By LARRY VAUGHT
If you were perplexed at why Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson fell so far in the NBA Draft Thursday night, then you are on the same page with UK coach John Calipari after Johnson was picked 29th by the San Antonio Spurs.
“They said he was a top-10 pick when he left here and then a month and a half later he’s picked 29th. Knowing the draft the way I do, I haven’t spent time really going into that knowing that there are teams that you didn’t work out for and you slip a little bit and then all of a sudden you slip by those teams, and then it’s like what’s wrong with this kid?'” Calipari said.
“Because there’s nothing wrong with them and what proved it was San Antonio took him. San Antonio is about a culture, about good kids who will compete and fight and be coached. By them taking him, it confirms who he is. But 29, I had no idea what went on and I was on the phone the whole time.”
Calipari said he didn’t “sell anything” to Johnson about where he ended up being drafted. The coach said said he knew when Johnson didn’t work out for some teams what might happen but Calipari thought there were two teams set on picking Johnson. One of those teams, though, traded its pick.
“There was so much fluidity to this draft, and I have never experienced anything like it, but I went over to him and his family and I said, ‘Listen to me, I’ve done this a long time. You are in the NBA, you are going to be with a team. This stuff, most of it is ego, and it’s more about being on the right team. So just relax and understand that this stuff happens,'” Calipari said.
“He ends up going to San Antonio, which is the best team. We’re talking Hall of Fame coach (Gregg Popovich), an organization that does unbelievable work developing young players, and then those guys become – you know they took a kid from Colorado no one heard about, they took a guy, (Kawhi) Leonard, that no one really knew about, so they don’t miss very often.”