Paul doesn't hear name called
GURNEE — Brandon Paul took turns firing off text messages and nervously glancing at one of the television screens hanging above the bar at Timothy O’Toole’s a few minutes away from his family’s home in the north suburbs.
He never saw his name flash across the screen, as the former Illinois guard’s name wasn’t one of the 60 called during Thursday’s NBA draft.
Paul, surrounded by about three dozen family members and close friends, was looking to make it two straight years of Illini representation in the draft after Meyers Leonard went 11th a year ago.
It’s the sixth time in the last seven years that no Illini players were selected.
Looks of disappointment were evident on the faces of the supporters in the attendance, with the occasional “What?” yelled at the TVs when names other than Paul’s were coming off the board late.
After the final pick, Memphis picking Janis Timma, was revealed, Paul, wearing a smile, got up from his chair and shook hands. He thanked some of the folks for coming out and received some words of encouragement from some, too.
He also graciously signed some autographs.
The eighth-leading scorer in Illinois history with 1,654 career points, Paul and agent Jim Tanner will speak with NBA teams in the coming days in the hopes of landing the 6-foot-4 guard on a summer league roster in an effort to make a club. Paul and his representation fully expected him to be among the draft picks Thursday, so the result was a surprise.
Paul and his mom, Lynda, watched the first round of the draft at home, then joined dad, Cliff Sr., and older brother, Cliff Jr., at O’Toole’s to watch the second round with the group of supporters.
The three-time Academic All-Big Ten pick and third-team all-conference selection on the floor was not among those from the league selected Thursday.
Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller were second and fourth, respectively. Michigan’s Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. were picked ninth and 24th, respectively.
Marcus Jackson spent Thursday night watching the NBA draft
— and not just for the fashion. Here’s a look at his highlights and lowlights:
The Big Ten
Entering Thursday’s draft, the conference was sixth among BCS conference teams in players drafted since 2008. Only 15 Big Ten players had been selected in the previous five drafts. That number increased Thursday with four players hearing their names called in the first round alone. Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. represented the four Big Ten players picked in the first round, only the third time since 2007 that many players from Jim Delany’s league were picked.
A couple of months ago, the good people in California’s capital didn’t know if they’d have an NBA franchise. They kept their team and picked up a steal in the draft, landing Kansas guard Ben McLemore at No. 7. With no clear-cut favorite at the top of the draft, plenty of analysts said McLemore was the most talented of the 2013 crop. First-year coach Mike Malone has some nice pieces to work with alongside McLemore with Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.
The Trail Blazers drafted the Rookie of the Year last year at No. 5 with point guard Damian Lillard, and they added a player who could contend to be this year’s top rookie in guard C.J. McCollum from Lehigh. Ask Duke fans, McCollum can light it up. The 6-foot-3 combo guard gave the Blue Devils 30 points in an upset win in the NCAA tournament last year. Portland has the pieces in the backcourt to improve upon its 33 wins this season.
Tom Crean haters
Haters of the Indiana coach can’t argue with the fact that two players Crean recruited to Bloomington were selected in the first four picks. Cody Zeller, we figured he’d be a high pick when he signed with the Hoosiers, but Crean really developed Victor Oladipo, who was the 114th-ranked player in the country coming out of high school. It would be hard for a recruit to discount that success.
The Pistons have struggled to win games in recent years, finishing with a record below .500 each of the last five seasons. They’re struggling to draw fans, too. All that being said, Detroit had a chance to pick up Trey Burke, the National Player of the Year from nearby Michigan, and passed on the opportunity. Burke is the kind of point guard to build a team around, and he would have helped sell a few more tickets, too.
The commissioner has done a lot of great things for the league during his 30-year tenure. But in one of his last public appearances as the NBA’s top dog, Stern made a fool of himself. He got booed to open the event. He always gets booed, and he knows it coming in. Instead of just taking it, Stern egged on the fans inside the Barclays Center who expressed their displeasure with him and made him come off as unprofessional. Not a good look. He did enjoy a cool moment after announcing his last pick ever when the first player he ever announced, Hakeem Olajuwon, surprised him on stage.