When draft day came around, I was traversing the city going to my usual 20 or so Saturday events. In between them, I sat by the radio hoping and praying that the first 10 teams to pick would pass over Randy, because I was certain the Birds would gobble him up with the 11th pick. The first two picks were obvious - Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. The time between picks seemed to last forever. I was especially worried about Jacksonville at No. 9 and Baltimore at No. 10, because I thought both had a real need for a deep threat. But when the time came, both passed on Moss, picking Fred Taylor and Duane Starks, respectively. Eureka!
I was sure Randy would be wearing midnight green and tearing up the Vet. The minutes between the Ravens' pick and ours seemed like an eternity. Finally the announcement came - "with the 11th pick in the 1998 NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select Tra Thomas." Aaaaagh . . . Who? No it can't be true. But it was, and I was crushed, truly heartbroken. Let the record show that Tra Thomas went on to become one of the best offensive lineman in NFL history, but who knew? I only knew that Randy Moss would be a superstar, a real game-changer, and that I wouldn't get to watch him play 16 games a year for the next decade-plus.
Well, Thursday night, as the great Yogi Berra would say, it was déjà vu all over again! In the college basketball season of 2012-13, I watched seven or eight Creighton games and saw them play Duke in the NCAA Tournament at the Wells Fargo Center. I fell in love again with the Bluejays' star, Doug McDermott. He was an incredible offensive player. He could do it all - move without the ball, pass, drive to the glass, score in transition and shoot with range up to 30 feet. This past season, he was even better, and I watched him play more than a dozen times. He was flat-out amazing against St. Joe's, and against Villanova twice, as Creighton destroyed the top-10 Wildcats. Jay Wright told me he was the closest thing to Larry Bird since Bird himself. As the draft approached, my hopes soared. I knew McDermott wouldn't go in the top six, but I was worried somewhere between Nos. 7 and 9, the Lakers, Kings or Hornets might take him.I was aghast when I realized that I was scheduled to fly to Paris on business Thursday night at 6:15. It meant that I wouldn't learn whether my dream to watch McDermott as a Sixer would be realized until I reached Paris and could get on the Internet around 2 a.m. Philly time. But fate intervened. Our plane had faulty brakes and we stayed on the tarmac until 11:15, when the flight was canceled. So the agony of waiting began again. I tried to follow the picks on the Internet, but it was too slow. So I called my son Jesse and asked him to text me as the picks were made. It was brutal sitting there waiting for my phone to ring for an incoming text.
I was elated when the Sixers took Joel Embiid at No. 3, a gutsy pick by general manager Sam Hinke that will vault the team into contention for the next decade. After a few more texts later came the info that the Lakers took Julius Randle at 7, - good, two more picks to get by. When Sacramento took Nik Stauskas at eight I was excited. Then I got a text from Jess that the word was that the Sixers were going to take Noah Vonleh at 10. My heart sank! A few minutes passed and Jesse texted, "Charlotte takes Vonleh, it's Douggy time." I was absolutely certain he was right. I was almost giddy with anticipation.
When the phone buzzed, I nervously opened it (yes, I still have a flip phone) only to read in horror. "Sixers take Elfrid Payton ???" Nooooo! Elfrid who? Heartbroken once again. Then the Bulls gave up two-first-round picks to the Nuggets to get McDermott, who was drafted 11th. Ugh.
For the Sixers, the 2014 draft will go down as the draft in which they had the guts and the foresight to draft the great Joel Embiid, but passed over a great, all-around team-oriented offensive player in Doug McDermott. I, like Dick Jerardi said in yesterday's Daily News, have no clue why they did it!