We were Pavlov's dogs. We were willing dupes with wagging tongues and swaying tails. "Liva-snaps? Milk Bones? Gaines Burgers?" We're on our way.
So we ran. When Billy Donovan and the Orlando Magic beckoned us for a Friday morning press conference to introduce the latest college-to-pros coach we came a runnin' just as fast as we could.
Just about each and everyone of us that had come to Orlando to find the future Daniel Gibson or the next Dwayne Wade ran up Interstate 4 away from Disney to Maitlin. Instead of finding those players in the Class of 2007, we discovered the coaching version of John Kerry - a whistle-tooting, flip-flopping coach in a natty blue suit and a fresh white shirt.
Now, it appears, Billy Donovan wasn't quite so passionate about taking on the new challenge of the NBA. If Sunday night's late reports of Donovan leaving the Magic at the altar (or after the honeymoon, whichever you perfer) are correct - and we have every reason to believe they are - it will mean that Donovan really wanted the "easy" way all along and he wasn't quite ready for the "challenging" route.
Two separate national websites are repoting that Billy Donovan is trying to pull out of his deal to be the next coach of the Orlando Magic.
Both Foxsports.com's Jeff Goodman and ESPN's Andy Katz are reporting late Sunday night that Billy Donovan is considering re-negging on his Orlando Magic contract and returning to the Univeristy of Florida. Goodman's original post came at about 10:30 p.m., was updated once at 11:18 EST p.m. (and then was updated again about 20 minutes later).
Katz's information was teased for the upcoming SportsCenter during the eighth inning (11:27 p.m. EST) of the Red Sox/Yankees game as ESPN was reporting that the Magic are now considering whether they will allow Donovan out of his deal which was announced with much pomp and circumstance on Friday in Orlando (see previous entries of Hang Time.) A "Breaking News" box with the information was added to ESPN.com's front page a little after 11:35 p.m. the Assocaited Press had yet to run with the emerging story (but has since).
Katz is reporting that Donovan's contract with Orlando is signed which means that legal options must be explored by both sides in order to void the contract.
We will monitor the story and update as necessary.
You must remember this about the NBA Pre-Draft Camp which we were chronicling from Wednesday through Friday of last week: They hold it at Disney for a very specific reason and it's the very same reason why Billy Donovan took the NBA money and ran away from Gainesville. This showcase of second tier college and international talent comes to Orlando for the magic of illusion.
Donovan's cash grab is nothing more than good business. It's hardly the painful decision that Donovan spun it as. He's getting silly money that brings lifetime security for his family of six. And bringing the NBA auditions to Mickey's Milk House is nothing more than pomp and circumstance for a whole lot of fringe NBA players.
The illusions were everywhere in the Milk House all week. And the illusions were in the Magic Practice facility where Donovan descended a set of stairs from above the practice court and into an adoring crowd of Magic employees and fawning media.
What makes the illusions intriguing though is the speculation and spin that comes out of the camp. The players, for the most part, aren't even bold enough to want to be Dwight Howard, they'd settle for a Paul Millsap or Daniel Gibson. When they get real cocky they evoke an Anderson Varejao.
At best, these are the guy who are going to go to a rising, winning NBA team and will have a chance to contribute in games like these past two fabulous affairs in Cleveland-Detroit (ala Gibson, last year's 42nd overall pick). At worst, they'll be stranded on a poor team and forced to contribute too early and too often.
The camp is not the end all, be all, by any means. And the absence of question mark guys like Sean Williams (Boston College), Glen Davis (LSU) and Gabe Pruitt (USC) further muddy the waters.
All those variables considered we're comfortable in naming Boston College's Jared Dudley as Hang Time's "Player Who Helped Himself the Most" at Pre-Draft '07. The honor - and let's face it, we're honored to be giving awards - is not an endorsement of Dudley as a Top 15 or even a Top 20 pick. But it is a testament to the do-it-all-Dudley’s solid performance through the camp's most important stretch – game play. Not only did Dudley play well, but he "presented" well. He's been all-interview at Boston College for several years and his fast-talking, blunt assessments of his own performances and the system he finds himself in, endeared him immediately to an Orlando media throng that needed desperately to latch onto a "riser" in the June 28 NBA Draft.
ORLANDO - With his day's work complete and a couple of 3-pointers having been launched to cap his light workout, the almost surefire No. 1 pick in the June 28 NBA Draft turned his attention to more pressing matters.
"I want it to stop raining so we can go to Disney tomorrow," said Greg Oden. "I've never been and I really want to get on some of those rides. But not the water ones. I don't want to get wet. Nothing worse than walking around with wet shoes on."
It's at moments like these when you understand just how gregarious and just how young oden truly is. He won't be 20-years-old until January and with that youth comes an irresistible innocence that belies the 7-footer's court presence.
"I did go to Kings Island and they kicked me off a ride beacuse I was too tall," Oden said after the non-participating players finished their day of being measured and some light workouts. "They kicked me off!"
That's discrimination, Hang Time informed the big man.
"That's what I said!" he laughed.
Soon enough, Oden will be able to rent out, if not buy, an entire amusement park for himself. For now though, he said he's going to be going back to Indianapolis and continue working out in anticipation of the June Draft when it is expected Portland will take the ex-Buckeye with the first pick.
* Oden said he has slowly gotten over his dislike for the Florida Gator players Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer as they have spent more time together during their Orlando stay. "At first, it was tough because they beat us [in the national title game]," Oden smirked. "But they're cool and we've bene having fun."
ORLANDO - Two years ago, on the occassion of her husband's 40th birthday, Christine Donovan sent out party invitations which read, "Billy's a Kid No More." When his ex-coach and mentor, Rick Pitino opened the invite he couldn't help but laugh.
"Not in my eyes," recalled Pitino a couple of weeks back on the occassion of his Providence team's 20th anniversary of its 1987 Final Four run. "He's always Billy the Kid to me."
On Friday, with Christine at his side and just about every Orlando Magic worker crowding the bleachers of the Magic's practice facility in giddy anticipation, The Kid became The King and took with him a king's ransom of some $27 million for the next five years to lead the once-proud NBA franchise.
The scene was eerily similar to one that played out almost 11 years ago to the day when the New Jersey Nets rolled out the red carpet at the Continental Airlines Arena for another annointed son of college basketball, John Calipari. On that day in the swamps of Jersey, like this one on the outskirts of Disney, a young, successful NCAA coach was lured to the NBA by money, challenges and yes, a whole lot of ego.
ORLANDO - We're back at the Lactose Dome and the final game of the 2007 NBA Pre-Draft Camp is underway between teams 4 and 5. We also spotted the two black vans that have been transporting the the projected lottery picks around parked in front of the the complex, so it's safe to bet the likes of Greg Oden and Kevin Durant are currently being inspected, detected, weighed, measured, poked and prodded.
It looks like our guy, Herbert Hill had a strong finish to his camp with a six point, nine rebound and four block performance in Team 6's 93-89 win of Team 1 in the 11 a.m. game which left both squads at 2-1 for the three days of games.
Boise State's Coby Karl was the game's high scorer with 17 points, including 9 of 13 from the free throw line in the losing effort. Both Alabama's Jemario Davidson and Nevada's Marcelus Kemp added 16 apiece for the Team 6ers. Memphis's Jeremy Hunt continued his struggles with three points while Nevada's Ramon Sessions continued his strong play with 14 points.
Team 1 was led by Virginia Tech's Zabian Dowdell with 13 points and Arizona's Mustafa Shakur chipped in eight points and five assists.
ORLANDO - Billy Donovan's coronation as the new king of Orlando Magic basketball is now complete after a 40-minute press conference at the Magic's practice facility. An entire wall of bleachers was filled with fawning Magic employees and supporters and at least 15 minicams focused in on the NBA's newest head coach while a throng of media (many from national outlets in town for the NBA Pre-Draft Camp) filled the four rows of seats set up in front of the platform where Donovan and GM Otis Smith answered questions.
We'll have a post-presser column in the afternoon but a couple of newsy items that emerged from Donovan's Q&A session include the fact that he will be brinigng assistant coach Larry Shyatt with him from Gainesville and that Donovan through his full support behind VCU's Anthony Grant as the next head coach of the Gators.
Grant finished his first season at VCU after a tremendous season in which the Rams advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after winning the CAA Tournament (and an upset of Duke in the Tourney). He had been with Donovan at Florida for 10 of the coach's 11 seasons.
The news that Shyatt is also jumping to the NBA means that he will not be considered for the vacant Gators job.
. . . UMass coach Travis Ford was in attendance to support a fellow branch on the Pitino tree. Ford, in town to watch Rashuan Freeman and Stephane Lasme at the Pre-Draft Camp, said, "It's well earned for Billy. He deserves it."
Asked if he could ever envision himself in the same position, Ford smiled and said, "I love the NBA. That would be an amazing opportunity."
. . . We're on our way back over to the Pre-Draft Camp where we will provide some updates from the final day of games and, as we mentioned, we'll also have a Donovan column posted at CSTV.com later in the day.
ORLANDO - It has become the Pre-Draft Camp that Billy the Kid stole, but don't bother telling that to any of the 60-plus players who are jockeying for position in the June 28 NBA Draft. Even with the monster distraction of the Little Coach Who Could, Thursday night's two games at the Lactose Dome went on as scheduled and the overall picture of this Camp started to beocme a bit more clear.
Among the revelations on Day Two of the games is the emerging sentiment that Boston College's Jared Dudley is the player helping himself the most; Jared Jordan of Marist is the most fundamentally sound player and the increasing realization that high-major players aren't necessarily the best-prepared for either the NBA or a camp like this one.
After the jump, we take a look at Hang Time's "Two-Thirds of the Way Done" assessment of the 2007 NBA Pre-Draft Camp.
Before we get there, be advised that we've called an audible for Friday's coverage of camp, as the Donovan press conference will be held at 11 a.m. at Magic headquarters and we owe it to you, the loyal Hang Time Hanger, to go and chronicle the closing chapter of Donovan's stellar collegiate coaching career. (Closing for now any way, as the track record of college-to-pro guys suggests that Donovan may, at some point, find his way back to the good ole NC two-A.) We do promise to return to the Milk House in the afternoon to put a capper on the competition of camp.
ORLANDO - Even as the sixth of nine games got underway in the Lactose Dome this evening, the only thing most in attendance had on their minds was the apparent pending move of Billy Donovan from one part of Florida to another as the Orlando Magic's head coach.
One Atlantic Division coach heard the news of Donovan's supposed megabucks deal as he watched the contest between Team 5 and Team 2 from the balcony and all he could do was shake his head and let out a big rush of air. When Joakim Noah was told of what was being reported as a $6 million annual deal during the afternoon media session he sadi, "That's a lot of hamburgers."
More likely filet mignon, but Noah's point is well-taken.
* Meanwhile, Team 2 improved to 2-0 for the Camp with a 94-79 win over Team 5 in the 5 p.m. game. Team 2 was paced by five players in double figures including 14 each from DePaul's Sammy Mejia and Texas A&M's Antanas Kavaliauskas. But the star for the club continues to be the scrappy Marist point guard, Jared Jordan, who followed his five assist first game with a seven assist (zero tunrover) outing on Thursday night to go along with eight points.
There are certain guys who just release an air of basketball smarts and Jordan is this camp's poster boy for such a player. His size (6-2, 186) could limit his NBA potential but there isn't a scout in attendance who hasn't been impressed by the way Jordan sees the floor, runs the team and makes good - nay, great - decisions in the open floor.
Billy the Kid Steals Thunder From Players and Camp
ORLANDO - With reports swirling that Florida coach Billy Donovan will be leaving Gainesville for Orlando and the NBA, Donovan's NBA-bound players were left answering questions about their ex-coach during the afternoon interview session at the Radisson Resort Parkway convention center.
Meant to give media types access to the projected top players in the June 28 NBA Draft, the session took on a surreal feel as the Orlando Sentinel report filtered through the banquet room where interviews were being conducted with Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Al Horford and others.
Towards the end of the session, after being asked about the rumors repeatedly, Noah even tried to help out the Fourth Estate by placing a cell phone call to Donovan's assistant and former Gator, Major Parker. Parker, apparently, had no definitive reply for Noah.
Still, at this point in the afternoon, there has been no confirmation that Donovan has accepted the position which is rumored to have a six million dollar annual salary.
Asked whether he knew of any specifics regarding Donovan, ex-Gator Al Horford said it took him by surprise to hear the report and that he had spoken with Donovan on Wednesday to wish the coach a happy birthday.
"The NBA is a transition for the players and I'm sure it would be for a coach, but I don't know if (the report) is accurate or not," said Horford. "If that's the case, it's a different level and a lot different than college in terms of scouting and different coaching strategies."
* We're on our way back over to the Milk House for the evening session so we'll see if there are further developments regarding Donovan's Florida future.
ORLANDO - A busy day here in the Lactose Dome as Game No. 4 of the camp concluded with an 88-85 win for Team 1 over Team 4. Jackson State's Trey Johnson led all scorers with 16 points for the victors. Team 4 was paced by 13 points each from Boston College's Jared Dudley and North Carolina's Reyshawn Terry.
Hang Time's Herbert Hill from Providence showed improvement today, finishing with six points, three rebounds and an assist on 3 of 5 from the field. Hill's college coach Tim Welsh arrived in Orlando this morning with his longtime assistant Steve DeMeo and both watched their guy from the balcony to the left of the playing court. Welsh said the NBA people are telling him that Hill played better today than yesterday and that they like what they are seeing form the big fella.
Hill himself said he was happy for his team to get the win and that he thought he played pretty well. "I was more active today I think," said Hill who also indicated that he has been interviewed by two teams already in Cleveland and Orlando. "I just want to show everyone that I have a high ceiling."
Hill said he would be going back to the teams' hotel and hydrating, grabbing lunch and then having some team meetings in the afternoon. His final game of the camp will be played tomorrow morning. He said he was hoping to grab dinner with Welsh and DeMeo this evening and Hang Time is efforting to be a part of that meal should our schedule allow for such enjoyment.
ORLANDO - We're back at the Milk House on the grounds of the Wide World of Sports Complex where signs on exterior light poles indicate this is a "Proving Ground." To illustrate the point, players are being run through scrimmages and drills with the day's first game between Herbert Hill's Team 1 and Team 4 scheduled to start at 11 a.m.
On our way into the Milk Bottle, er, House, we espied former UCLA (and other dubious stops) coach Jim Harrick as well as NBA gentleman Lenny Wilkens. Can there possibly be two more divergent basketball men? Harrick is known for cheating and scheming while Wilkens is known for kindness and coaching. It strikes us as the spectrum of folks you can run into during this meat market near Cinderella's Castle.
. . .We keep forgetting to mention that the "security" personnel in The Milk (or Lactose Abode if you prefer) are outiftted in referees' jerseys with a "security" name tag on the back. We're tempted, each time we walk by, to sceam, "That's a horrible call, Ref!" But we catch ourself and smile knowingly at each and every ref.
. . . The media availibility for the non-participating athletes - inclduing Greg Oden and Kevin Durant - goes from 2:30 to 3:30 and we'll be live from the Radisson Resort for that session. For now, we're heading out to watch the day's first contest and get some color and flavor as the competition - and the stakes - heat up in steamy Orlando.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA (aka ORLANDO, which is easier to type and thus what we will be using from here on out) - With one-third of the scheduled games of the 2007 NBA Pre-Draft Camp now complete, we're able to offer some recollections from our first day in the Happiest Place on Earth (non-Gainesville division, we suppose).
Every comparison you've ever heard about the Pre-Draft camp being a meat market is dead-on. Even more accurate is any statement that suggests there are waaaaaay too many middle-aged men with waaaaaaay too much time on their hands to be able to sit around and speculate on such things as whether Jared Dudley can help an NBA team (YES, we say) or if Daequan Cook will be back at Ohio State come September (NO, we say, after speaking with Cook post-game).
There are team executives, team hangers-on and any variety of hucksters and shysters sullying the Wide World of Sports Complex during this week of activity. Contrast the dirty dealings that are surely being perpertrated in lobbies and concourses with the supposed pristine image of Disney and you get a decidedly ugly picture of the world of professional sports. Look what you hath wrought, Walt Disney. Just look. And you too, David Stern.
There's no turning back of course, but we do sort of like the way NBA scouting guru, Marty Blake wistfully longed for the days of yore in his 2007 NBA Draft Media Guide introductory piece:
"I do miss the old days when eight teams would meet at a midtown hotel in New York City and dance through 15 rounds or less, often drafting players we had not seen and asking some of us who were better prepared, to toss them a name or two. . ." wrote Blake, now in his 59th year of porfessional basketball. "For an affair originally conducted without much fanfare among a group of only eight franchises to one of the most important events on the year-long NBA calendar, the Draft is now being piped worldwide through various mediums. . ."
Even as we contribute to that "piping," we have to wonder if it wasn't a better system in those innocent days of which Blake wrote.
Still, there are some fascinating storylines to follow. . .
ORLANDO - We've had our first Michael Jordan sighting of our visit to Mickey's playhouse and for a bit of time during tonight's second game between Teams 3 and 4, there was a section of the Milk House that contained Larry Bird in the front row and four rows back was MJ and The Logo, Jerry West. That folks, is one might powerful NBA threesome and the combined points, honors and titles of those three men will stand the test of time.
In other news, Team 2 downed Team 1 in the 5 p.m. game, 80-76 as Texas A&M's Antanas Kavaliauskas led Team 2 (in blue) with 14 points. The White Team's Mohamed Abukar from San Diego State led all scorers with 16 points.
Our guy Herbert Hill from Providence College - or H2 as he is sometimes called - put in a solid effort with eight points, six rebounds and two blocks. We got to talk with Herb after the game for a while and he was fairly satisfied with his performance but vowed to attack the boards more. "I've got show that I can rebound the ball and block shots," said Hill who started off strong with a nice baby hook and a block in his first rotation on the floor (everyone is playing about 20 minutes each game in five man platoons that enter every five minutes of game time). Hill was 3 of 9 from the field and had five fouls in the game.
We'll have more from Hill in our final post of the night which will come later on this evening as we try and go catch the second half of the final game of the day between Team 3 and Team 4.
ORLANDO - Right around the time another Kobe was throwing a controlled hissy fit about his NBA future with Stephen A. Smith on the radio in New Yorfk City, a much more bearable Coby was discussing the cancer that can't keep him from trying to make it to the NBA.
You can have your Kobe Bryant and the soap opera that has been his career. We'll take our Coby Karl and the courageous battle that has brought him to the place where a huge sign greets visitors informing them that "Dreams Come True."
Karl, the 24-year-old son of Denver coach George Karl (a cancer survivor himself), is one of about 60 players on display for the NBA decision-makers this week at Disneyworld. He is neither the most talented nor the most athletically gifted, but if you need a rooting interest for someone who probably deserves a couple of looks from the gathered NBA "experts," the 6-foot-5, 216-pound guard is your boy.
"I'm not going to dunk from half court or do any of the special things," said the Boise State product, who finished third on the school's all-time scoring list after walking on and redshirting in 2002-03. "I just try to play the right way and hopefully that gets me picked somewhere."
ORLANDO - Lunch at the All-Star Cafe was fine, thank you for asking.
We're about two hours from our next game action when the Team 1s face off against the Team 2s in a 5 p.m. tip. Our guy Herbert Hill (wearing No. 76) will be the feature attraction for us from Team 1, while Team 2 has two very intriguing players in Jared Jordan from Marist and Stephane Lasme from our alma mater, UMass.
In the 6:30 p.m. game, Team 3 takes on Team 4 in the third of nine scheduled games between now and Friday afternoon. For Team 3, we'll be keeping a close eye on Marquette's Dominic James and Kansas State's Cartier Martin. Team 4 has a myriad of possible (surprise) first-rounders with Oregon's Aaron Brooks, BC's Jared Dudley, San Diego State's Brandon Heath and Southern Illinois' mighty mite, Jamaal Tatum.
We'll still plan on getting you some of the Coby Karl interview later in the day, but for now (after the jump) we'll leave you with a list of who the coaches are for the six Camp teams.
ORLANDO - With relative ease and as few crying kids as you could expect on a trip to Disneyworld, we've touched down at the Happiest Place on Earth and managed to take in the first game of the NBA's annual Pre-Draft Camp which pitted Team 6 (in blue) vs. Team 5 (in white) at the Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports. The Blues won 106-84 and were led by 10 from Detroit's Ryvon Covile, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward.
The Whites were led by Coleman Collins (Virginia Tech), with 22 points. From what we saw, there weren't any true standout players, although Syracuse's Demetris Nichols had 13 first half points on his way to 18 for the game. Fellow Big Easter, Aaron Gray showed off his new, slimmed down body and finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for the Whites.
"I worked out real good after the season and lost about 15 pounds," said Gray after the game. "I'm at 270 now and that's where I feel comfortable. I think I did well, the (White) team struggled a bit, but it's a real good experience."
Last we saw Gray during the NCAA Tournament in Buffalo, he was not helping his NBA cause very much and the dreaded "soft" label started to creep into discussion of the 7-footer. However, his weight loss and some aggressiveness on the boards in Game 1 probably earned him back some credibility. Gray says he's playing without pressure during the camp.
"It's basketball, you just kind of get used to it," he said. "It's an exciting time and you want to go out there and impress some people."
EN ROUTE TO ORLANDO - Just when you thought it was safe to return to the Hang Time blog, the CSTV.com Powers-That-Be have once again enlisted my services for live-blogging and shenanigans of the highest order. This time we take our trusty laptop, a notepad and the CSTV.com expense account to the Disney property in Orlando, Florida, where several dozen NBA hopefuls are converging this week in hopes of helping themselves to a coveted position in the June 28 NBA Draft.
With 60 draft spots (30 in each round) and guaranteed money only going to the first 30 picks, the math is fairly simple: Sixty-two players are expected to play and be drilled at the annual NBA camp. An additional 19 players are expected to be in Mickey's hood for physicals (and hopefully interviews) only. That list is, of course, headlined by Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Brandan Wright, Corey Brewer, Yi Jianlian and over a dozen other players who feel they have nothing to gain by showcasing their wares for the NBA talent evaluators who will be present throughout the week.
With those numbers as your guide, and allowing for some entrants to return to the grand ole college game, the thinking man would say that there are, at best, about 15 first round spots on the line between now and June 28, with about 60 bodies vying for those spots. The rest are fighting to go as high as they can in the second round and, maybe more importantly, find a good fit late in the second.
Listed after the jump is a tentative, subject to change list of players and the schools or countries from which they hail.
* Our plan is to be on the ground around lunch time on Wednesday in Orlando and we hope to be up and blogging shortly after that. We've got some great ideas in store for our three day enCAMPment, including a comprehensive following of the fortunes of Providence College's Herbert Hill, who is already rising on a lot of mock draft boards and is the quintissential pre-draft camp participant who can help himself in numerous ways, or with a bad outing, hurt himself in numerous other manners.