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Four days before the Draft, immersion in the euphoria of the “War Room”

Four days before Draft 2022, immersion in the euphoria of a « War Room », a four-wall room considered the lifeblood of an NBA franchise on this draft night. the front office takes decisions there until the last moment that are likely to impact the future of the team, the outcome of which dictates – for the decision-makers as much as for the players – many careers.

“Are they staying on 12? Ok, no problem, goodbye… No deal. » On June 27, 2013, in the War Room of the Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujiri is drawing a line under one of the greatest players in basketball history. Very newly appointed General Manager of the Canadian franchise, he seeks that evening to continue the reconstruction of the team started by Bryan Colangelo, whose end of mandate was much criticized. Last year, the Raptors sold their first round of the 2013 Draft to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Kyle Lowry. A move which the future of the franchise – a look at in 2019 – will prove right. The problem is that in the mind of Masai Ujiri, it is simply impossible to pass up a certain… Giannis Antetokounmpo. “We think that few young people from this vintage will be at his level after two years in the League”. From this statement stem several attempts to « trade up », with in particular this phone call to Wolves – owners of the 14th choice – remained unanswered. In complete contradiction to scouting reports, gravediggers of the Greek career before it had even started, Masai Ujiri almost finished the game. The outcome is infuriating, but this sequence is nonetheless overwhelming. She demystifies the atmosphere of a War Room and poses images on what was thought reserved for the elites of basketball. Everything is obviously not to be televised, but for once, it is appreciable.

But why inside a War Room is it not spontaneously filmed? This is increasingly the case, with the private cameras of franchises choosing to feed – or not – their networks. We rarely see the moment when the officials debate their future choices. Only the applause, self-congratulations and handshakes, when Adam Silver pronounces the blaze of the retained player, are published. Understand that if we had the video of Vlade Divac demonstrating by A+B that Marvin Bagley is better than Luka Doncic, it would be impossible for us to spend a whole day without sending it to a fan friend from Sacramento. On the other hand, we have a second video whose synopsis is absolutely fabulous. In 2014, the Kings had the 8th draft pick. On a velleda board are noted the priorities of the staff: trade up for Joel Embiid or for Marcus Smart. We feel that Pete D’Alessandro and his team worked for several months on the video analyses, traveling all over the country/world. They then join the War Room, inside which Chris Mullin, Mike Bratz, Mitch Richmond and other equally intimidating profiles await them. It’s time to win for Pete D’Alessandro’s young analysts. Their speech leaves the franchise on the trail of Elfrid Payton, the trade up of Joel Embiid, or Nik Stauskas. We are thus witnessing a very funny little parenthesis during which D’Alessandro calls the Sixers, drops three or four words on the phone, then hangs up. Needless to hear his interlocutor to understand that it is a categorical no. Then came this genius of Vivek Ranadive – owner of the Kings – whose basketball opinions are not the most picky: “I think our team lacks skill”. Following this analysis, the Indian businessman supports the Nik Stauskas hypothesis. This is – in our view – an order disguised as advice. And guess what? Everyone bends to the rule: Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond accompany him in his stupidity, and Pete D’Alessandro gives the green light for the selection of the Canadian. The show begins.

“Nik, we’re going to give you a Californian welcome, so I’m going to say 1,2,3, and everyone is going to shout ‘Nick rocks! » » – Vivek Ranadive, on the phone with Nik Stauskas

In terms of selection, as an owner, it is frowned upon to interfere in the work of the GM and his team. Even more when last year, the Kings have already selected Ben McLemore in 7th choice who – like Nik Stauskas – evolves on the back post. And then, this awkward battle cry would require a 3000-word investigation file to try to understand what happened in Vivek Ranadive’s head. When did he say to himself that to bellow « Nick rocks » would be cool? He must be the kind of dad to call his kids “the lunches”. Finally, once again, this sequence illustrates to what extent the War Room is the place of all reversals. Until the last moment, a word can come to screw up the barouf in the organization of the staff and undo all the certainties accumulated on the ground. “Listen, I understand that you have gone to see all of Real’s games this season, but we are not going to select an overweight Slovenian ahead of Marvin Bagley III anyway? ». Well, Vlade Divac didn’t say that, but it’s very likely that his scouts warned him about Luka Magic. It must have clapped very yellow in the War Room : « Marvin rocks ! ».

And suddenly, in a few words, what is the War Room ? A war room inside which statisticians, scouts, owners, officials and coaches come together to debate and mature a decision, together, in the home stretch. In the hierarchy, the GM remains at the top. It is he who will generally have the last word. Why ? Because if the franchise selects a loser, he is designated as the first person responsible for this failure. An example ? Filmed, during which the GM forces to select a future bust, we have – very strangely – none in store. On the other hand, we have the selection of Zion Williamson by David Griffin in 2019. It is interesting to see that even when everything has been planned for several weeks, the War Room overheats and the applause breaks out at the moment of choice. As long as the name is not pronounced by Adam Silver, we are safe from nothing.

In four days, the War Rooms will reopen their doors to officials from each franchise. It is then that the history of the NBA will change to the rhythm of sometimes dubious analyses, as excellently felt. Even if it is “only sport”, the videos reveal each time an almost vital character in the debate around the fixing of the choice. A game for some, the work of several months/years for others.

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