FreeDrafto Minus 37: Night Falls On Yours Truly
I don't think that the age limit was put in place to draw me to college ball, but it has. While I can't say that I watched much before the tournament, I at least had to take the headlines seriously. After all, in the most workmanlike way imaginable, the NCAA was now the spawning ground for this year's lottery, the wiggly puddle out of which a civilization of frogs would emerge. Draft season is already in full swing, simply because declare-or-not is the most enormous uncertainty facing this year's crop of prospects. I know that the policy change got made in order to restore the NCAA's pride and clean up the NBA. However, it also had the effect of completely reorganizing the way these two worlds meet.
I remember when the draft was like a thicket through which all college glories had to pass. A thicket filled with monsters, international oddities, high school gambles, scouts' superstitions, and a general case of hermeneutic blindness. Declaring for the draft was the first step of surrendering to its wilds, like the existential extreme sport all its disciples knew it to be. I am incredibly ignorant when it comes to the philosophy of extreme sports, but suspect that it depends on a heroic balance of iron will and Zen release. Thus these student-athletes, cut loose from the NCAA's nuturing teat, from all the white girls, school records, and free beer, acknowledged that their effort would now be powerless in the face of the arbitrary and in-fih-nitt.
School was out the day they cut those ties, and with it, much of their authority and capital went tumbling into the dusk. Their NCAA careers were sharply over, and yet during this cramping limbo they would have no guarantee of a new career beginning. Now, that ain't the case. The lottery is primarily a question of the "how," not the "who," with the ping-pong balls more important than ever as a predictor of 6/26 distinction. Perhaps I am overstating this belief, for reasons I will clarify shortly. But look dudes, there's little reason to think that, after the lottery, we can't all draw up our mocks with more confidence than we've had in years. There just won't be that much new information arising, or intervening enigmas, to gum up the works.
I am tremendously depressed by the newfound synergy of the two sports. It means that the draft, and everything up until the point where these players don their new team's uniforms—maybe even only in the regular season—is still college ball. Still built on the back of their past performance in those ranks, still pointing to those as the authoritative point of reference. I don't even see team needs playing that much of a role past the first two picks; in this kind of draft, you take the best available unless you've got an All-Star at that position. The draft has once again been subsumed by the narrative of the college career, in a way we haven't seen since early exits became a way of life.
For me, though, this will be a personal tragedy. I have always thrived on the NBA draft, in part because it had become one of the most surreal, mystical rituals of all professional sports. If anything allowed for truthful manifestations of FreeDarko's most base principles, it was this month or so of hysteria, fantasy and occasional prophecy. This year, though, I will be denied this experience. Take, for instance, Julian Wright. I no longer have the right to invent him from thin air, or wonder wildly about what might be. No, I must humble up and admit that I don't know a fucking thing about Julian Wright, but that he sounds really cool. . . and I plan to spend the next two months in the film room so I can cultivate some right to feel this way.