NEWARK, N.J. — At one of the most wild and wacky NBA drafts in recent memory, there were tons of things going on behind the scenes.
Here’s a sampling of what was seen and heard in Newark and Manhattan over the past few days.
The most stirring moment was seeing Brampton’s Tristan Thompson go fourth overall, the highest a Canadian has ever gone (Bob Houbregs once went second overall, but though he was born in Vancouver, he grew up in Seattle similar to how Steve Nash was born in South Africa but grew up in Canada).
A close second was when Cory Joseph made it two Canadian first-rounders later on.
It was amusing to see Thompson’s reaction, while seated near the podium for a radio interview as Jonas Valanciunas — the man he was battling in order to be selected fourth by Cleveland — went right after him to his hometown Raptors. Thompson’s look was one of mild surprise, but he later praised Valanciunas.
NOT A TURKISH DELIGHT?
Multiple sources told the Toronto Sun the belief that the Raptors were high on Turkish centre Enes Kanter was a smokescreen. Apparently the Raptors braintrust was never sold on the big man based on his limited history and was quite happy to see his stock rise in the days leading up to the draft.
If he was available at four, it appears they would have passed on Kanter or traded his rights.
Draft day is the culmination of a lifelong dream for players and their families but it can also be very stressful.
A visibly exhausted and relieved family member of Alec Burks, drafted 12th overall by the Utah Jazz, told a pair of Toronto reporters “you wouldn’t believe how hard this is.” The senior Burks said there was a lot of angst building up that finally dissipated when Alec was selected.
Meanwhile, Kemba Walker’s sister was quite talkative.
When told Kemba had many fans in Toronto and about one who even had a “draft Kemba” banner on his balcony, she laughed and added Walker had told his family he believed he would be going to Toronto. Walker definitely had a backer or two in Toronto, but the team was only going to consider him if it acquired another lottery pick.
Walker’s sister, who lives in Charlotte, said her brother was overjoyed to be heading to Michael Jordan’s Bobcats. The family is from the Bronx though, so Walker’s sister stepped away to hear who the Knicks were selecting when the 17th pick came around.
It might not have had the star quality of other recent drafts, but according to Nielsen figures, the average was 3.2 million in the U.S., the highest draft rating in 15 years.
With an expected lockout only days away, NBA commissioner David Stern received an even more unpleasant reception than usual.
The crowd was on him from the start and gave him one final Bronx cheer after he gave way to deputy Adam Silver following the final pick of the first round.
Speaking of silver, the “sexy Silver” chant from the crowd never gets old.
The crowd also had love for former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy who got several loud chants of appreciation.
Newark native Kenneth Faried got one of the loudest cheers of the night when he went 22 to Denver. Iman Shumpert’s stunning selection at 17 by the Knicks had the fans banging their seats and screaming in anger.
ODDS AND ENDS
Brandon Knight and Kawhi Leonard — who both slipped — didn’t look too pleased about their drop ... Was interesting to see 2010 Final Four rivals Kyle Singler and Shelvin Mack go back-to-back in the second round ... Thumbs down to the NBA for the ridiculous wait time between individual availability. This reporter spent picks 6-21 away from the proceedings, waiting to talk to Thompson