I'm on the couch. Pizza and wings just arrived. Pumped! This is the most exciting night the Knicks have had since...when? If you're a fan who came onboard after the Patrick Ewing era ended, is this the most exciting night of your fan life since Game 6 against the Pacers in 2013? If your fandom pre-dates Ewing, is this the biggest night since game 6 against the Pacers in 2000? Screw the Pacers!
Heather Cox is our MC for the festivities. Why, exactly? And why the hell isn't the actual drawing itself televised? Is sitting through the actual drawing any less exciting than watching DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard in a free throw contest? Cox is explaining how the drawing "will" go down. Hasn't it already gone down? And what's Cox doing explaining the step-by-step process of how a NYC ping-pong-ball machine works? Why hire some hamburger when the filet mignon of ping pong balls lives right around the corner?
Jay Bilas is talking up Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor. I'm feeling optimistic. This is a good sign. Right? Right.
Cox is interviewing Towns and Okafor, in suits, from the lottery room. I don't like this. Draft night's the first night these players start to surrender their private lives to the networks and fan base. I prefer they be somewhere private when the draft order's announced. If Minnesota or Utah win the lottery, I want Towns and Okafor free to curse their luck off the record. There's a time and a place for players to curse their luck on the record, and that's draft night.
Okafor mentions how when he was 16 months old he'd roll up a sock and throw it through a wire hoop - rather, Cox mentions it, and leaves Okafor no room other than to repeat the story. Yay, journalism! Okafor says his dad called it "ghetto basketball." Cox laughs it up. Is there a word in English for when people not from a ghetto laugh extra hard whenever they hear a "ghetto" reference? If we don't have one, German will.
Now Cox is interviewing Emmanuel Mudiay, a.k.a. the Knick Consolation Prize If This Lottery Totally Fails. This may be the first time I've actually seen Mudiay live. Every clip of him playing or talking is always from the past. Mudiay lives!
And he's making good points about how his experience in China's prepared him for the NBA: he's played with a 24-second shot clock, against grown men, in a league that plays every other night. Now I'm thinking Mudiay will be the rookie who makes the greatest initial impact. Now I'm thinking finishing fourth or fifth could be a blessing in disguise. Now I'm reminding myself it's too early to compensate. All I want is a top-three pick. Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts.
ESPN's "NBA Finals" commercial is a montage of players going back to 1980, a.k.a. when the NBA was founded. The first player shown is Isiah Thomas. This is just coincidence, I think, downing two oxycontin in a sudden panic. This is not a bad omen. This is not another night of heartbreak. No.
Back from commercials. Steph Curry's warming up before Golden State's game against Houston. The Knicks missed Curry by one pick in 2009. This is not another omen. No. No. No. No. No. No.
Cox introduces each team's lottery representative, opening with Russell Westbrook, who looks like he's wearing Fruity Pebbles.
Cox: "What can you do tonight to help your team for the future?"
Westbrook: "You see my shirt? All right. There you go. There you go. There you go."
"That's your good luck shirt?"
"Oh yeah, you good. We good. Always. Always."
Next on-camera is Phoenix center Alex Len, who looks like a defendant facing indictment. Indiana's represented by Larry Bird, who I stopped sports-hating years ago. Alonzo Mourning represents Miami. I still hate Zo. Byron Scott is representing the Lakers. Naturally, he refuses to smile. Byron Scott hates three-pointers, the draft lottery, the modern NBA, his children, your children, and your children's children. Nerlens Noel is representing Philadelphia. He reveals his suit jacket lining reads "PHILA." Made the whole room laugh with that one. Athletes are supermodels. Everything they do is charming... as long as they're young.
They're showing Dave DeBusschere celebrating the 1985 lottery. Then comes David Stern introducing the Knicks picking Ewing. Is this a good omen? A jinx? A reverse-jinx to counter the prior jinxes? Alllll the jinxes!
FINALLY. NBA Deputy Commissioner and COO Mark Tatum steps up to the podium. I try reading his face for any clues. None. Touche, Mark Tatum.
OKC stays at 14. Westbrook looks like he couldn't care less. "Wait. We're done talking about my shirt? Who are you people? Where am I? What am I doing here?"
Phoenix stays at 13. Lens nods with mild relief, like he's still facing charges, but not the most serious felonies he'd feared. Utah holds at 12, as do the Pacers at 11. "Things holding to form so far," Mark Jones says. Is this prophecy? Or another surreptitious jinx?
Miami stays stuck on 10. So there IS a God. Although...what are the odds of the Knicks out-lucking the Heat? Ever? I've cleaned all the meat off this chicken wing and am unaware I'm grinding the bone to dust.
The Hornets hold at 9. We laugh a lot about the most "Knicksy" things to happen to the Knicks. Is anything more "Hornety" than the Hornets picking 9th in this draft? A few years ago they bottomed out, missed out on the top pick and a transformative talent (Anthony Davis), and instead landed on "merely competent" (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, their dais rep tonight). Then they added a one-way big man to the mix (Al Jefferson), rose only as high as a middling Eastern Conference seed, and now they're no good and just bad enough to be mediocre enough to land the 9th pick in the draft. Replace Kidd-Gilchrist with Justise Winslow, Jefferson with Greg Monroe, and the 2015 Hornets with the 2016/2017 Knicks, and welcome to my nightmare.
Detroit stays at 8. Things are still holding to form. Denver holds. Sacramento, too. Now we're in the thick of things. Orlando holds at 5. THINGS ARE STILL HOLDING TO FORM! Number four's up next...
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Okay. I'd like to tell you I handled this well.
Or even moderately well.
I wasn't alone, either. There wasn't a single sound until the Knicks landed at 4. Then the entire room gave a sad groaning sound, like the doctor misread your chart and it turns out the tumor isn't benign. Steve Mills dropped his head, a stunning moment in the Dolan era. Mills may have given us the first spontaneous, human reaction from any Knick exec of the past 15 years. They can spin it afterward all they want, and talk about how either the pick or the player they draft with it are a valued asset, blah blah blah...but you can see this was a straight punch to the gut.
Meanwhile, Byron Scott just sits there all smug, still not smiling. He winks, but never breaks character. What does it take to make Byron Scott smile? A thin gruel made up of unicorn tears? A written apology from Jason Kidd? The abolition of the Clippers? What? WHAT?!
I'd reserved judgment on Adam Silver until tonight. I wanted to believe he was a progressive owner, a champion of change. How wrong I was. Tonight was Silver as Napoleon, crowning himself Emperor. Tonight was Silver revealing he's Keyser Soze. The Lakers are run by an inept despot. The Knicks are too. The Lakers are most favored. The Knicks are the NBA's illegitimate big market bastards. It started with the Kareem coin flip. It lasts unto this day. Come meet the old boss. He's just like the old boss.
Back from commercial, we see Dwight Howard. Hey, a two-way big man who went #1 in the draft! Thanks for twisting the knife, Bristol!
The 76ers get the third pick. OK. That helps a little. The Lakers go second. The Timberwolves win. Unbelievable. That freaking win over the Hawks in April is why the Knicks are picking fourth. The entire freaking lottery comes and goes and the only freaking change is the Knicks and Lakers switching places. I rescind my earlier point. There is no God. Or there is, and even He's grown to prefer L.A. to N.Y.
Sitting alone, in semi-shock, trying to rationalize what just went down.
- Barring a trade, only one Eastern team is picking ahead of the Knicks, and that's the Hinkie 76ers, who are just as likely to draft an 11-year-old Macedonian street ball legend as they are Okafor, Towns, or D'Angelo Russell. Joel Embiid could retire to become a Twitter god. Dario Saric may never come stateside. Noel may peak as Theo Ratliff 2.0. The glass is half-full.
- The first three picks will bomb. Towns turns out to be solid but not spectacular. Okafor maxes out as the new Brad Daugherty. Russell's the new Evan Turner.
- The next three picks will blow up. Mudiay is John Wall with a better body. Justise Winslow adds a jump shot and becomes Tracy McGrady. Willie Trill Cauley-Stein Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo is the modern-day Mutombo on the defensive end. Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts.
Aren't the Mets playing?