Kyrie Irving probably secured his spot atop the NBA draft when he went to Cleveland and beat his future coach in a shooting contest.
Yet even surrounded by family and friends from his nearby hometown, Irving couldn’t relax Thursday night.
“When David Stern came up there and said that the Cleveland Cavaliers have five more minutes on the clock, that felt like the longest five minutes of my life,” Irving said.
Imagine how Jimmer Fredette felt.
The sweet-shooting NCAA player of the year had to wait about 2½ hours from the time he was picked by Milwaukee to the time he officially became a member of the Sacramento Kings after being involved in the biggest trade of draft day.
“It took a long time, but it’s something you’ve got to do,” Fredette said. “They just wouldn’t let you out of the room until the trade was official, and I wish it could have been a little bit earlier. I have friends and family that I’m going to go see and hang out with after this, so that’s what happens sometimes.”
It happened for plenty others in a draft that was considered a dud talent-wise but certainly wasn’t dull, thanks to a flurry of trades that including veterans and picks.
There was no chance the Cavs would deal Irving, confident his foot is healthy enough to lead the rebuilding effort that follows LeBron James’ departure and no doubt impressed when the Duke point guard beat Cavs coach Byron Scott in a shooting contest during his workout.
Loudly cheered not far from where he starred at St. Patrick’s High School in Elizabeth, Irving showed no signs of the toe injury on his right foot that limited him to 11 games last season as he walked up the stairs to shake hands with Stern.
“I didn’t have any doubts about going to No. 1. I was looking to the organization to pick who they felt was the right choice,” Irving said. “But now to this moment, from being a fan of the NBA draft and now being drafted, it’s a special feeling in my heart and knowing that my friends and family were together, it’s a memory I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”
A three-team trade that included Charlotte, Milwaukee and Sacramento that had been agreed to earlier in the day wasn’t approved until midway through the second round, forcing Fredette to wait around for his NBA destination to be determined after he was taken with the No. 10 pick.
“Took a little while waiting back there, but it’s a great moment for me and for my family, and for the Sacramento Kings organization,” he said. “Hopefully their fan base is excited because I’m really excited to get out there and start the season with them and have a great year.”
A draft that included a record four international players who didn’t play at a U.S. college selected in the lottery soon became dominated by deals, which the NBA was still hustling to approve and announce as the second round wound down.
Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette and John Salmons were part of the three-way deal, and fellow vets such as Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez, Raymond Felton and George Hill were involved in other trades.
The deals spiced up what was thought to be a lackluster draft, which was missing its usual buzz with the NBA perhaps a week away from a work stoppage.
Three of the first six players taken were from Europe, capitalizing on the absence of some American college players who might have gone in their spots and made this a stronger draft.