The Long Journey for No. 1
By John Schuhmann
NEW YORK, June 28 -- A few days ago, we had no idea. Yesterday, we were still unsure. Even the players were clueless. This morning, things started to clear up and as everyone made their way to the Theater at Madison Square Garden, it became apparent that Andrea Bargnani would the be the Raptors' choice for the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.
When 7:30 arrived, we, and Andrea were forced to wait a few more minutes. Finally, Commissioner Stern walked out and announced his name. We knew it was coming. The fans knew it was coming. But apparently, Andrea didn't.
It started with a handshake ...
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
"I had no idea, no idea," he told the media afterwards. "Nobody told me nothing before the draft. Just more or less the position between one and seven, one and eight. But it was a surprise."
Bargnani stepped up to the stage and shook the commissioner's hand. It was the beginning of a two and a half hour post-pick process, one that would take him him from the stage to the opposite end of the Theater and back.
After a photo-op with the commissioner, he moved over to stage right for a photo with the new official ball and then over to sit down with Stuart Scott of ESPN. Once that was done, he headed a few steps away for a chat with ESPN Radio. As he spoke with Fred Carter and crew, LaMarcus Aldridge's name was announced as the second pick.
That was it for Andrea's duties inside the Theater, so he was escorted through the crowd and back to the media area, signing a few autographs along the way. First stop was a press conference and right as he sat down, Adam Morrison was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats back in the Theater.
After apologizing for his lack of English skills, Andrea answered several questions in English and then several in Italian. Then it was off to a series of one-on-one interviews for television. For the record, the order was: NBA TV, ABC, Raptors TV, NBC, Fox Sports Net, NBA International and CBS. By the time those were done, Saer Sene had been selected by the Sonics with the 10th pick.
Next up, Andrea got to make a personal phone call back home to Italy as J.J. Redick was being selected by the Magic. Then he was escorted into a room to speak to Andre Aldridge of NBA TV. Then it was into the telephone room were he got to speak to his new boss, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo. A few feet away, Tyrus Thomas, Randy Foye, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roye got to relax a bit.
There was no downtime for Andrea however, as he was ushered back to the media area to answer more questions from the Italian reporters. While that was going on, Villanova coach Jay Wright was on one side a few feet away and Redick was behind him for his press conference.
Andrea then made his way to the NBA.com area to chat with fans. It was 9 ET, and we asked Andrea if it had felt like an hour and a half since he had been selected.
... and ended with jersey in hand.
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images
"Really?" he asked. "It's more like 20 minutes."
Once he was done chatting, Andrea made his way back to the telephone room for a conference call with the Toronto media. As that was going on, Shawne Williams was being selected with the 17th pick.
Next, it was another phone call, this one to Italy and since he was more familiar with the international area code than his Raptor representative, Andrea dialed the number himself. After the call, Andrea signed some items to be auctioned off on NBA.com and then finally got to relax a bit ... all of about six minutes. Then it was one more phone call to a radio station back in Toronto.
Phone calls done, Andrea made the trek back to the Theater, through the crowd once again and then backstage where his family and friends were waiting for him at the NBA photo room. He waited for Brandon Roy to finish up his photo shoot and then stepped through the curtain for some solo shots and then some with his family.
It was 10 ET, two and a half hours since he had shaken Commissioner Stern's hand and Andrea's night at the Theater was done. Several of the players who were selected after him had finished their duties already. Shannon Brown had just been selected with the 25th pick. Amazingly, while he was more surprised than the rest of us that he went No. 1, Andrea wasn't all that surprised by the length of the process he just went through.
"They told me this morning it was going to be very long," he said. "It's nice. I'm happy to do it."
He handled the whole process like a pro. He never looked tired or overwhelmed. We were very impressed and so was Norma Wick of Raptors TV.
"I think he's going to handle himself very well in this league," she told us.
Even though he didn't get much rest earlier in the day because he was so excited, Andrea was not ready to relax just yet.
"We're going to an Italian restaurant to celebrate with my parents and two good friends of mine," he said.
Fortunately, during this whole process, his agent changed his Thursday flight to Toronto from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.