All in all, the NBA draft worked out fairly well for former Arizona forward Derrick Williams. When you're the No. 2 overall pick, it's hard to say leaving school was the wrong choice. When you sign a large deal with an apparel company, it's hard to say you mishandled your professional life.
Then again, this is not a normal NBA summer. The NBA lockout -- which kept some of the best draft prospects in school this spring -- is in full-swing. A few months ago, the NBA lockout looked much less serious than the NFL's version, if only because both players and coaches seemed to realize that the league was in the midst of a huge upswing in popularity and exposure. A few months later, the lockout looks set to be protracted and ugly, as players ruefully take their talents overseas, owners dig in with their demands for smaller contracts and a hard salary cap, and connected NBA types warn of a work stoppage that could last well into next spring.
Before he left Arizona for the draft, Williams said he had received assurances that the lockout wouldn't drag on long, so he didn't see the downside in taking the NBA plunge. It now seems those assurances were wildly optimistic. So does Williams regret his choice? Well, yeah, sort of. From the ever-chill Basketball Jones:
DW: I think it is [tough not knowing if or when the season will start]. Especially for the second round people. I really feel like the worst case scenario is there is no basketball this season, we don’t play any games. I really will feel so bad for everybody that entered the draft, that came from college. All everybody wants to do is just play basketball and it’s something that we can’t control. I guarantee you 95 percent of the people that entered the draft would have stayed in college if there were no games and I would have been one of those people. I think that being able to play on the highest level and being the number two pick is the greatest feeling in the world so far for me, but at the same time if we can’t play basketball, it’s a setback. Hopefully it gets resolved really fast.
TBJ: So you would have stayed if someone said you have to wait a year for games?
DW: Yeah. If they told me I was going to miss all 82 games next season I would have stayed in college and enjoyed myself and enjoyed all of my teammates and everybody else who is involved with Arizona. I definitely would have went back.
What a bummer, right? You overcome the odds. You achieve your NBA dream. You get your moment in the draft-night sun. And then ... nothing. No summer league. No hints at when the season will start. No obvious starting points. You enter some sort of strange NBA limbo: a member of the league currently closed for business, a player for a team that can't talk to its players.
Of course, Williams will be fine. He surely misses his Arizona teammates -- reportedly the one factor that nearly kept him in school this spring -- but at least he has his endorsement deal and his lottery status to fall back on. As he says, the real shame in all of this is what happens to those second-round players and undrafted free agents, all of whom took a massive risk this spring, all of whom are now (or soon will be) fighting for their professional lives.
As if you needed another reason to hate the NBA lockout. Sigh.