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Mark Heisler / ON THE NBA

Wild draft puts the perfect wrap on a fine season

June 29, 2008|Mark Heisler

One more time . . .

Navigating the usual signs of impending doom, the NBA had a fine season, capped as it was by a storybook Finals matchup -- anticlimactic as it turned out -- that was remarkable just because it was unimaginable a year ago at this time.

A year ago Kobe Bryant was en fuego. Boston General Manager Danny Ainge and Coach Doc Rivers, who were counting on Greg Oden or, at least, Kevin Durant after their 24-58 nightmare, saw No. 5 come up in the lottery and sank into their chairs.

The young Lakers should be in business for a while, and if the NBA and the Lakers are lucky, the veteran Celtics should be OK too.

One title won't quench the fire within Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and there's that defense the Lakers are still wondering how to attack.

(Hint: Try new personnel which, in another remarkable turn of fortune, the Lakers have in Andrew Bynum.)

But enough of the Lakers and Celtics, until training camp, anyway.

Appropriately enough, an entertaining season was capped by a wild draft that made up in transactions what it lacked in star power.

And the winner is . . . Minnesota VP Kevin McHale!

You may have missed this if you went to sleep at 10 p.m. Thursday instead of watching ESPN's experts continue to rehash the second round, but Minnesota will send No. 3 pick O.J. Mayo plus assorted contractual obligations (Antoine Walker, et al.) for Memphis' No. 5 pick, Kevin Love, assorted contractual obligations and -- sound the trumpets -- Mike Miller!

With Memphis owner Michael Heisley intent on unloading a star every month or two, the name of the game these days is Who Gets to Heisley First?

In February, it was Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak who was there to accept the gift of Pau Gasol.

(In February, it was also Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy who was about to accept Miller for expiring contracts and his No. 1 pick but couldn't find anyone back home who would sign for the package.)

If the Timberwolves aren't back, their new logo may not have to be a wolf lying on its back with its paws in the air, after all.

Other winners:

Miami -- President Pat Riley, in Knucklehead Fatigue after four seasons of Shaquille O'Neal, yearned for Derrick Rose and looked as if he had to be held down by his entire front office before he agreed to take Michael Beasley.

On the other hand, Beasley's goof-off antics in high school(s) didn't stop him from posting major numbers at Kansas State.

Among Beasley's fans is ESPN's discerning Jeff Van Gundy, normally not given to gushing "He has Hall of Fame talent," as he did with Beasley.

New Jersey -- The Nets wanted to trade up for center Brook Lopez, saw him drop to them at No. 10, got another ready-to-go big man, Ryan Anderson, at 21, and Chris Douglas-Roberts at 40.

Clippers -- Guard Eric Gordon dropped to them at No. 7 and former top-five prospect DeAndre Jordan at 35.

If Gordon is what they hope he is -- "a bigger Ben Gordon" as Elgin Baylor put it -- and they can coax the 19-year-old Jordan out of retirement, they'll have hit it big.

Now, for some housecleaning . . .

My favorite paragraph of the week was this correction by ESPN draft expert Chad Ford:

"This time of the year, the information is flying fast and furious. Sources often have agendas and from time to time, I just get things wrong."

Credibility starts with acknowledging mistakes, as sure as it is -- and as appropriate as it is -- that you will make them.

If you aspire to be something more than Ernest Hemingway's jibe at critics -- "generals who watch the battle from the hill above the field and then come down to shoot the survivors" -- you have to go out on a limb, question the official explanation and ignore the conventional wisdom at least some of the time (in my case, it's all the time).

So here goes, the Loretta Summers Heisler You Think You're So Smart Award winners of the 2007-08 season:

* Ben Wallace wasn't a better fit for the Lakers than Gasol, after all.

I thought Wallace and Bynum would give them a tremendous defensive presence, missing the fact that Wallace has completely had the course.

* Cleveland wasn't just a one-man show, after all.

Not after taking the Celtics -- who walked on the Lakers -- seven games. Coach Mike Brown's slow-down, rock-ribbed defensive style isn't entertaining, but they're really hard to score on.

* The Lakers weren't history, after all.

Not that I was the Lone Ranger on that one.

* The Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers weren't clueless or lost, after all.

Both teams put something together and made the playoffs, even if they were in the East and didn't actually have winning records. More to the point, they have talented young rosters and, at long last, a plan.

* The Lakers didn't shop Lamar Odom, after all.

This one got the Lakers very upset, protesting they haven't even had those discussions yet.

Of course, Odom has one year on his contract and wants an extension, but that's something else they may not have discussed.

I'd keep going, but I'm out of room and if you think I'm going to call up and ask for more, guess again.

Badeeya, badeeya, badeeya, that's all, folks!


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