The NBA draft is tonight.
I love the draft. You know this.
In fact, my love for the draft in general was forged by a love affair with the 1980s NBA drafts.
And looking back on those star-filled selections and the intrigued that accompanied the historic decisions of Bowie over MJ or even the trade that set the Celtics in motion in 1980 when Red shuffled Joe Barry Carroll out west for a journeyman center and a draft pick that became Hall of Famers Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale.
(Heck, the following year in 1981 when Mark Aguirre went 1 and Isiah Thomas went 2, some young left-handed point guard in round 10 may have had the best pro career of everyone in that draft. Yep, the San Diego Clippers spent pick 210 — the penultimate selection of that draft — on some kid named Tony Gwynn. Yes, that Tony Gwynn.)
And tonight, I am almost certain that I won't watch a single selection.
And the difference is two-fold and quite telling for multiple sports.
First, the general regionalization and plummeting ratings of college basketball have made the draft a collection of global and/or teenage lottery tickets who are moved to the front of the line on sheer potential.
There has not been anything other than a one-and-doner picked 1 overall since Blake Griffin in 2009. And of that collection of good and way-less-than-good players atop the drafts, only one of those dudes looks to check the "Best player on a title winner" box.
And that's Anthony Davis.
Sure there are a lot of reasons for that, and the uneven and nonsensical draft policies are a huge part of it. Heck, the No. 1 overall pick could very well be one of the La Ball boys and he spent last year working overseas. Or it could be James Wiseman who played about 14 minutes for Memphis.
And next year, the top contenders are a slew of guys playing in Grand Rapids and Stillwater and other basketball minor league outposts.
So the draft takes a huge hit in familiarity and fashionability in my opinion.
And the lack of developed stars on the college level hurts the NCAA programs too. Yes, there are a slew of things that impact TV numbers — man that caveat feels like it should come with a dinger like the "Fasten seat belt" light in your car — but the NBA's complete lack of care for the product may be the biggest.
Think of the NFL draft by comparison. Yes the NFL is light years more popular than the NBA, but when they are late in round 1 of the NFL draft and Goodell strolls to the podium, you are familiar with the running back from USC or the WR from Michigan that the Ravens are debating between.
Tonight? Other than SEC players and the Toppin kid — who fits the mold of the old-school model of first-rounders who stayed in school for a while — I'm not sure how many of those other dudes I watched play a single minute. Cole Anthony. The Duke youngsters.
And what else.
I love the draft, you know this, because of the NBA draft. And I used to love college basketball.
I miss them both.
Speaking of broken college basketball
And maybe this is more of a broken college sports system, but dang Gregg Marshall.
That's a state-funded institution that is paying a man almost $8 million to resign after he punched an assistant, choked a staff member and threw facials slurs at a player.
And yes, Wichita State paid him to go away.
Forget about the Muschamp firing for a moment, because the truly unaffordable and dire situation in college sports is total fan apathy. Ask the Vols. (Side note: Gang, want the level of apathy in and around the Vols program right now? We got like one call on the meltdown loss to Arkansas. One. Think back a decade and that kind of loss would have melted the phone line.)
So if South Carolina officials felt they were there, then I can understand it. Don't agree with it in this fiscal scenario, but at least I can understand it.
As for Marshall, it's so nonsensical that just avoiding the litigation that Marshall's side would have initiated is not good enough to justify close to $8 million in hush money for a man who would have been fired for cause at 99 percent of the jobs in this country.
So, that tells me if some enterprising young journalist wants to win some big awards and move from Wichita to NYC or ESPN, find out the shocking details why the mid-major Shockers felt it was worth roughly a fifth of their close to $40 million athletic budget to keep Gregg Marshall quiet.
Because there is way more to this story, don't you think.
Kirby, Kirby, Kirby
I want to like Kirby Smart. I think he's a good dude and he's much better in news conferences than most people realize, especially in comparison to a lot of folks who have a microphone in a cliché-driven profession.
And as he preemptively predicted in his diatribe about players opting out, well, he was dead-bleepin' wrong and in a couple of ways extremely short-sighted in his comments Tuesday after practice.
Here's Coach Smart's rant from TFP college football expert David Paschall's story in today's paper: "I think it will be measured when they get to the next level. Some pundit or critic would say, 'That's easy for you to say. They need to worry about their NFL careers,' but I've learned that those NFL careers are not for long, especially for guys who aren't first-rounders. If you've got a bona fide first-rounder, that's a completely different subject, but that's not the case in a lot of these opt-outs."
Wait, there's more from Smart: "Our kids care about each other, and they want to win. They want to have a productive season. At the end of the day, they want to improve their draft stock. How does it really look to opt out to train and not play? All of the general managers we talk to are going to talk about that. What are they working out for? We don't know if there is going to be a combine or a pro day. What we know is that we play Mississippi State on Saturday, and that's a showcase to go do what you can do."
OK, first, I will be that pundit — and likely won't be the last one — and second-guess Smart's words. It is easy for a coach making millions to say a college kid — and college is about getting ready for your career first and foremost, no? — should share his exact priorities does make it easy for said millionaire coach to have that opinion.
He is right, the NFL careers are not for long for the majority of the players not drafted in the first round. Well, those careers are a heckuva lot shorter than the careers wrecked by injury, never mind the millions of dollars lost in draft position because of those potential injuries.
Ask Marcus Lattimore. Or Jake Butt. Or Jaylen Smith. Or Dominique Easley. Or. you get the idea.
As for what they are training for? Uh, coach, they are training for the skills the NFL puts great value on at the combine, and yes, the combine is up in the air, but the NFL has stepped on every lilly pad in every step of this time of great unknown.
And the skills in the combine are not the same as the skills used to win games for their million-dollar coaches, rightly or wrongly.
His criticism about how his kids "care for each other" is not fair to the players who have opted out, and quite the passive-aggressive early shot at any Georgia players thinking about doing something similar.
Now remember that some of the players Smart was asked about are a) South Carolina DBs who have high draft stock and have to question whether toiling for a school that just fired their coach and is headed to a 3-7 mark at best and b) a running back at Mississippi State who had issues in the offseason and plays the one position that can have your career ended in a moment.
And that's completely not even discussing the entire COVID stuff.
Kirby is a smart dude, but this position is the opposite of smart.
This and that
— The NFL has announced that the Pro Bowl will be played on Madden. OK, cool. Still not going to watch, but I get it. And while we're here, and since it's virtual. Have the All-Pro team from 2020 go against the All-Pro team of 2000 and see what happens.
— We have a few undeniable and pretty universally known things we love. The 5-at-10 family. Our big-brained readers and listeners who put up with — and at times even enjoy — the silliness. The Masters. The draft. The moments in sports that makes it inexplicably dusty wherever you may be. And game shows. Here's the latest from The Wheel of Fortune. The puzzle category was "What are you doing" and the board was "D_CL_RING _ICT_RY." A contestant buzzed in on the toss upas Pat said, "What are you doing?" The contestant got too casual and said, "I'm declaring victory." Strict WoF rules that when it comes solving time, no extra words are allowed, so the answer was wrong. Ouch-standing. Still, if you think there is karma in botching "Declaring victory" (insert a Trump joke here if you would like), know that the contestant who stumbled on that puzzle was still the big-winner and took home more than $32,000 in cash and prizes. Yeah, I'd declare that a victory, all things considered.
— Hey are we turning the picking corner? In this space yesterday, we wrote, "Got a little MACtion tonight. I am on Kent State minus-25.5 over the Akron Arths." After a very tight first half, the depth-depraved Arths gave way to KSU in a 69-35 win. Take that Kyle the Magic 8 Ball.
— I understand the pitch fork-waving folks wanting Coach O's scalp in Red Stick. The allegations at LSU are heart-breaking and worthy of your outrage. And while it's important to preach patience in trying to find where the real mistakes were made and where the real blame should be directed. But two things make it hard for me to see how Coach O survives this ultimately: First, if there was one or even two, as bad as that is considering the lives disrupted by even one or two, when there is nine, it's hard to think it's not systemic. And second, if you think it's systemic, then I think even if Coach O did not know a single thing about any of the nine, that level of detachment and complete ignorance about what's happening within your program is likely fireable too.
— You know the rules. Here's Paschall again looking back on Jarrett Guarantano's best game as a Vol.
— You know the rules. Here's Hargis on Catherine Neely's death. Dang you 2020.
— You know the rules. Here's Weeds on college hoops, because he's aces on college hoops.
— Pete Rose is still betting on baseball games, in case you were wondering.
Which way Wednesday starts this way.
Which is more likely, Wichita State balanced the budget and the legal fees and embarrassment was the reason for the pay-to-leave bounty or there is something else that's worse in the shadows?
Which of these dudes would you vote to get into the Hall of Fame, and you have to vote for at least one: Pete Rose, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, all of the above?
Which No. 1 overall pick in the history of the NBA draft was the worst?
As for today, well it's Nov. 18 and let's review.
Hey, it's Owen Wilson's birthday. Do Owen and Luke Wilson make the Rushmore of acting brothers?
Go, and remember the mailbag.