Friday, July 19, 2024

NBA draft finally worth the longer wait for some players after moving to a two-day format

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jaylen Wells sat in the stands at Barclays Center in his snazzy white suit, hoping to hear his name called in the first round of the NBA draft.

A day later, at a second site in a second borough, Wells was finally on his way to the NBA — wearing the same white suit.

“Actually, I had two suits planned and then I was like, I just love this one so much,” the forward from Washington State said Thursday. “I was like, ‘I’ve got to wear it again.’”

Wells was one of the early selections in the new two-day NBA draft, taken with the No. 39 pick by the Memphis Grizzlies. The league went to the format this year instead of having its draft drag too late into the night.

The second round was held at ESPN’s Seaport District studios in Manhattan after the first round took place as usual at the home of the Brooklyn Nets. Ten players and their families attended, though Bronny James wasn’t present to hear his name announced after the Los Angeles Lakers took the son of the NBA career scoring leader LeBron James at No. 55, near the end of draft.

With extra time between rounds and between picks — it’s now four minutes between selections in the second round, up from two previously — the new format might help teams make more confident selections.

It’s a little more difficult for the players.

“Two days kind of makes it more stressful,” UCLA’s Adem Bona, who was taken by Philadelphia with the No. 41 pick, said with a laugh. “If it’s one, it’s like, ‘All right, I’m getting my name called today!”

But he said he was happier that the new format allowed him to have extended family present. The native of Nigeria who played in high school in California said he had aunts and cousins from Canada with him Thursday, which wouldn’t have been the case a night earlier in Brooklyn.

The draft resumed with the Toronto Raptors taking Jonathan Mogbo of San Francisco with the No. 31 pick.

It felt like a normal second round, with a flurry of trades as teams tried to move up and others sought to move out of the draft.

But the setup was all new, with players and their families sitting in a room off the studio set and a nice view of boats docked in the harbor below on a gorgeous summer afternoon.

“It’s nice, but I was down there nervous,” said Harrison Ingram, the North Carolina product taken by the San Antonio Spurs at No. 48. “I was panicking, my mom was nervous, my sister is up there hyperventilating, so a whole lot of stuff going on.”

He also went to Barclays Center and returned Thursday wearing the same blue suit. Ingram said he always wanted to go to the NBA draft and didn’t want to miss his chance, but he wished it had been under the old format.

“First time they’re doing two nights, so it was tough to go there, hear everybody being called,” Ingram said. “A lot of my friends, I was happy for them, but knowing that my day might not come until tomorrow and I have to go to sleep, I couldn’t fall sleep until like 3 or 4 a.m., just up thinking about where I’m going to be the next however many years of my life.”

Duke’s Kyle Filipowski and Johnny Furphy of Kansas, the two players who remained in the green room after the first round, didn’t return for the second round. Filipowski was finally selected at No. 32 by Utah with the second pick of the second round. Furphy went a few picks later at No. 35 to San Antonio, which traded his rights to Indiana.

Bobi Klintman, a native of Sweden who played last year in Australia’s National Basketball League, was the first player in attendance who was selected, with his family cheering loudly after Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum announced his name at No. 37.

The players who did attend treated the event like the glitzy first round, wearing sharp suits and seated at tables — albeit much smaller ones — that had the same gold basketballs at centerpieces as Barclays Center, just without thousands of fans surrounding them.

And perhaps some of the prospects will have better careers than some of the players who were picked Wednesday.

The NBA has sought to spur interest in the second round with an “every pick matters” slogan, highlighting the success of MVP Nikola Jokic and New York guard Jalen Brunson, who finished fifth in this year’s voting, along with former Defensive Players of the Year Draymond Green and Marc Gasol.

Both Filipowski and Furphy were viewed as potential picks in the middle of the first round, so they was certainly some disappointment when they left Barclays Center without knowing their NBA destination.

Not so for Wells, whose family got some food, went to bed and got ready to do it all again.

“I knew I’d hear my name called at one point, so it didn’t really get me down,” he said. “I was just excited to be here.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

Brian Mahoney, The Associated Press

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