NBA Draft Combine Brings out the Stars

Share

griffin

By Paul M. Banks

When the NBA Draft Combine comes to Chicago, the Second City resembles Beverly Hills for a couple days. Strolling through the Westin Hotel on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, where the Draft Combine’s media activities are held, I encountered basketball’s heaviest hitters. The entire Chicago Bulls front office, Pistons GM Joe Dumars, NBA coaches Mike D’Antoni, Mike Dunleavy, legendary talk show host Larry King (twice) and former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda; and that was just the first hour.

During the actual interview sessions, a draft combine reporter gets up close and personal with every former college basketball star soon to be drafted in a couple weeks. Each player gets his own table in the conference room and journalists rotate like speed-daters to obtain quality face time with everyone. Conversation is much more in-depth than post-game press conferences. It’s about the big picture here- no time to waste on the boringly banal queries from newspaper beat writers.jerel

On top of the media grilling, NBA prospects face tougher inquisitions from the teams themselves. Arizona’s Chase Budinger (projected 23rd) said he faced a psychological aptitude type test from the Bulls. He had to arrange blocks to match a picture they presented. NBA teams want to know if players are single, married, have kids. Multiple players had to reveal if they had a “friend with benefits.” It’s like Torquemada and your Prom date’s father rolled into one. 

The NBA amalgamates feedback from the league’s scouts and personnel, deciding which 50-60 prospects are gauging the most interest. The most elite prospects are then invited to run drills, 3 man weaves and workout (this part is closed to the media). They also take more measurements than a Playboy playmate; each player’s wingspan, vertical reach, height and weight (with and without shoes) become public knowledge. This male version of a beauty pageant can be stressful, but also fun.

Former Marquette guard Jerel McNeal projected 42nd overall in NBA Mock Draft,  “It’s been real intense, it’s been like a circus since I got down here, but it’s also been real fun so far. To be around such a great group of players and unbelievable talent, to be fortunate enough to be in this situation, you can’t help but feel excited and glad about what’s coming in the future,” said McNeal.

Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, projected 10th in this year’s draft spoke about how the combine brings together former AAU, McDonald’s All-American and Summer league teammates. “It’s cool, it’s like a big family reunion everybody reminiscing on the stories we had from summer camps, at the USA team and things like that. We’re all in competition on the court, but off the court it’s a family feeling, we just kick back, chill and talk about the good old days,” Flynn said.

There’s only one thing certain about this draft: Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin is going to the L.A. Clippers at #1. The brightest lights and greatest amount of cameras were naturally on him. And the future franchise player seems ready to become the next media darling. “I don’t mind the media…I hope I’m ready for it. I think I’m ready for it” Griffin said before answering a question about how he’ll soon see his personal privacy disappear. bgriffin2

“You just got to know that people are watching you and you got to be a positive role model and not put yourself in bad situations,” Griffin stated.

I asked Griffin what his favorite aspect of this process has been so far. “Some of the restaurants have been pretty good. That’s a big part of my life. But getting to meet people, different players and taking perspective and getting advice from them has been great,” he responded.

The Second City is famous for its food. The next day I saw him in the restaurant downstairs and asked him about his overall favorite restaurant here. He said he’s a big fan of Ditka’s, prompting another reporter nearby to endorse the joint’s steaks. Griffin then said he’s not eating much red meat right now, so I mentioned their Salmon and Tuna steaks. The future Clipper approved Ditka’s seafood. So this is life in transition to the next level, where everything’s meatier and portions of everything are much bigger. So is the number of people watching you.   

Powered by

Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    Using quotes from Marquette and Arizona players, I think i was subconsciously giving homage to my boys Moe Diddy and Ghetto with that…

  2. paulmbanks says

    Rikki, don’t get too excited about the encounter with your boyfriend Blake Griffin, the interview/profile feature is coming soon….

  3. David K. says

    A- LOVE the Jerel shout-out
    B- HATE that I wasn’t there
    C- JUICE!!!!!!

  4. Jason Moe says

    Banks, that is awesome!!! I wish I was there just to talk to my Arizona Boys!! Next time you talk to Chase, give my number..hahaha..I want to party with the Spin Doctor himself…Tight!!! Juice!!!

    Back for the First Time…

    Diddy Out

  5. C-Murder aka Chris Hellinga says

    Banks=very juicy

    The only question i have is….where are all the interviews with possible IU NBA prospects???

    Wait……….

  6. mswollering says

    I like that Banks has such versatility that he can schmooz with the best of them in his sports reporter hat, then do a 180 and become a food critic specific to restaurants that cater to current/future sports stars. And why not try to get some PR about Griffin dining at your joint? These guys eat in quantity and quality, so you’ve basically earned the 5 star rating as soon as one walks in your door. Estimated Ad revenue for Ditka’s = $2,300 per Banks article. I smell a biz deal in the making…

  7. paulmbanks says

    Plus it’s a sports-themed fine restaurant. as it’s a steak house owned by a coaching legend. synergy at it’s finest. And yes sports nerds can be epicureans

  8. prowriter0923 says

    Griffin is all over TSB!

    I knew Melissa and I’s college basketball analysis would leave a lasting impression.

Speak Your Mind