The NBA Draft and the free enterprise system intersect at the desk of Elan Vinokurov. He runs a private scouting and consulting firm based in Philadelphia.
It's his busy season with teams pondering what players to pick and which to avoid at the June 25 NBA Draft.
Vinokurov boiled down the dissecting of players and parsing of attributes (on and off the court) to its essentials.
"Ultimately," he said, "this is a really long job interview process."
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Of course, this year Kentucky has seven applicants trying to put their best foot forward and, uh, creatively edit their résumés. Here are some observations from Vinokurov and others familiar with NBA Drafts past and present:
■ Willie Cauley-Stein's disavowal of an interest in art was an over-reach.
"With Willie, the concern is less with, is he interested in anything other than basketball?" Vinokurov said. "It's more of where does basketball rank among his interests?
"For me, I don't care if Willie is a big art fan. What matters to me is if basketball might be the fourth priority in his life. That's a concern."
Fair or not, NBA officials wonder how motivated Cauley-Stein is and how dedicated he is to improving.
■ NBA officials don't laugh at the old joke: How do you know if a college coach is lying? His lips move. NBA officials like to double-check whatever college coaches say of their own players.
"Coaches are not generally considered the best source because most will promote their guy," said Del Harris, a former NBA coach. "If there's a close personal relationship (with the NBA official), he'll level with you."
So, NBA officials will ask opposing coaches and players or teammates about a player. For instance, a typical question might be who was the most difficult player to defend?
A media type asked Aaron Harrison that at the NBA Combine in Chicago this month.
"The little shooting guard from Ole Miss, Moody?" he said in trying to remember Stefan Moody's name. "He can play. Fast and real athletic.
"And those two big guys for LSU (Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey). They're really underrated, I think."
■ An aspect of individual workouts for teams that gets overlooked happens off the court.
"When they pick them up at the airport," NBA consultant Ryan Blake said of this important time, "and get to spend a couple of days with them. Get to know them."
■ As part of his job, Blake compiles a report on each player's injuries and suspensions "that goes back forever," he said.
■ An interest in art or music or astrophysics does not raise a metaphorical red flag. An interest in booze or women does.
■ Aaron Harrison does not get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to shooting. In his two UK seasons, he shot with only 40.9-percent accuracy (a pedestrian 33.5 percent from the college game's shorter three-point distance).
Harrison did not have to force shots with so many talented teammates to share the scoring responsibilities. Those teammates spread out opposing defenses.
"He was playing with more talent than anyone in the country," Vinokurov said. "He should be getting better looks than anyone in the country. Yet, he's still missing too many shots."
'Talking to recruits'
The story about John Calipari's appearance at last week's Alltech Rebelation symposium certainly had legs. Quite a surprise since Calipari didn't say anything new or particularly newsworthy. To say the program's preseason goal was not to win a national championship, but to place eight players in this year's NBA Draft was simply the latest variation on his 2010 comment that five first-round picks in that year's NBA Draft marked the greatest day in UK basketball history.
Salesmanship and marketing. Nothing more.
"John Calipari right here is talking to his recruits," sportswriter Frank Isola said on ESPN's Around the Horn show Thursday. "That's all he's doing."
Added Kevin Blackistone: "This is what kids want to know. Where am I going to play? Where am I going to get on TV? How am I going to get to the pros?"
Calipari — never forget he was a marketing major — wanted to win the national championship. He wanted UK to post college basketball's first 40-0 record. He said so.
With the season over, Calipari returned to his singular recruiting sales pitch: Kentucky is the way to get to the NBA ... rapidly. Kentucky/NBA. NBA/Kentucky.
On ESPN's Pardon the Interruption show, Michael Wilbon scoffed at the notion of producing NBA Draft picks being more important than winning.
"I'm not buying a single word of any of that," he said in choosing to take Calipari's comments literally, "because if you win a national championship ... , you're going to get players drafted. Getting drafted is the byproduct of being good. Not the other way around."
Co-host Tony Kornheiser, who joined Wilbon in saying how much he liked the UK coach, suggested there was an insult in Calipari saying the fans' desires to win championships were beneath him.
"Honestly, when you use the phrase like 'My mission is bigger than that,' that is deliberately antagonistic to the commonwealth of Kentucky," Kornheiser said. "... Win every game. That's why I'm paying you $8 million. Win every game."
If you expect Calipari to apologize, you don't know the UK coach very well. He doubled down in a follow-up tweet in which he dismissed those who think winning is more important than being picked in a NBA Draft as "traditionalists."
Fans dream, too
John Calipari's comments about UK's top preseason goal being eight players drafted in 2015 struck a nerve for reader Rick Music of Nicholasville.
"I soundly applaud Cal and his desire to see his players improve and fully take advantage of their talents," Music wrote in an email. "No question but that he has a track record of recruiting great talent and then using his contacts to get that talent into the NBA. ..."
Calipari noted how Kentucky fans want him to make national championships the over-arching goal. "But my mission is bigger than that," the UK coach said.
Music suggested that the mission should be bigger than placing players in a NBA Draft.
"His mission could be much, much BIGGER," Music wrote. "Helping the lesser AND the extremely talented players AND the fans, who pay him, reach their dreams. Literally everybody could win."
Then Music added, "I guess that would be too much to ask of the $8 million/year man?
"It is too bad Cal isn't up to accepting the responsibility for helping ALL of Kentucky reach our dreams. No, we can't ask for a championship every year but it would be nice for him to show some remorse for letting one, that was clearly in reach, get away."
During his speech to the Alltech Rebelation symposium, Calipari acknowledged the championship that eluded UK's grasp. He noted the precarious nature of the NCAA Tournament when one off night can end a season.
Last week's note about all 14 SEC coaches being members of a millionaire's club reflected how huge sums of money get tossed around in salaries and other athletic extravagances. It's easy to forget that many schools are strapped for cash to pay for academic necessities and on-campus improvements.
Columnist Frank Bruni of The New York Times provided a reminder recently.
"Gregory Fenves recently got a big promotion from provost to president of the University of Texas at Austin," he wrote. "A raise came with it. Instead of his current base of about $425,000, he was offered $1 million.
"And he rejected it — as too much."
Bruni noted an email Fenves wrote to a university official. The Austin American-Statesman obtained the email, which read:
"With many issues and concerns about administrative costs, affordability and tuition, such a salary will affect the ability of the president to work with the Texas Legislature."
Fenves suggested and agreed to a salary of $750,000.
Last September, UK President Eli Capilouto made a similar gesture when he received a two percent pay raise and a $150,000 performance bonus. He announced that he and his wife, Mary Lynne, were giving $250,000 to establish a multi-disciplinary health research center at UK.
The surprise of the week was learning that Damien Wilkins continues to play professionally. His good — but not great — college career ended with Georgia's 2003-04 season. He averaged 12.6 points as a senior playing for Jim Harrick.
Wilkins, who went undrafted, played nine seasons in the NBA. This past season, he averaged 20.2 points for the Iowa Energy of the D League. He is the nephew of Dominique Wilkins.
NBA consultant Ryan Blake cited Wilkins as an example of a player who got himself into such good condition he remains a viable prospect at age 35.
"He's a guy who's going to have a lot of interest in the summer leagues," Blake said.
Richard Sandomir of The New York Times wrote on Tuesday about an aging audience for horse racing. He noted how the Triple Crown races have drawn television audience with a median age of 60.8 the last three years, according to data provided by Brad Adgate, a senior vice president of Horizon Media.
More than 60 percent of the audience in that time period was 55 or over, Sandomir wrote.
"It is a concern that the viewership is old," Jon Miller, the president of programminng for NBC Sports and NBCSN, told The Times.
On the plus side, American Pharoah will give horse racing a boost when he tries to win the Triple Crown at the Belmont on June 6.
"Very few events capture the imagination of the public the way a Triple Crown does," Miller said.
Former NBA coach Del Harris is finishing a book he hopes will be available in the fall. It's a how-to book about attacking zone defenses.
UK Coach John Calipari is contributing a play or two, Harris said.
Harris said he's dedicating the book to the late Rick Majerus.
Rob Lock's 49th birthday was on Friday. Cedric Jenkins turns 49 on Monday. Ed Davender turns 49 on Tuesday.
To Jamaal Magloire. He turned 37 on Thursday.