If 2004-05 season ended five days ago with Spurs regaining crown, then 2005-06 campaign unofficially began last night with 58th annual NBA Draft, held at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden. HoopsAvenue.com was there, with notes on what its like to experience draft first hand.
7:00- gates open outside MSG, (if you’ve never been, most fans enter near Penn Station on 7th Avenue and its unlike entering any other arena. While you can see arena’s structure from outside, when you walk in its almost as if you are entering a stadium inside of a building.) The Knick City Dancers greet fans with sweatbands and towels- as a diehard Nets fan, I promptly wipe sweat from my brow all over orange and blue Knicks logo.
7:02- As crowd begins to enter, talk among predominately Knick contingency voices their overwhelming affection for Channing Frye. Some Illinois fans are seen as well as a large contingent of Syracuse enthusiasts- there is only so much orange one person can take.
7:05- After walking through lobby and towards Theatre, which is separate from MSG itself, NBA shows that even in off-season marketing and draining of millions of corporate dollars doesn’t stop, as fans are given War of World T-shirts and posters and handheld radios compliments of AMEX.
7:07- Arriving in my seat in 300 section, I notice that overly priced ticket I bought is in prime location, dead center and not too far back. I also learn after riding on a train in from Jersey for past few hours, that Utah has swapped picks with Portland. The fans next to me start exclaiming that they must be going after Deron Williams of Illinois...we’ll see. (We also found out Jiri Welsch was traded to Milwaukee, but no one seems to care). One thing you notice about setup of area is that "green room," which sometimes appears to be backstage or in an off location is actually right down by front of stage by all fans. ESPN’s NBA shootaround crew are stationed to left of stage, with Stuart Scott’s interview zone behind them.
7:10- Uber-Knick fan Spike Lee makes his way through crowd to applause. He seems focused on thinking of new targets to yell at with retirement of Reggie Miller.
7:10-7:30- I notice that even after season lets out, everyone loves to rock a jersey. Some of more notable replicas seen; Bryant Reeves (Grizzlies), Darko Milicic (Pistons), Patrick Ewing (Georgetown), Jameer Nelson (Magic) and of course only in New York, a Mike Sweetney jersey.
7:30- David Stern walks out to a loud chorus of boos and some cheers. One thing you can’t tell on television is how loud and raucous a crowd is at a draft
1st Pick- Andrew Bogut is announced, some fans start a chant of Sam Bowie. The two or three Bucks fans in attendance seem pleased.
2nd Pick- Marvin Williams. Big ovation from crowd, as Carolina fans in attendance; family, alumni and those on bandwagon go crazy.
3rd Pick- Deron Williams. The obvious choice to run Jazz is greeted warmly, but some fans yell that second coming of Stockton, he is not.
4th Pick- Chris Paul. Loud ovation for another ACC star, some of Carolina contingent begin to chant, "Overrated!" Dick Vitale is shown on screen, beginning his annual spiel of how this kid who went to college will excel at next level.
5th Pick- Raymond Felton. The crowd once again goes wild as that makes two UNC players in top 5. Almost 25 family and friends of Felton are sitting behind me, ecstatic that their boy will be staying in Tar Heel state...and probably fact that they’ll get to meet Nelly now.
6th Pick- Martell Webster. The first surprise pick, a lot of people didn’t expect Webster to go this high. I notice in between picks that on ESPN studio setup, nobody seems to notice that Jay Bilas is there. Stephen A. Smith, Greg Anthony, Mike Tirico, they all converse in between picks, but Bilas just sits there with his hands folded.
7th Pick- Charlie Villanueva. Another first round shocker, UConn faithful applaud loudly. Right after 6-11 forward exits stage left, hype begins for Knicks selection.
8th Pick-Before Stern walks out, crowd is loud entire five minutes leading up to selection. A lot of "Gerald Green" chants go around, followed by some "Channing Frye" uprisings. The buzz continues as Commish steps to podium, then all of a sudden, like a Roman emperor speaking to a crowd, there is a complete silence with everyone standing on their feet, then Frye’s name is called to a mostly warm reaction.
9th Pick- Ike Diogu is picked, there are a lot of shocked fans in crowd. Some of it is because they didn’t expect him to go so high (I personally am upset because I wanted to see him in a Net uniform), rest is probably because supposed top 5 pick Gerald Green is still on board.
10th Pick- The Laker fans next to me begin a "Gerald Green" chant of their own. One of them has been talking from beginning how he wished Green would be available...and now he is. (If you’ve never been to a draft, I say that any real NBA fan who lives in area MUST go. It’s a few hundred people who all have a deep passion and knowledge of basketball and who talk nothing but hoops for four hours.) Andrew Bynum is selected and there is a sense of confusion by crowd, but Laker fans next to me heads drop in dismay as their buddies laugh at them. I wonder where Kobe is at this moment?
11th Pick- One thing I notice, I don’t know if they showed a clock on screen at home, but one above draft board, it always goes to 0:00 and then it takes another minute or so, or whenever Stephen A. Smith stops talking, for them to go to next pick. Fran Vazquez is pick and confusing looks continue through crowd.