Arthur's wild night: inaccurate rumors, a long wait, three trades
NEW YORK -- There are rumors that turn out to have no impact on an NBA draft, like the one about the Miami Heat planning to take O.J. Mayo instead of Michael Beasley with the No. 2 pick. Didn't happen. Didn't have a ripple effect. It just went up in smoke by about 7:15 p.m. on Thursday. And then there are rumors that actually alter the first-round board, like one about Kansas forward Darrell Arthur having a kidney ailment. It was unfounded, but that didn't matter. Fearful teams kept passing and passing and passing on Arthur -- a projected late-Lottery pick based on his athleticism -- until he slipped all the way to No. 27 in the first round. He was the loneliest man in the Green Room at the Madison Square Garden Theater, a victim of a grapevine of dubious information.
The gist of it, according to Arthur's agent, Jerry Hicks: During medical examinations at the Pre-Draft camp in Orlando at the beginning of the month, Arthur's blood was shown to contain higher-than-normal levels of creatine, which can be a possible indicator of kidney failure or malfunction. "Three teams inquired about those lab results," Hicks told SI.com. "One called, we talked about it for 3-4 minutes, and they expressed no real concern. On the 24th [of June], Philadelphia asked about it, and I asked them, rather than doing additional bloodwork for them that day, when he had his final workout with Washington on the 25th, we'd do it in Washington.
"We did the bloodwork on the morning of the 25th, and by noon, [Arthur's kidneys] were determined to be completely normal. I received a message from Washington -- which is still saved in my voice mail in my office -- that everything was normal. Philadelphia received word that things were normal. How this became an issue around the league is puzzling, to say the least."
It appears that only two of the NBA's 30 teams had the full story on Arthur's kidneys; the rest were working off of the rumor mill, the details of which hit the airwaves by the time the first round hit the mid-20s. ESPN broke into its draft broadcast with a report that Arthur was slipping due to an "undisclosed kidney issue." Arthur's mother, Sandra, who was sitting beside him in the Green Room, looked up at one of the Garden's video screens and shook her head. "I knew something had to have happened to make Darrell not get taken higher," she said, "and that stuff was just not true."
What had begun as a celebratory evening turned into a strange saga for the Arthur camp. He, his mother, his grandmother, and his former AAU coach and advisor, Jazzy Hartwell, looked on with a growing sense of disbelief as the first round reached the 20s. The second-to-last Green Room invitee, Stanford's Robin Lopez, had been taken at No. 15 by the Suns. Cameramen moved in close for better shots of the uncomfortable situation. Forwards such as Florida's Marreese Speights, N.C. State's J.J. Hickson, Cal's Ryan Anderson and Spaniard Serge Ibaka were selected before Arthur. Frenchman Alexis Ajinca, a center, was taken by the Bobcats at No. 20, and came out of the Garden crowd to appear on stage, passing directly by Arthur on the way to meet commissioner David Stern.
The body language at Arthur's table, meanwhile, became progressively worse. His shiny green draft-night tie was loosened and askew. His mother and grandmother were resting their chins in their hands. And his little brother, 6-year-old Tarrell, had fallen asleep in his chair. His stamina had only taken him up to the end of the Lottery. "I thought [Washington] was going to let teams know," Arthur said later, "but I guess it didn't happen fast enough."
Hartwell, who had accompanied Arthur to the workouts in Philadelphia and Washington, was also miffed. He wondered about the kidney issue, or if teams had begun to worry about the stress fracture Arthur had suffered in his left leg last summer. The injury has long since healed, however; anyone who saw Arthur's 20-point effort in the national title game against Memphis knew that he was playing at full strength. "I knew Darrell was a lot better than a lot of those guys [in the first round]," Hartwell said. "He should have gone higher. But it will work out. The strong will survive."
Arthur was finally rescued from Green Room hell when the Hornets, picking 27th in the first round, selected him with the intention of shipping him to the Blazers for "cash considerations." Arthur's mother broke into tears almost as soon as the pick was announced, and he made his way to the stage, offering up a wry smile as he shook Stern's hand. The commissioner leaned in close to the former Jayhawk, and, according to Arthur, said "that he should keep his head up, because the whole thing would be a blessing in disguise."
Arthur proceeded to become the most-traded player on draft night. After the New Orleans-Portland deal was done, the Blazers dealt him to Houston, along with Joey Dorsey, for French first-rounder Nicholas Batum. The whirlwind didn't end until early Friday morning, when Arthur was traded to Memphis in exchange for fellow first-rounder Donte Greene and a future second-round pick.
The evening obviously was not a total loss, as Arthur earned three years of guaranteed money by being selected n the first round. But the rumor no doubt cost him money: According to the NBA's rookie salary scale for 2008-09, the 27th pick is set to receive at total of $2,626,100 over three seasons. Had Arthur, say, been taken even 10 picks higher at No. 17, he stood to make $3,938,400 -- a $1.3 million difference.
On Thursday, Arthur could at least take solace in the response of the crowd at the Garden Theater. As he hiked up through the stands, towards the press-conference room, fans rose out of their seats to give him a heartfelt ovation. "It was worth the wait, Darrell!" One man yelled. "You're fine! You'll show them!" said another. Sympathy, in the meantime, had to substitute for vindication.