NBA lottery turns 25
By Brian Mahoney
Associated PressPatrick Ewing and Dwight Howard worked out at one end of the court, a couple guys who know what it’s like to be the grand prize in the draft lottery.
At the other end Sunday night were the Boston Celtics, who’ve been ruined and resurrected by the NBA’s ultimate game of luck ó without ever winning it.
After a quarter century of building champions and breaking hearts, the lottery celebrates its 25th birthday today, with the real party being held by the team that wins it and earns the right to pick Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin.
“I think it’s pretty much accepted by our fans now, and our teams get into it,” commissioner David Stern said. “It’s just another way to promote the potential for next season, particularly and for the most part for those teams who have the most need for next season. And that’s what makes it good.”
Sacramento, after finishing with a league-worst 17-65 record, has a 25 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick. The Kings shouldn’t prepare a jersey for Griffin just yet, though: Not since 2004, when Orlando ended up with Howard, has the team with the worst record won the lottery.
That’s why some teams hate it. Jerry West blasted the system in 2007, when Memphis had the best chance to win and ended up falling to No. 4.
The Celtics didn’t like it much either that night since they had the second-best shot at Greg Oden or Kevin Durant and settled for the No. 5 pick. That came 10 years after they were heartbroken by missing out on Tim Duncan despite possessing the best odds of winning the lottery.
No team has done that better than San Antonio, which used lottery wins 10 years apart to land David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
“What we tell our fans is that if a team is well managed and it isn’t doing so well, it will have the opportunity under the NBA system to improve,” Stern said.
Ewing was the first lottery prize, going to the Knicks in 1985. It created controversy with the theory that one of the envelopes was either frozen or heated so Stern would know which one to grab and send Ewing to New York.
“I wish I had as much sway as the conspiracists attribute to me,” Stern said. “Lotteries have to do with chance, and this lottery follows that for the most part.”