NEW YORK — After the Washington Wizards make John Wall the first selection, this year's NBA Draft might as well be mystery theater.
Take one of Wall's former teammates at the University of Kentucky, Daniel Orton. Some team presumably will Thursday. It might be relatively early in the evening by a team that shares UK Coach John Calipari's opinion that Orton is a "sleeper." Or Orton might not be ready for prime time given his supposed poor conditioning or balky knee or something.
"I've heard some of everything," Larry Orton, the player's father, said Tuesday when asked about his son's knee and fitness. "I'm at the point I don't know anything. It's like a poker game."
On a Foxsports.com posting Tuesday, Calipari advised draft watchers to cut the metaphorical cards. Don't trust anyone, he said. Expect NBA people, usually in the guise of anonymous sources, to be dealing from the bottom of the deck.
"Everybody lies," Calipari said, repeating a declaration he made last season when speculation had one of UK's fab freshmen, DeMarcus Cousins, supposedly taking "heavy" medication to control his in-game temperament.
Calipari knows from experience. As New Jersey Nets coach, he got snookered out of drafting Kobe Bryant.
Calipari said he will attend the draft, as he did as Memphis coach in 2008 (when Derrick Rose was the first overall selection) and 2009 (when Tyreke Evans was taken with the fourth pick). He'll sit in the green room with Cousins. "My big son," he said.
That might send a message refuting speculation that Calipari's heated exchanges with Cousins on the bench this season should not be interpreted as a reflection of a difficult player. The UK coach called Cousins a "soft-hearted, good teammate."
Being seen in the green room on a night when Kentucky might have an unprecedented five first-round draft picks can't hurt the recruiting business, either.
The NBA reportedly invited three UK players to attend the draft: Patrick Patterson, Wall and Cousins. Orton's father said his son did not plan to be at the draft. The fifth UK player, Eric Bledsoe, is also not expected to be at the draft.
NBA consultant Chris Ekstrand said the league usually invites 14 or 15 players to sit in a staging area, the so-called "green room." Those players are expected to be among the top 20 selections, he said.
"If you're somewhere else, it depends on your agent," Ekstrand said. "You can be in the arena tucked away."
If you're not selected in the first round, the only round with guaranteed money, no camera is in your face recording the angst. And if you do get selected, you are free to bound on stage, a surprise guest, to fulfill the dream of shaking Commissioner David Stern's hand on draft night.
Once the player is drafted, the agent has no negotiating to do. The NBA has a salary structure for rookies.
The league guarantees a million or more dollars as a first-season salary for the top 23 picks. The 30th and final pick of the first round must make due with a rookie salary of $850,800.
Calipari saw Cousins as one of the first six players selected. He called Patterson a "15-year NBA player" and Orton a prospect with "upside off the charts."
As the first player selected, Wall will receive $4,286,900 in salary in the 2010-11 season. And he will be the first player chosen. "Mark it down," Calipari said.
The NBA's rookie salary scale guarantees each first-round choice two years in salary. After one season, the team has the option to extend the guarantee to a third season at a set salary. After two seasons, the team has the option to extend the guarantee to a fourth season.
If the player is still on the team after four seasons, he can become a restricted free agent. That means his team can match any offer and, in essence, control the player for a fifth season.
Analyst Jay Bilas, who will work ESPN's telecast of the draft, noted the questions about Cousins' maturity. The UK player received six technical fouls this past season and his actions led referees to check sideline monitors on other occasions.
"If not for (maturity questions), I think he'd be considered a sure thing," Bilas said of Cousins' NBA career.
Bilas joined the consensus view that the Washington Wizards will take Wall with the first pick. "He's the real thing," the analyst said.
After Wall comes a fuzzier form of reality.
"I don't think this is a particularly strong draft," Bilas said, "but there are some very good players."