|Uncensored thoughts about NBA draft|
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist
I'm happy. I'm happy even though I've been known as the witness of death for many an NBA team I've been affiliated with, or happened to have been around, in their modern-era draft.
But not today. The Knicks got Frankie.
During my run back in the Bay Area, I learned to read sports minds -- or at least speculate what was in them, anyway. Not unlike Red Auerbach way back when or Jerry West now. They can smell it, like Gary Oldman as Stansfield could smell a liar in "The Professional."
Along those lines, I developed this sports mind-meld technique over time, frustrating in that it allows me to sense what coaches, players and executives think, but it doesn't -- yet -- give me a mental remote control, by which I could make wise decisions for them, keep them from letting my favorite teams (oh, believe me, even David Stern has favorite teams, and you have favorite teams, although you hate the NBA) make fools of themselves by making unwise draft picks.
On Wednesday, the goal was simple. The Knicks had to get Frank Williams to run point -- a theory Road Dog and I recently espoused in this very hole in an article entitled, "How to fix the Knix -- Quix."
McDyess would be nice, too. Not Jay Williams, although Jay Williams would do -- a strong little sucker, very hard to knock off the ball, and, as Tom Heinsohn once said of Bob McAdoo, "The bleep never misses." He'd be long gone anyway, and even if it was a choice, I'd take Frankie. He won four state titles at Peoria Manual. He was my own Hoop Dream. The biggest knock on him was that maybe he didn't go all-out all the time, that he looked bored by the college game. That's like going to work in New York and the knock on you being that you're arrogant. What, is that all? Used properly, all that'll do is help. As long as Frankie knew when to turn it on. Hell, Clyde never looked like he was in a hurry either.
No, somehow the Knicks had to get Frank Williams from Illinois. He was like a scrunched-down, longer-armed version of Frazier. Road Dog and I have been looking for a version of Frazier since Clyde got old and run out of town. Get it done, and that would do it for me; the Warriors, Wizards, Magic, Sixers and the rest could fend for themselves. But get me Frank Williams. I'd hummed it like a mantra all day. "Nom yo ho renge Frank ... Nom yo ho renge Frank ..."
Promising to use my powers only for good, I set up with Dog, recording uncensored draft thought balloons, occasionally including his or mine.
Results are in, and listed below:
Carroll Dawson thought balloon: "He moves like a 6-5 player ... with gout. Why did a Chinese scientist graft a 6-5 Enron accountant's body on top of a pair of 7-5 legs? Why me, Lord? Good legs ... too bad there's no swimsuit competition in the NBA. People are going to have expectations of us. So this damn guy better rebound ..."
(After TNT interviewer Craig Sager says, "How can you sit there, a Jersey guy, and play for the Bulls?" Williams says, "Trust me, it'll be real easy." Sager says "What about your mother ...?")
Jay Williams thought balloon: "How can you wear that jacket? What about your mama?!?"
Bonus: Bill Cartwright thought balloon (delivered in his best Vito Corleone-like wheeze): "Tattaglia lost a son, I lost Jordan. But I have another son, Jay-boy; if something should happen to him, if he should be struck by lightning, or get pushed out of the lunch line by a little fat man and break a foot, I'm going to blame some of the people in this room. I never knew until this day, that it was Crumbs, all along ..."
Jerry West thought balloon: "Let me tell you how it works in America, Manolo. First you get the power, the size. Then you get the Kobe."
Kiki Vandeweghe thought balloon: "Nico will show them. He will show them all what I could have been, if only I had been in the right system, if only I hadn't been a Knick. I have gathered all the season-ticket holders here in this ballroom and am now working them with this mike. I am skilled. I am ... a Vandeweghe ... and I need these people to like me. I cannot keep the pride off my face as I announce big blockbuster deal that will free up Nico to be me and get me NeNe and make me look smart. McDyess was outta here anyway, and made long paper ... he ain't the sharpest tack on the bulletin board. And now I'd like to do my Neil Diamond medley, ending with 'They Come to Colorado,' to the tune of 'They Come to America.' "
R-Dub thought balloon: "Not now, Scott, way too early. Wait ... wait. Repeat after me, 'You will take NeNe, and trade him and Marcus Camby and Mark Jackson and a throw-in for McDyess and the 25th pick and a throw-in, and then hope to luck into Frankie at 25.' "
Scott Layden thought balloon: "... I will take Ne Ne, trade him and Camby and Mark Jackson for McDyess and the 25th pick, and then hope to luck into Frankie at 25."
R-Dub thought balloon: " '... and you will be rewarded ...' "
Scott Layden thought balloon: "... and I will be rewarded ..."
Elton Brand thought balloon: "Chris Wilcox?! What-da ..."
Carrie (Stoudemire's mother) thought balloon: "Wonder what time the malls open up here?"
Michael Jordan thought balloon: "Hmph. Peasants. Jeffries I like, if he will get on the boards and lower his eyes before me. Can't believe I let Kwame Brown worship his way into being the top pick. Know we can still get Juan Dixon. I like him, plus he'll know his place beneath me ... and he better. People don't know it, but we're loading up. Can't they tell? Are they not entertained. I'm going to be just as good at personnel as I was at playing. Watch me. New Jersey? Don't talk to me about New Jersey. Boston? Pssst. Philly? Average."
Donald Sterling thought balloon: "People knock the fact I don't like paying basketball players millions? Wonder what you'd do, if they were your millions. You'd bail. Everybody can't be Jerry Buss. Thank God, I say. Somebody's gotta toe the line. Let it be Elg. Nobody ever gives me credit for keeping Elg. Elg is a legend of the game. Plus, Elg is the lowest-paid GM in the league, and if he isn't, he soon will be if he keeps drafting good players I'll have to pay ..."
Rep. Herb Kohl thought balloon: "We wanted Ely bad. I didn't, but Ernie Grunfeld is good. George says so. George is a great coach. George deserves more pay. George deserves to be the highest-paid coach in the game. George's assistant should get a head job ... just not George's job. Give George a piece of the team. George should never be satisfied. I will be rewarded."
Ah. So George Karl also has the Jedi mind-control power, but obviously he uses it for the purposes of the Dark Side. Speaking of the Dark Side, it's kind of creepy the way everybody waits for Sir Charles to say something, then busts out laughing no matter what. Maybe Charles has mastered the Jedi mind trick, as well. Awful lot of Jedis running around here lately. Takes all the novelty out of it. I like Charles, he's funny a lot of the time, doesn't mail it in any more than Sam Jackson mailed in Mace Windu in "Episode 2," but this maniacal laughter is almost automatic, almost canned. I like hearing what Charles has to say about the game, when he cuts to the chase, but he might need to chill on the sociological tip.
Oh, wait. I thought those were thought balloons, but Charles actually said most of those things, approximately, but in a Sir Charlesian way that makes them funny and tolerable, somehow.
He is gifted, isn't he?
Isiah Thomas thought balloon: "Dumars ... if he can shoot ... Reggie ... on his last legs ... I try to look stoic ... like Larry Bird when he coached Indiana. I want to scream and shout ... but that would make me look ... like I just climbed out of the womb ... and I don't want to look ... like that ... but I got a ballclub shaping up ... heheheh ... why do I laugh like either Heckle or Jeckle? What is soul? I don't know."
Rudy Tomjanovich thought balloon: "Never underestimate the heart of a guy who can really hop like this one can. We got game and Yao!"
Allen Iverson thought balloon: "How he do dat? Not Li'l Bow-Wow. This guy. What you mean, he shoots 65 percent? Let me call up Coach. What I gotta do to get my respect? To get my 30 shots up? Practice? This guy gonna practice? We talking about practice, man. Practice. Yo, coach. Oh, we trading him. We gonna get a 6-7 version of Eric Snow named Salmons From Miami? Plays D? Passes to me? Oh. OK. Straight."
Wes Unseld thought balloon: "Doug loves him. Light in the ass, if you ask me ... but nobody did. Nobody asks me much of anything any more. Dunno why. I'm smart. I'm a businessman. I'm just as solid as the MCI Center."
Abe Pollin thought balloon: "Alas, poor Wes, we knew him and the MCI brand name well ... but now they're done. Let's see, FedEx is taken. Nike? Oakley? Coors? Phillip Morris? Colt? Glock? Will we change back to the Bullets? Will we?! Anybody? Anybody at all?"
Rich DeVos thought balloon: "These players, they do all right; they make millions. Took me years to make my first million, and I had to bust my ever-loving hump. Look at Grant Hill over there ... just look at him. Well, you won't be taking any more malingerers, Mr. Smart Guy, Mr. Coach of the Year, Mr. Doc Rivers ..."
Doc Rivers thought balloon: "Gotta assume I get Grant Hill back, play him at point forward. Can't get a whole year of 35 minutes per outta Darrell Armstrong anymore. Got beat down on the boards by Charlotte ... need size. We need toughness. We need to trade Borchardt."
Jerry Sloan thought balloon: "Karl! John! High screen-and-roll! What did you call, ref? What did you call me ...? Trade? Trade who? Ryan who? That who we picked? What's Crewcut's name again? Anybody here I can fight ...?"
Paul Allen thought balloon: "Is he Michael Jordan? If he isn't Michael Jordan, don't call me, don't tell me anything about him. You're all liars. You lie better than accountants. Shawn Kemp grrr ... Shawn Kemp grrr ... get in the Hummer and just drive down to Eugene to clear my head. Where are the Prefontaines of this era? When men were men and only half-insane. Where's my Blackberry? Get Spielberg on the horn. How did 'Minority Report' open? Tell Bonzi not to let the doorknob hit him where the good Lord split him on the way out."
Jerry Colangelo thought balloon: "As soon as Dan Majerle's ready to coach, these two will look good together on the sideline, kind of like Schilling and Big Unit, only maybe not really."
25. Denver Nuggets -- Frank Williams, G (traded to New York)
R-Dub thought balloon: "Dog! I ... I did it. It worked ... it finally worked. We now control the mind of Scott Layden!"
Road Dog thought balloon: "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Why is Frank Williams the answer? Just because Dub says so? Pul-leaze. McDyess.Yeah. Dig that. If he can handle New York. McDyess is so country and shy. He ain't urban. ('Urbane, Dog.') Whatever. Is there some other mind you can screw with? Get outta my head. OK?"
Tim Duncan thought balloon: "What, I couldn't use Dan Gadzuric, at least use his body, the way a hero uses a dead body as a shield for bullets, or in this case against Shaq? What, we're trading him? No, I wasn't really knocking him. I like a 6-7 guy who can play D. Speedy Claxton? We already got a Speedy Claxton, and ours speaks French. Aw, Popa, what are you doing? David said he was retiring next year, you idiot. Don't pass on a 7-footer who can cover my ass ... you don't do that. You don't ... how much more money? Hmmm. Great job, Popa. Great job."
Mitch Kupchak thought balloon: "I can't screw this up again, I can't screw this up again, I can't screw this up again, I can't screw this up ..."
Jerry Buss thought balloon: "You mean, you can't screw this up any worse ..."
Phil Jackson thought balloon: "Just get rid of Lindsay Hunter, Mitch Richmond ... basically the same guys you brought in, Mitch. As long as we keep Shaq and Kobe, I'm in what they call high cotton, I'm doing what they call the White Boy Shuffle. Life is good. And so am I ..."
Dan Dickau thought balloon: "Sacramento! I can't believe how lucky I am. Like having my name set to the Commodores' bumping oldie, 'Brick House': 'He's Dan-Dick--OW ...'
"What? Atlanta. What about Atlanta? What do you mean, I've been traded to Atlanta? Wait, this must be some kind of mistake. I'm Dan-Dick-OW. Wispy willowy female anchors all over the West were just waiting for me. Atlanta?
"I can't believe how unlucky I am. Is this the NBA. Does it change that fast? Am I dead and buried here, or what?"
There was also a second round, and many other uncensored thought balloons popped up, more than in the first round, but they contained too many profanities to be used here. So we won't.
Jordan smoked a cigar like Red used to.
Jerry West smirked at us all.
And as far as I was concerned, the Knicks had Frankie Williams because of Scott Layden, or so it says here, so all was right with the world, and anything was possible. That's how it is on draft day -- everybody's happy ... until they suit up, and you begin to see how big the holes are.
Until then, this is my story, this is my song, praising my Frankie, all the day long. Peace!
Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."