No such lottery luck for Lakers

May, 20, 2014
May 20
9:21
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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NEW YORK -- As much optimism as the Los Angeles Lakers had coming into Tuesday's NBA draft lottery that they would somehow hit on their 21.5 percent chance to vault up into the top three picks, the reality remained that they had a 34.5 percent chance of moving down from the No. 6 slot they came in with.

And so, like how so many things have gone for the Lakers in recent seasons, the night provided only more disappointment for a franchise that has been riddled by setbacks.

[+] EnlargeJames Worthy
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty ImagesJames Worthy's presence couldn't bring the Lakers the luck they needed to move up in Tuesday's NBA draft lottery, where they landed with the No. 7 pick.
James Worthy's good luck troika of bobblehead dolls of Dr. Jerry Buss and Chick Hearn, as well as the memory of a third late Lakers legend, Bill Sharman, "in his heart," failed to bring Magic Johnson's old running mate any magic up on the lottery stage.

The man known as "Big Game" James in his playing days for playing that way in big moments, said he felt "naked" in front of the cameras as it all unfolded.

"When you're sitting over there, you're just a sitting duck waiting," Worthy said. "You're a little nervous. My heart started pounding a little bit when it got to 8. But then when it came up at 7, I was like, 'Damn.'"

Instead of No. 6, they ended up at No. 7. Instead of being bumped up into the top three picks with a chance to either trade the selection for an established veteran (Kevin Love, anybody?) or draft a supposed can't-miss superstar (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid, anyone?), that dream now belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who came into the proceedings with a 1.7 percent chance at the No. 1 pick and ended up getting it.

"We had hoped to get under 6 and get an opportunity, but it's a deep draft," said Worthy, still keeping a smile on his face. "Seven is something I'm sure that Mitch Kupchak and the front office of the Lakers will methodically think about and make the right move. So, even though we didn't get an opportunity to be in the top three, we'll make the best of this situation."

It wasn't just Worthy saving face, either. Although according to most mock drafts, the Lakers will be looking at names such as Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon instead of Wiggins, Parker and Embiid, there are NBA people who think the Lakers' draft positioning is still enviable.

"They're in a situation where they can take the best available player and not give a s--- about hype," one front-office executive told ESPNLosAngeles.com.

"Also, because they're the Lakers, they could end up getting a player who normally would go higher but will want to force his way to L.A. with the help of his agent."

The thoughts running through Lakers fans' heads after reading that last sentence: Dante Exum, come on down!

But that's all left to be determined in the next five weeks before the draft on June 26.

For now, the Lakers are left to rehash another night that got away from them.

One team staffer already conceded to ESPNLosAngeles.com late Tuesday night that falling to No. 7 hurts the team's chances for a potential trade, before adding, "but you never know how that might have turned out," no doubt still scarred by the memory of the franchise trading for Dwight Howard only to see him fail to sign an extension.

Worthy even tried to downplay the talent at the top of the draft to try to console Lakers fans.

"You look at the history of the draft picks, the No. 1, 2, 3, 4 guys have not always been the guys that have had impact," Worthy said. "So you look at some of the players who were drafted, maybe even early in the second round, and what they've been able to do. In my era, I think of guys like Joe Dumars and guys like that who were not drafted high and they're impact players. So, it's hard to say these days.

"There's no more Lew Alcindors or Kareem Abdul-Jabbars coming around or Bill Waltons. It's hard to say if Jabari Parker or Wiggins is going to be that player."

Worthy was one of those No. 1 picks who panned out, of course. Yet he skipped out on his own party when he missed the 1982 NBA draft and was trying to make up for lost time Tuesday.

"It's almost like coming to the Grammys or Oscars," Worthy said. "It's a big event."

Before the lottery began, Worthy chatted up the likes of Tyler Ennis, Embiid, Wiggins and Smart at a reception that made the event seem even bigger for the prospects in attendance.

"I just tried to lend some advice on how to start the season," Worthy said. "Be slow to speak and eager to listen and that kind of stuff."

Smart was impressed.

"It's an amazing experience, getting to talk to one of the greatest basketball players ever to play," Smart said of meeting Worthy. "Somebody that influences younger guys in this NBA today."

Worthy just didn't have any influence on where the Lakers ended up picking. Lakers vice president of public relations John Black could only shake his head in remorse as he emerged from the sequestered room where the lottery selection actually occurred before the telecast and greeted Worthy with a shared look of disappointment.

"We'll make the best of it," Worthy said. "We don't have a choice."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0