- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Even the Clippers cannot mess up their leading role in the NBA Draft. They will do that later after Blake Griffin sheds his rookie contract and endeavors to be paid in line with his statistical production.

Other than Griffin and maybe Ricky Rubio and a couple of afterthoughts, the draft features a plethora of projects, backups, interchangeable parts and those who end up attempting to become future fathers of our country.

That is to say interest in the draft is at odds with the cold reality. The interest is stoked by a nation’s obsession with March Madness, where dreams sometimes come true and the principals become minicelebrities.

That was the lot of Adam Morrison in 2006, last seen bawling and never to be heard from again.

You missed his contributions in the playoffs unless you attended the Lakers’ practice sessions. He never appeared in a playoff game, a precipitous fall for someone who was the third pick overall in the draft a mere three years ago.

The suits awaiting their travel plans in the green room look persuasive enough. That is the best the majority of them ever will look. The NBA has a way of squashing the dreams of March, of exposing the hype.

A few gems come out of nowhere, although not from places as distant as Planet Lovetron, which claimed Darryl Dawkins.

In 1987, the Bulls and Sonics conducted a bit of draft-night business that baffled a number of observers. The Bulls parted with a well-known center from Virginia to land a no-name small forward from an NAIA program.

Scottie Pippen became the celebrated caddie to Michael Jordan, and Olden Polynice fashioned a modest career when he was not impersonating a police officer.

Utahans booed on draft night in 1984, when the Jazz seemingly squandered the 16th pick overall on a nondescript point guard from Gonzaga. John Stockton spent 19 seasons in the NBA and became the game’s all-time leader in steals and assists.

In case you were wondering, the Bullets drafted Mel Turpin with the sixth pick overall in 1984, only to complete a multiplayer, three-team deal that yielded Gus Williams and Cliff Robinson.

The move would turn out to be so much running in place, with Williams in decline and Robinson more interested in lugging around a briefcase than a basketball.

The most memorable blunder of the 1984 draft was the Trail Blazers taking Sam Bowie ahead of Jordan, a decision that was not universally derided at the time. The general managers of the day inevitably came down on the side of big if two prospects were perceived to be relatively equal.

Al Albert, the play-by-play announcer on USA Network that night, assured the Trail Blazers and viewers that Bowie was the proper pick, presumably after personally examining him.

“There’s no doubt he’s recovered from those two years he sat out with stress fractures,” Albert said.

Albert’s medical assessment turned out to be wrong, much to the detriment of the Trail Blazers, who already had endured the chronic foot problems of Bill Walton.

It just so happens that Greg Oden brings to three the number of Portland big men who seem cursed.

The durability of a player is part of it, too. Not that it is possible to determine a player’s long-term health.

Gilbert Arenas, once a second-round steal, just happened to get in the way of Gerald Wallace one night in Charlotte, N.C. The Wizards have been loitering in the hospital waiting room ever since then.

The draft is mostly a guilty pleasure. It goes down nicely. But it probably is not good for the team.

This draft is not big on providing a team with immediate help, which sometimes exacerbates the creative tension that exists between a team’s personnel experts and coaching staff, often the first to go if the potential of a player is squandered in nightclubs.

So Griffin goes to the Clippers and then the fun begins, starting with Jay Bilas letting viewers know which players are “bouncy.”

Come to think of it, bouncy is an apt term on draft night.

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