Sports

Draft is drama without delay

When it comes to their respective selection shows, the only thing the NBA and NFL have in common is the word ”draft.“

The NFL Draft is slower than dial-up. There's enough time between selections for analysis, rumors, speculation, highlights, 40-yard dash times and the somehow satisfying sight of Mel Kiper Jr. spewing player facts like a volcano dispensing lava.

It takes two days for pro football to plod through its seven rounds of picks, as if each selection was intensely crucial to the success of each franchise.

By comparison, the NBA Draft, as seen Thursday, is a one-night whirlwind of lightning-quick picks, confusing trades, speed-date analysis and the oscillating decibels of Stephen A. Smith.

The whole thing has an entertaining but inconsequential feel to it, as if everyone knows that beyond the first few picks most of the selections are going to bounce in and out of the league like rubber balls. One team (Portland) drafted a player (Mike Taylor) from the NBA Developmental League, for heaven's sake.

That may explain why NBA teams swap draft picks the way sorority girls swap outfits. The simple one-for-one deal has been swamped by the combo platter of picks, signing rights, driftwood, straight cash and future considerations, all of which requires a finance degree to properly assimilate.

If only the home viewers were given the same options with ESPN's studio crew. Thursday's lineup was led by all-style, zero-substance host Stuart Scott. Mark Jackson was just another guy who didn't get the Knicks job, while former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy was great at identifying each club's needs, but not so great at telling us if the selection owned the proper skill set to fill those needs.

Doris Burke and Andy Katz did good work, but Jay Bilas was again tops of the talking heads, slicing through the fog with sharp opinions. Bilas could sound smart breaking down bingo.

Not that there was much time for pontificating. The league ripped through the picks like an assembly line, to the point where you figured that as soon as David Stern stepped back behind the curtain, someone was shoving an index card in his hand, imploring the commissioner to get back out there.

When ESPN tried ”Video Conferencing“ segments with GM's or coaches, only a couple of questions could be squeezed in before there was a neck-snap return to the podium so Stern could inform Darrell Arthur he was still not being picked. Thankfully, New Orleans rescued the Kansas center from the green room at No. 27.

Such a frantic pace doesn't leave much time for extracurriculars. Two picks after the Los Angeles Lakers selected UK's Joe Crawford at No. 58, the NBA turned off the lights before we knew of the blockbuster in which Minnesota moved O.J. Mayo and Antoine ”Traveling Man“ Walker to Memphis for Kevin Love, Mike Miller and a pair of Graceland passes.

No, the draft did not make a mockery of the age-limit rule, even if five of the first seven selections were college freshmen. Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and Mayo are players who would have graced the top of the draft had they remained in college four years. The rule is an intended reality check for the high school hotshot torpedoing toward the brick wall of the undrafted.

Not that the college experience saves all from the wall. Ask Mississippi State guard Jamont Gordon. Expected to go 25-to-35, Gordon ended up tied for 61st with everyone else not chosen. Or ask Tennessee's Chris Lofton, also undrafted, who now must make pro coaches eat the same crow college coaches chewed. Lofton's second shot at myth-busting is doable. Ask Kelenna Azubuike and Chuck Hayes.

Joe Crawford is one up on those former Cats. Crawford was the fifth UK player drafted since 2000. And if the late-night call of his name means only that next season Crawford will have a better seat to watch Kobe Bryant, at least he can say he's in the league.

The NBA Draft leaves little time to say much else.

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