After asking my boss for a long lunch break, I headed out of my office in Times Square only two blocks southwest to the Westin with a childlike grin on my face. Nervous and not knowing what to expect, I called my recent best friend and Hebraic brethren Seth Rosenthal from Posting and Toasting and Roasting to see where he was at. After a few nudity-related texts to find out what he looked like ("Fly-ass khakis, blue shoes"), I headed for the elevator when a 6'7 well-dressed black man with glasses walked in front of me. Jelly-legged, I changed my pants for the first time -- and that was when the bullet points started.
- This was my only case of the "Oh My God's" I got all day. The first guy I happen to see is the guy the Sixers will, in all likelihood, select with the 2nd overall pick. No easing me in with Ed Davis or anything? Okay, God, we'll play it your way. I took a breath, summoned my inner Joan Rivers, and tried to confidently say the following:
Hey Evan, I'm Mike from the Sixers blog Liberty Ballers, how's it going?
- He looked down at me (6'7 to 5'11) and extended his hand for the one of the coziest handshakes I've ever been apart of. Big hands, but a soft touch. Evan was unconsciously friendly over the course of our 3-floor elevator ride. If we were on Grey's Anatomy, I probably would have made out with him, but (un)thankfully we weren't, so we discussed his expectations as a Sixer as well as the Dalembert trade. I don't remember every word because I was blacking out like Frank Ricard, but he did specifically say he's excited to play with Andres Nocioni because of how (*gulp*) tough he is. I agreed with him because who the hell am I to disagree with Evan Turner? We walked off the elevator together into the lobby in front of the sea of media members awaiting the prospects' arrival. Everyone turned to look at Turner and me. I can only assume they thought I was his bodyguard or part of his posse. I wished him luck, shook his hand again (just as good as the first time), and told him I'd see him in there. He flashed his infectious smile, said "Nice meeting you," and walked away, having already stolen my heart.
- Feeling elated, I began to scan the ground for Seth's blue suede shoes. After shining a couple old-fashioned style, I found him, exchanged a few pleasantries, and discussed how ridiculous it was that we were here. As a Knicks guy, Seth didn't have much to cover unless Jerome Jordan crashed the party, but he came by anyway because he has nothing better to do with his time and likes to make his mother proud. Prada and Tom Martin (coming all the way from Texas - holy frequent flier miles) from The Dream Shake met up with us to form the ultimate SBN foursome. If we were the Fantastic Four, I'd probably be Jessica Alba. Just putting that out there.
- When Jonathan Givony from DX walked by, everyone held their breath. Don't let the small stature fool you -- he's big time. More on him later.
- The interview segments were broken into two 30 minute groups. The first group was Turner, Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward, Ed Davis, Luke Babbitt, Cole Aldrich, and Xavier Henry. The second was Ekpe Udoh, Paul George (!), Al-Farouq Aminu, Derrick Favors, Patrick Patterson, media mogul DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, and Wesley Johnson.
- Equipped with my audio recorder, cheap digital camera that I stole from a friend, and 4-5 questions for each prospect, I marched in
arm in armside by side with the SBNation crew and was momentarily disoriented. So many things were happening quickly, I didn't get a chance to get a prime spot by Evan's table. I decided to snap a quick picture and stand in the back while reaching to get some decent sound. The shiny bald head in the foreground is John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News.
- After a few guys foolishly left for other tables, I got to get closer to Evan and ask a few questions. He gave me a look like he remembered me and joked around with me quite a bit over the next 15 minutes. Here are some of my favorites over the course of the interview.
On playing in Philadelphia:
I haven't heard anything negative. Coach Collins just says as long as you play tough, you're a competitor, and you play with passion, there should be no reason you wouldn't love to play in Philadelphia.
Smallwood: Are you an NBA 2-guard?
I guess so. I'm a player, I'm a ballplayer, that's all I can really say. Can't really say I'm a 2-guard, can't really say I'm a small forward or a point guard. I just think I do what needs to be done. I dribble, I shoot, I pass, I play defense, and I compete. I'm a basketball player.
Best advice given to you:
Be myself, enjoy myself and don't get into money because money is the root of all evil.
My first question - Any lingering effects from the back injury?
No I'm fine, feel like a million bucks haha
Me again - Have you been tweaking your jump shot to get ready for the added distance?
No, just repetition, repetition, repetition. I work on my jumper every day, I make 550 shots every day. Shooting's mostly confidence. At the same time, I'll never be a 3-point shooter. I think if I just rested on 3-point shots, I'd let the defense off the hook. I thrive on penetration and also shooting the mid-range ball and getting my teammates involved. I'm not a 3-point shooter, I just think I gotta be able to hit it consistently, that's all.
On Doug Collins:
He's so passionate about the game. If I get an opportunity to play for him, I'd be really excited. He's a really cool guy who knows a lot about the game and if I get picked, I can't wait to pick his brain.
About the Wizards picking John Wall over him:
You live, you learn, you don't think about it. You focus on what you can control. If you think about it, you're getting paid to play basketball. Your job is to wake up and play basketball, so what's to complain about?
Me - Has Collins told you what kind of team you're going to be?
He's told me a little bit but I can't really tell you all that. Haha
Other assorted quotes:
I definitely think Philly is the best fit.
Willie Green's good.
You go in to win, you don't go in to be second fiddle or say I competed. You go in to be the best.
He also said he plans on improving his three-point shooting to about 40% (!), tightening his handle, and taking smaller defenders into the post to get them into foul trouble.
Let's just say I am completely, 100%, no-doubt-about-it-get-this-kid-in-uniform-now sold on Evan Turner. I will be as melancholy as melancholy gets if we don't take him. You won't like me when I'm melancholy....
I got a chance to speak with 12 of the 14 green room invites; everybody but Gordon Hayward and some dude named John Wall. The "Wall" of people was too impenetrable so I decided to get some more Paul George. The rest of my Media Day shenanigans will be documented at Ridiculous Upside, but here's a few bullet points to wet your pallet before I post that tomorrow morning.
- Patrick Patterson, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, and Turner gave the best interviews. As I left each interview, I said "Thanks _____ and good luck," and these guys looked specifically at me and earnestly said "thank you" back. Really surprised with how pleasant basically everyone was. Except.....
- DeMarcus just wasn't having any of it.
- Cole Aldrich is less of a punk than I thought he'd be. Actually, he's not much of a punk at all.
- Greg Monroe has a very deep voice.
- Al-Farouq Aminu is about as shy as it gets.
- I told both Evan Turner and Derrick Favors I hope to see them in Philadelphia. Ed, if you're reading (and I know you are), get me both players so I don't disappoint them. Ready, go.
- Paul George wasn't there at the beginning, and I got sad and took this picture.
- But then he came! And stayed a few minutes later than everybody else, which was cool. I got some good stuff from him also, so be sure to check out RU tomorrow for the goods.
- As the second round of prospects walked away, John Wall reached out for a low five to Jonathan Givony. It was the coolest thing I've ever seen.
It was truly a Draft Fanboy's dream. A kind of coolness that can only be topped by the NBA Draft the following night. Here's to hoping. More to come, folks. Another thanks to SB Nation for giving me the opportunity (can't say that enough).
Stay tuned for more.