Wizards take Kentucky's Wall with No. 1 pick
Two hours before David Stern walked out on stage to signal the start of last night's NBA draft, the concessionaires outside Madison Square Garden were pushing John Wall T-shirts with a Washington Wizards logo on them.
So it was no great shocker when the NBA commissioner announced that the Wizards had made the point guard out of Kentucky the top pick in the draft. Wall, wearing a pinstriped suit that was handpicked by his mother, tweeted "my dream becoming a reality'' minutes before his name was announced.
When asked what he was thinking as he shook Stern's hand, Wall said, "This is a very emotional experience.''
The 6-5 Wall is considered the one sure thing in a rather mediocre draft class that has been overshadowed by the upcoming free-agency period. The Wizards hope he can become the new face of the team and help them bounce back from a nightmare of a season that included the suspension of Gilbert Arenas for bringing guns into the locker room.
Wall, who averaged 16.6 points and 6.5 assists as a Kentucky freshman, could replace Arenas or play next to him in what would be one of the most potent backcourts in the league.
The Knicks did not have a first-round pick, which goes a long way toward explaining why the fans at the Garden were uncharacteristically subdued. The rowdiest they got came when Philadelphia took Ohio State's Evan Turner with the No. 2 pick. The large contingent of Philly fans heartily approved of the selection as they chanted "Evan Turner! Evan Turner!'' while he walked across the stage.
The Nets also had a significant contingent of fans, and no one seemed to know what they were going to do with the No. 3 pick. Not even Derrick Favors, who looked a little stunned when Stern called his name.
"I had no idea they were taking me,'' said Favors, a freshman from Georgia Tech. "I was totally excited.''
Just because there was no drama early in the draft doesn't mean the night was bereft of it. Several news outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, reported that the Bulls have agreed in principle to trade veteran guard Kirk Hinrich to the Wizards along with the 17th overall pick in the draft. Forward Kevin Seraphin of France was drafted with the pick, and the Bulls confirmed that they are in discussions to trade him.
The trade is not good news for the Knicks. It sheds nearly $9 million off the Bulls' payroll, making it possible for them to sign two big-name free agents this summer.
Also on the unexpected drama front, there were several reports that Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard would be relieved of his duties after the draft was completed.
It was a big night for Kentucky, which had five players taken in the first round. In addition to Wall, DeMarcus Cousins was chosen by Sacramento with the No. 5 pick, Patrick Patterson went to Houston at No. 14, Eric Bledsoe was taken by Oklahoma City at No. 18 and then traded to the Clippers, and Daniel Orton went to the Magic at No. 29.
Former Lincoln star Lance Stephenson was taken in the second round by the Pacers.