Tahlequah Daily Press

July 2, 2012

A wizard and a unibrow

By KOLBY PAXTON
Staff Writer

— The 2012 NBA Draft sparked an interesting day of commentary along the airwaves and interwebs – particularly as it related to Thunder guard James Harden.

I was shocked to find that even some of my most knowledgeable friends and associates were letting the rumor mill get the best of them; giving way to mid-afternoon panic at the thought of swapping the Sixth Man of the Year for a draft pick – even if it was with the apparent intention of drafting Florida’s Bradley Beal.

Nothing against Beal. I think he’s got a shot to become a nice player in the NBA. But you don’t trade a player like Harden for a prospect like Beal. This wasn’t the 2003 draft. Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade weren’t on the board.

Nothing against my concerned comrades, but their plight was never real. Sam Presti liked Beal. He may have even liked him enough to move Serge Ibaka for him. He definitely liked him enough to move virtually any combination of any of the other non-super heroes on the roster. But he never liked him enough move Harden.

Rest easy, Loud City. Your team is navigated by the best general manager in professional basketball. The anti-Daryl Morey, if you will.

One week ago, Harden said that he “loves it” in Oklahoma City, and that he expects a contract extension sooner than later.

“They’ll do a pretty good job of working it out,” he said. “They’ll figure it out and it’ll be done. This is something special here. A dynasty is being built here. So we’re winning, we’re having fun and we’re brothers.”

Nevermind a certain Wayans Brothers jingle that springs to mind – though it would apply. Harden, along with Ibaka and Eric Maynor, are eligible to negotiate extensions to their rookie deals as of today. At least two of them figure to do so in the coming months.

As for the draft, itself, here’s one last "Three Pointer" at the proverbial buzzer.



1.) I do not fear “The Brow”

Count me among those who are not enthralled with the professional prospects of Anthony Davis.

What’s that? I’m all alone? Fine, but hear me out.

I’m not saying that Davis won’t ever be a nice pro. I think he has a solid 12-14 year career in the league, during much of which he’s good for a consistent double-double. But Tim Duncan meets Kevin Garnett? Seriously? Maybe I’m just too hung up on his short comings, but I don’t see it.

I see Tayshaun Prince 2.0.

As for the stupid looking unibrow, itself: Give me a break. That’s not a trademark, that’s poor hygiene.



2.) A player worth rooting for

So often it seems, we’re stuck looking the other way as the athletes that we support disappoint us. They take their ability for granted. They’re out of touch. There appears to be very little depth to them.

Then there’s Thomas Robinson.

In 2010, when Robinson was a sophomore at Kansas, he received a call from his little sister Jayla. His grandmother had died. A few weeks later, Jayla called again to inform him that their grandfather had also passed away, followed by their mother, who died of a heart attack.

In a span of three weeks, the pair – who were raised without their father – lost it all. Robinson stepped up and vowed to take care of his sister, now 9 years old.

Thursday night, when Sacramento selected him with the fifth overall pick, he made good on that promise.

He hugged Jayla, fought back tears, and shook hands with David Stern. When he began to speak with ESPN’s Mark Jones those emotions flooded to the surface. Jones moved his line of questioning to basketball, asking how the newest member of the Kings was able to go from sixth man to All-American. Robinson, who was visibly struggling for words uttered the most telling, moving non-answer in the history of NBA Draft interviews.

“I’m not stopping for nobody,” he said. “I’ve got work to do and Imma do it.”

Here’s to Thomas Robinson. I wish Jayla’s big brother nothing but success.



3.) Presti is a draft wizard…

…in that he casts a spell on the owners and general managers of teams drafting ahead of the Thunder, preventing them from selecting his guy.

In 2007, he coerced the Portland Trailblazers into picking Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant. In 2008, he tricked the Heat and Timberwolves into going with Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo, respectively – leaving the Thunder with a pair of UCLA stars to choose from. He must have also chuckled aloud as teams unknowingly reserved Serge Ibaka for the OKC front court, instead selecting guys like Alexis Ajinca, Kosta Koufos and Walter Sharpe – and no, I don’t know who any of them are, either.

In 2009, he stunted the growth of the rival Memphis Grizzlies by bewitching Chris Wallace into an ill-advised selection of Hasheem Thabeet. A year later, Presti and the Thunder were so gorged from drafting four Olympians in three years, that the team elected to lend a helping hand to the NBA’s laughing stock, drafting Eric Bledsoe and dealing him to the Clippers.

The Wizard of the War Room was at it again Thursday night.

Baylor forward Perry Jones III was seemingly punished for returning to school, falling from the projected No. 1 overall pick, all the way down to the Thunder at No. 28, due to a meniscus tear in his knee.

Read that sentence again and tell me, with a straight face, that it makes any sense at all.

A meniscus tear. Not a ligament tear. Not a microfracture. Perry Jones – a guy that would have likely pushed Kyrie Irving to No. 2 had he come out after his freshman season – fell nearly completely out of the first round due to a knee injury so bad that he missed zero games from November to March; a knee injury so bad that he only managed 17 points and eight rebounds in Baylor’s Elite Eight loss to Kentucky; an injury so crippling that Jones was only able to lead a 30-win team in points and rebounds.

The Trail Blazers drafted Meyers Leonard 11th overall. The Bucks took all 187 pounds of John Henson at No. 14. The Pacers drafted Miles freaking Plumlee at No. 26.

The rival Mavericks – who seemed primed to make an impact acquisition with the 17th pick – drafted an absolute guaranteed stiff in North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller, and then didn’t even keep him.

The NBA champion Heat, who were picking directly in front of Oklahoma City, drafted Arnett Moultrie – simply a lesser version of Jones – and then shipped him to Philadelphia.

PJ3’s slide was incredible. But the behavior of some of the teams that continued to pass on him was inexplicable. As a result, the Thunder, drafting at the end of the first round, left New Jersey armed with yet another lottery pick – and this one has a chip on his shoulder.

I’m telling you. Forget Emerson College. Presti is a graduate of Hogwarts.