by Lang Whitaker

Technically, I am currently on vacation, and Wifey has banned from accessing the internet — no, not because of that. She’s just tired of me continuing to write and sort through emails on every trip we take. But I had some stuff to clear up and go through and things I wanted to write about, which explains why I’m posting this late at night.

• First of all, we have a winner in the Draft hat contest. On Friday, I asked Konate to go through all the entries, find the correct entries and pick a winner. He chose “CW,” who did indeed have the first five picks correct. HOWEVA, upon further review, CW entered the contest twice, and I specifically stated only one entry per person. So, I went back through today and found a new winner, by picking out the people who guessed correctly, making sure they only guessed once and then closing my eyes and selecting a winner…Celts Fan! So Celts Fan not wins the Boston hat but a Lakers hat as well. Hat fun (ha!) with those.

• By now you’ve hopefully had a chance to read Sam’s big news, and I just want to publicly wish him the best. Privately, though, we’ve got issues…

KIDDING!

Seriously, this is a great opportunity for Sam and he’s going to be a terrific teacher. We’ll talk more about Sam in the weeks ahead before he packs up his office.

• One thing about the Draft itself…

I spent all day Friday cleaning out my office and moving to another office just down the hall and closer to the SLAM Dome (a.k.a. the dark room that Ben, Khalid, Susan and all of our interns share). Somehow I got my own office a few years ago and I’ve clung to it for all I’m worth. Then, recently, someone realized it would probably just make more sense if I moved three offices down, closer to the SLAM Dome. I’d been in the same cubicle for the last five years, and as I carted my stuff down the hall, I kept stumbling over all sorts of accumulated detritus, from the box score of a game I attended in Spain to notebooks filled with old notes and observations. And in one notebook, scribbled on a page, I found:
OJ Mayo
Rose Hill Christian School
And then the name of his coach at the time and the coach’s pager number. This was from back in 2002, when I was working on a story for the Punks section of SLAM about the growing interest in young high school players. At the time, OJ had just finished the seventh grade, but he was already being feted as the next big thing. So I wrote a piece about OJ, about how he was already a great player, sure, but more about how we should temper our hopes and give these kids a chance to live their lives before we saddle them with undue expectations.

(By the way, I tried to interview OJ for that story, but never got in touch with him. As I recall, I spoke to his coach at the time and was told that all interview requests had to go through OJ’s parents, which was perfectly understandable. I got a number for someone in his family but the phone wouldn’t accept incoming calls. Then I FedExed a letter to his school’s principal asking him to please pass on my number to the Mayo family, but I never heard from anyone and had to go ahead and write the story.)

If you read SLAM, you know we’re the first to bring you news on almost every great high school prospect, from Lance Stephenson to some guy named LeBron. And we did with OJ, too. Then, when OJ went off to USC last year, I watched some of his games and found him to have that certain je ne sais quoi, an unspoken, undefined quality that I thought would make him a great NBA player, or at least a great NBA personality, the kind of player a city could rally behind. When I started hearing that the T-Wolves were interested in OJ, I was actually excited about this.

As far as I’m concerned, the worst thing an NBA franchise can be is irrelevant. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a fan of the Timberwolves. I’m a Hawks fan, so I understand what it’s like for a team who can’t get their act together for a while. The Hawks lost a tom of games, yes, but they finally got their act together and have started building a winner. (More on that later.)

Minnesota, meanwhile, just can’t do anything right. They’ve been past the first round of the Playoffs once in franchise history(!), but worse than their poor play has been their complete NBA irrelevance. Not only have they been turrible, they haven’t even sniffed competitiveness, at least on a championship level. If I’m a fan of a team, I can live with an occasional missed Draft pick, maybe a few poor personnel decisions, but you have to give me a little something. Minnesota, despite the bumbling, at least had KG for all that time. Until they gave him away.

For a minute there, I thought the T-Wolves were going to return to at least respectability. Drafting OJ Mayo was going to give them some shine, make the League pay attention to them, finally.

And then they traded him for a guy who projects at the same position as their best player, Al Jefferson.

Awesome.

• As for Gilbert Arenas, I hear he’s not only going to agree to deal with the Wizards, but it’s going to be well over the $100 million threshold, like, closer to $130 million. I’m just saying…

• Back to the Hawks. I know Billy Knight isn’t our GM any longer, but if it’s possible to fire him now, even after he quit, I’m all for it. See, last summer he could’ve signed both Josh Smith and Josh Childress to long-term contracts for less money than it’s going to take to keep either of them now. But he didn’t, and now on the open market I’m guessing the Joshes are each going to get pretty nice deals thrown at them.

Charles Barkley nailed it when he noted that the Sixers, above all else, need shooters. For Josh’s sake, I actually hope the Sixers do offer Smoove a huge contract starting at something ridiculous like $12 million a year, although that seems like something that Billy King would’ve done, not Ed Stefanski.

• I hope Golden State fans aren’t mad at Baron Davis for moving back to L.A., because he did a big favor to the Warriors. Not only do they now have the cash to re-sign Monta Ellis, but they clear out a lot of playing time and circumstance. Baron needs the ball to be successful, and for Nellie’s system to really click, at a level higher than it has been, I think not having Baron will actually make them better, especially defensively. I don’t think Baron and Elton together will make the Clippers into the Celtics, but that’s what makes the Clippers fun. Clipper Darrell must be beside himself.

• I’m late posting last week’s NBA Friday, the latest drawing from our man Joel Kimmel, but here it is: Rasheed Wallace.

“Obviously Rasheed is quite the character,” Joel writes. “He also has a lot of character in his face with a couple scars, a beard and expressive eyebrows so I had a lot of fun painting him. I painted him with the official NBA rules in the background defining technical foul violations, fines and flagrant fouls. Rasheed is a great player, but like the Ron Artest piece I did a while back, I wanted to show how the negatives often overshadow the positives of his game. He is practically the poster boy for technical fouls so I painted this piece as if his picture appears next to the technical foul text in the official NBA rulebook. I also threw in a couple diagrams showing the proper way to assess a tech.”

Great stuff, Joel. We’re taking this week off, and in two weeks we’ll return with the San Antonio Spurs.

• Oh, and if you missed my mention last week, both Khalid and I appear on the new series of “I Love The New Millenium” shows on VH1. I wasn’t keeping track of Khalid, but I’m on the years 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007.

Wifey asked me if I thought anyone would recognize me from being on the show, but I doubt it, considering I haven’t had a haircut since taping the show last fall (seriously). Maybe if I chop off my hair and wear the same Bynum Brigade t-shirt every day I’d get spotted. But that would be creepy. At least I was promoted to being an honorary member of The Bynum Brigade. (Mikey, couldn’t you have least not put the TV on widescreen mode? I look like Oliver Miller on that screengrab!)

I actually enjoyed watching all the shows, and I strongly recommend them to you, particularly if you want to hear Khalid’s opinion of the song “Hey There Delilah.”

• Team USA is going to Beijing with just Dwight Howard and his cracked sternum in the middle? Tyson Chandler is only going as an alternate? Here we go again…

Catch you guys next week.