I was shooting around in the Berkeley College gym a couple nights ago, trying my best to pretend that if I hit enough jumpers, all my overdue problem sets, upcoming exams, and maybe even Science Hill would go away. About a half an hour and 600 missed jumpers later, I came to the sudden realization that I didn’t need to pretend. I knew exactly how to make my problem sets and exams go away.
So after a day or so of careful consideration, I’m officially declaring myself eligible for the NBA Draft. In today’s NBA, anything can happen.
Granted, I’m not going to get picked first, second, third or even 23rd. But sometime in the middle of the second round, the yawning general manager of a mediocre Eastern Conference team is going to decide he wants to have some fun. The GM will close his eyes, point to a random name on the list of eligible draftees, and in front of his index finger will read, along with my name, my height (5 feet 11 inches), what position I play (small forward), and where I went to college (um, Yale?).
“Great!” the GM will say. “You never know what a 5-foot-11, Chinese kid out of Yale who plays small forward might be able to do in this league. If Don Nelson can do it, so can I. Hell, maybe he’ll be the next Wang Zhizhi or Chris Dudley.”
After a few days of training camp, however, the team execs will quickly understand I’m no Wang Zhizhi or Chris Dudley ’87.
“That Shum kid’s pretty good,” the execs will say. “He’s shooting 40 percent from the field, and his scrimmage team is winning 30 percent of its games. You know, with those numbers, he could probably give Mike a run for his money.”
Understanding my limitless potential, they will sign me up for three years at the tune of $275,000 a year. I’ll complain about getting the league’s minimum wage, but when I don’t get a raise I won’t really care because, after all, I won’t have any problem sets or exams to write. Besides, I’ll have more than enough dough to buy a PS2, an Xbox and a GameCube, so I can play myself in NBA Live 2002.
The season will get under way, and the NBA will be like I expected. The Lakers will be winning, MJ will be coming out of retirement, and Lamar Odom will be smoking up.
Soon enough, though, it’ll be more than one month into the season, and for some absurd reason Detroit will have the best record in the East. New Jersey will somehow be a close second, while the four-time Atlantic Division champions Miami Heat have lost 12 in a row. Paul Pierce will score 46 points — after halftime — and some straight-out-of-high-school kid named McGrady will swat a Jordan turnaround fadeaway.
Out in the West, the Jazz will be second to last and considering trading Karl Malone, the Rockets will get a 28-point beating by a Chicago team that’s being outscored by the Yale Bulldogs (it’s true), and Chris Dudley will actually attempt a Portland field goal in five minutes off the bench.
It will all be too ridiculous for me to comprehend, and I will hang up my sneakers for good, announcing to the world that I am 99.999999 percent sure I won’t come back.
Okay, so maybe I won’t skip college and turn pro, but seriously, there are some strange things going on around the NBA:
— Chicago’s only two other wins have been against perennial postseason heavyweights New York and Miami.
— Ray Allen, the smoothest jump-shooter in the world, went 1-14 from 3-point range Tuesday night as the Bucks lost their fifth straight. That’s right up there with John Starks’ 0-12 performance from behind the arc in Game Seven of the ’94 Finals. Well, kind of.
— Question: how do you shoot 34 percent from the field and lead the league in scoring? Allen “The Answer” Iverson: take about 30 shots a game, that’s how.
— Rasheed Wallace has just five technicals and zero ejections in 17 games! Maybe Chris Dudley’s Bulldog temperament is rubbing off on him.
— My one-month-into-the-season, all-Euro — I mean, all-rookie team: Yugoslavian center Zeljko Rebraca, forwards Pau Gasol of Spain and Andrei Kirilenko of Russia, and at guard, Frenchman Tony Parker and, if you must, New Yorker Jamal Tinsley. With Oscar Torres and Vladimir Radmanovic, the best players in the league from Venezuela and Bosnia-Herzegovina, respectively, following close behind, the rookie game at All-Star Weekend might as well stage a Model United Nations for its halftime show.
In today’s NBA, anything can happen.