Behind the scenes of Noel’s draft day
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK — With his hands covered over his head, Nerlens Noel let out a sigh of relief. His NBA draft day was finally over. It was 12:55 a.m. ET.
If Noel could have written his draft day script himself, it likely would have included a celebration party with his family and close friends instead of a 3-hour delayed media circuit answering questions that surely stung like razor blades.
Are you surprised?
Was it the knee?
Message to the teams that passed on you?
Noel answered the questions politely. But his body language said everything: Exhausted, frustrated, disheartened.
The 6-11 former Kentucky big man with a surgically repaired knee shook NBA commissioner David Stern’s five picks too late, in his eyes. “I feel like I’m the best player in this draft,” said Noel, who only met with the top three teams — the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards. All of those teams, and the Charlotte Bobcats, Phoenix Suns and even the New Orleans Pelicans felt Noel wasn’t their guy.
Ultimately, after hours of negotiations to finalize a deal that had already hit the Internet waves, Noel became a Philadelphia 76er when the Pelicans traded him for all-star Jrue Holiday.
“He’s a top two pick,” the head of his management team, Chris Driscoll said a day earlier. Most, if not all, NBA mock draft boards had Noel getting drafted by the Cavaliers or the Magic.
“It does bother me,” Noel said of teams bypassing him. “It’s something that makes you have a chip on your shoulder. I’m going to look back on this and use it as motivation.”
When it was all said and done, Noel labeled Thursday “the longest day of my life.” That wasn’t just from the five teams on the clock that went a different direction.
9 a.m.: Noel’s morning started with a foreshadowing moment. While eating breakfast on the 9th floor in the Westin Hotel in Time Square with his mother, Dorcina, his older brothers, Jim and Rodman, and his younger sister Nashdah, lottery pick Alex Len and his girlfriend, Essence Townsend, sit at an … [For more on Jitters to depression: Behind the scenes of Nerlens Noel's draft day, click here.]