Every year, a group of highly touted NBA prospects is invited to the league's annual draft. And inevitably every year, one of those players bears the ugly label of Last Player Sitting in the Green Room.
In one of the most awkward and time-honored traditions in sports, that player and his family are forced to face the huge disappointment of slipping in the draft while TV cameras and thousands of fans look on.
One day before the June 28 draft this year, at least one popular internet site was claiming Duke's J.J. Redick was "unanimously projected" to be that guy. After all, Redick was not doing a ton to help his stock.
The former National Player of the Year was a hot commodity during his pre-draft workouts before he hurt his back--"something unfortunate," Redick says--and then compounded his trouble when he was caught for drunk driving--"something I brought on myself," he says--when back in Durham receiving treatment.
Teams already had questions about Redick because of his supposed lack of athleticism, so he certainly did not need to give them two more reasons not to take him.
But draft night came, and it was still a happy night for the 6-foot-4 guard. Convinced Redick's back would not be a long-term issue, Orlando took him with the 11th pick in the draft. Fans in attendance at Madison Square Garden in New York took a short break from their "Sell the Knicks" chant to shower Redick with a chorus of "D-W-I."
Still, Redick hugged his family in attendance and climbed up to the stage to shake NBA Commissioner David Stern's hand. "It's a huge relief," Redick said afterward. "The past few weeks were definitely a tough time."
When pressed about the lingering back injury in the post-draft press conference, Redick got cheeky, telling a reporter he would bend over and touch his toes if it would prove he was back to full health.
Redick's former teammate Shelden Williams came off the board half an hour earlier when the Atlanta Hawks took the burly forward No. 5. The pick had been rumored for weeks, even as many wondered why the Hawks would take Williams so high.
For Williams, draft night also proved to be sweet relief. He could have turned pro-and he gave it serious thought-after his junior year, but he decided to come back to school to get his degree and finish what he started with his teammates. The move paid off as Williams jumped about 20 spots from where he probably would have gone last year.
"It feels great," said Williams, who hugged his parents and shook Redick's hand after hearing his name called. "Atlanta is not too far from Duke. I feel truly blessed being in this situation."
After everything, the so-called worst draft in NBA history ended up treating the Blue Devils pretty well, even if Sean Dockery went undrafted.
And making things even sweeter, the (dis)honor of Last Player Sitting in the Green Room--which, as it turns out is much more of a roped-off area than a room--went to none other than former Connecticut guard (and laptop thief) Marcus Williams.
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