David Stern’s NBA draft performance gives little reason to cheer

If the Wizards ever get good – a debate for another day; this is Sunday, a day of rest, not a day of head-pounding and vein-opening – then I will be forced to eschew completely the NBA draft telecast.

(Sunday’s also a good day for words like “eschew.” What a great word. That’s not a weekday word. That’s a Sunday-go-to-meeting word.)

I suppose I should feel sorry for David Stern, standing up there getting booed out of his hand-crafted loafers, but I don’t. We all knew what was coming in Newark, and none better than the commish, who’s been booed on this particular night for years.

Then he let the Nets leave for Brooklyn. The normally taciturn folks of Jersey weren’t going to exactly shower the man with bouquets Thursday night.

Surely, in the wake of the Nets’ move, there are friendlier places to hold this thing. New Orleans, perhaps, where they should find little tiny plastic Stern figures in their king cakes for years to come after the job he’s done with that team.

Or better yet, if you don’t want to deny the future stars of your league the enriching experience of visiting Newark, then leave the draft there and have Mayor Cory Booker host it. No one boos Cory Booker in Newark.

It’s not Stern’s feelings that concern me – does he have any? When the crowd booed the mention of the Miami Heat’s NBA title, as he knew they would when he brought it up, he cupped his ear and asked for more. I suppose he was going for funny or cute or – God forbid – hip. None of those things is working for him.

What his continued presence does is ruin the telecast for those at home – whose numbers far outweigh those in the arena doing the booing. And it can’t make the night much fun for the waiting draftees and their families, either. They’re kids. Sure, they’ve heard boos before and they’ll hear boos again, but this isn’t a game, it’s a draft.

And yes, it happens at the NFL draft as well, and I would also boot Roger Goodell from those festivities, although if he keeps up his current reign of terror, he’ll be subletting Dick Cheney’s undisclosed bunker by next April, and the draft announcements will be handled by Rooney Mara, the Dragon Tattoo girl. Who’s going to boo her? You? Then you haven’t read the second and third books.

I watched Thursday night just long enough to see what I needed to see – whom the Wizards would pick at No. 3, which team would be smart enough to grab Thomas Robinson and which teams would pass on him, so they could go on My List. And, as ESPN’s Heather Cox told Robinson’s little sister, I learned that Disneyland is close to Sacramento! Who knew? That was enough education and booing for one night. And probably for a long time to come.

I can’t for the life of me understand Stern’s insistence on being at that podium. He also wants to be in the money shot – posing with all the first rounders after they’re selected. Fine.

But let someone from ESPN – not Chris Berman – announce the picks and shake the kid’s hand. Wouldn’t Magic Johnson be a better choice, both for the drafted kid and America? Then the kid can say a few words during the time the next team is on the clock; that cuts way down on the “boo” factor. Stern can greet the kid afterward and pose for the shot for the assembled reporters, whatever. For someone who’s always been smart about packaging his product, Stern is really blind when it comes to the watchability of this telecast. Blind and apparently tone-deaf as well. We should all be so lucky.

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