Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Recapping The Lucky Draft Night

*We’re the champions! We won the BAFS-BAFS Freaks series - clinching the title in a thrilling Game 5. In the end, the team we thought it’s too tough and good to beat succumbed to BAFS by 2 points, 89-87. Twice they had 8-point leads in the second half. We were on the ropes as we lost Enrico due to injury (he played just three minutes) and George due to family reasons (he didsn’t play whatsoever in the G5). I came off the bench (we started Enrico, Valdes and Coco, the subs were me, Pieter and Marco) and together with Coco rallied BAFS to a 82-75 lead. But make no mistake, it was far from over. Jamie Rupp was their man in the final game. 87-82, Rupp made a huge block and BAFS Freaks had the ball. Then Rupp hit 2 free throws and converted a 3-point play in the next possession to tie it with seconds remaining. But we had our golden hero, too. Marco came out of his game-long shooting slump and hit a off-the-glass shot over his shoulder with three ticks left and then stole an inbound pass to clinch our victory. It was fun, the whole June’s series. The BAFS-BAFS Freaks series 2, dubbed The Chapter Two, is going to be held in the New York City in June 2009!

*...With the 26th pick in the NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select... George Hill of IUPUI!

I was lucky, because I know Hill is a good player and citizen, and he’s ready to play. However, almost everybody had to ponder two simple questions. Who? And, from where? The Spurs chose Hill over a handful of more highly touted guards from more prestigious basketball schools – this seems like they truly and really had him as a priority No. 1. A little-known player from a little-known college, Hill will arrive in San Antonio with a chance to earn backup minutes behind Tony Parker (TP was in the war room with Pop and RC, a lot of fun that must have been. And did you see Pop in the post-draft interview with that white beard? He looked like Moses. Hilarious.) at the point, and a chance to score points for overlooked mid-major players everywhere.

*He's a very, very committed kid,* Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said. *He works hard, he's tough. More than anything, he's really grounded. Those type of guys and Pop tend to work well together.*

The Spurs, however, coveted Hill for more than just his winning personality. They think he can play a little basketball, too. One NBA scout, after watching Hill up close for much of the year (and every team watched him at the Orlando pre-draft camp where he showed his very good skills, so it’s not like noone knows him), said he thought the guard could have started for any college team in the country (Hill signed for IUPUI only because he wanted to be around and near his ailing grandfather.

Hill's gifts - the stunning quickness, dogged finishing ability and beyond-his-years basketball acumen – remind a slightly more famous Spurs point guard, Parker. His college coach says: *He's a freak of nature. He's a guy that could play three-straight NBA games, then go out and run a mile - and run it in five minutes.* Hmm, looks like Pop has a player who can play back-to-backs. About time!

What are the top moments from Hill's IUPUI career?

Two will always top the highlight reel: One came last season against Massachusetts. Hill had struggled in the first half against Gary Forbes, a player at the time rumored to be an NBA prospect. Hill scored just four points in the first half. He finished with 30, leading his team to victory in the second half. Another watershed moment came two years ago, during an early season game against Fairleigh-Dickinson. Hill had been hobbled with a stress fracture in his foot, but he begged to play anyway. His coach eventually relented, but didn't expect much out of his injured star. Playing on one leg, and without having touched a ball in weeks, Hill scored 19 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. A few days later, team doctors would shut the guard down for the rest of the season, and he took a medical redshirt. IUPUI lost that game and its star, but a local legend was born.

Earlier the last week, the Spurs put the finishing touches on acquiring Hill. They targeted himl from the get-go of the draft, telling him in the days leading up to it to expect a call if he remained on the board at No. 26. The Spurs were somewhat surprised Hill lasted so long. Probably, team officials surmised, his availability had a bit to do with the anonymity afforded him at IUPUI. *That late in the draft, most often, there are unusual circumstances for a great player to land there,* RC Buford said. *Probably, this is one of those where he was at a small college, didn't play against the best teams all the time, and didn't get much attention.*

The Spurs also grabbed SG Malik Hairston from Oregon, who doesn't do anything that wows you, but the guy really knows how to play. He can shoot the ball, has an NBA body and is very steady. The Spurs were looking for a swingman and I think he actually has enough talent to contribute a bit, even for a coach as stubborn with rookies as Popovich. The third fish in the net, PF James Gist, is one of the better athletes in the draft. He's not that skilled but he can really fly up and down the floor, rebounds and scores in the paint a bit, too. Probably a player for Spurs’ D-League team Austin Toros, but down the road he can be a supporting piece in two years.

What a lucky Draft night it was!

*Now, recapping the Draft night not from the Spurs’ perspective. (Note: This is a piece from ESPN’s Broussard, I’m going to post it here as it was written, with one caveat - I added my tiny observations, notes or disagreements here and there.)

Here re some observations. I won't comment on every team because some situations were cut-and-dried. For instance, the top selections by the Bulls (Derrick Rose /aka The Guy That Wants To Win Before He Eats and Drinks/) and Heat (Michael Beasley) were no-brainers /Hmm, not so quickly, whay every expert kept telling us Riley would not pick Beasley? They didn’t know his slick games? Read my p.s. section for the quote of the century. You won’t be that surprised.), as I think they got the only two players guaranteed to be stars in the league.

I seem to find myself praising Portland every year. Last year, of course, was easy, as the Blazers snagged Greg Oden with the top pick /Don’t forget he’s back in November!/. But remember, the year before, they got Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. This year, they did another wonderful job, parlaying the 13th pick into point guard Jerryd Bayless. While Bayless is more of a scorer who needs to learn to be a better distributor, having him share the backcourt with another combo guard like Roy (who can also run the offense and pass the ball) will take pressure off him. Now with Oden, Aldridge, Roy, Bayless and small forwards Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster, the Blazers are set /Downright scary in three or four years/. I would have lavished more love on them if they hadn't sent Darrell Arthur /Why is every expert so high on him? We’ll see if they’re right./ and tough man Joey Dorsey to Houston. I really like Dorsey as a strong, energetic role player in the league. We saw the importance of toughness in the Finals, and Dorsey would've given the Blazers plenty. Even so, they still had a good night.

Danilo Gallinari may one day prove to be a great player. Scouts say he's better than Andrea Bargnani and - this is key - tougher than most Europeans. But I have reservations about bringing a 19-year-old (he turns 20 in August) foreign player to New York, where many will expect him to be some sort of savior /I agree and don’t forget that going to Knicks is like going to hell, GM Walsh si far from a total cleaning of the team, there are still a lot of worms. Maybe it’d be better to do a total cleansing./. The transition to a new country and a new, better league is tough enough without having the pressure that New York's fans and media will put on him. They already booed him lustily and they haven't so much as seen him take a dribble. That's not to mention the dysfunctional group of veterans he'll be playing with. You want this kid to learn from true, polished professionals, not the bunch of characters /I love this word!/ the Knicks have assembled. Gallinari better be as tough as they say he is -- physically and mentally - to survive this. My gut tells me that if he ever becomes a great player, he'll do so in another uniform.

I like the Pacers' trading of Jermaine O'Neal for T.J. Ford. They weren't going anywhere with O'Neal, and Ford's contract protects them from getting hammered financially if he suffers a debilitating spinal injury. I also like Brandon Rush a lot and think he'll be a productive player in the league. But at best, Rush is probably a smaller version of Danny Granger. Plus, they already have Mike Dunleavy. I also don't expect the Pacers to get much help from Roy Hibbert. /Hell, give Larry Bird the credit he deserves, the After-Draft Pacers look like a promising team./

Minnesota continues to sputter. Kevin Love will be a solid role player and nothing more. I'm not sure O.J. Mayo will be a star either, but he has a better chance of being one than Love, so why the trade? Mike Miller is a good shooter, but he's also a role player. The Wolves better hope Randy Foye becomes a star because if he doesn't, they'll remain weak. /I don’t agree here with Mr. Broussard, ‘cos the Wolves got a bunch of guards and adding a big man like Love is better than adding the next rookie guard like O.J. Plus M-Miller is a bull’s eye shooter./

Mayo didn't look too happy to be going to Minnesota, but I'm not sure being shipped to Memphis will put a smile on his face. A year ago, Mayo handpicked USC to get publicity, and now he winds up going to a team hardly anyone cares about. Wow. He should be able to play shooting guard next to Mike Conley at point, and with Rudy Gay at small forward, that's not a bad young perimeter. Still, it's going to be a long season for Mayo and Memphis. /Better hope that GM Chris Wallace doesn’t screw this up like with the Gasol Trade, Grizzlies fans. He just might accept New York’s offer of David Lee and 50 million dollars for Mayo. Keep your fingers crossed./

If Russell Westbrook pans out, watch out for the Sonics. Not next year, of course, but in the future. Westbrook, Durant and Jeff Green /In a few years, Green will be the next holder of The West Anonimous Award (Mr. David West is the founder) - given to a player who’s on the verge of being a star in the league, but if you meet him across the street, you just don’t know him./ could be a threesome of consequence a few years from now. I also like D.J. White, who can provide the Sonics with some much needed bulk.

I like the Bucks' trade of Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons for Richard Jefferson. In Jefferson, Mo Williams and Michael Redd, the Bucks have one of the most offensively productive perimeters in the league. They still need to upgrade at power forward, but this was a step in the right direction. I like Joe Alexander, though I'm not sure he'll be a star, and playing behind Jefferson will allow him to learn and grow. I also like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute out of UCLA. With Scott Skiles calling the shots, the Bucks should be able to make a run at the playoffs. /The one thing that’s interesting with Alexander is this: my sister is in love with him and that’s a very, very bad omen. Sorry, Bucks fans, I have to tell you, my dear sister liked J.J. Redick some years ago. He’ll make career in the Czech republic./

The Nets' trade was all about clearing salary cap space for the summer of 2010, when LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh are free agents. This move puts them in position to do that, and since they're not going to win big now, that was a good deal. But their draft was solid too, as Brook Lopez gives them a strong big man who can play in the post on both ends of the floor. He won't be great, but with Josh Boone, Sean Williams and (perhaps) Nenad Krstic, the Nets are getting bigger and stronger up front. Ryan Anderson's a big who can shoot, and getting Chris Douglas-Roberts at 40 was definitely a boon. /Quickly: LeBron is a Brooklyn Net in 2010. Brooklyn Rules! Time for the NYC Showdown: LeBron vs. Danilo!/

I like Phoenix's pick of Robin Lopez. A bouncy, athletic, high-energy defender, he'll fit in well with the Suns. I also like Cleveland's selection of J.J. Hickson. Hickson, one of the 10 freshmen drafted, might have been a lottery pick had he stayed in school one more year. A 6-9 power forward with nice strength and athleticism, he averaged 15 points and 8.5 boards at NC State. This was a great pick at 19. When it's all said and done, I think Anthony Randolph can be one of the top players in this draft, but Golden State has an almost identical player in last year's rookie, Brandan Wright. So I don't know how that's going to work. /No notes needed./

I must confess. The first time I ever heard the name "George Hill" was when David Stern announced him as San Antonio's pick at 26. /Well, Mr. Broussard, are you a hoops fan? Yeah? So, how the freaking hell YOU HEARD THE NAME HILL FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THURSDAY?!?!?! I don’t get how people who work for the worldwide leader in sports journalism don’t know at least player’s names. Hill was in Orlando! You know, to say the least./ A 6-2 point guard out of IUPUI doesn't get much hype. But I have to give the Spurs the benefit of the doubt. They got Tony Parker with the 28th pick in 2001 and Manu Ginobili with the 57th pick in 1999, so I'm going to assume the dude can play.

With all the questions surrounding DeAndre Jordan, who dropped all the way to No. 35, the Clippers aren't the place for him. Some say he's kind of lost right now, and it's hard to see him finding his way with one of the league's most futile franchises. /You can call me mad or crazy, but I do think the Clips have a decent team, if Shaun Livingston is healthy and can play. Elton Brand opted out of his contract, but he’ll re-sign with them for less, thus creating (plus with Maggette going elsewhere) a cap space for antoher good player. Eric Gordon, Cuttino Mobley, Quinton Ross, Tim Thomas (!), Al Thornton, Brand, Chris Kaman, Livingston + Free Agent X.Y., quite solid 9-man rotation, ain’t it?/

Oh, by the way, I like what Toronto did in getting Jermaine O'Neal. At first, I didn't, thinking O'Neal was just an older, more broken-down version of Chris Bosh. Well, he is that. But I still think the duo can be effective together. With Jose Calderon running the show by himself, the Raptors should be a factor in the East next year. They'll be more of a half-court team, but they'll be tough. /Last note today: Best wishes for Baby Face’s knees./

*The Free Agency Madness just started, so here’s a list of agents I like for my Spurs:

UFA 2008:
James Posey, Celtics
Matt Barnes, Warriors
Gerald Green, Rockets
Quinton Ross, Clippers
Maurice Evans, Magic

RFA 2008:
Sasha Vujacic, Lakers
Daniel Gibson, Cavaliers
J.R. Smith, Nuggets

p.s.: Pat Riley explains the Beasley pick by saying: *I don't think there was any question on our part, we love Michael.* Liar, liar?

Posted by Foreigner in CS - Jul 1 2008 12:30PM

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