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Saturday Sports: The NBA Draft


Time now for sports.


BLOCK: The dust is settling after Thursday night's NBA draft. Do the 60 new players selected change the landscape? Are some teams now contenders - enough to challenge the mighty Golden State Warriors? Spoiler alert - no. All right, maybe.

NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins me now. Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Melissa.

BLOCK: And we thought we were done with the NBA after the...

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

BLOCK: ...Warriors so handily dispatched Cleveland nearly two weeks ago. But I guess there is no off switch with the NBA. Fans very fired up about Thursday's draft. So...


BLOCK: ...Does anything look different now?

GOLDMAN: It does. Several teams that have been bad over most, if not all, of the past decade are suddenly looking like teams that could be good. Sacramento and Philadelphia, which had the first-round pick, added to their growing rosters of young talented players. Minnesota pulled off the big draft night trade, getting a star player in his prime, Jimmy Butler from Chicago.

And Thursday was just the start. Next month, there's the free agency period. And we'll see established players moving to new teams trying to beef up their rosters as everyone plays the game, Melissa, Chase the Warriors.

BLOCK: Well, if that's the game, Tom, who wins?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) The Warriors...

BLOCK: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: ...If Golden State can stay healthy and keep its team together. They've got a bunch of free agents who could go elsewhere. But Golden State is expected to retain its core, which means a very good chance of more titles coming up.

BLOCK: Tom, let's go back to the draft for a second. It looked like freshman orientation out there, a record 16 college freshmen drafted in the first round. These are the so-called one-and-done players. What's the takeaway from that?

GOLDMAN: That more and more young men feel they're ready to go. And NBA teams are ready to take a chance on them. Most kids that age aren't NBA-ready, but teams are willing to invest and develop them. It has generated more conversation about, when is the right time to let these young men pursue their pro careers?

Should they be allowed to go pro out of high school? The rule has said no for the past decade. Or should they be delayed even more so they can be more mature when they get to the NBA? And if you do that, is it fair not to compensate them somehow because they'll be missing out even longer on a big NBA payday? It does appear that change is coming. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said recently the one-and-done system is not working for anyone.

BLOCK: Tom, let's close with the news of the death this week of Tony DiCicco, the former coach...


BLOCK: ...Of the U.S. women's national soccer team, very popular guy and dying way too young. He was 68.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, very popular and very successful coach - he led the U.S. women to the 1996 Olympic gold medal and the 1999 World Cup title, which gave us that iconic Brandi Chastain moment when she scored the winning penalty kick and ripped off her jersey in celebration.

BLOCK: Who can forget?

GOLDMAN: Who can forget? And DiCicco, by the way, subbed her in in the last minute because he knew she thrived in big moments, a great decision, one of many.

BLOCK: When you think about that '99 team...


BLOCK: ...Anthony DiCicco - What were his gifts as coach?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, beyond his tactical skills, he had an ability to get the most out of very talented players. You know, people think it's easy with superteams - you just roll the ball out. But it takes more. DiCicco understood coaching a women's team is different. You need to be tough and demanding but also you have to build relationships, which often are more important in women's sport - women's team sport. And he had this infectious joy. One player talked - told me that he would walk out onto the practice field and shout, I love my job, and the players would laugh and then get to work.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman - Tom, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: Thank you, Melissa.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORDUROI'S "BANGARANGARANG") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.