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Draftees and their families sweated out the selections in NBA Draft 2001's open-air green room
It's Not Easy Being Green
By Steve Popper
As the players and families took their places at tables scattered between the stage at the Theater at Madison Square Garden and the raucous crowd, there was little of the exuberance of youth or confidence that had earned the 15 players their spots in the green room.

Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler donned the Bulls cap after the trade with the Clippers one hour into his professional career. Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE Photos
And unlike previous years, there was no mystery hidden behind curtains away from the prying eyes of the media and fans. The tables were open to the view of every fan and cameras prowled around the table revealing every hint of fear.

So the families held each other, providing assurances in halting voices and a word of encouragement when a selection passed without the name that they longed to hear.

It went that way until an hour into the proceedings, when David Stern stepped to the podium before announcing the 14th overall selection and detailed a trade that had taken place, sending the second overall selection, Tyson Chandler, to the Chicago Bulls. The deal caused a bit of shock at the Chandler table, and then almost instantaneously, the family of the high school sensation began to celebrate with the family of Eddy Curry, who filled the adjoining table.

The two players who had crossed paths in workouts and high school all-star games were now teammates, with the Bulls affording an opportunity to make suddenly strange bedfellows of the players and families. The competitive edge was dropped and they united in full view of the crowd and cameras.

"I told his mother that we'll have some barbecues and invite them over," said Curry's father, Eddy Sr. "I was thrilled. I congratulated his mother. I'm just happy for them and looking forward to seeing them play together."

Curry's sister, Nicole, and his wife, Korie, danced in their seats, joining Chandler's family as they tried to raise the roof.

"We've already become friendly with the family," said Chandler's mother, Vernie Threadgill. "Tyson has played against Eddie before, but it's not like they're rivals. Now they can bond with each other. I think it's wonderful. They're starting off together. They know each other.

"My husband is from Chicago, so he still has family there. But the Currys have already invited us and welcomed us into their home."

It is the odd and chaotic scene within the bounds of the green room that both separates and unites these players and families. The weeks of anxiety reach a fevered pitch as the night begins and does not allow an exhale until the name that they long to hear is announced. Before the crowds enter the Theater and even before their families join them, the players arrive alone to pose for photos and then sit alone in their thoughts at the tables until a friendly face arrives.

"I had my family here and like 10 friends from Philadelphia in the stands," said Eddie Griffin, who was joined at his table by his mother and father, as well as his brother and sister. "But I came here alone and I was nervous, real nervous."

Eddie Griffin
Eddie Griffin was surprised to be selected by the Nets and even more surprised at the trade with Houston. Ray Amati/NBAE Photos
It was a feeling that none of the players wanted to show, smiling the best that they could for the cameras. But it was still easy to see the nervousness that permeated the room, striking both the young players and their families.

As Griffin waited to hear his name, it was all too easy to see his disappointment when he was passed over on the first four picks and then again at No. 5 by the Golden State Warriors, who he was certain would select him. Griffin managed to clap the pick of Jason Richardson, but when the Grizzlies passed, too, at No. 6, he just sat silently, now wondering if the Nets would take him at No. 7 even though he had never spoken to the team during the time leading up to the draft.

His agent, Arn Tellum, crouched behind Griffin's table, a cell phone stuck to his right ear and another phone in his left hand waiting any sort of news. When the cameras moved into place in front of the Griffin family, they finally knew that the moment had come, and even when he learned an hour and a half later that he had been traded from New Jersey to Houston, the relief outweighed the angst.

"It is just a wakeup call," Griffin said as he took a seat at the podium in the interview room for the second time. "It let me know. I'm glad I got it early. I was real surprised. I was doing interviews and they pulled me out.

"I was surprised, but now, hopefully this is it. This is where I'll be. I'll go there and try to win. I'm just enjoying this. I was just surprised. I was looking forward to going to play for the Nets. Now I'm in a better situation. Houston is on the verge of being a great team."

His family remained at the table while Griffin sorted through his mixed emotions, trying to understand the whole hectic situation themselves.

"We were a little disappointed, but that's life," Griffin's mother Queen said. "He's happy."

As the families departed the tables as the night drew to a close, they gathered the souvenirs of the evening, grabbing the basketballs that were engraved with the name of the player and scooping up the hats that had been handed to them. Some of the hats never were donned, like at the table for Pau Gasol, who was given a pile of Atlanta Hawks hats, but already knew that he was destined for the Vancouver Grizzlies in a trade that had already been completed. The Chandlers kept the Clippers caps, and doubled them up with Bulls hats, too, a reminder of their turn in the green room.
 
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