NEW YORK — If Aaron Gordon really is all about basketball, as he made clear during his one season with the Arizona Wildcats, then nothing really changes tonight.
Except one thing.
“I get to pay for my dad at dinner,” Gordon says. “They don’t have to pay for me anymore.”
That’s a given, of course. As a projected top-10 pick in tonight’s NBA draft, Gordon, 18, will land a two-year rookie-scale contract worth between $4 million and $7 million plus thousands of endorsement dollars.
So he shouldn’t have a problem paying for Dad, Mom and everyone else in the family, and, in fact, he was expecting to do exactly that Wednesday night by hosting an extended friends-and-family crowd at an Italian restaurant just off Times Square.
That’s the kind of thing Gordon talked about when asked during media interviews held Wednesday at the Westin Times Square what was most remarkable about the NBA predraft process.
He didn’t talk about the basketball workouts that he’s been through, the interviews with teams or anything else. Just how the other things in life have changed suddenly.
“Coming to New York, getting to dress up and spend time with my family outside of my city,” Gordon said. “I get to see everybody one last time and pay for their dinner.”
In return, Gordon’s family is committed to helping him stay focused on basketball, just like he has been since he once frantically dug a backyard hole for a permanent basketball hoop — at midnight on his 10th birthday.
Gordon’s sister, Elise, is planning to move where Aaron does for his rookie season, and the rest of the family has been treating him as normal. Especially this week, with appearances and interviews and photo shoots, that’s been a necessity.
“I think it will really set in tomorrow when I get my suit,” Gordon said. “It kind of feels unreal right now. Once I get there I think I’ll love it.
“It’s kind of overhappiness and anticipation that is keeping me in the middle. I’m letting my family deal with all the other emotions.”
While Gordon is likely to land with one of only six or seven teams, the possibilities are even more cluttered for Gordon’s ex-UA teammate, Nick Johnson.
As a projected second-rounder, Johnson could be drafted anywhere, or not at all. ESPN’s Chad Ford doesn’t have Johnson listed on his two-round mock draft, though Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony said he’s been told by a team holding a pick in the 50s that it will take Johnson if he’s still available then.
“He’s going to get drafted for sure,” Givony said. “They might ask him to go to Europe (and keep his rights) … but it might be a team that will put him on the roster. He could go in the 30s, too. Once you get outside of the 20s, anything can happen.”
Thanks to his athleticism, attitude and projected upside, Gordon isn’t expected to last into the double-digits. He’s even heard from Philadelphia, which holds the No. 3 pick, that the Sixers may be rethinking their draft strategy with Kansas’ Joel Embiid slipping because of a foot injury.
“A little bit,” Gordon said of conversations the Sixers. “We’ll see how that goes.”
Gordon said he did not work out for Philadelphia but has worked out for every team holding picks from Nos. 4 to 8 — Orlando (4), Utah (5), Boston (6), the Lakers (7) and Sacramento (8) — and said he expects to be selected in that range.
Of those teams, Boston is a commonly speculated fit, and Gordon spoke enthusiastically about that possibility Wednesday. He said Celtics coach Brad Stevens even reminded him of UA coach Sean Miller.
“I think they’re very player-oriented,” Gordon said of both coaches. “As much as they want wins, I think they have their players’ best interests at heart. They are very wise basketball minds, and there’s just a good, fiery spirit they both have.”
Gordon said he appreciated the support that Utah fans give the Jazz and wouldn’t mind playing for Sacramento because of the proximity to his San Jose, Calif., home.
A pick after Sacramento’s, however, might not be so positive.
“Wouldn’t feel great,” Gordon said. “But if I slip past eight and get picked up by a different team, then so be it. That’s how it goes.
“There’s so much anticipation and anxiety, you really don’t know. I worked out pretty well. I got a good feeling from a lot of different people, but obviously they can’t guarantee anything.
“It’s gamesmanship, staying close to the vest. So we’re just waiting to see.”