From phone calls to suits, a behind-the-scenes look
Posted: Wednesday June 29, 2005 1:03PM; Updated: Thursday June 30, 2005 1:59PM
NBA commish David Stern (left) awaits Andrew Bogut's arrival at the draft podium.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
A night's worth of thoughts and observations from the NBA Draft floor and backstage at Madison Square Garden ....
Two top picks, two cell-phone conversations:
"Sorry guys, I've gotta let you go, the American guys are getting a little upset with me."
No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut, to an Australian media outlet, whose phone interview was holding up his press conference [and the subsequent press conferences of Marvin and Deron Williams and Chris Paul] and agitating some NBA folks, one of whom said tersely to one of Bogut's handlers, "C'mon, we're getting backed up, we've got four guys [waiting] here."
"I'll be there tomorrow. Thanks for giving me the opportunity. ... I'll work as hard as I can, I promise you that."
No. 2 pick Marvin Williams, in a waiting area just minutes after his press conference, to Hawks GM Billy Knight.
I think we've come to expect a certain level of cockiness in our pro athletes -- so much so that we not only take note when a player is candidly overconfident, we also start to raise red flags when we encounter one who is absurdly humble. Picks Nos. 1 and 2 in the 2005 NBA Draft covered both ends of the spectrum.
I wonder about Bogut: Perhaps his business-like over-confidence that he will be an All-Star center will stand in the way of him actually becoming one. It's not as if the above quote encapsulated his personality -- he would later say it was "an honor" to go No. 1 and made it clear he was ready to get to work in Milwaukee. But he did take the curious step of printing up a resume for the Bucks last week, and on the day before the draft, in an effort to distance himself from the mediocrity of previous NBA Aussies like Luc Longley and Andrew Gaze, said, "I think I'm much more competitive and much more of a winner than a lot of those guys." Longley owns three NBA rings. That's an interesting way to honor one's countrymen.
I wonder about Marvin Williams, too; mostly whether or not he's too good to be true. Ultra-talented and at the same time ultra-humble, he's a young man who seems to approach the media in a "respecting-your-elders" fashion rather than a "dealing-with-the-nuisance" one. Last week he said, "Atlanta seems like a party city" and actually meant it as a concern; and then on Tuesday said that his dad would live with him as a rookie and adjusting to the ATL wouldn't be hard, because, "I don't do much." When asked for a reason he could be a marketable NBA player, he responded, "I smile a lot; I definitely think I'm nice." Can he be that nice off the court yet on it still find the killer instinct to be an All-Star amongst the big boys?
Maybe all these worries are unnecessary. But this is what you do at a draft -- speculate and overanalyze. That, and comment on suits. Which is what comes next.
Few fashion risks were taken on Tuesday night, as the draft-suit color spectrum stayed largely within the range of grays, browns and navy blues. The most striking suit wasn't even in the Green Room -- it was in the first few rows of stands, where former N.C. State guard Julius Hodge was decked out in an all-cream ensemble. Once college hoops' most quotable man and now a Denver Nugget, Hodge said Elevee -- the same clothier that hooked up Emeka Okafor with his draft tie in '04 -- gave him the getup. "I know I have to get best-dressed of the evening," Hodge told me early in the night. "I put some time into it."
Seeing that sportswriters by nature are not style gurus -- unless Dockers and golf shirts are considered en vogue -- I hit the recruiting trail Tuesday for a fashion editor to provide expert analysis. Tyler Thoreson, the senior editor of men.style.com, the online home of GQ and Details, took in the draft telecast and sized up the sartorial skills of a few first-rounders.
Apparently I wasn't way off on Hodge. Thoreson's take: "Unless you've got LeBron James-level game, don't even think about trying to pull off the white-on-white-on-white look James sported to the draft back in 2003. Hodge wisely takes it down a notch here, though you can see he's hoping to get noticed. It works."
Farther up the draft board, Deron Williams didn't just win the battle for First Point Guard Taken -- according to Thoreson, Illinois' maestro also topped Chris Paul in the style department. Of Williams, Thoreson said, "Now there's a guy who knows how to tie a tie. The dimple is perfect, and the Illini colors are a nice touch. He's one of the few guys out there who may well look better dressed up tonight than he does on the court."
Whereas Paul ... "You definitely won't see a picture of this guy under the word 'style' in the dictionary. Bottom line, Chris Paul is just too good a ballplayer to get away with a suit this bad. It's not only ugly -- there's just way too much of it. Yikes."
As for the big men at the top of the draft -- Bogut vs. Marvin Williams at No. 1 -- neither could be considered a flop. "Looking sharp isn't easy when you're seven feet tall, but Bogut comes close -- without David Stern for perspective you'd swear he wasn't a millimeter over 6-foot-10," Thoreson said. "His suit is cut pretty well, and the bulkier double-windsor knot is a good call for someone his size. It makes you almost willing to forgive him the hair."
And Marvin? "The three-piece suit is making a real comeback, so good call there. The pocket square's also a nice touch, but the way it's folded reminds me of a clip-on tie -- just a bit too perfect."
"Too perfect" seems to be a theme with Marvin ...
The Vazquez Pool
I was consistently entertained by Spanish power forward Fran Vazquez over the past two days. At the Monday pre-draft press conference he willingly did a "thumbs-up-and-goofy-grin" pose for a few Spanish photogs; on Tuesday during the draftees' photo shoot, in which everyone gathered on the MSG Theater stage, he was up there videotaping the other prospects on his minicam. Then, less than a half hour before the draft was to start, I walked by the edge of the Green Room, where he was standing near the rail with a small posse of Spaniards. I saw Vazquez stuffing a messy wad of U.S. dollar bills into the inside of his suit coat, smiling.
The guys around him -- who I discovered were Spanish media members and a man associated with Vazquez's agent -- were making a friendly wager on where Vazquez would land on the draft board. One had Golden State at 9, another had the Lakers at 10, while another had Indiana at 17. And Fran? "Fran doesn't have the least idea [of where he's going]," a reporter from Madrid told me. "He's just holding the money for us."
Vazquez went to the Magic at No. 11. No one was right.
I ran into the reporter later and he said to me of the dough, "I think [Fran] will get to keep it."
After his press conference, I asked Vazquez's translator/agent-helper what the "official" ruling was. The man had just translated a host of questions from American media, but looked slightly concerned and pretended not to understand.
Shocked by Bynum
Martell Webster seemed to have a keen interest in the draft fate of his fellow McDonald's All-Americans. I was standing by a TV in the press area when 7-foot prep center Andrew Bynum, who was at MSG but not in the Green Room, was tabbed by the Lakers at No. 10. Webster, the Blazers' selection at No. 6, walked by the TV after his press conference and did a double-take.
"Wait, was that Andrew Bynum that just got picked?" he said.