Archive for Thursday, June 8, 2006

Keegan: Simien must miss fieldhouse

June 8, 2006

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Didn't get a chance to interview many NBA players during nearly three years of radio shows, but did particularly enjoy having a pair of college basketball stars on the show to talk about the draft.

A few hours before the first selection of the 2003 NBA draft, when I was doing a show in New York City, Dwyane Wade called in as a live guest. After my lengthy love-letter of an introduction with the best of all college fight songs ("Ring Out Ahoya") playing in the background, Wade jump-started the interview by asking me: "Do you think you could get an NBA general manager's job before the draft starts tonight?"

Sadly, I could not. Sadly for the Detroit Pistons, that is. If they had viewed the basketball world through Marquette-colored glasses, the Pistons would have taken Wade with the second pick, not that big, soft, immature stiff Darko Milicic.

The Denver Nuggets followed with Carmelo Anthony. Chris Bosh went to the Toronto Raptors with the fourth selection. If Pat Riley, pedaling away on an exercise bike, hadn't been watching Wade darting through, around, and over Kentucky's stable of high school All-Americans for a triple-double (29 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists), Wade might have lasted well past the fifth pick. That game propelled Marquette to its first Final Four since Al McGuire's team won it all in 1977.

Wade didn't hesitate when I asked him on draft day to name the best player he faced during his college career.

"Kirk Hinrich," Wade said of the guard who helped Kansas maul Marquette. "He was so athletic, so hard to get around."

Two years after the Wade interview, I was doing a week's worth of radio shows in West Palm Beach, Fla. The day after the draft, we had the Miami Heat's No. 1 pick, Wayne Simien, on as a guest. We had been told Simien would call us from the car taking him to a Florida Marlins game.

"We were on our way to the game, and then Shaq called and invited me over to his house," Simien said. "We turned around right away. That wasn't a hard decision."

That struck me as pretty cool on Shaq's part, inviting the rookie over to his mansion to make him feel part of the team right off the bat. There was reason to believe Simien never would feel any more a part of the Heat than on that first night at Shaq's house.

The grapevine in the days leading up to the 2005 draft was that the Heat were interested in taking Simien in order to scare power forward Udonis Haslem into re-signing by making him believe the organization was prepared to replace him with Simien. Haslem re-signed, and Simien mostly has been a spectator for the Heat, who visit the Mavericks tonight in Game 1 of the NBA finals.

In the playoffs, Simien is scoreless in seven minutes, has missed all three field-goal attempts and has one rebound to his name. During the regular season, he appeared in 43 games, started two, and averaged 9.6 minutes and 3.4 points.

In Wade, Simien teams with the closest thing to Michael Jordan since Jordan. Simien has an all-time great teammate at center in Shaq. Simien also has the worst seat in the house: the bench. NBA money notwithstanding, he must be wishing his days in Allen Fieldhouse could have lasted forever.

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