The 2011 NBA Draft Combine rolls through Chicago this week, and the Second City has become (for a few days anyway) a professional and college basketball version of Beverly Hills - all the stars are out everywhere you turn.
Michigan Avenue's Westin Hotel, where the 2011 NBA Draft Combine's media activities were held, is located in the heart of the Magnificent Mile, across the street from the John Hancock Center. The most high-profile sector of the city drew basketball's heaviest hitters to town for the chance to evaluate the incoming class of talent.
Members of numerous NBA front offices reside in the hotel lobby, and Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen must have walked past us at least 3-4 times on the way out. And on the way to the car we also saw ESPN's Fran Frischilla, BYU Coach Dave Rose, and former Iowa Hawkeyes and Bulls legend B.J. Armstrong, currently the agent to NBA MVP Derrick Rose.
The NBA Draft Combine may not be as publicized as the NFL version, but it is filled with people "ballin' like Spaulding," if I may use a phrase from Common, one of The Chicago's finest MCs.
During the actual interview sessions, a draft combine reporter gets up close and personal with almost every former college basketball star soon to be drafted on June 23.
Each player gets his own table in the conference room and journalists rotate like speed daters to obtain quality face time with everyone. Conversation is much more in-depth than post-game press conferences. It's about the big picture here, and most of us ask what teams each prospect as worked out and/or met with. And of course, which teams are scheduled.
One source told us the Charlotte Bobcats are really big on Alec Burks and he will not fall past them if he is available with their ninth pick.
On top of the media grilling, NBA prospects face tougher inquisitions from the teams themselves.
The NBA collects feedback from the league's scouts and personnel, and decides which 50-60 (54 were here this year) prospects gauge the most interest. The elite prospects are then invited to work out in front of team representatives (this part is closed to the media, but airs on ESPNU).
The players also take more measurements than a Playboy Playmate, such as wingspan, vertical reach, height and weight (with and without shoes). This male version of a beauty pageant can be stressful, but also fun for the players.
I did enjoy how love how Florida State Chris Singleton's showed us his printed list of meetings with teams; made our job easier, since we'll all ask that anyway. We became fans of Marshon Brooks. He's quite well spoken, and acknowledged that he was pretty much Providence's whole team. Reporters seem obsessed with how big Kawhi Leonard's hands are. He told us they were 11 inches from wrist to finger tip. There were five successive questions on the topic.
And don't get me started on the journalists obsession over Kansas' Morris twins, and all the physical traits they share. That's an 800-word story in itself.
We talked with pretty much every American-born first-round prospect that was made available (I say American-born because all of the foreign talent except Enes Kanter was absent.)
Be sure to check back with WalterFootball.com leading up to the 2011 NBA Draft for more in-depth features on each of the prospects.