Last night, I had the privilege of attending the San Antonio Spurs Media Draft Viewing at the Spurs practice facility. Local news and bloggers alike filled the tiny media room waiting to jump on any Spurs news. In offices on the other end of the compound sat Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford, (assuming) Coach Popovich, and others in the Spurs front office. Considering this and all the energized trade speculation surrounding the San Antonio Spurs, I felt like would be at the forefront of any breaking draft day news.
Note: Written on very little sleep and tons of caffeine
Extra! Extra! Tweet all about it!
In fact, all of the news that I learned for any transaction, including the George Hill trade, I learned from a collection of "insiders" on Twitter. The only reason we learned of the George Hill trade is because the information spawned from sources in/around the Indiana Pacers front office. There I am, sitting with a collection of veteran sports writers, most with connections and relationships with people who "know" things, and our only source of breaking news is a thousand miles away. If it wasn’t for the NBA and player agents receiving phone calls from the San Antonio front office, we wouldn’t have known the draft picks until David Stern slithered his way up to the podium. All of those rumors and reports about trades involving the Spurs? That information spawned from sources listening on the opposite end of the phone. Any person who might have actually learned of Buford and Pop’s strategies probably ended up buried in a shallow grave or encased in a nearby dam.
All of the breaking news and updates around the league traveled via texts and tweets. If you weren’t following along the action on Twitter, the only time you knew something was going down is when everyone started staring at their phones. There was very little vocal chatter in the room because there was no need. Everyone already knew the details. I try to imagine what the scene was like five years ago, before Twitter’s microblogging service became the number one news sources on the planet. Was the room noisy? Did people share the updates or try to keep the secret in order to "break the news?"
I don’t want to say the Draft Viewing was disappointing but with the Spurs organization locking their motives up in a steel vault and social networking putting the entire world in the same room, it sure wasn’t what I wanted it would be.
How foolish are we, huh? The news swirling around the Spurs had us doing the Kansas City Shuffle for three days straight. We kept thinking that Pop and RC were determined to trade off both Parker and Jefferson. Sacramento, Portland, Utah... the news kept rolling in and the end result was always the same. "Richard Jefferson? No thanks." Fans, analysts, and NBA front office people debated on just what the Spurs were trying to accomplish. On draft day, George Hill’s name constantly popped up in trade speculation, as if he were still available. In the post-draft interview, RC Buford commented that Coach Popovich updated George Hill on Wednesday about the trade. And although this trade has already been agreed upon a day in advance of the draft, the Spurs were still taking calls, and most likely, making calls about shipping off Parker and Jefferson; Parker the lure and Jefferson the trap.
If you haven’t already, swing by Josh Guyer’s After the Draft: The Eye of the Storm to read up on the Hill trade and draft picks.
Cory Joseph: Local Man of Mystery
I think the only time where Twitter and ESPN announced a first round draft pick at the same time was Cory Joseph, a guard out of the University of Texas who wasn’t projected to go until mid-late 2nd round. Joseph is a lean 6’3" combo guard and a good defender with good reach but someone who needs to expand on his offensive repertoire. Sound familiar?
@ varner48MoH: Wait...the Spurs traded George Hill and then drafted George Hill. Classic Spurs maneuver. #spurs
I am a noted proponent of "In Pop and RC I Trust", but there comes a time when I say this through clenched teeth. I felt this way in 2008 when I screamed my head off for the Spurs to draft a front court player. Instead they drafted some no-name from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Who!?
George Hill was a lot of things to the San Antonio Spurs: a hard worker, a leader, a fighter, a fall back guy, and a proud asset. There is a reason why Pop titled him his favorite player. People can spend time analyzing his contributions and the ceiling of his potential all the way. I just know that the Spurs found someone who was willing to bring it every day and earn his keep. Who the hell knows what Cory Joseph will bring to the Spurs? But if RC Buford says someone has "great Spur qualities" then I’m willing to buy Joseph was a smart pick.
Going Forward for a Forward... and a Center
People focused on the Spurs trading up to draft a big man, most notably Kanter or Valanciunas. However, the chance of the Spurs moving into the top five of the draft was always slim to none. There were also talks about San Antonio trading for a big man but, of course, nothing came to fruition. The tough reality is that trading a point guard, even one as good as Parker, for a half-decent big man is a tough task.
So now the draft is all said and done. Parker is still a Spur and San Antonio found some help at the small forward position. But the Spurs still have a giant hole in the front court. Trade and free agency is the only hope for the Spurs to find some bodies to stick in the paint, and those transactions aren’t coming any time soon. Teams are waiting to see what happens with the CBA drama and have no idea what their financial situations or the new league rules will look like. This is the reason why many of the proposed trades rumored (quite a few of them true) never transpired. Many general managers around the league just didn’t have the nerve to pull the trigger on deals involving bulky contracts. Yesterday’s big trade involving Sacramento, Charlotte, and Milwaukee only took place because the two latter teams were offered deals they couldn’t refuse. Who knows what the hell Sacramento was thinking...
So sit tight, Spurs fans. Front court help isn’t coming until the lockout, which starts next Friday, is over.
Hand down. [dramatic pause] Man Down.
Most of the sports universe is agreement over the sub-par, and rather embarrassing, draft coverage by ESPN. The supposed "Worldwide Leader in Sports" fumbled the production at nearly every turn; from the artsy/musical presentation of mutated teenagers awkwardly drumming away to Adele’s well-trodden Rolling in the Deep, all the way to the iconic sports media fumbling names (e.g. George Popovich) while the on-floor minions blurted out brainless, and sometimes insulting, remarks interview after interview.
Thanks to the social technology phenomena that is Twitter, just about everyone with an eye on the draft knew the picks well before the actual announcements. Beat writers, bloggers, national columnists, and anyone else with a solid connection inside kept the world up-to-date by the minute, making the ESPN broadcast crew look like they were receiving news via Pony Express. With the George Hill trade, there was almost an hour gap between the confirmed Twitter newsbreak and ESPN’s "proposed" announcement. The internet was already knee deep in draft analysis and trade details well before ESPN even caught wind. The only real purpose ESPN served last night was the announcement of verified trades and to give the kids some TV time before the NBA shuts down for the season (its ugly, folks).
The second most glaring zit on ESPN’s face was the broadcast team consisting of Jeff Van Gundy and some parrots in high dollar suits. Jon Barry, the lesser offspring of Rick Barry, couldn’t have been more off target with his "NBA analysis" if he were covering a women’s professional Tiddlywinks tournament. I believe Jay Bilas, through Pavlovian conditioning, now has programmed us to slaughter innocent animals anytime we hear phrases like "meteoric rise", "positional size", "he's a winner", "this guy is a player, can make plays", etc. Stuart Scott picked up any slack left over from Jay with his usual theatrical, nearly trademarked, one-liners. The most amazing experience of the night was how Jeff Van Gundy resisted the urge to get up and beat these guys with his broadcast stool. If ESPN is determined to stick with this style over production, then I suggest they just give Van Gundy the mic, the table, and one other person of his choosing; hopefully someone adept at Twitter. Van Gundy can dial up Jay Bilas or Ric Bucher if wants analysis on Hufterkipimblo Ngameskensier and then immediately disconnect as soon as one of them spits out "can put the ball on the floor." If not that, then I suggest displaying a ticker of Twitter updates that the broadcasting crew is at least somewhat aware of.
A draft is not a single dynamic event like a live game – we are all not experiencing the event at the same time. The NBA draft is multi-faceted spectacle with 30 teams, dozens of agents, hundreds of players, and thousands of journalists. Until ESPN learns how to capitalize on internet sources (like Yahoo! Sports does), it will continue its descent into the growing mockery and disdain of both sports fans and journalists. It isn’t a good sign when a room full of beat writers and columnists spend over four hours laughing at your broadcast.