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NBA draft is for young at heart (and from Kentucky and North Carolina)

The first three picks are freshmen for first time in league history. Two Wildcats (Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) go No. 1-2 and are joined by two other college teammates in first round. Four Tar Heels also go in top 30.

June 28, 2012|By Ben Bolch
  • Anthony Davis, left, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, right, stand with Kentucky head coach John Calipari before the start of the draft.
Anthony Davis, left, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, right, stand with Kentucky… (Bill Kostroun / Associated…)

No one could say things went according to script, because beyond the top pick there was little besides uncertainty in this unusually deep NBA draft.

The Charlotte Bobcats mulled what seemed like a million trade offers for the No. 2 selection Thursday night … before ultimately drafting Kentucky'sMichael Kidd-Gilchrist and keeping him.

For the moment, anyway.

NBA draft 2012: Pick-by-pick coverage

There was an actual trade involving two first-round players, though No. 17 pick Tyler Zeller going from Dallas to Cleveland for No. 24 selection Jared Cunningham plus a pair of second-rounders generated pretty much zero excitement outside (and possibly inside) those cities.

Cheers, tears and jeers abounded within the confines of the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., with the loudest boos showered upon NBA Commissioner David Stern every time he strolled to the podium.

"Thank you for that warm welcome and good evening," Stern said dryly before announcing that, as expected, Anthony Davis had been taken No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Hornets.

The unibrowed big man from Kentucky, recently derided by Bleacher Report as one of the "100 Ugliest People in Sports," will be awarded the best-looking contract among rookies, with two years and $8.7 million guaranteed.

It was the first time in league history that the top two picks came from the same college. Throw in Florida's Bradley Beal, who went No. 3 to Washington, and it was also the first time the first three selections were all freshmen — and from the SEC East, to boot.

In Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte got a small forward considered one of the best all-around players in the draft and one highly coveted by the Lakers.

Sorry, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.

"I just want to play for the Charlotte Bobcats," Kidd-Gilchrist told reporters.

We'll see how long that sentiment holds up once he gets to Charlotte.

Thomas Robinson, widely projected as a possible No. 2 pick, slipped to No. 5, where he was snagged by the Sacramento Kings, a team that didn't even work him out.

"It is a bit of a surprise," acknowledged Robinson, adding that he "probably talked to them about once."

The power forward who lost both maternal grandparents and his mother during his sophomore season at Kansas hugged sister Jayla before walking onto the stage and becoming misty-eyed.

There was more than enough emotion to go around, with a tear rolling down Andre Drummond's cheek after Detroit picked the Connecticut big man at No. 9 and Austin Rivers embracing his father, Doc, after New Orleans took the Duke guard at No. 10.

Just imagine how poignant actual games between the son's Hornets and the father's Boston Celtics might be.

"He told me when I played him, I'm not going to score," Austin Rivers said.

The most spine-tingling moment came early in the second round, when Bernard James walked toward the stage amid chants of "USA! USA!" James spent six years in the Air Force before becoming a standout center at Florida State whom Dallas (via the Cleveland trade) got after he was taken at No. 33.

Houston Rockets fans were repeatedly breathless in the first round, with their team using its trio of picks on a shooter (Jeremy Lamb, No. 12), a versatile forward (Royce White, No. 16) and a power forward with championship pedigree (Terrence Jones, No. 18).

Jones was one of four Kentucky players taken in the first round, matching the number North Carolina had selected. At one point, Tar Heels Coach Roy Williams sat grinning with a collection of his player's new hats in his lap.

Davis may have raised eyebrows when he discussed his recent decision to trademark phrases related to his brow (singular, that is), including "Fear the Brow" and "Raise the Brow."

"My parents and agent came to me with the idea about the trademark and I thought it was a great idea," Davis said. "Seems there's no point of other guys making money off what's yours."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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