Wizards + Draft Lottery = Disaster
Tuesday night is the NBA draft lottery. The Wizards have the fifth-best odds of winning, checking in at 10.3 percent. But in your heart, you already know that misery approaches. And it smells like New Jersey.
Like a lot of you, I remember sitting in front of my television a year ago, when the Wizards had the second-best chance in the lottery. For reasons unknown, I had convinced myself that maybe this was the year. As it turned out, I'd have been better off betting on a major federal firearms investigation descending on the Wizards' locker room. Heck, I'd have been as well off betting that space aliens would stage an armed takeover of the west bleachers at Verizon Center, demanding all the arena's nachos, half the arena's cheez product and several dozen unwashed James Singleton jerseys with which to build an unholy portal leading straight to the site of Landover Mall.
I've seen New Orleans levees with better luck than this franchise. I've seen Enron accountants hit the right numbers more often than this franchise. I've seen naked unconscious vomiting beer pong players find more success with ping-pong balls than this franchise. And so on.
I mentioned some of the sad stats earlier in the season -- in 12 of their 13 previous trips to the lottery, the Wizards/Bullets have either failed to move up or have actually moved down in the draft order. But that doesn't do justice to the misery.
The franchise has sent John Nash, Irene Pollin, Tom Gugliotta, Chris Webber, Susan O'Malley, Rod Higgins, Juan Dixon, Ernie Grunfeld and Flip Saunders to the NBA set in New Jersey, and it's never worked. They've had their mascot walk all the way to Secaucus in a PR stunt. They've brought the horseshoe of the Kentucky Derby winner.
One employee wore a lucky suit on lottery day. Two carried rabbit's feet. A fourth said he wore lucky underwear. A fifth carried a lucky penny. A sixth carried a lucky coin. A seventh wore a dragon's claw and something called "a ying-yang," The Post reported.
Susan O'Malley once led a cheer of "Lucky!" among team employees. (Really.) She also once packed three duffel bags full of lucky charms to bring to the lottery site, including a speeding ticket and a pen. That year, a Brooks Robinson home run bat wasn't allowed on board her plane, while four horseshoes from the Preakness winner never arrived.
And none of it's worked.
You have to back and read the clips. Better take some Immodium first. And for the love of Calbert Cheaney, don't bother watching on Tuesday.
1989, quoting David Aldridge: "Revolution 9" was a hit for the Beatles. Draft pick No. 9 was not what the Washington Bullets were looking for. But their grab bag of good luck charms notwithstanding, that's what they got in today's National Basketball Association draft lottery.
"I'm disappointed," said club owner Abe Pollin. "But I was prepared because our chances were only one in three. The odds weren't that great....We'll just have to do it the hard way. There are times when you can pick ninth or even in the second round and you can get a player that can be a great player. And that's what we're hoping we'll do."
And Ken Denlinger:
Maybe if the Bullets had shaved Danny Ferry's head, as lots of fans suggested, their luck in the NBA lottery would have been better. It still might have held if Sunday Silence's shoes had arrived, as hoped, or if an airline official had not considered a baseball treasure nothing more than a fancy billy club.
Whatever, the Bullets' good fortune started to sour when their designated picker in Sunday's lottery, Susan O'Malley, was told she could not carry Brooks Robinson's bat onto the plane for her flight here.
1991, quoting David Aldridge: There was no luck in the suit Washington Bullets General Manager John Nash was wearing. Three years ago, when he was with Philadelphia, he had it on and wound up with the third pick for the 76ers. But today, the suit brought no upward mobility for Washington, which received the eighth pick in the NBA lottery, just as the percentages predicted.
"Obviously you go in hoping for one, two or three," Bullets President Susan O'Malley said. "But I have great confidence in John Nash and Wes Unseld and I know they'll do a great job with what we've got. It's not like I walk away from this thinking 'Oh, no.' I walk away thinking 'Hey, that's okay.' "
1992, quoting David Aldridge: There was no magic in the ping-pong balls for the Washington Bullets at today's NBA draft lottery. The horrors of their 25-57 season will not yield them Shaquille O'Neal, but the sixth pick, which should bring a good player in a deep draft, likely in the shooting guard-small forward area....
The Bullets' natural position was fifth. But Charlotte's leap pushed them down one spot, crushing any good luck remaining in the horseshoe of Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee, which was in the left coat pocket of General Manager John Nash.
"There obviously is some disappointment when you wind up six, instead of two or three," Nash said. "But we could have been seven or eight."
1993, quoting David Aldridge: Whatever offenses the Washington Bullets have committed in lives present or past continue to be unforgiven. The Bullets came into today's National Basketball Association Lottery figuring that if the odds held, they'd be drafting third. If they got an unexpected bad break, they'd go four or five. Only with the worst luck, never-before-seen bad luck, could the Bullets pick sixth in next month's draft.
Hello, bad luck. You know the road to Landover, don't you?
"You take this for what it's worth and go back to the drawing board," Bullets General Manager John Nash said. "I've always felt there are at least six good players, possibly seven. We'll get one of them."
And quoting Kornheiser:
Bad luck isn't called Buzzard's Luck anymore, it's been changed to "Bullets' Luck." If the Bullets were a cruise, they'd be the Lusitania. The Bullets' idea of buying waterfront property is Love Canal. If it wasn't for bad luck, they'd have no luck at all.
1994, quoting Ken Denlinger: The Washington Bullets' best worst-case scenario played out in the National Basketball Association draft lottery today. They wanted at least the fifth pick -- and that's exactly what this 10th annual process produced.
"I think at five we can get a quality player, although we'll keep our options open," Nash said. "We'll be offered all-star players, but they'll have age or other reasons to cause us concerns."
"Good job," Nash said, shaking hands with Gugliotta and Cheaney after the nationally televised ceremony. "At least we didn't lose any ground." So this is what it's come to after all these years of heartache in the lottery: satisfaction at simply not being skunked. Smiling wanly, Nash said, "That was my fear -- slipping to seven or eight."
1995, quoting Richard Justice: As if all the losses and all the injuries weren't enough, the Washington Bullets remain among the unluckiest of NBA teams. Today, the league's second-worst record got them only the fourth pick in the June 28 college draft.
"A bit disappointed," Coach Jim Lynam said. "Given the process, you come here with some expectation of getting the top pick or at least holding your spot. To fall back is disappointing."
"We knew there were more than five talented players in this draft and we couldn't pick lower than five," Nash said. "It's some consolation to be fourth. You like to have the ability to have others react to what you're doing. We have to react to others. I can't tell you what the top three teams are going to do. As strange as it sounds, we might get the same player with the fourth pick that we'd get with the second pick."
Had Les Boulez finally only held serve with the No. 2 pick, they wouldn't be in this mess. But this is Les Boulez, remember? Luck is the only four-letter word they don't hear.
Every year, they're in the lottery, and every year someone else gets to yell "Bingo!" "I'm all tingly to be here again," Bullets President Susan O'Malley said sarcastically. "I feel a little like Susan Lucci."
1999, quoting Steve Wyche: Once again, the NBA lottery did not do the Washington Wizards any favors. The bouncing balls determined this evening that the Wizards will pick seventh at the NBA draft June 30 at MCI Center.
Washington had hoped to select no lower than sixth, its pre-draft position based on having the sixth-worst record (18-32) in the league this season. But the bouncing balls that determine the draft order moved the Wizards back a slot, the fourth time in five lottery finishes in the 1990s that Washington has lost ground.
"There is nothing drastic [about the drop] and I don't think it increases or decreases anything you want to do, including selecting a good player," Wizards General Manager Wes Unseld said. "We're going to get a player that we need."
There are no more than six players in the upcoming draft who, from where we sit now, appear capable of immediately helping an NBA team. Your Washington Wizards will be picking No. 7. So what else is new?
2000, quoting Steve Wyche: Michael Jordan, as president of basketball operations for the Wizards, saw his new team maintain normal lottery fortunes. Washington, slotted sixth entering the lottery, dropped a spot in the blind draw, leaving the Chicago Bulls with the seventh overall pick.
"We still got bad luck in the house," Jordan said. "It's unfortunate that we didn't get what we were hoping for, but in all honesty we had to plan as if we didn't have it. That's not going to change the way we're going to pursue to get this organization back to where we have to get it. It would have been great to have that wild card in regards to creativity in the offseason."
2002, quoting Todd Jacobson: The Washington Wizards failed to move up from the 11th spot when the Ping-Pong balls finally settled at halftime of Game 1 of the Boston Celtics-New Jersey Nets Eastern Conference finals.
"We pretty much thought that's where we were going to be," Unseld said. "With seven balls in the hopper, we have sort of been working and looking at that position."
2003, quoting Rachel Nichols: The Wizards, meantime, stayed stuck at No. 10, much to the chagrin of Juan Dixon, who represented the team along with professional scout Wes Unseld Jr.
"I really thought we might get a lottery pick," Dixon said. "But I think we're still going to get a really good player, someone who will help our team over the hump and into the playoffs."
2004, quoting Steve Wyche: The Washington Wizards entered Wednesday's NBA draft lottery hoping its third-worst league record would pay off. As fate would have it, things broke just as poorly as they did during the regular season. Instead of landing a top-three pick for the June 24 draft, Washington fell to the No. 5 spot.
"Everybody wants the number one pick but traditionally one team moves up," Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld said. "We'll get the best player available at number five or the pick could be an asset for us."
You didn't actually expect good luck, did you? There's no good karma for a franchise that has missed the playoffs 15 of the past 16 seasons, that couldn't maximize the presence of Michael Jordan, that couldn't get it right when it did have the No. 1 overall pick. So the Wizards went back to doing what they've done so many times in the past: dropping in the lottery.
Their reward for another absolutely lousy season is having the fifth pick in a draft one player deep. They are as cursed as the Red Sox and Cubs, just over a shorter period of time. When the Clippers -- the sorry, no-account, bad-news, luckless Clippers! -- knock you out of one of the top three picks, it's time to call an exorcist. The Wizards dropped behind the Clippers and an expansion team in Charlotte in last night's draft lottery. There can't be a more forlorn team in professional sports.
2009, quoting Michael Lee: A worst-case scenario season yielded a worse-case scenario result for the Washington Wizards at the NBA draft lottery, as the team that could choose no lower than fifth landed the No. 5 pick in the June draft. Hoping for a potential franchise building block to add to a team that already boasts three all-stars, the Wizards were jumped by three teams despite having the second-best odds to win the top overall pick.
"We feel comfortable with the fifth pick, but we are going to explore our options to see what can make us the best possible team next year," Grunfeld said. "But we feel, if we have all of our pieces out there, it would be hard for any young player to come in and break into the lineup -- even if it was the first pick."
"The positive is, the four teams that are in front of us are in the Western Conference, we're number one in the East," Saunders said. "We're going to have an opportunity to have potentially the best talent to come into the Eastern Conference."
A night that began with the promise of Blake Griffin ended the moment the Grizzlies moved from the sixth spot into the top three. You could have clicked over to "American Idol" right then and there. Sure enough, the Wizards came away with the worst-possible result in the NBA draft lottery: fifth.
That leaves 2001, when the Wizards actually won the draft lottery. And then took Kwame Brown with the first overall pick. Which is probably worse than just losing the damn thing.
"I'm ready to explode," Abe Pollin said then. "Calls have been coming in from my brother and friends. We all had our fingers crossed. I think it's a sign. With Doug Collins as our new coach, and the number one draft choice, maybe it's a sign that finally our luck has turned around and we're going to do well, be competitive for our fans."
So that's the history. Embrace it. Feel its cold sweat pour over your body. Drink in its stench. And turn off your television.
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