Sunday, May 19
Updated: Sunday, May 19, 9:51 PM ET
Rockets beat the odds, land No. 1 pick
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- The Houston Rockets took a big man from
abroad the last time they had the No. 1 pick. Now they'll have
Houston won the NBA draft lottery Sunday, giving the Rockets the
right to make the first overall selection, something they haven't
done since 1984. That year, Houston picked Hakeem Olajuwon, who
helped the team win two championships. Two picks lower, of course,
the Chicago Bulls took Michael Jordan, who led them to six titles.
This time, the Rockets could go for 7-foot-5 Chinese center Yao
Ming. Duke undergrads Jay Williams and Mike Dunleavy also are
considered possible top-three picks.
"Hopefully, we can get a player who can come in and help us
right away," said the Rockets' star point guard, Steve Francis.
"What we really have to get is some aggression. We won't be
looking for a point guard -- anything else, I don't know."
Chicago will pick second, and the Golden State Warriors third in
the June 26 draft. Those clubs tied for the league's worst record
(21-61) and each had a 22.5 percent chance of winning the lottery.
"We're going to consider a lot of different things, even a
trade, if somebody calls with an offer you can't refuse," said
Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, thought to be high on Yao's
Houston had the fifth-worst record (28-54) this season and an
8.9 percent chance of getting the top pick. The pingpong balls
bounced the Rockets' way, though, extending a trend: The team with
the best chance of grabbing No. 1 hasn't done so since 1990.
Drawings determined the top three picks, and the rest of the
draft order was set by reversing the non-playoff teams' order of
finish during the season.
Because Houston jumped ahead, Memphis slid to fourth, and Denver
will pick fifth. Cleveland's next, followed by New York, the Los
Angeles Clippers, Phoenix, Miami, Washington, the Clippers again,
and Milwaukee at No. 13.
The Clippers have two choices because they get Atlanta's slot at
No. 8, completing a sign-and-trade deal that sent Lorenzen Wright
to the Hawks in August 1999. Atlanta would have kept the pick had
it landed among the top four.
Francis, wearing a bright lavender suit and matching sunglasses,
represented the Rockets during the announcement of the lottery
results at halftime of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals
between the New Jersey Nets and Boston Celtics.
In 1984, the Rockets won a coin flip between the teams with the
worst record in each conference and chose Olajuwon, a 7-footer born
in Nigeria. The next year, the NBA started a lottery for teams that
didn't make the playoffs, and the Knicks won the No. 1 choice,
which they used to take Patrick Ewing.
Olajuwon helped Houston win titles in 1994 and '95. The Rockets
traded him to Toronto last offseason and are in need of a presence
in the paint. Houston general manager Carroll Dawson was among
dozens of NBA team officials and scouts who saw Yao in an hourlong
workout this month in Chicago conducted by former NBA coach P.J.
"I was really impressed with him, but I don't know enough to
say he's a lock No. 1 pick," Carlesimo said. "This guy is 21, and
you have to factor in what his learning curve will be -- if he does
get stronger and how much he'll pick up by coming over.
"I only saw him for one hour, but what I saw in an hour I liked
Francis' reaction under the lights in a studio at NBA
Entertainment headquarters -- he smiled slightly and shook hands
with Krause -- was genuine, although the lottery actually was
completed two hours earlier in a gray conference room two floors
At 5:02 p.m., pingpong balls numbered 1-14 were placed in a
hopper, and four were drawn in succession. There were 1,001
possible ways those numbers could have come up, and 1,000 of those
combinations were assigned to teams. If the 1,001st combination had
been drawn, there would have been an extra drawing.
Chicago and Golden State each had 225 combinations, the Memphis
Grizzlies 157, the Denver Nuggets 120, Houston 89, and so on.
The Rockets were assured the No. 1 choice by virtue of having
been assigned the first combination selected -- 13-8-11-4. For the
No. 2 pick, a combination assigned to the Rockets (8-6-5-9) came up
again, so that was thrown out, and new numbers chosen.
Only 12 teams reps (Milwaukee chose not to have someone there),
10 people from NBA Entertainment, a partner in the accounting firm
of Ernst & Young, and four reporters were present. All were kept in
the conference room, and told not to use phones or two-way pagers,
until after the televised announcement. The teams had other reps
waiting at the studio show.
It was the first time the league allowed reporters to watch the
behind-the-scenes proceedings in person, although the NBA says the
policy change has nothing to do with debunking conspiracy theories.
"Our job is to take the intricacy and make it look simple,"
commissioner David Stern said Sunday, explaining why the pingpong
balls scene isn't shown live on TV. "Most of our fans think, 'Tell
us who won."'
Last year, the Washington Wizards won the lottery and made Kwame Brown the first high schooler selected No. 1 overall.
|Steve Francis was on hand to pick up the overall No. 1 pick for Houston.||