Some notes, quotes and observations from the 2013 NBA Draft Media Availability Day at the Westin Hotel Times Square in NYC…
Nerlens Noel entered favoring his surgically repaired knee slightly. Though, honestly, I would not have noticed it if I hadn’t been looking for it. And he absolutely looks as skinny as advertised. He repeated that his recovery was “ahead of schedule,” but didn’t put a definite time table on when he would be able to play. He was soft-spoken and compared how he would approach the adjustment from college to the NBA the same way he dealt with his transition from high school to Kentucky, on “defense first… rebound and block shots” and then contribute more offensively as time goes on. A lot has been made of how other potential top pick, Alex Len, dominated Noel in Noel’s first game of the season. But Noel continued to develop in the months leading up to the game where he tore his ACL to the point where, if the injury had not occurred, we might not be having this “there’s no clear top pick” discussion. Noel also narrowly edged Ben McLemore for my inaugural Media Availability Day Best Dressed Award. The kid can sure rock a pocket square…
Alex Len confirmed that his own recovery is going well. Coming back from a stress fracture in his ankle, Len is off crutches and expects to be out of the walking boot that caused his own slight limp in three weeks. He stressed that he would, in fact, be ready for the start of training camp. When asked what his case for going first overall was, Len replied “I don’t care where I go. It’s all about fit. I think Cleveland is a great fit for me too. They have really good guards and I think it would be a great fit for me.”
(on what type of player the team who drafts him will get) “They’re gonna get a tremendous work ethic from me. I’m just gonna work my tail off. I can contribute on the defensive [end of the] floor right away and as time goes on I can be a force on the offensive end of the floor.”
CtB: “When you met with Cleveland did you get to talk to Vitaly Potapenko at all?”
AL: “Yep, definitely. Him and Ilgauskas. They both speak Russian, so it was fun.”
Otto Porter was his well-rounded, ready-to-play self. When I asked him if, after working out for the Cavs, he considered himself in play for the top pick, he responded, “Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I’m one of the top guys that they’re looking for.” Porter worked out for the Cavs along with other players like Victor Oladipo and Ben McLemore.
Cody Zeller mentioned his brother, Cavs center, Tyler, a lot. “I talked to Tyler a lot about going through the [predraft] process,” he said, though he admitted that it’s something you have experience for yourself. When asked about Victor Oladipo, he praised his former Hoosier teammate’s work ethic, about the way he approached everything — whether it be practice, a game against a tiny overmatched school or a Sweet 16 game — exactly the same way. That’s the lesson, Zeller said, that he took from Oladipo and tried to instill in himself. He also mentioned being “undersized” quite a bit, by which he seemed to be talking about the infamous Zeller first-year-pro physique. And, yes, this Zeller also looks lean. Not Nerlens Noel lean… but, at least, Tyler Zeller lean.
Speaking of lean, Anthony Bennett looked slimmer than his listed weight of 239 pounds. He also named Carmelo Anthony as his favorite player. While his shoulder surgery has prevented him from working out for teams, I wonder if he is trying to convince teams that he is in the Melo-esque mold of being able to play the three in big line-ups and the four when his new team goes smaller. All depends on how well Bennett can keep up with small forwards. Would the Cavs be interested in a starting lineup of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao? It’s not a lineup without its intrigue.
Bennett also talked about how excited he is by the state of Canadian basketball — how players like himself, Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson and others are shaping up to be some nice intercontinental competition with the US team.
McLemore was asked if he thought he was the most “picked at” player in the draft. He responded “This is life… I can handle it.” He continued saying that pre-draft criticism of him has not given him a chip on his shoulder. “I’m blessed to be here,” he said. Very civil words, but they don’t exactly wipe away the criticism that McLemore lacks the aggressiveness needed to be a successful pro.
On the other end of the aggressiveness scale sits Media Availability darling, Oladipo. Everything you’ve heard about Oladipo’s charisma is true. Reporters seemed to be falling over each other to get to him and many listened to his responses with a calm, beatific look, as though they were watching someone truly great. Oladipo says he feels like he is “still an underdog” and will always approach basketball that way. He talked about the discipline and demand for hard work instilled by his parents who immigrated from Nigeria. Oladipo’s own wonder at where his hard work had brought him seemed genuine. When he talked about getting to “live his dream,” his eyes got a far-off look, like his situation was still caught somewhere shy of reality.
(on if he sees going Number 1 as a possibility) “There’s a possibility for everything, you know? I just put it in God’s hands and let him work. You know, I just sit back and wherever he wants me to go, that’s where I’m gonna go.”
(on whether he’s expecting any surprises at the draft) “Oh, I think a lot of people might be shocked about some things.”
The buzz word today was “fit.” Almost every player talked about fit being the biggest indicator for success with their new team.
When asked what the first thing he’s going to do when he hears his name called tomorrow, Trey Burke looked surprised by the question then responded, “I’m gonna smile.”
Canton’s own C.J. McCollum said he developed his scorer’s mentality in high school. As a 5’11” player, he said he know he’d have to score in bunches to be considered for any scholarships.
Seeing TNT’s Craig Sager in a plain white button-down shirt and paternless pants. Never thought I’d see the day…
If you feel like you don’t know who the Cavs are going to pick, you’re not alone. I ran into Mary Schmitt Boyer, Cavs beat writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and she said, while she felt it would be “one of the centers,” she couldn’t tell for sure which way the team was leaning either. Right now, I’m saying the Cavs pick Noel, Len or Oladipo (yep, he got to me too!).