In this sleepy Punjabi village, no one was surprised to see a seven-foot-tall Sikh farmer striding the narrow lanes toward the local Sikh temple on June 25. The farmer, Balbir Singh Bamrah, is a familiar presence in Ballo Ke, and something of a local curiosity. But the other worshipers at the temple, known as a gurudwara, were a bit perplexed by the prayer the guru offered for Balbir Singh’s household. He stood over the farmer, his wife and his daughter, and prayed for peace, prosperity, health — and that Balbir Singh’s son would be drafted. “They didn’t understand what the N.B.A. draft was,” said Sarabjot Kaur, Balbir Singh’s 23-year-old daughter. “They only realized later.”
Balbir Singh, 56, said his son’s success was a fitting cap to a decade of work and training. “Basketball is God’s gift,” he said in a rumbling baritone, while greeting a stream of visitors and answering calls on a cellphone dwarfed by his huge hands. “Everything that’s happened to him, all the acclaim, is from basketball,” he said.
The men at the Ballo Ke shrine offer a different explanation, one reflective of a hard edge in an otherwise rejoicing village. They say the crucial factor was the family’s link to Amarinder Singh, the former chief minister of Punjab State, who visited the village as agriculture minister in the 1980s and struck up a friendship with Balbir Singh, even inviting him and his family to his daughter’s wedding. “It is all because of his favor,” said Mukhtiar Singh, one of the men. Another, Nirmal Singh, said that without that kind of advantage, such a success story is “not just difficult, it’s impossible.”
The Celtics offered four first-round picks for the chance to move up from no. 16 to no. 9: that 16th pick, no. 15 (acquired in a prearranged contingency deal with the Hawks), one unprotected future Brooklyn pick, and a future first-rounder from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves, per sources familiar with the talks.1
Some members of Charlotte’s front office liked the Boston deal, but Michael Jordan, the team’s owner and ultimate decision-maker, preferred Kaminsky to a pile of first-rounders outside the lottery, per several sources. That’s justifiable, if you think your guy at no. 9 has a chance at stardom. The talent gap between no. 9 and no. 15 is real; ask Boston how it felt to squeeze into the playoffs, get demolished by a Cavs team in chill mode, and watch Justise Winslow fall right where it could have picked had it won three fewer games.