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West fumes after Portland Trail Blazers win NBA Draft Lottery

West fumes after Portland Trail Blazers win NBA Draft Lottery

West fumes after Portland Trail Blazers win NBA Draft Lottery
May 23, 2007

SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) -Two longshots from the Pacific Northwest won the NBA draft lottery and the right to select can't-miss picks Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.

The luck of the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle SuperSonics also left outgoing Memphis Grizzlies president Jerry West calling for the league to dump the weighted lottery system that rarely has helped the league's worst team.

West was fuming Tuesday night after the Grizzlies, the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks, the teams with the league's three worst records, got the fourth, fifth and sixth choices in the June 28 draft in New York behind Portland, Seattle and Atlanta.

Portland, which only had a 5.3 percent chance of winning, beat the odds and won the right to select either Oden or Durant. The SuperSonics will get the other and the Hawks, who had the fourth worst record, will have the pick of the rest of the draft that might be one of the deepest in years.

``It's about as disappointing as you could ever hope for,'' West said minutes after the lottery was announced at the NBA Entertainment Center. ``It's like pitching pennies. It's grossly unfair to the team, but I've said it before, I don't think the lottery is fair. I never liked it. I don't think it's a good system at all, period.

``There have been a lot of picks in the lottery that have (failed). There are two in the lottery this year that are not going to fail. There are two superstars in the draft. I think for the teams fortunate enough to get them, the fortunes of their franchises have changed forever.''

That will be Portland and Seattle.

For the Trail Blazers, the lottery was sweet revenge. A year ago, they had the worst record in the league and ended up with the fourth pick.

Now they will have the top pick for the fourth time franchise history. Two were duds (LaRue Martin and Mychal Thompson). The other was a fellow named Bill Walton and he led them to an NBA title.

``Huge, unbelievably huge,'' general manager Kevin Pritchard said. ``Franchise making. ... Rip City again, here we come.''

Pritchard would not say whether the Trail Blazers would pick Oden, the center who led Ohio State to the NCAA championship game, or Durant, a high-scoring forward who made Texas fun to watch.

``Either one, you can't go wrong,'' said Brandon Roy, the NBA rookie of the year who represented the Trail Blazers.

The 7-foot Oden is the likely top pick, because dominant centers are harder to find.

Milwaukee will go sixth, followed by Minnesota, Charlotte and Chicago, which had the rights to New York's pick through the Eddy Curry trade. Sacramento will be 10th, followed by the Hawks, Philadelphia, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Since the NBA switched to a weighted lottery system in 1994, only two NBA teams with the best chance of landing the top pick have gotten it - the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1993 (LeBron James) and the Orlando Magic (Dwight Howard) the following year.

This marked the first time since 1993 that the three worst teams all dropped out of the top three.

``This is not sour grapes, it is not,'' West said. ``I didn't expect we would get No. 1 or No. 2. I just don't like it at all. No other sport does it this way.''

The presence of the Oden and Durant created a lot of interest in the lottery. More than 100 media received credentials.

Oden averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 rebounds despite being limited for much of the season while recovering from right wrist surgery.

Durant led the Big 12 with 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, and was the AP national player of the year.

Portland, which had a great draft night in 2006 by getting Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge through trades, had more than luck on its side.

``I have one lucky charm, my daughter gave it to me, it's a little ladybug pendant,'' Pritchard said of his 10-year-old daughter, Kendall.

It worked.

With either Oden or Durant, interest in the SuperSonics should pick up. The Sonics haven't been able to get a new arena and aren't guaranteed to be in Seattle past next season.

``Hopefully it gets people more excited,'' Sonics president of basketball operations Lenny Wilkens said. ``Seattle has great fans. And like we say, it's not over until the fat lady sings.''

The Hawks were the other big winner Tuesday. Moving up one spot saved them from having to send their pick to the Suns as a result of the Joe Johnson trade. And Atlanta also picked up Indiana's pick, No. 11, from the Al Harrington deal since the Pacers stayed put.

``This gives us a chance to look at what really need as far as helping us progress as a franchise,'' Hawks vice president and former star Dominique Wilkins said. ``This is big for us. Everybody wants the No. 1, No. 2 picks. But any time you get in the top three picks, this is monumental for us.''

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Re: West fumes after Portland Trail Blazers win NBA Draft Lottery

There's a reason it's called a lottery

Just quit whining.

And in today's NBA, that request is directed at everybody who didn't win something in Tuesday's NBA lottery.

That means you Jerry West, the outgoing president of the Memphis Grizzlies. Yeah, we know you're the Logo and are a Hall of Fame player and ultimately one of the top executives as well. But just because you would have gotten the top pick of the draft if there wasn't a lottery doesn't mean there shouldn't be a lottery. Nobody should be rewarded for incompetence, particularly when you have an unqualified coach replacing Mike Fratello for most of the season. Did you actually want to win?

We also don't want to hear it from Danny Ainge, president of the Boston Celtics. Not after forward Ryan Gomes went on record saying he was held out of a game because they didn't want to hurt their lottery positioning.

And the same goes for you, Larry Harris of the Milwaukee Bucks. After all, you won the lottery two years ago and haven't exactly come out smelling wonderfully with the choice of Andrew Bogut. Besides, there was plenty of talk of your guys not particularly interesting in winning games either.

That takes us to where the locals happen to love the lottery today.

Of course everyone is ecstatic in Portland, because the Trail Blazers have the first pick and the enviable choice of the two superstars of the draft — 7-footer Greg Oden or perhaps the best freshman basketball player ever, Kevin Durant. Likewise, they're euphoric in Seattle, where they'll end up with whichever of the two dynamic players the Blazers don't take.

The other big winner happened to be the Atlanta Hawks, who moved up to the third position — which prevented their pick from being conveyed to Phoenix (as part of the Joe Johnson deal two years ago). That translates to a rather enormous difference for the annually pathetic Hawks, either no pick or third behind Oden and Durant — not a bad draft position, even for a trade if they are so inclined.

That takes us back to the unhappy folks — the teams with the three worst records in the league finishing No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 — also known as the Grizzlies Celtics and Bucks. Obviously they feel slighted.

"It's grossly unfair to the team," West said. "But I've said it before: I don't think the lottery is fair. I never liked it. I don't think it's a good system at all, period. There have been a lot of picks in the lottery that have (failed). There are two in the lottery this year that are not going to fail. There are two superstars in the draft. I think for the teams fortunate enough to get them, the fortunes of their franchises have changed forever."

Well, tough.

In the history of the lottery, dating back to the bizarre set of circumstances that began in 1985 when the New York Knicks earned the right to take Patrick Ewing (was the fix on thanks to either a cold envelope or a folded corner?), the non-winners bitch moan. Was the fix on for the failing Cleveland Cavaliers to get local hero LeBron James in 2003?

There always have been and always will be conspiracy theories in sports. They have become part of the landscape. Even if it is Jerry West making the most noise, the way he's been flying off the handle about whatever rubs him the wrong way these days strongly suggests it may be a perfect time for him to retire with his 69th birthday approaching.

As always, commissioner David Stern says they will take a look at the system to tweak it in the wake of too much noise about the Celtics, Bucks and Hawks throwing games for lotto positioning.

There are already peripheral complaints about how detrimental it is to the NBA in the big picture when two young superstars go to the teams in the Pacific Northwest, where they will get little or no national exposure. Sorry, in this case, think globally, act locally. These two franchises desperately needed the boost they've gotten. The Hawks arguably needed the break more than the Blazers or the Sonics with their ownership mess and perennial failings.

Nonetheless, it's very difficult not to agree with Philadelphia 76ers owner Ed Snider, who insists the best method is one ball for each non-playoff team, regardless of record. That would leave an equal chance for the team that missed the playoffs by one game or the team with the worst record.

Stern begs to differ, saying it defeats the spirit of the draft if a 45-win team doesn't make the playoffs, which happens on occasion.

With all due respect, Commish, that's exactly why that team should have the opportunity to win the lottery. They deserve something for playing well but having the misfortune of playing in the wrong conference (see Western Conference domination again). Nobody should be rewarded for losing, but neither should they be prevented from having some help in altering their course.

The reason for the lottery in the first place was the excitement it wrought for the teams that don't make the playoffs — just another in the long list of Stern marketing extravaganzas that brought attention to the league when it needed it so badly.

There will always be complaints, no matter what the system. Did the league penalize the Grizzlies, Celtics and Bucks for allegedly tossing games to better their chances at landing one of the two big guns? Could be ... but we'll never know — just like we'll never know about James to the Cavs and Ewing to the Knicks. Did the Hawks need the third pick more than the Suns? Certainly, but do you think the league would penalize the Suns again (see suspensions last week)?

So let's just go with the gut and say the lottery is a great thing because it is exciting — particularly when there are players the caliber of Oden and Durant — and it can change the fortunes of teams forever.

Furthermore, let's stand in the corner with Philly's Snider and say remove the weighted balls. All 14 teams should have an equal opportunity to win the lottery. That would make it even more fun and remove the possibility of teams tanking games from the equation. Nobody would lose intentionally to avoid the playoffs for the lottery, so we've solved that problem.

In other words, the annual lotto requires just a little fix ... so to speak.


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