This and that…
• Adam Silver teamed with former Baylor F/C, Isaiah Austin, for the draft’s most genuinely moving moment.
Austin, who had declared for the draft following his sophomore season and was projected to be a second round pick, was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrom, a genetic condition that forced him to close the book on his career in basketball before he even had a chance to be a pro. Austin had taken out a $1 million insurance policy against career-ending injuries while in college, but Silver knew how close Austin had gotten to fulfilling his dream of hearing his name called on draft night. So, Silver invited Austin to the draft as his personal guest and paused after the 15th pick to say “With the next pick, the NBA selects Isaiah Austin,” after which Austin walked up and shook Silver’s hand while the entire crowd at the Barclays Center stood and cheered. Austin kept dabbing his tear-filled eyes while standing to the roaring applause and then taking the same interview circuit of every other drafted player. Getting to take part in the booming applause and seeing Austin’s understandable emotional reaction really made the night and earns Silver a mighty tip of the hat.
• Speaking of Silver, last year really was the end of an era. When David Stern retired, he took a lot of the fun of draft night with him. The crowd always loved mercilessly booing Stern and Stern would not only eat it up, he would call for more. There was a lot of discussion among the writers here about whether the crowd would continue the tradition by booing Silver, as they did when he announced his inaugural pick at the end of the last year’s first round. But they cheered Silver. They actually cheered. Yes, Silver is guiding the league through the Donald Sterling situation with relative forward-thought. And, yes, most of the crowd knew about Silver’s warm-hearted treatment of the Austin situation by the time the draft began. But cheering the commissioner of the NBA?? It just seemed a little bit wrong … and, for better or worse, robbed the night of its usual bombastic absurdity.
• While the commissioner left un-booed. The crowd did have some good raspberries for NBA TV guest commentator, Isiah Thomas. The New York crowd let it rain down on the former Knicks coach and GM. Thomas, as he usually does, smiled and shrugged off the collected displeasure.
• So, you were impressed with the cojones on Andrew Wiggins for that blazer? Yes, it was a bold choice. But imagine you sit down at the table behind Wiggins and realize that you’re wearing the exact same pattern. Well, it happened to this woman (who we later learned was the mother of UCLA’s Zach LaVine). And I bet neither of them thought there was any chance there’d be a wardrobe repeat on draft night.
• As the draft limps into its second round, most of the noise come from the drunk people (mostly Philly fans??) yelling from the seats behind the ESPN commentators trying to get a rise out of Bill Simmons, Jalen Rose and Jay Bilas. This, friends, is often where the true showmanship of the evening happens.
• Speaking of the ESPN announcing crew, you saw how well-dressed they were. But did you know that Bilas was actually rocking white socks and sneakers with his suit?
• I ran into the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Cavs beat reporter, Mary Schmitt Boyer. Boyer will be giving up the beat starting this Sunday. She has had a fine career, though it seems like her work covering the Cavs never really got the respect it deserve. This is unfortunate because, in my handful of interactions with her, Mary has been a consummate pro and I’ve taken to shadowing her at the last two drafts so that I would always be where a person writing about the Cavs should be. Thanks, Mary, and enjoy the chance to leave your laptop at home once in awhile.
• Oh, and there was this guy. Remember this guy??