Right Field

My Night at the NBA Draft

I showed up at the NBA Draft, held this year at Newark’s still-new Prudential Center, thanks to an invitation and ride from Simonas Satunas, the Lithuanian Embassy’s intrepid deputy chief of mission. Satnuas and I were joined by New York Consulate General Counsel Valdemaras Sarapinas and their friends, most of whom were decked out in the horizontal tricolor of yellow, green, and red to cheer on countrymen Jonas Valanciunas (picked at No. 5, by the Raptors) and Donatas Motiejunas (No. 20 to the Timberwolves, subsequently traded to the Rockets).

Although admittedly I find today’s pro game boring, last night’s spectacle was a quite enjoyable experience. Among my observations:

  • The arena was not sold out; even a fair number of available lower level seats went unclaimed. On the other hand, half of Glens Falls, New York turned out to back native son Jimmer Fredette (No. 10 to the Bucks, subsequently dealt to the Kings).

  • Wearing a suit and tie at the draft will earn you quizzical looks from teenagers, wondering whether you are an agent, general manager, or in one (admittedly flattering) exchange, waiting to get selected in the latter half of the first round! A little later, after the Pistons had taken Brandon Knight with the eighth pick, a young man donning a Texas Longhorns cap approached me as I was ordering a tasty beverage and said approvingly, “Congratulations on taking that pick.” Although curious in retrospect as to whom he thought I was, at the time all I could muster was a tentative smile and, “Thank you for the kind words.”

  • Kerem Kanter just finished his sophomore year at a Jacksonville-area high school, but the younger brother of Enes Kanter (No. 3, Jazz) is already a beast. One wonders whether he will be shaking hands with Commissioner Stern three or four years from now.

  • More players ought to give passionate kisses to their girlfriends upon being selected, even if it is the Wizards who call their names.

  • If you are a portly high school student dying for attention, pay at least a modicum of attention to your wardrobe before pleading for an ESPN camera to track your histrionics. Registering your displeasure at the Celtics’ mere existence while wearing a way-too-small, green(!) Knicks jersey, topped off with an undersized yarmulke, is no way to go through life, son.

  • Speaking of Knish fans, more than ever no one cares what Spike Lee thinks.

  • There is something odd about making those eligible for the draft, but not expected to go until later in the first round, sit in the stands with us ordinary people. My humble suggestion: Either have all of the players sit at the “green room” tables adorned with drinks and HP laptops, or none of them.

  • In retrospect, post-draft parties in Midtown Manhattan are best left for the young and those who do not have to trek 225 miles back to Washington afterward in order to submit an at least halfway-coherent blog post by mid-afternoon. Moreover, remember to factor in the long-term, night-time construction work on the Turnpike south of Exit 8.

(Photo: Rita Stankeviciute)

Jason Epstein is the president of Southfive Strategies, LLC. He was a public-relations consultant for the Turkish embassy in Washington from 2002 to 2007.


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