A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Welcome to Washington, Mr. Wall
At the NBA Draft Lottery, as the ping pong balls popped up through the circulating air machine and the fortunes of young men were about to be forever changed, the top three teams to emerge were the New Jersey Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Washington Wizards.
The suspense was building. They key question was: Would Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, new owner of the New Jersey Nets and one of the key players in the LeBron James sweepstakes, get the pick?
Standing on the stage representing their respective teams were Sixers guard Jrue Holliday, Prokhorov, and Irene Pollin, widow of Abe Pollin, who died last November at the age of 85 after owning the Bullets/Wizards franchise for more than four decades.
Pollin was wearing her late husband’s championship ring from the 1978 Bullets team. It proved to be a good luck charm. When the Wizards emerged with the top pick, the shocked Pollin whispered “Oh my God.” Let the dominoes fall.
There are two top prizes in this year’s college class: John Wall, a 6-foot-4 point guard from Kentucky, and Evan Turner, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard/small forward from Ohio State.
“I’m just going to come in and work hard ; just try to win games for the organization this year,” said Wall, who was interviewed at the conclusion of the lottery.
Seated in the background was Ted Leonsis, the Wizards minority owner who will soon become the team’s majority owner.
Leonsis, who turned around the Washington Capitals from an also ran to the top seeded team in the NHL this season, is well known in the nation’s capital as an innovative, charismatic owner.
His partnership with Abe Pollin placed him first in line to purchase the Wizards and the Verizon Center, and the details of Leonsis’ purchase are close to being complete.
Leonsis joined Irene Pollin on stage after the lottery results were announced; the two sharing a joyous moment as they envisioned a new era taking place in Washington.
The Wizards last received the top pick in the lottery in 2001, when they choose forward/center Kwame Brown, who despite his 6-foot-10 frame and his natural skills, proved not to have the kind of professional work ethic needed to succeed in the NBA. Brown was traded from the Wizards in 2005 to the Lakers, spent a year with the Memphis Grizzlies, and now rides the bench for the Detroit Pistons.
The Brown pick was made by then President of Basketball Operations Michael Jordan, and the failure of that pick has dogged Jordan’s post-playing career ever since.
But in just over a month, the Wizards will get to try again with a number one pick; a nice piece of the puzzle for a team that is now in a rebuilding mode. The team spent several years trying to content for a championship with the Big Three of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison.
The plan was derailed by Arenas’ successive knee injuries and his suspension for most of last season on gun possession charges. The team was blown up, as Butler, along with Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson, were shipped to the Dallas Mavericks and Jamison was sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For a team starting from ground zero, the Number One pick is a pretty nice building block. Hopefully, for a city hungry for a return to the playoffs, they can get it right this time.
The NBA Draft Lottery is comprised of the 14 teams which did not qualify for the playoffs. It is held every year during the playoffs at the studios of NBA Entertainment in Secaucus, N.J. This year, the Utah Jazz had the New York Knicks’ pick. The NBA Draft is June 24.