*****Check bottom of text for live blogging updates
Last update of McHale-Stack-Hoiberg press conference at 1:45 a.m.****
It’s less than four hours before the start of the NBA Draft and as most regular readers know, I claim no expertise in these matters–life’s too short, and college hoops loses out to my family, music, politics, etc., in terms of filling my noggin with temporarily useful trivia. But I know that many of you folks are both knowledgeable and passionate about this draft thing, and frankly, more than my own take, I want to do my part to expand the conversation among you. For example, those of who with more than a passing interest in the Wolves’ prospects tonight who don’t know about Stop and Pop’s Canis Hoopus site www.canishoopus.com, well, it is probably a must-read–and more informative than what you’ll get out of me this evening. Fortunately, S+P can’t help himself and doesn’t hoard his wisdom, so he’ll probably come by at some point to offer an abridged version of his reaction here.
Ironically, because I’m not as consumed by the event as I am for the actual basketball games, it will be easier for me to bring along my laptop to the Target Center and do that newfangled "live blogging" thing that’s so rad with the kids. I have no idea how that will unfold, and whether you’ll get many frequent updates or the intermittant chapter and verse. We’ll see how it plays out.
Before that happens–and before I let you folks get in your pre-draft thoughts, if you have any and care to share them–I’ll just say that I feel more confident about the Wolves’ braintrust this time around. They’ve clearly put more person-hours into breaking down the prime prospects, both during the college and international season and since the lottery. And I’ve been impressed with the way they have kept their options open, to the point where they seem like they are in the mix to get Beasley in a deal, or otherwise not only land a player they really like but some other assets besides. Now just because they have put themselves in a position to participate in the multitude of scenarios that are doubtlessly flying back and forth today doesn’t mean they will exercise the right timing, boldness, and restraint and ultimately make the best decision. But the commitment and thoroughness thus far is already an improvement over the organization’s behavior in most of the previous drafts.
My own gut feeling–and that’s what people call it when their brains can’t be definitive on a subject–is that neither Mayo nor Love is a perfect fit but would still substantially improve the ballclub, and that Beasley, if the scouting reports on his talent are accurate, would be a great boon and perhaps mark a turning point for the franchise. FWIW, I have no problems with the "character" of either Mayo or Beasley in anything I’ve read (Love is apparently so above reproach there are no "character" comments necessary). In fact I thoroughly enjoyed Beasley’s comments about being a teenager and not being sure he wants to try and act 25, 30, or 40 years old right now. Refreshing honest, common sense, and, yes, more maturity than I would have had at that age.
Okay, see you down at the Target Center…
6:34--Everyone knows the Bulls are taking Derek Rose. Jay Bilas just said "he’s better than anybody they’ve got" thus erupting out of the gate with the first hyperbole of the evening. Rose may or may not turn out to be better than Luol Deng (I wouldn’t bet the house on it), but the casual way Bilas tossed this out makes me realize that I’m going to have to hold my tongue or spend my time kibbutzing all the yo-yos and the dubious things they say.
6:43: Heat take Beasley. But that’s not surprising, nor should it be if the Wolves take Mayo third. Once you have the commodity, then you can wheel and deal if you have to. And there are a lot of teams that want Beasley, and Mayo. If Beasley and Mayo are still with the Heat and Wolves, respectively, on opening day, I’ll be a little surprised. Then again, the Wolves may step out and take Love at the #3 anyway.
6:48: Wolves wait until the very end of their time before making their move. And, no surprise, they go with Mayo. Here in the media room, we were told as we came in that McHale would not come down and talk to us until after the second round, giving more credence to the notion that a trade may still be in the works. But thus, it is nothing but rumors.
Talking to Stephen Smith, Mayo reiterates that he can play point guard. Also he wearing glasses. Don’t know if that’s relevant–obviously there are plenty of pros who wear contacts on the court.
Now Pat Riley is on, giving every indication that Miami is going to hang on to Beasley. That would be the smart play.
Seattle takes Russell Westbrook, the first big surprise of the night.
7:02: Memphis takes Kevin Love, as Kevin McHale bites his knuckle. Almost all the scuttlebutt that has seeped out about the Wolves behind the scenes has McHale favoring Love above anybody. Certainly Love is a great fit for the Grizz, who can play inside and also spread the floor. But the same questions he would have faced in Minnesota will be asked–and, one way or the other, answered–in Memphis. Can he play D and bang enough to maximize his value in the paint?
7:07: Gallinari to the Knicks. Over at Canis Hoopus, Stop + Pop was saying he thought whoever the Knicks picked would wind up in Minnesota. Well, if so, Gallinari was in the Wolves top four, and IMO was right with Mayo and Love in the second tier on their board.
Just got word that Fred Hoiberg will be addressing the Wolves draft party downstairs. Be back in awhile…
7:21: Hoiberg didn’t sat anything surprising.Tim Floyd, his coach at USC (and Hoiberg’s coach at Iowa St.) said Mayo is the most competitive player he has seen in his entire life. Hoiberg loved the interview the team did with OJ–one on zero he called it, meaning, I think, that Mayo didn’t have any handlers. He also said that there was "a realistic chance Miami would take him at #2." He also said he thinks Mayo "will be able to come in and help us right away."
Asked by Jim Petersen what the Wolves’ biggest need is now, Hoiberg sensibly said "it would be nice to get some size." He pointedly mentioned that there are some free agent centers coming out that they will look at. And on the subject of whether the Wolves will leverage the two second rounders into something else, he said that they might go after some big men from Europe as opposed to getting some more 19-year olders on an already young team.
7:58: What do you do if you’re the less talented of the two twins and play the same sport at the same school–you rock an Oscar Gamble style Afro. Robin Lopez gets picked by Phoenix, announcing to the world that they are indeed going in a totally different direction.
And leave it to Golden State to pick the biggest gamble in the draft, the guy people have called a future superstar and a clueless no-hope, LSU center/power forward Anthony Randolph. Asked by Stephen Smith whether he needs to hit the weight room, Randolph scoffs and says nah, not really, he’s always played the biggest and toughest guy on the other team. Mebbee so, but at 6-10 and a robust 197 pounds, NBA opponents only hope he matches up with their 4’s and 5’s in the pros.
8:03: Clusterfuck time in the media room as it was just announced that OJ Mayo will be available for a conference call in 3 minutes. Everyone is piling in with their audio equipment. These "immediate reactions" never produce squat. Then again, it is not for me but for the sound byte culture who just need verification that he lives and breathes.
My favorite, "introduction to the media" quote remains Stephon Marbury
the day he was physically introduced to the Twin Cities media, when he said "point guards are created from God."
Okay Mayo is on, says he is totally excited happy to be part of organization ready to get started.
Q; Similar to Foye, how do differentiate?
A: Fit in however, bring winning attitude.
You get the gist. Asked if worried about being in smallish market says just happy name called.
Preference point or two guard?
Whatever team needs.
Waht mean to be here tonight after saying at age 9 told Mom wanted to be in NBA?
happy name called.
How much better can make team?
Don’t know just come in play with winning attitude make as well as possible.
Did he ever play with any Wolves?
Excited to play with Jefferson?
Most definitely. big guy determined to work hard, so happy to be a part of team plaing alongside Jefferent, Brewer, Randy Foye…
Never been to Minnesota.
Larry Fitzgerald asks the first loaded question: What have you heard about Randy Wittman as a coach?
Mayo adroitly sidesteps, says he hasn’t heard much and then drowns the rest of the sentences in platititudes.
Okay end of interview. "Thanks, see you guys tomorrow."
8:18: Portland swings a draft night deal and from my vantage point it looks like Kevin Pritchard strikes again. Jarrett Jack was a subprime point guard and as much as the esteemed S+P likes Brandon Rush, getting a highly-regarded backcourt pick like Bayliss and an intriguing big man like Ike Diogu seems like a good deal for Portland. After getting fleeced by Golden State in the Murphy-Dunleavey deal, they have now unloaded Jermaine O’Neal and pinned their hopes on a point guard combo of AJ Ford and Jarrett Jack. Meanwhile, Portalnd land is swimming in quality big men. Diogu is probably fourth or fifth on the depth chart at the 4/5 slot. Does anyone else think a Hornets-Blazers Western Conference Finals is going to happen for two or three years in a row in the next five years?
8:37: Just heard from a stray conversation involving a knowledgeable NBA source (don’t try because you’d never guess who it is) that "Seattle isn’t hanging on to Westbrook." I have no idea if this is accurate, but I know this source (who is not connected to the Wolves) has pretty good connections around the league.
9:17: Two picks to go before the Wolves’ first second-rounder and a couple of guys S+P likes from championship clubs–Douglas-Roberts and Chalmers–are still on the board. So are the remnants of a slew of bigs, including a guy Andy G has talked about for months, Deandra Jordan from Texas A&M. The Pistons and Celts are up first, but it looks like the Wolves are going to get a shot at players that some of my more knowledgeable readers think can be solid contributors.
9:32: Okay, both the Pistons and Celts have taken seniors, leaving CDR and Chalmers and Jordan on the board–Minnesota has a shot at two of the three, or maybe folks like the big kid from Turkey. This is where knowledge is nonexistant, but I’ll be happy to hear how McHale and company gush about them in about twenty minutes.
9:40: Nikola Pekovic of Montenegro is the #31. Good news: A big man. All you draft nuts, didn’t I read somewhere that he’s tied up in a long-term contract? This would confirm what Hoiberg was telling the draft party; that the team wanted to stow a couple of Euros and let them develop rather than having more teens over here on the roster. On the other hand, two or three years ago, the Craig Smith draft I think it was, they took another second rounder from Europe and said all kinds of nice things about him–brought him in the next day even–and I’ve never heard a word about him since.
According to the NBA draft guide spiral notebook they hand out here, Pekovic is 6-11, 265, was 22 in January, played for a team in Serbia last year and under strengths it is said: "Possesses great strength and is skilled and efficient in the low block. Passes well out of double teams." Hits better than 3/4 of his free throws. Who knows?
9:49: Chalmers at #34. So, a big man and a point guard in the second round. And for the second year in a row, the Wolves get the MVP of the Final Four. I’m sure that S+P and the rest of you guys who watch college hoops can give us more on Chalmers than I can. From his bio material it looks like he gets a lot of steals. For a 6-1 guy it looks like he rebounds well too. And he hit the big shot that forced overtime in the championship game against Memphis.
As I said many times, I’ll speak with a little more authority when I can actually watch these guys play. But, whether you draft for need or not, getting a legit big and a legit point guard makes me happier than otherwise.
10:16: For those who don’t usually read the comments, scroll down and catch S+P’s link to John Hollinger, who says if Pekovic wasn’t tied up to a big European contract he would have taken him third overall. yes, he said third overall. And Stan Van Gundy says it was a no brainer to take Pekovic as the first pick of the second round because second-rounders aren’t on the books and this kid will play for big bucks in Europe for a couple of years.
Anyway, it is now 10:18 and the media is openly grumbling that McHale hasn’t come down yet. Maybe he’s working the phones trading the players we were just raving about?
10:32: McHale still isn’t down and there is rustling now that something big may be in the works. Maybe something with Miami and bigger than two second-rounders for Chalmers. The daily guys are going crazy because their deadlines are looming for tomorrow and nobody is down here. This may all be too many people needing to file and too much time on their hands. In fact another guy is now in the room saying he talked to somebody from Miami and they are still solid on Beasley. But there was a brief flurry here that Beasley may still be in play. Now there is speculation that maybe something else is going on. In any case, the daily media guys are getting screwed and they’re not happy. Not that it matters to anyone who isn’t in the room with them–or reads the morning paper instead of blogs.
10:46: Chalmers to Miami for two second rounders and cash. Sounds horrible. If Chalmers was indeed first round material, and this team really does need a quality point guard, WTF? And don’t overlook the "cash" in the deal either. Okay, with this blockbuster out of the way, maybe McHale will be down before midnight.
10:50: Fellow blogger Stephen Litel just told me that, after tonight’s Lynx game, Shaddy McCants is out on the floor as I write this, shooting hoops.
10:57: Wolves PR guy Mike Cristaldi just came down and said McHale is working on something besides the Chalmers deal. So, take that for what it’s worth–could be big or it could be more second rounders and cash.
11:23: Mike Cristaldi just came back down and said it will be another hour before McHale comes down. The media guys went crazy and then asked if it was big. Maybe, I don’t know, Cristaldi said. Well, one thing for sure, they wouldn’t dick around like this if it was totally minor. Nothing may come of it but the VP of Personnel never talked to the media the entire night after they had taken the third overall pick in the entire draft. You’ve gotta think something large is at least being seriously discussed.
But the more I think about it, the less it seems as if Beasley will be involved. Right now it is 12:30 in the morning in Miami, where the team won a ring just two years ago and where the fan base is still putting out big money in sizable numbers. If they go to bed hearing one thing and wake up hearing something else, that a blockbuster trade has been made, Willie Randolph firing style, in the dead of night, they could go apeshit. Will Miami really do som
ething like that? I doubt it.
More likely–and I have no inside info folks, I’m just talking out loud–they might be trying to figure out a way to get Pekovic out of his Euro deal and over here in a reasonable amount of time. Because as of now they haven’t done a thing about their huge hole at center. Nada. They got a combo guard and a Euro contractually bound to a team in Greece, and a couple of future second rounders and some cash.
In any case, I’ve decided to stick around and see what the big news is. A lot of the media are going home. Ah, but the live blogger gets the scoop. Such as it is…
11:43: Okay, Mayo is being traded to Memphis for Kevin Love! In addition the Grizz are almost totally clearing the useless contracts on the Wolves, taking Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker and Greg Buckner. In addition to Love, the Wolves are getting Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins. ESPN is reporting it, we don’t have confirmation yet, but that’s got to be the reason we haven’t seen McHale.
11:52: I’ll post again after McHale comes down. My first take: At least this is a consistent philosophy. McHale is continuing what he was trying to do since losing KG. There are players–Love, Collins and Jefferson down low, Foye and McCants in the backcourt and Miller to stick the J and space the floor and play swingman with Gomes. At first blush, I think I like the deal, provided Jason Collins has something left as a defensive center.
12:04: Longtime commenter Andy G hates the deal, which gives me pause. but again, my first reaction is positive. First of all, there was speculation that the Wolves were going to trade down from #3 and leverage Mayo for something. Okay, let’s take them away for a minute. Mike Miller is head and shoulders the best of the six players with NBA experience in this deal. The most valuable player the Wolves gave up was Marko Jaric, someone who has been regarded as an expensive bust for the past 2 and a half years. Antoine Walker would be long gone, bought out, if he’d taken less money last year. And Greg Buckner was in street clothes as often as his uniform last season.
Yeah, the Wolves got at least of those stiffs in Brian Cardinal who has an atrocioius contract. And who knows if Jason Collins has got enough left to give the Wolves a viable defensive center for the times they aren’t playing with Love and Jefferson together on the floor? But bottom line, the deal works out for Minnesota as long as Mayo isn’t a star and Love pans out to be a solid, smart big man who can pry double teams off of Jefferson with Miller. Randy Foye also has to step up and make even a productive, star-like Mayo less damaging.
Bottom line, the Wolves got bigger, created more space on the floor for Jefferson and got rid of a lot of deadwood on the roster. If Mayo becomes a legit star, and Love is merely solid, it will not be seen as a good trade (unless Foye blossoms and makes Mayo seem redundant here). But in terms of proven commodities, Mike Miller is proven. Jason Collins is a proven defender who can complement Jefferson. The distractions of Marko and Toine are gone.
1:47: Okay, McHale, Stack and Hoiberg all came down and rather than get too fancy about it I’ll just give you the bullet points.
–The Memphis deal came together late, near the end of the first round. The teams had talked earlier about Minnesota trading the 3 for the 5 and getting Mike Miller, but nobody was sure where Beasley would land and that made it difficult to pull the trigger. Later when the Grizz took Love the Wolves called back and were told no dice. But then, later in the first round, the Grizz suddenly called back and the deal was back on. "No one was more surprised than we were when they came back," McHale said. He intimated that one of the reasons the deal might have been facilitated was the Grizz wanted to add a couple of things that caused "Glen a little bit of a financial hit this year, which he was willing to do."
–Not surprisingly, the brass was really happy with the deal. McHale loves Love, called him "the best big man in the draft, in my opinion, and we were also able to get a knock-down shooter." He called Jason Collins a good post defender and Cardinal "a great locker room guy." But Love came in for the strongest praise: "Kevin Love is going to be a tremendous player for years and years." He noted that Love was not only freshman of the year but player of the year in the PAC-10 and referred to him as a "phenomenal rebounder." He acknowledged that neither Love nor Jefferson is a classic 7-footer but–and you fans of grumpy old man K-Mac are going to love this–mentioned how Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes won a ring as undersized bigs because they "knew how to play."
–But then Jim Stack jumped in and was more forthright and passionate, and voluble, than I’ve ever heard him. "People have said Kevin Love is not an athlete. I beg to differ," he said, saying that they ran him through a wide battery of tests at the combine and that "across the board, he measured almost identical to Al Horford, who some people think should have been the Rookie of the Year last year instead of Kevin Durant." He cited Love being able to jump 35" and have a wingspan of 9′. Then he said they got a big guy who allows Al Jefferson to play power forward and I didn’t know if he was referring to Love or Jason Collins. He also said the Wolves had three needs heading into the draft, a perimeter shooter, a big guy and another veteran character guy in the locker room, which is how all three of the Wolves front office guys labelled Cardinal. Stack then also said that the deal "sets us up for free agency with our contracts in a couple of years" and that "we are going to be a big free agent player." Whether it was the odd hour of the day–past one in the morning–or the thrill of a last-minute, major, complicated deal, Jim Stack was a different human being than the mum, button down guy I’ve watched the past few years.
–When it was Hoiberg’s turn, he noted that the Wolves had Mayo and Love very close, "side by side" in their evaluations, but praised Mayo and also called him a "sexy pick" who can ‘spread the floor." But he stated that when you can add a Mike Miller and have the two guys who are so close together be swapped, you do the deal. Somebody asked Hoiberg about his comments to the Wolves draft party, and to reporters, about keeping Mayo, and Hoiberg was happy to be able to clarify that at the time he made those comments it was indeed the status quo–the Wolves didn’t know Memphis would want back intot he picture. Then McHale came back and piled on to Stack’s athleticism argument for Love, saying that he, McHale, was actually "really surprised" with Love’s athleticism and then went into a soliloquy about the "small area quickness" and how important it was to rebounding that apparently some of you have already heard him deliver on KFAN.
–I asked about the second rounders; specifically how long Pekovic’s contract is and why they decided to dump Chalmers for just a couple of future second rounders and some cash. McHale says Pekovic has a two year deal in Europe but then really wants to come to the States and play here, likening him to former San Antonio pick Tiago Splitter in terms of contract status. He said he saw Pekovic play a couple of times "And he’s just a brute: 6-11, 260, and he just puts the wood on you." He said they got a tremendous amount of calls from other teams wanting to get the 31st pick because second rounders don’t have to fit into a salary slot and Pekovic’s situation makes him an incredibly attractive second rounder when he Euro contract expires. "Anyone in the 31st position would have taken him" he said, but the Wolves were lucky enough to own that pick. He noted that Pekovic plays in the top flight Euro league which he said is "by far better than
NCAA basketball" in part because there "are a lot of grown men playing." As for Chalmers, he said that after the Pekovic pick and the Memphis deal was being worked, they made the deal with Miami for the two future second rounders and cash. Thus, he said, Miami actually made the pick for the player they wanted–the Wolves had nothing to do with drafting Chalmers.
–As the wrap up, McHale asked if anything surprised him about the draft. He said he thought Westbrook went a little high, that surprised him but he saw how Westbrook "is just a freakish athlete." He was surprised by how long Chris Douglas-Roberts lasted, "because he can really put the ball in the hole." And he was surprised "at the amount of calls we got on the 31st pick;" how it started early and continued until they actually made the pick, with some clubs even offering a protected first round pick in return.
Okay, that’s it from here. I am probably going to open up another post and analyze the big Memphis trade, which I think is a net-plus for the Wolves, which apparently is not conventional wisdom among the fan base or many readers, so I want to get it up and get the conversation going. I’ll be back here at Target Center for the 1:30 press conference, which is in about 11 hours.
Turned out to be a fascinating evening. Not a bad one to live-blog, certainly. Thanks for all those who participated.