Wizards Hits the NBA Lottery
New owners. Big hopes.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said he expects much from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in turning around the New Jersey Nets, who started 0-18 and finished a league-worst 12-70.
Could Prokohorv look any unhappier Tuesday when the Nets saw their 25 percent chance of drawing the No. 1 lottery pick get trumped by the Washington Wizards and prospective owner Ted Leonsis?
"It's a great thing for the franchise," said Leonsis, who was joined at the draft lottery by Irene Pollin, wife of late Wizards owner Abe Pollin. She seemed to mouth "Oh, my God," when the winning team was revealed, and she was wearing her husband's ring from Washington's 1978 championship season as a lucky charm.
The Nets fell to third, behind the Philadelphia 76ers, up from sixth. Not since the Orlando Magic took Dwight Howard in 2004 has the team with the worst record won the lottery.
It was a rewarding end to a tough season for the Wizards, who had the fifth-most pingpong balls (10.3 percent chance) in the lottery hopper. Abe Pollin died in November, and guard Gilbert Arenas was suspended by the league and served jail time for bringing guns into the team's locker room.
At the June 24 draft, the Wizards will get the No. 1 pick for the first time since former executive Michael Jordan used it to tap 6-11 high schooler Kwame Brown in 2001. Leonsis, the NHL's Washington Capitals owner expected to be approved as the NBA team's majority owner, was largely responsible for bringing Jordan into the Wizards' fold. That didn't work out, starting with Brown, who has averaged 6.7 points and 5.4 rebounds in his nine-year career.
This year's expected No. 1 pick is Kentucky freshman guard John Wall. "I'm just going to . . . try to win games for the organization," he said.