Often labeled as a "throwback" player for his all-around abilities relative to his age (19), James Harden threw himself deeper into history Thursday. When Oklahoma City scooped him up with the third overall pick in the NBA draft, the All-American guard become the earliest draft pick from Arizona State since "Jumping" Joe Caldwell went No. 2 overall in 1964, and Harden appeared to pay tribute to that bygone era by donning a bow tie.
Often labeled as a "throwback" player for his all-around abilities relative to his age (19), James Harden threw himself deeper into history Thursday.
When Oklahoma City scooped him up with the third overall pick in the NBA draft, the All-American guard become the earliest draft pick from Arizona State since "Jumping" Joe Caldwell went No. 2 overall in 1964, and Harden appeared to pay tribute to that bygone era by donning a bow tie.
Apparently, tying it was a little tricky - enough to where it wasn't a do-it-yourself project. Call it another perk of being a pro.
"I tried so many times, it wasn't working, so I had my stylist come up to me to give me a lesson to help me do it," Harden said during a conference call.
Arizona forward Jordan Hill went No. 8 to New York, and Harden's former teammate at ASU, Jeff Pendergraph, was the first pick in the second round (No. 31 overall) by Sacramento. Former Wildcat Chase Budinger went No. 44 to Detroit but was traded to Houston.
Pendergraph, too, wasn't immune to the trading frenzy that defined this year's draft, but it worked out well for him. Immediately after his name was called to Sacramento, he was sent to Portland for Sergio Rodriguez and the No. 38 overall pick, which became former Washington big man and Pac-10 rival Jon Brockman.
Aside from not being a late first-round pick as he had hoped (second-round picks don't automatically receive guaranteed contracts), Pendergraph got his other wishes: to stay out West and unite with Trailblazers coach Nate McMillan, father of ASU teammate Jamelle McMillan.
"I'm not going to say I planned it or hoped for it," Pendergraph said by phone while en route to celebrate his new opportunity. "I'm going to take it and make the most of it and make something of this."
As for Harden, the Thunder appear more than willing to forgive his backstage fashion follies. The All-American and Pac-10 Player of the Year worked out for Oklahoma City a couple times. Flanked by former UCLA guard Russell Westbrook and an emerging star in Kevin Durant, Harden has a golden chance to become the team's starting shooting guard.
He also had an exchange with former University of Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin, who was the No.1 pick to one of Harden's hometown teams, the Los Angeles Clippers.
"I told him we should switch, he should go to Oklahoma and I should go to L.A. and everything would be great," Harden said with a laugh. "Obviously it doesn't work that way."
Hill was the second Wildcat taken No. 8 by the Knicks in the past five years - Channing Frye was the eighth pick in 2005. He was the first Arizona player in 30 years to average a double-double in points and rebounds (18.2 ponts, 11 rebounds, 1.7 blocks per game), and the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Hill has the athleticism to fit with Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni's running style.
Speaking of fitting in, Oklahoma City is a long way from the weather and lifestyle of Harden's native L.A., but an NBA lottery pick is also a long way from poverty.
"At Arizona State, there's a lot more going on," Harden said. "But it helps me focus in Oklahoma. You're going to have to focus and know that this is a business and I have to be ready, because as fast as I got here, I can be out just the same."