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Eric Walden: World Cup is great, but NBA Draft has upside potential
First Published Jun 28 2014 04:39 pm • Last Updated Jun 28 2014 11:29 pm

I don’t claim to be a huge soccer fan — the bulk of my Barclay’s Premier League viewership typically occurs when I’ve got insomnia — but I’ll concede I’ve once again got full-blown World Cup fever.

I still remember Roberto Baggio shooting high in the 1994 final. I felt honest, searing disappointment at Spain defeating the Netherlands — my mother’s homeland — in South Africa four years ago. Portugal’s late equalizer against the United States a week ago left me deflated. And even with no rooting interest, I felt the tension of Brazil’s PK victory over Chile on Saturday.

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There’s just something about this tournament — no matter what freak-show, dumpster-fire nonsense spews from the lips of that xenophobe Ann Coulter.

That said, Thursday’s NBA Draft was a welcome interruption.

Each year’s draft is must-see viewing for me, on account of both my NBA fandom and the voluminous levels of pure entertainment value.

Sure, a big part of it is the culmination of finally finding out who’s going where, of seeing franchises’ fortunes being tied to the fates of newly minted millionaire teenagers. But, just as much, if not more so, the entertainment is tied to the goofy stuff.

There’s the usual suspects, such as Jay Bilas-inspired drinking games based upon his myriad uses of draftspeak buzzwords such as "wingspan," "upside" and "potential," and of course, some player’s creatively tailored suit inevitably drawing a comparison to the curtains in someone’s granny’s living room (congratulations to this year’s winner, Andrew Wiggins, btw), but it’s the unique, unscripted stuff that makes four-plus hours of comparing every single prospect — whether you’ve heard of him or not — to some Hall of Famer palatable.

For instance …

• Sixers fans losing their minds three different ways in about 30 seconds — first at drafting elite-but-injured prospect Joel Embiid ("I can’t believe we got him!"); then being dismayed when the video feed appeared to show Embiid seriously nonplussed at being selected by Philly ("He doesn’t want us? We don’t want him! Screw that guy!"); and finally some odd mix of relief and elation at realizing said video was a few seconds behind and he didn’t know he’d been drafted yet ("OK, it’s all good. We got him!"). I wonder if the same fans will lose it as equally when the Sixers try to sell them a season-ticket package in spite of neither of their lottery picks playing next year.

• Louisiana-Lafayette point guard Elfrid Payton requiring some serious physical effort to stuff the entirety of his sizeable afro into his ballcap. (I will concede I wish I had that problem.)


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• The reminder that Doug McDermott’s nickname is "Dougie McBuckets" cuz … you know … he wasn’t quite white enough. Bonus points for his nickname’s instant-albeit-short-lived evolution to "Dougie McNuggets" during his all-too-brief affiliation with Denver. I cried a little at the missed marketing opportunity.

• Toronto eschewing adding a viable contributor to last year’s third-place Eastern Conference team in favor of drafting something named "Bruno Caboclo." ESPN international prospect guru Fran Fraschilla revealed that Caboclo became known as the "Brazilian Kevin Durant" after averaging a whopping 4.9 points for a Sao Paulo team last year, but added the admonition that "he’s two years away from being two years away." After a few seconds of stunned silence, Bill Simmons quipped, "So, his biggest problem is he doesn’t know how to play basketball."

• If hearing the name "Bruno Caboclo" uttered from commissioner Adam Silver’s tongue elicited nothing but head-scratching and blank stares, a mere seven picks later came a name that, for me at least, produced the opposite reaction: Bogdan Bogdanovic. Seriously. That’s his name.

Say it out loud: "Bogdan Bogdanovic." I know it’s juvenile and stupid, but it makes me laugh. I keep picturing SNL’s Norm MacDonald as Burt Reynolds on an episode of "Celebrity Jeopardy": "That’s right" … [chewing gum … chewing gum … chewing gum] … "It’s a funny name." It IS a funny name. The parents of Bogdan Bogdanovich earn an A+ grade for their child naming upside potential.

In the meantime, it’s back to the World Cup. Holland is playing again today. And when it’s all over, the four-year wait until the next one won’t seem so bad. After all, there will be a few more drafts in the meantime to tide me over.

ewalden@sltrib.com

Twitter: @esotericwalden



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