Who, what to believe on draft's eve

NEW YORK -- Jay Williams entered an interview room at the Sheraton in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday looking more confused about his draft status than at any point over the past two months.

Why? There was a rumor circulating that the Yao Ming-Houston negotiations were suddenly not going so smoothly. The latest episode of the Yao chronicles had the deal off, sending the entire lottery in flux. Williams wouldn't be heading to Chicago. Instead, Houston -- a team Williams didn't work out for -- could be taking Williams No. 1 and trading him to parts unknown.

"I'm still nervous because I keep hearing different rumors about what may or may not happen," said Williams, who only worked out and talked to Chicago and Golden State, teams who own the second and third picks in Wednesday night's NBA draft.

"I have no idea what's happening," Williams admitted. "I'm hearing a lot of things, stuff about the Clippers making a trade for me if the Yao Ming thing doesn't work out ... and supposedly, it's not going well. They're putting pressure on him to sign things and it's not going well."

Or so Jay thought. If it were true, you know, about Yao.

Well, it wasn't, at least not according to the Rockets who told ESPN.com that they're "moving full steam ahead" in selecting Yao with the first overall pick.

Separating fact from fiction has been the toughest part of the draft process for the players, the NBA execs and the media for that matter. Sure, it all starts by trying to make sense of Yao's draft status. The top of the lottery depended so much on what ultimately happened in Houston's attempts to get Yao to the NBA. But the Yao saga isn't the only reason players projected to be selected throughout the first round weren't looking too confident on Tuesday.

"It's unbelievable," Connecticut's Caron Butler said. "When you go to the workouts, teams will commit to you. And then when we all got together in Chicago (in early June for the NBA pre-draft physicals), other guys were telling me the same team committed to them. It's crazy how this thing works."

Teams don't necessarily lie to players in the final hours. They're just playing a recruiting game. Kansas' Drew Gooden, who has been told he's likely going No. 4 to Memphis or wherever the pick may land, said he refused to get too close to a specific team because he didn't want to get burned.

"They're all just trying to play mind games," Gooden said. "It's like college when they're recruiting you. I have my eyes and ears open. Jerry West (of the Grizzlies) told me basically if I was available, then they would look into getting me. But anything could happen. No one will know for sure until June 27 (the day after the draft)."

Duke's Mike Dunleavy Jr. knows this side of the NBA game all too well, growing up in an NBA household. He's not fooled by the rumors and doesn't buy any of what he hears unless he hears it from four or five sources or sees it published (that could be trouble too in some publications or on-line services).

But the rumors about Yao's deal being on and then off is just one of many misinterpretations of the draft process. One of the biggest fallacies of the past month is how much weight Jared Jeffries gained since the Final Four. He went from 218 to 230, not to 238 or 248.

"I had a reporter call my house and say, 'Is it true you put on 30 pounds?' No, I put on 12 to 15, but it goes from 15 to 20 to 25 to 30," Jeffries said. "Somebody hears something and they keep on going with it and add their own parts to the story. It's hard to know the real story because teams like you, or say they do, and then you don't really know if they're trying to trade up or trade down."

About the only organization that may be telling the truth, without a hitch, is actually the NBA. The league invited Stanford junior guard Casey Jacobsen to the draft, along with 15 other players, with the assurance that he wouldn't be embarrassed by slipping into the second round. The NBA had egg on its face in 1998 when it invited high school senior Rashard Lewis to sit with other high first-round picks in the infamous Green Room. Lewis wasn't picked until the 33rd selection by Seattle in the second round and was seen crying as he was left alone at the end of the first round.

While the NBA no longer sequesters players behind the scenes -- they now sit in the front of the Theatre at Madison Square Garden at tables in clear view of everyone in attendance -- Jacobsen was hesitant when he got a call from his agent, Dwight Manley, six days ago after the NBA faxed an invitation. Jacobsen said he was skeptical and wasn't planning on even watching the draft.

Until the NBA all put promised Jacobsen he'd be a first-round pick.

"They said consider it and I said, 'Prove it'," Jacobsen said. "They said it was legit. We said I'm not going if I'm going to get embarrassed. They said, no we want him here. So I'm here. They've learned from some of the things happening in the past and wouldn't invite me unless it was a positive experience."

Still, Jacobsen said he is nervous, just not as nervous as he was a week ago. He wasn't confident enough, however, to enjoy a free lunch Tuesday.

"Even though you're surprised to see me here, I'm still pretty antsy," said Jacobsen, who's thought to now go as high as No. 19 to Utah, No. 22 to Phoenix or No. 24 to New Jersey.

"I wasn't going to come here, I wasn't going to watch the draft and I didn't want to come and have this day get ruined," a candid Jacobsen added. "But I was told that wouldn't be the case. I figured it would be rude to turn down the invitation."

Jacobsen doesn't care if he's the last one left sitting in front row. As long as he isn't left loitering in the second round. He's convinced he won't be.

"Someone has to be the last one here (for the first round) so it might as well be me," Jacobsen said. "I feel good about this."

Finally, a nervous player gets a fact that doesn't sound like fiction before the draft.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Katz covers the NBA draft for ESPN.com and ESPN.