This past season was a nightmare for the Washington Wizards. Star Gilbert Arenas was charged with a felony after his gun fiasco with Javaris Crittenton in the locker room. The team traded fringe All-Stars Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison to shed salary in their effort to rebuild. And owner Abe Pollin died at age 85.
His widow, Irene Pollin, attended the NBA Draft Lottery representing the team, a team with a 10 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick, and wore her late husband’s championship trophy for good luck. The charm worked.
The New Jersey Nets, which had a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery and securing the opportunity to draft point guard John Wall , were a woeful 12-70 this past season and, with a new, multi-billionaire owner in Mikhail Prokhorov, had high hopes of filling seats and wooing LeBron James with Wall’s presence.
This, shockingly, would not be, as their name was called in association with the third pick. The camera shifted to a stone-faced, bewildered Prokhorov as those in attendance expressed their amazement at the unexpected bouncing of the ping-pong balls.
The Philadelphia 76ers name was drawn next, giving them the second pick and the opportunity to draft Evan Turner, a do-everything guard out of Ohio State who received National Player of the Year honors this past season. This pulling of the straws made Irene giddy. The top pick was Washington’s. And it couldn’t have gone to a better team in need.
Some will say that the Wizards will decide between Turner and Wall, but there is no way they pass up on Wall. It already appears to be a forgone conclusion. He was interviewed after the lottery and didn’t seem too enthused about the possibility of playing in the Nation’s capital. He said all of the right things, but he did so in a monotone.
Maybe he was just tired from watching multiple hours of ESPN. Or maybe he was tired from studying for the finals he presumably has to take. The Wizards hope it was one of the two. Even if he is disappointed about not going to New Jersey, I’m sure he will come to like playing for Washington. The team desperately needs him, and he will fill seats while fulfilling his dream of playing in the NBA.
The Wizards, presuming they still see Arenas as part of their future, will now have an extremely talented backcourt. They also have a blossoming power forward in Andray Blatche , a capable and equally young small forward in Al Thornton , as well as an energetic guard in Nick Young .
They have a good group that will have to be fleshed out with a solid center and adequate bench players, and when they corral the necessary pieces, in a few years they will be contending in the Eastern Conference.