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Cavaliers take Irving with No. 1 pick in NBA draft
Question of the Day
The league’s uncertain labor situation hung over the draft, and likely weakened it. Potential top-10 picks such as Jared Sullinger of Ohio State and Harrison Barnes were among those who decided to stay in school, without knowing when their rookie seasons would have started.
Stern, who could lock out his players next week if a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached, was booed when he came onto the stage at the Prudential Center, which is hosting the draft while its usual home, Madison Square Garden, is undergoing summer work.
New Yorkers made the trip across the river to join the sellout crowd of 8,417, cheering loudly when Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette were taken in the top 10 and booing when the Knicks made Georgia Tech guard Iman Shumpert the No. 17 selection.
The draft was filled with little-known European players. Kanter hasn’t played competitively in a year, forced to sit out last season at Kentucky after being ruled ineligible for being paid to play in Turkey. Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas went fifth to Toronto and Jan Vesely of the Czech Republic was taken sixth by Washington.
“Basketball in my country is not so popular, but after this night, I think _ I hope _ that the basketball will be more popular,” Vesely said. “I will do my best to help that.”
Bismack Biyombo of Congo went seventh as one of six international players who went in the first round, three short of the record set in 2003. The 18-year-old forward moved to Charlotte as part of a three-way deal.
Kentucky’s Brandon Knight went eighth to Detroit as common fans finally heard a name they recognized again. He was followed by Walker of national champion Connecticut to Charlotte and Fredette _ both New Yorkers who were loudly cheered after their names were called. Walker, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, wiped away tears on the draft stage.
“It’s been like a movie. This whole year has been magical, honestly,” Walker said. “So many different, crazy things have been happening to me, and you know, I just feel lucky.”
Irving became the third point guard taken first in the last four years, following Derrick Rose in 2008 and John Wall last year. Rose was the NBA’s MVP this season, ending James‘ two-year reign.
Irving insists he’s not trying to replace James _ whose highlights were booed when showed on the overhead screen _ in a different manner now.
“I’m looking forward to getting to Cleveland,” Irving said. “It’s a big sports town and I cannot wait to embrace all of the fans there and the fan support. I can’t wait.”
Kansas twins Markieff and Marcus Morris went with back-to-back picks to round out the lottery. Phoenix took Markieff at No. 13 and Marcus followed to the Rockets.
Indiana took San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard at No. 15 and traded his rights to San Antonio for former IUPUI star George Hill. That started a number of trades at the bottom of the first round, including a Houston-Minnesota swap that sent the Timberwolves’ Jonny Flynn to the Rockets in a deal that included Brad Miller.
Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney.
By Michael Widlanski
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