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2017 NBA Draft Lottery: One man’s diary of despair

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It's Matt Miranda's party, and he'll cry if he wants to.

Frank Franklin II (AP)

Having endured yet another six-month, 82-game preseason, Tuesday night was the long-awaited only competition that really matters in Knick nation: the draft lottery. New York was seeded seventh and hadn’t moved up in a draft since 1985. Whoop-dee-damn-do! sang my inner optimist. Past failures have no bearing on future success. The sweet is never as sweet without the sour.

So I popped in front of the telly at 8:00 ready to accept whatever hand fate handed out. What follows is one man’s diary of what followed.

8:00

Feeling good. How good?

8:06

ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth is interviewing Joel Embiid, who I already found impossibly charming and find even more so after hearing his endearing accent. Hubbarth cannot resist asking the player nicknamed “The Process” about “the process,” a breathtakingly derivative moment in human history. This is the moment I realize ESPN, as it did with the NFL draft, will soon render the draft lottery unwatchable. Two minutes of drama diluted over nearly an hour of who gives a damn. Deja vu.

Hubbarth acting like the Sixers moving from 10 wins in 2016 to 28 last year has anything to do with what happens next feels like someone praising a toddler who’s just started walking, only the toddler is at the bottom of the stairs at the Pyramid of the Sun and needs to get to the top. So yeah. You’re vertical. Congrats! Sustaining momentum? The Knicks went from 17 wins in 2015 to 32 to...31. Have fun with that.

8:12

Adam Silver is talking about wanting teams who give their stars games off to rest to rest those stars for home games, so as not to deprive fans in other cities from seeing talent that only comes into town once or twice a year. The commissioner frames this as a concern for fairness, for the fans.

I don’t want Kristaps Porzingis sitting out home games in 2020, assuming he’s still a Knick then (I hate that I have to acknowledge that now). If 18,000 Denver Nugget fans don’t get to see him live that year, tough titty. They got legal weed there. We got James Dolan. We owe nobody nothing.

8:16

Some stupid car commercial about a family trip and a dead grandfather getting his ashes spread into the water. Grandma tells her granddaughter how they met on a blind date. Then she’s crying about missing him. I could give a shit, Granny. Blind dates = Tinder before cell phones existed. Your “greatest generation” love story ain’t any more moving than what’s happening here and now.

8:17

James Harden, who unlike LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Scottie Pippen was once awful in a critical playoff game, is in a commercial for something called BBVA Compass. I thought it was a charity, but later learn it’s just some bank. The motto is: “Creating Opportunities for A Brighter Future.” Insert Moses Malone Jr. joke here.

8:25

The camera shows Markelle Fultz, attending in a suit and tie, seemingly talking to himself. Can you imagine waiting for ping pong balls to determine which one in a series of failing businesses is going to force you to live and work in their city while paying you less than your market value for a minimum of five years, minimum? Exception: the one city whose team isn’t a failure is pretty gallingly racist. Living the dream!

8:30

My fiancee laments a sudden and surprising dearth of dustpans in our house. Sensitive to any- and everything being a possible psychic premonition of the Knicks’ lottery hopes, I am uneasy after her observation.

Jay Bilas is ranking his top five prospects: Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, De’Aaron Fox. He’s grown a beard (Bilas, not Fox). It will only be the second-most striking beard of the evening.

8:32

Leading in to a chat with Fultz, someone at ESPN - I think Michelle Beadle - announced: “Lonzo Ball elected not to join us tonight.” There was something sad but reprehensible in this; I was reminded of how I felt in 2011 when Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokhorov ended a protracted and embarrassing failed pursuit of Denver’s Carmelo Anthony by publicly “canceling” the chase for “Carmela.”

Imagine you like somebody — like-like them — so much so that everybody knows it. They’re clearly about to get out of a dysfunctional relationship, and you’re ready to scoop them right up, but it’s equally clear they do not feel the same way about you you do about them. And then, after they repeatedly refuse your advances, you make fun of them to your friends, and act like you’re too good for them. That’d reek of desperation, wouldn’t it?

If Papa Ball starts demanding his son(s) be paid for media time they grant the press conferences, how might ESPN respond?

8:33

Bilas is listing his 6-10 prospects, which reminds me that a growing portion of myself worries the Knicks will somehow end up with Luke Kennard or something.

8:34

Kentucky’s Malik Monk, the player I so far most want the Knicks to land, is asked what his best asset is entering the pros. “Playing the pick-and-roll. I think I do that amazing.” So far Fultz & Monk have both boasted of their pick-and-roll skills. So...not a fit for New York, then.

8:38

Boy this is dragging.

8:39

Time to meet this year’s lottery team reps!

MIAMI: Alonzo Mourning. Remember him?

DENVER: Current Nugget Gary Harris. Harris went to the Nuggets with the last pick they acquired from the Knicks in the Melo trade. Clearly one last middle finger from Denver to New York, six years later. Well-played.

DETROIT: General manager Jeff Bower, who looks like the manager at the Pizza Hut That Time Forgot.

CHARLOTTE: General manager Rich Cho, looking kinda thin, even for someone on TV. It will only be the second-most striking thinness of the evening.

NEW ORLEANS: Alvin Gentry has coached all or part of 14 seasons. His teams have made the playoffs twice and advanced once. New Orleans is a magical place. The best they come up with to woo Lady Luck is Alvin Gentry?

DALLAS: Ex-Mav Michael Finley, looking like a sick wax museum Michael Finley.

SACRAMENTO: Head coach Dave Joerger. Not exactly Joe Charisma to begin with, but even less so given that everyone was waiting for who came next.

NEW YORK: Hall-of-Famer Walt Frazier. Clyde was the first rep Hubbarth spoke to, asking him what the #1 pick would mean for future of the franchise. The instant the question was out of her mouth I was choking on my own rage. This was clearly ESPN trying to set up the moment so they could bundle the clip of Clyde’s answer with the Knicks later winning the lottery. Karma sees that kind of stupid shit. LeBron couldn’t escape the ESPN-related wrath after the ill-fated “Decision” before paying his debt and losing the 2011 Finals; the Knicks will surely not be spared after this clumsy stab at cosmic extortion.

“Definitely a rejuvenation for the franchise,” Clyde answered. “Hoping to pull it off tonight.” I wonder if the national audience is as aware as someone who’s heard Walt Frazier call games for years that someone so renowned for their sartorial sense of style can be so consistently milquetoast in his speech.

MINNESOTA: Current Timberwolf Andrew Wiggins. I like Wiggins. I’ve grown to really resent the Wolves.

ORLANDO: Head coach Frank Vogel. Vogel’s grown a beard that makes him look like Paul Ryan and Ryan from The Office had a baby.

PHILADELPHIA: Embiid. Remember him?

LOS ANGELES: Magic Johnson. Hubbarth asked Magic how he felt about the wide range of potential Laker outcomes, from winning the top pick to falling out of the top three and losing this year’s pick to the Sixers and their 2019 first-rounder to Orlando.

“I feel good,” he said. “Whether we keep it or not, we’re gonna be a successful franchise.” That’s what lousy teams with a history of success sound like. They may not have given us any reason to believe them, but you know THEY believe them. The Knicks never sound like that. Also, new Laker GM Rob Pelinka looks like hangry Rob Lowe.

PHOENIX: Current player Devin Booker. The Suns also bring a child from the Special Olympics. “For good luck,” we are told. Dallas brought a trainer suffering from cystic fibrosis. In the Bible, Jesus is so offended by moneylenders working in the temple, by the contaminating mix of the meaningful and the exploitative, he literally overthrows tables and chairs and chases them out. You know what I’m getting at here, right?

BOSTON: Wyc Grousbeck. With a name like that, you’re either a billionaire, a comic book character, or a starting pitcher out of the 19th century.

8:44

Boy, this is dragging...

8:49

Mark Tatum, who looks like a junior high principal who comes up with creative approaches to discipline, is ready to reveal the results. I am ready to have an ulcer, I’m so nervous. I’m especially anxious about Miami moving up.

Pick 14 goes to Miami.

13 goes to Denver. 12 to Detroit. 11 to Charlotte. So far, no issues. Number 10 goes to Sacramento from New Orleans, from the DeMarcus Cousins trade. Number 9 goes to Dallas. All is well. All is well. As long as the Knicks don’t drop, I’m okay. If they pick #7, they’ll get a good guard prospect. I don’t need the high I dreamed of coming into the night. I just don’t want another crash. I can’t. Go on, Tatum. Whaddya got for me?

Knicks.

Drop.

To.

Eight.

I really thought they had a chance this time. There were signs, portents, everywhere. If you looked close enough, you could see them.

Here is some Knick math:

The Knicks had an 18% of moving into the top three, which means statistically they had nearly the same chance of moving up of falling to eighth. And yet, it never felt like nearly the same odds, did it?

In 14 lotteries, the Knicks have dropped position five times, not moved at all eight times, and advanced once.

Here’s Phil elaborating. I jumped ship after “We think we’re good at what we do.”

They’re gonna miss out on Malik Monk by one pick. Monk will be the new Steph Curry.

The Wolves pick 7th. Orlando dropped to 6th. Sacramento picks fifth because of a pick swap from the 2015 Nik Stauskas trade. Then Phoenix fell to number four. That means Philadelphia, Boston, and Los Angeles pick one two three.

How they living:

How we living:

#3 goes to Philadelphia, because long story short, the Kings were desperate two summers ago to clear cap space for Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis and Wesley Matthews, and the in-the-prime-of-their-tanking 76ers took some contracts off Sacramento’s hands. #2 went to the Lakers (if they pass on Ball, how far does he potentially fall? Wouldn’t you love to see him and Devin Booker share a backcourt?). #1 goes to Boston.

8:57

Mark Jones says the Celtics “really played their cards well.” If by “played their cards well” you mean rode a wave of hate mongering to the pinnacle of a randomized process (here’s video of the actual process), then yes. Played well indeed.

Personally, I blame Bill Simmons. He published a piece the morning of the lottery ranking the teams’ lottery karma and odds (sounds familiar), listing the Celtics as having the worst karma and the Knicks the best. The reverse jinx worked like a charm.

9:02

After the lottery ended and I wandered out of my bedroom, dazed, I heard my young daughter, crying and miserable in her bath. Water is the universal conductor. Could the negative psychic backwash of another Knick failure already be messing with her emotions? If so...it’s on, cosmos.

One positive takeaway from tonight - Boston owns Brooklyn’s pick next year. So while you’re right to fear Frank Ntilikina turning into a bust, or Lauri Markannen and Porzingis continuing a longstanding Knick tradition of redundant teammates, imagine being a Net fan this morning.