I’ve always thought Kobe Bryant had this unusual desire for attention that dictated much of his behavior. It wasn’t overt like Terrell Owens or Barry Bonds but it was subtly there. He’s never wanted to share the spotlight and he always had this wannabe Jordan air to him. Well my suspicions were validated yesterday when, on the same day the final list of NBA draft entrants was announced, it was coincidentally revealed that an amateur video existed of Kobe ripping anyone and everyone in the Lakers organization at a shopping mall. I realize this year’s draft has gotten a lot of media attention but come on. An amateur video? Let’s just hope he’s still wearing underwear in public.
Anyway, big day for the draft, here’s some links…
· We’ll get to who is staying and who’s going back to school in a minute but there may be a bigger story going on. According to Ian Thomsen at Sports Illustrated, Greg Oden has some lingering health issues. When I first saw this I put it alongside Durant’s bench press as far as legitimacy, but there seems to be several things that league executives are investigating. Among the concerns are that Oden’s wrist might not fully heal, he has a bulging disk in his back, he has knee problems and his hip alignment is off, causing one leg to be longer than the other. It seems like no professional draft can go by without the expected No. 1 pick being doubted in some way. But if Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard is really as torn as he says he is over who to select, I suppose these injury rumors should carry a little weight. Oden made his first trip to Portland yesterday so Pritchard should get all the info he needs. Also in the SI article are concerns over Joakim Noah’s shoulder which he recently said was “75 percent,” but his agent says is 90 percent. Whatever, I’ve stopped listening to Joakim Noah but if his workouts are as mediocre as I’ve read, I suppose his shoulder is an issue. By the way, Noah is interviewed by Andrea Kramer tonight on HBO’s Real Sports. It should be more unpredictable than the Sopranos finale.
· So here’s the final list of early entry candidates for this year’s NBA Draft. Obviously there are going to be some names most people don’t know, but here’s a rundown of notable players and their decisions:
· The most surprising name heading back to college might be DeVon Hardin of Cal. Originally, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Hardin was entering the draft but when it came down to it, he decided to stay in school. Carl Steward of the Oakland Tribune thinks the decision was a smart one by a smart young man. He was rumored to be considered in the top 20 and with his injury history it’s certainly a risk, but one thing’s for sure, Cal should be pretty decent next year and Hardin will at least get a chance at becoming a lottery pick.
· The most surprising name staying in the draft was probably JamesOn Curry. He went with the whole “the time is now” thing for his justification, but it’s pretty unlikely he’ll get drafted. It’s worth noting, and he does so himself, that Curry is now off of probation from drug charges. Sounds like a great time to enter the NBA. Hopefully Portland drafts him. It was originally thought that he would not hire an agent and if he went undrafted could return to Oklahoma State. He still doesn’t have an agent but said he’s not going back to Oklahoma State. Good for him. I mean, he is off probation, he can do whatever he wants. Curry does think he has a promise from the Bulls at pick No. 49. So there’s that to look forward to?
· A guy who I always thought was undervalued in this whole process, Sean Singletary, decided his stock might be better next year and is returning to Virginia. On the bright side, we get another chance to see Singletary destroy Greg Paulus’ ankles, which is a nice consolation prize.
· All of the potential lottery picks that were believed to be on the fence decided to stay in the draft. Jason Smith earned his spot the hard way, with a string of outstanding workouts.
· Jeff Green might have been intrigued by a shot at a national title but realized he was too good to not be in the NBA.
· Like a schoolgirl deciding whether to break up with her boyfriend, Spencer Hawes made a list of pros and cons before deciding his draft fate. With interest as high as the Wolves at No. 7, Hawes is in.
· I guess Paul Hewitt should start recruiting less talented players because he’s now lost both prized recruits from last year with Thaddeus Young declaring for the draft. For what it’s worth I think he’s a lot more NBA-ready than Javaris Crittenton.
· Mike Conley worked out for the Bucks the other day to some rave reviews. I don’t see any reason for the Bucks to pass on Conley if he’s available. Mo Williams is a free agent who should get a lot of offers and with Michael Redd and Charlie Villanueva needing shots (not saying he deserves them, just that Charlie needs them), Conley would be a good fit. I know Brandan Wright rocked their socks off, but Conley is a is a bigger need. He’s a Midwest guy too, which means he might actually want to play in Milwaukee, always a plus.
· The Sixers took an impromptu flight out to L.A. to see Yi Jianlian. I think Yi would be a great fit for my Sixers and it’s rumored they would make a play to get him if he slips, but I cannot imagine a worse place for a 7-foot Chinese jump shooter to play than Philadelphia. This is the city that doesn’t allow non-English speakers to eat cheesesteaks. Al Thornton was unable to workout for the Sixers due to injury and Wilson Chandler was a no-show because of Isiah Thomas’ complete insanity, so they got a look at Morris Almond and Marcus Williams, two players Philly should consider at No. 21.
· Chad Ford has his latest mock draft and behold! It is free! Finally Chad Ford is being unleashed on the general public. I’m not sure how long it will be free because it’s still part of Insider’s content but it’s there nonetheless. Here’s the first five picks and here’s the rest of the first round (I’m as confused as you). He has some interesting choices here. I thought the Grizzlies loved Kyle Lowry so I don’t know why they’d take Conley, No. 7 seems high for Jeff Green, especially given the Wolves interest in Spencer Hawes and with all the teams trying to jockey for Yi, I can’t see him falling to No. 9. But then again, this is Chad Ford’s draft world and we’re all just living in it, so I give him the benefit of the doubt.
· Sometimes finding a decent article on ESPN.com’s Page 2 is nearly impossible but Mary Buckheit turns in a nice feature on some of the top draftees and their excursion to Vancouver to help EA Sports with NBA Live ’08. The whole trip sounded more awkward than entertaining but it was interesting anyway.
· SI.com’s draft expert Chris Ekstrand answers a bunch of pertinent questions. He’s not bad but I would trust NBADraft.net, DraftExpress and the like over SI’s guy.
· After Portland, it seems the team most people are looking to for a draft-induced rejuvenation is the Hawks. Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution talks with beleaguered Hawks GM Billy Knight about using this draft to turn the franchise around… again.
· The Jazz have the No. 25 pick and worked out Morris Almond. As Almond acknowledges in this piece by Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune, he would be a great fit for the Jazz. The best quote from this article? “He even admitted to being a fan of the Jazz and forward Matt Harpring, an Atlanta-area product like himself, even if ‘it wasn't a popular thing to say.’” As I had always suspected, cool kids don’t care for Matt Harpring.
· And finally, you’re going to read a million articles on Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and all the potential lottery picks, but some of the best stories might come from the guys who have no shot at getting drafted. The guys who chase their childhood dreams and are just happy to be working out for one NBA team, let alone 10 or 12. Matt Lojeski from Hawaii is one of those guys. Props to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times for his feature on Lojeski, who used a workout with his hometown Bucks to gain an outside shot at a second round pick. He went up against Corey Brewer and Carl Landry and held his own against the college standouts, even when few eyes were on him. Good luck Matt.