in for the real thing:
Then again, on a night where he saw three of his players drafted — Stauskas to the Kings at No. 8, big man Mitch McGary to the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 21, and small forward Glenn Robinson III at No. 40 to the Minnesota Timberwolves — Beilein was probably feeling too much pride to feel very much pain, even with a throbbing schnoz.
10. DARI-YOOOOOOOO: He might not be coming to the U.S. for two years, but Croatian playmaking forward Dario Saric still represented a tantalizing enough proposition for the Philadelphia 76ers to snag him after a deal with the Orlando Magic that sent Louisiana-Lafayette point guard Elfrid Payton to Central Florida. And thanks to his introductory post-draft press conference, we'll be waiting on Saric's arrival with bated breath.
Some of this, obviously, owes to a language barrier. But there's something in the composition of the thoughts and the way they're strung together that makes me think young Mr. Saric could be a fun quote one of these days:
Hi. My name is Dario Saric. My English is not so very well. I am happy because I feel they choose me the right way, and I'm happy because I will play with teammates like Michael Carter-Williams. He's Rookie of the Year. Joel Embiid. Nerlens Noel is a great player. And I have great pleasure because I'll play with them.
Here's hoping Sixers fans frustrated by general manager Sam Hinkie's second straight plan-for-the-future draft strategy will get on-board with Saric's feeling that no pleasure is greater than that of delayed gratification.
After talking up the Sixers' history — "Yeah, I know everything about the Sixers, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, and I love the team" — Saric explained how he came to know so much about the organization's history:
I learned so much, like, things we have, like you have in America. Newspaper, Google, Internet, things like that. We share NBA, my friends and I. We love so much to playing PlayStation 4 and NBA, and we know so much about Philadelphia, [Andre] Iguodala, and so much guys from Philadelphia. I know everything.
I now intend to spend the next two years imagining Saric as a post-sunsplashed Jack Black from the "Heat Vision and Jack" pilot:
11. The Antetokounmpo family gets live: Check out the amplitude when the New York Knicks selected Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who spent last year with the Delaware 87ers of the D-League and is the older brother of Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, with the 51st pick in the second round:
While the 6-foot-7 Thanasis isn't considered the same level of prospect as his still-growing baby brother, he might just be able to give Giannis a run for his money in the quotables department.
"Of course, it's something new, and my heart is aching from happiness," he said after being chosen. "I can't even talk."
And Thanasis was just getting started.
On Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson: "The first thing I know is he's the Zen Master. First thing I know, he's been everything, done everything now, and he's seen everything. He's the coach who coached Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant. Like, the best of the best."
On his strengths: "I mean, I'm an athletic player, I'm a versatile player, I'm a good defender and stuff. But I think the best thing that I can bring to the Knicks is good character, reliable person, trustworthy. You can depend on me to finish tasks."
Considering the past 15 or so years of Knicks history, "dependable enough to finish tasks" would represent a pretty solid step forward.
Hey, Class of 2014? If you wanted to have your jersey sewn into the lining of your jacket, you're beat. This look's cashed. It's a fun look, a cool look, a neat little wrinkle ... but it's over now. Two lottery picks in the same draft going to the well means you can't come back with it next year. Don't let us just see you with your jersey in your lining. You're going to need something a little bit different.
Evidently, several members of the Class of '14 heeded my clarion call; keeping a little something in the lining was still a bit of a trend on Thursday, but there were tweaks and changes to be found. We've already discussed the heartfelt message in Payne's sartorial tribute to his late friend Lacey:
Not unlike New Zealand's Steven Adams last year, Utah Jazz draft pick Dante Exum offered an interior shoutout to his native Australia, complete with nods to the members of his family:
And former Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart, who went to the Celtics at No. 6, was packing a jacket that featured all sorts of personal iconography:
With Exum and Smart both featuring more intricate design elements than we saw on last year's interiors, I'm wondering — if, of course, the trend continues and isn't deemed dearer'n disco by next year — if we won't start seeing, like, full-fledged multicolored graffiti murals stitched into the suit jackets of 2015 draftees. It might not be as attention-grabbing as the public-facing style signs thrown up by the likes of No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, but from a personal branding perspective, it might make for an interesting little wrinkle. (Because, y'know, draft night doesn't bring enough of those as it is.)
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