Monday, June 13, 2005

Getting Moody in Chicago

There are people who set their whole year up around the NBA Draft and are enthralled with it all. I am not one of them.

Understanding that, I returned from the NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago this weekend feeling like I'd just been through a sausage grinder. First off the Cavs, as you may know, don't have a pick in the draft but they want one and may indeed make a trade for one. For the life of me, I don't why. After watching three days of bad basketball I was running out of Moody Bible Institute ASAP.

I'm not a trained observer so I don't pretend to evaluate talent, ahem, unlike some of my media brethren. So I watch the games with NBA assistant coaches and scouts that I know who do know what they're talking about. They point out stuff like the angles point guards deliver passes, the post footwork of power forwards and the importance of "length" on defense. It is for these reasons that listing the stats of players at the camp means nothing, yet this is what most media outlets do without thinking.

Yet, I still find it very difficult to evaluate anything at the camp. I've been to several pre-draft camps and they remind me of what I saw at the ABCD Camp I attended in New Jersey when LeBron James was a high school junior. Just a bunch of athletically-gifted players trying too hard to impress on hastily-organized teams. How they will react when they get into an organized NBA setting feels nearly impossible to judge. I assume the private workouts teams use provide greater insight.

Plus you look at the group knowing there are perhaps just a handful of first rounders and you wonder why you bothered fighting the heat and traffic to get into the damn place.

But, like I said, I'm no draftnik. For them it is pure heaven on earth.

Instead, Moody is a place where just about every general manager, coach, and scout gather. It means it is a great time to talk to sources, which is why I was there. Mostly, I was chasing Kiki Vandeweghe. That and to eat at Harry Caray's, which is certainly one of my favorite restaurants in the country. I recommend the chicken parmesan, but ABJ compatriot Tom Reed, who did this interesting story from Chicago, couldn't speak more highly of the salmon.

We actually tried to eat at Harry's twice in one day (it's a huge menu and I love the bread). In the afternoon in downtown and late night in Rosemont, near O'Hare airport where we were staying. But the hostess denied us seating at 10:02 p.m., saying the kitchen closed at 10. An angry Reed issued the following retort: "You'd never make it downtown, sister, you're staying in the bush leagues forever!"

Instead we went to a Greek greasy spoon nearby and had a terrible meal. News-Herald scribe Bob Finnan -- of "Planes, Trains and Bob Finnan" fame, and if you don't know what I mean and are new to the Blog, please refer to December entry "A series of unfortunate events" for a real hoot -- and I made the mistake of ordering spaghetti. After asking for additional sauce, which more resembled Manwich than marinara, he resorted to salt and pepper to make it edible.

When the waitress, who fairly warned us before the meal that she never actually ate there herself, looked down at him and asked if he was done, Finnan deadpanned: "Well, no, I guess I'm still trying to make something of it." This from the man that got on the elevator at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas with me in March and politely said to a group of German tourists near the control panel: "Six, please."

Maybe you had to be there, but after 72 hours of Moody blues, I nearly slid off the booth to the floor in stitches, my own neglected spaghetti not noticing.

Take care,