So I was at the Draft last night, running around amongst the madness and looking for some Pacers-related tidbits to share with you fine folks. Tim already nailed the first-impression stuff, so check that if you want to know exactly what happened. Honestly, he probably had a better handle on the whole event than I did.
It’s counter-intuitive, but being in the building can be somewhat like being in an information vacuum. There are TVs around to stay updated (in some places), but as you stalk players from the big stage to the back room and sit it on the player press conferences, a lot of trade speculation and discussion goes down that you totally miss.
But there is some info to report. Here was my write-up about the Pacer lottery pick Paul George from last night over at Hardwood Paroxysm:
Paul George went to my Pacers at pick #10, so I followed him around for a while and asked him a question about how he can help bring some consistency to the Pacers perimeter. He gave a typical answer about working hard this summer but added that he “can pretty much do a lot of things on the court” and that he definitely doesn’t “want to come into a…team that’s on the verge of winning and be a slacker.” He also showed some personality after someone asked him whether he feels any pressure to perform since a lot of Hoosiers wanted the Pacers to pick local hero Gordon Hayward. “Yeah, Gordon Hayward is a good friend of mine…” he said, before being interrupted by the reporter, who noted that “…but he was gone.” “Luckily,” said George, sounding like one of the few people on the planet who legitimately wanted to play for the Indiana Pacers. “I definitely want to do good for the fans and I want to pan out to what they want me to be.” Perhaps more importantly, the guy appears to be a very good dresser. Definitely a best-dressed of the night candidate, which was aided by his cool, I’m-really-enjoying-this demeanor. He even looked excited to talk to Craig Sager.
Nice to see that the consummate style icon Trey Kerby of Ball Don’t Lie agreed with my “best-dressed of the night candidate” assessment. The tie chain was indeed amazing.
Here are a few other quotes from George’s press conference last night after he was picked:
- On being drafted: “Excited. Happy to be here. It’s a dream come true and no words to express how happy I am right now.”
- On playing with Danny Granger, another guy from a smaller college program out West: “I look at Danny as a bigger brother and mentor to myself. We have been working out and training together out in Los Angeles, so we kind of have a bond, you know, as it is already, so I’m extremely happy to be in this situation with this team and this organization. I mean, I just can’t wait to start.”
- On whether or not he thought he would be a Pacer: “I didn’t know what to expect. I told my agent to let it ride out. I didn’t want no hints on where I was going so it was a surprise to me. [But] I knew they liked me and I had a good time when I did have my workout there, so it wasn’t that big of a surprise.”
He also talked to Craig Sager about his athleticism — one of his biggest strengths — and how he wanted to spend some time this summer working to improve his quickness and foot speed to make that an even bigger asset for him in the big boy’s league. I can’t say I’m particularly familiar with him from Fresno State (I watch too much NBA basketball to adequately follow NCAA hoops), but between comments like this and just following him around and getting a sense for his demeanor during the night, he looked like someone who was for sure excited to finally make it to the league — but also someone who was excited to start working hard immediately to prove he belongs.
He seemed like a guy who looked at the draft as a beginning, not an end.
Another interesting moment came earlier during the night when I got a chance to chat with Coach John Thompson III of Georgetown. He was there to support his 2009-10 star big man Greg Monroe (who went to the Pistons at pick #7) but made some time to talk a little about his 2007-08 star big man Roy Hibbert.
Like most of us, Thompson has seen tremendous growth out of Hibbert since he entered the league — but he hasn’t been at all surprised. And he doesn’t see that trend stopping anytime soon. Roy was one of the most coachable players he has ever been around, and he thinks we’re all going to look up in four years, expecting Hibbert to have plateaued — only to watch him continue to get better. That’s what he saw at Georgetown out of a kid who wasn’t even that highly regarded out of high school. And he agreed with me that we saw more growth in year two out of Roy than we did in year one — at least in part — because it took him a little while to properly condition his hulking frame to the rigors of the NBA game. And now that he can comfortably run up and down the court for 25-plus minutes a night, we can expect a similar evolution next season.
And hearing about that continued growth from the big fella, along with watching Indiana gain an athletic wing from Fresno and possible-diamond-in-the-rough Lance Stephenson (who oh-by-the-way scored more points in his New York City high school career than any other player in New York state history while also leading Lincoln High School to an unprecedented four straight city titles) made for a pretty good night inside MSG.
Shot from the media balcony seconds before the Pacers picked Paul George. And don’t worry, I’ll have some better, non-Blackberry-taken photos and video for you shortly.