Kyrie Irving of Duke was named the top pick of the NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 2011 proceedings was sparked by various trades but otherwise lacked pizzazz due to the threat of a work stoppage.
Cleveland make Duke's Irving NBA's No 1
Kyrie Irving probably secured his spot atop the NBA draft when he went to Cleveland and beat his future coach in a shooting contest.
Yet even surrounded by family and friends from his nearby hometown, Irving could not relax as the Cavaliers prepared to make the opening selection on Thursday night.
"When David Stern came up there and said that the Cleveland Cavaliers have five more minutes on the clock, that felt like the longest five minutes of my life," Irving said.
A record four international players who did not play at a US college or university were selected in the lottery, but the draft soon became dominated by deals, which the NBA was still hustling to approve and announce as the draft wound down in the second round.
The deals spiced up what was thought to be a lacklustre draft, one missing its usual buzz with the league perhaps a week away from a work stoppage.
The uncertain labour situation hung over the draft, and likely weakened it. Faced with the reality of not knowing when their rookie seasons would begin, potential top-10 picks like Jared Sullinger of Ohio State and Harrison Barnes of North Carolina were among those who decided to stay in school.
Stern, the NBA commissioner, could lock out his players next week if a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached. He was booed when he came onto the stage at the Prudential Center in New York.
A three-team trade that included Charlotte, Milwaukee and Sacramento that had been agreed to earlier in the day was not approved until midway through the second round, forcing the BYU sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette to wait around for his NBA destination to be determined hours after he was taken with the No 10 pick. He was selected by Milwaukee but traded to Sacramento.
"Took a little while waiting back there, but it's a great moment for me and for my family, and for the Sacramento Kings organisation," Fredette said.
There was no chance the Cavs would deal Irving, confident his foot is healthy enough to lead the rebuilding effort that follows the departure of LeBron James. No doubt Irving impressed when the Duke point guard beat Byron Scott, the Cavs coach, in a shooting contest during his workout. Loudly cheered not far from where he starred at St Patrick's High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Irving showed no signs of the toe injury on his right foot that limited him to 11 games last season as he walked up the stairs to shake hands with Stern.
"I didn't have any doubts about going to No 1. I was looking to the organisation to pick who they felt was the right choice," Irving said. "But now, to this moment, from being a fan of the NBA draft and now being drafted, it's a special feeling in my heart, and knowing that my friends and family were together, it's a memory I'm going to remember for the rest of my life."
Three of the first six players taken were from Europe, capitalising on the absence of some American college players who might have gone in their spots and made this a stronger draft.
Even Irving has international ties. He was born in Australia, and his father, Drederick, played professionally there. Irving said he might be interested in playing for the Australian national team, who have said they would love to have him.
Turkey's Enes Kanter, who could play centre or power forward, was picked No 3 by the Utah Jazz despite sitting out the past year; he was ruled ineligible to play at Kentucky after being paid to play in Turkey. Lithuania's Jonas Valanciunas went fifth to Toronto and Jan Vesely of the Czech Republic was taken sixth by Washington. Bismack Biyombo of Congo went seventh as one of six international players who went in the first round, three short of the record set in 2003. Biyombo, 18, then moved to Charlotte as part of a three-way deal. Kentucky's Brandon Knight went eighth to Detroit as casual fans finally heard a name they recognised. He was followed by Kemba Walker of national champion Connecticut, who wiped away tears after he was taken by Charlotte.
"It's been like a movie," Walker said.