My first lottery-night diary came in 2015. The Knicks had high hopes of winning the top pick that year, but fell two spots behind where their record stood. They still ended up with one of the two best players from that draft. I don’t know if that will happen again. I’m here to talk about what did happen last night. Confession, they say, is good for the soul.
Just before the broadcast gets underway, ESPN cuts to a shot of some of this year’s likely lottery picks, in attendance and dressed to the nines (except for Cam Reddish, whose aesthetic can only be described as “formal Kohl’s”). You know the head shaking and tsk-tsking when you hear about some ancient civilization tossing kids into volcanoes to appease the gods? Or the existence of sweatshop child labor/child prostitution/wealth inequality to appease the kings of the earth? In the far-flung future, when octopuses rule the globe, I suspect they’ll be no less horrified by millions of us congregating to celebrate young workers having their agency stripped in exchange for a portion of a wealthy man’s pittance.
Our first Patrick Ewing sighting of the evening. Oh captain, my captain.
Our first Adrian Wojnarowski sighting. Woj looks like he enjoys washing down tuna fish sandwiches with a tall glass of milk a LOT.
Jay Williams says he “composited a quick list the guys [he thinks] really altered the way the games was played.” His list included Ewing, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, LeBron James and Zion Williamson. No matter how hard I try to downplay Zion so it hurts less when he ends up elsewhere, these people break through my defenses. Damn you, Jay Williams. You smiley motherfucker.
More Zion highlights.
Woj says if the Knicks win the top pick they have “no intention” of trading Zion for Anthony Davis. The weirdness of it all hits me — there’s a room full of people talking about Zion’s future. He’s earned this moment, but it’s already been normalized that he should be grateful just to be here, and now he’s to sit quiet and let a room full of people who themselves enjoyed varying degrees of mobility in their professions control or report on the next five years of his.
Let’s meet the team representatives.
- Boston and Philadelphia each sent their team president, Rich Gotham and Chris Heck. Both teams have dibs on Sacramento’s pick — the 76ers if it’s #1, the Celtics if it’s 2-14 — and it doesn’t look like either invested very much in putting their luckiest foot forward. Rich Gotham could be the greatest name of all-time. Heck looks like his kids are scared of him.
- Miami sent Alonzo Mourning because revering maybe the fifth-best center of his time, who’s never brought the Heat lottery luck in the past, is the kind of uninspired myopia I’ve come to expect from the Heat.
- Charlotte sent James Borrego, a.k.a. NC-17 David Schwimmer.
- The Lakers are repped by Kyle Kuzma. There’s no quip for this one. I find Kuzma an utterly forgettable player.
- Minnesota is represented by team president Gersson Rosas. There are too few Latinxs in too many professional environments. Rosas, 41, is Colombian. Respect, Gersson.
- The Dallas Mavericks sent their CEO, Cynthia Marshall, and I feel like if Mark Cuban wasn’t coming off a season where he agreed to pay $10M to women’s groups “committed to supporting the leadership and development of women in the sports industry and combating domestic violence” after several women brought forth allegations of “substantiated numerous instances of sexual harassment and other improper workplace conduct within the Mavericks organization over a period spanning more than 20 years” that I wouldn’t be writing about Cynthia Marshall tonight.
- Memphis sent Elliot Perry. If you’re old like me and your kinks include knee-high socks and lefty point guards, you have fond formative memories of Elliott Perry.
- The Pelicans are represented by David Griffin. I mostly know Griffin from NBA Radio, and because for all his basketball knowledge he made multiple hard-to-detect but clearly perverse jokes and I kinda respect high-level dirty comedians. The kind you’d never guess were as dirty as they are.
- Washington was repped by vice chairman Raul Fernandez. They should have sent Ernie Grunfeld. Just to mess with all of us.
- Atlanta sent along Jami Gertz. If you’re a big Seinfeld fan, you may remember her as the woman who couldn’t “spare a square” of toilet paper for Elaine.
- The Bulls sent Horace Grant. Horace Grant was better than you pro’ly think. The first Bulls’ three-peat was a pressing-and-trapping nightmare, thanks in part to Grant’s ability to join Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on the hunt or to fall back and provide back-line defense. He’s also Harvey Grant’s identical twin, but honestly Harvey was always cuter.
- DeAndre Ayton was there for the Suns. Last year’s #1 pick averaged 19 and 12 per 36 his rookie season and shot 59% from the floor, and I just. Don’t. Care.
- Cleveland sent Nick Gilbert, who had a real Rupert Jones vibe going on tonight.
Gilbert looks older and less happy than he did back at the start of the decade. Guess that’s true for a lot of us.
- And of course...”at center, number 33...PA-TRICK...EW-ING.”
Here comes Mark Tatum’s weird-ass face. It’s time.
“The time has come, Zion,” says Rachel Nichols. I usually like Nichols’ work, but the constant reaching out to Williamson is already annoying. We all know Zion is there. We all know whoever wins the draft is in all likelihood selecting him. We’re all adults, even the kids watching. We understand the gravity of what’s about to happen. Let it breathe, yo.
- 14 goes to the Celtics. Thank you, cosmos. A little trolling of the Sixers by the Kings’ social media people. That’s punching up. That’s fine.
- 13 to Miami.
- Charlotte will pick 12th. I cannot think of a more Hornets-y sentence.
- Minnesota is picking 11th. That means the Lakers jumped into the top-four.
- Atlanta gets the Dallas pick at 10! This is the first good news of the evening; it means the Mavs’ picks to the Knicks should convey in 2021 (unprotected) and 2023 (protected 1-10). If the Mavs had landed in the top five they’d have kept their pick this year, which would have pushed back their debt to Atlanta and meant the Knicks wouldn’t collect the Dallas picks until 2022 and 2024...the latter year being right around the time Zion could be a free agent, assuming he doesn’t end up a Knick.
- Washington is picking ninth. That means Memphis moved up. Two teams advancing is not good for the Knicks.
- Atlanta’s pick is number eight. That means the Pelicans moved up. Three teams advancing is really not good for the Knicks.
- Chicago drops to #7.
- Phoenix fell to sixth. I’m sure Robert Sarver will burn a few millennials for this failure.
- Breathing growing shallow. Heart rate accelerating. This is it. The moment I’ve feared for months. I’ve rationalized all the reasons why the fifth pick is OK, but now I feel like my six-year-old when we spend hours before she needs a shot rationalizing why there’s nothing to be scared of, how this is the best thing for her, etc. The moment of truth comes and everything melts away except the horrible truth.
Cleveland! Cleveland fell to fifth! HALLELUJAH!!
- After the commercial break before the top-four picks are revealed, Nichols introduces Tatum and says he is “to seal this man’s fate,” meaning Zion. I’m officially triggered. We’re literally using language — in jest, of course — that gets at the truth of the evening. There’s a kind of incarceration about to go down. And yeah, I get it. He’s going to make more money next year than any of us will in this lifetime and maybe many more lifetimes, too. But watching Zion sitting there giving thumbs up and nervous smiles, as if this fucking runes-and-entrails manner of deciding his fate should be as recreational for him as it ostensibly is for us...it’s gross.
- The Lakers land the fourth pick. They’ll try to tell you to be grateful, that at least L.A. didn’t win the lottery, at least they’re picking behind the Knicks. Don’t swallow it. This is the highest they could bump the Lakers without sparking a Congressional investigation. Your NBA conspiracy of the night: the league moved the Lakers up to increase their asset haul and up the odds of an Anthony Davis trade going down this summer.
- This is exciting! I’ve never seen the Knicks reach the top-three, ever. You know what? I feel good. I feel ready to start hoping again. If they can just get past this slot then you’re looking at the possibil—oh.
Knicks are picking third. I guess it was prophesied, wasn’t it?
Oh well. Let’s see how Knicks Twitter is handling their business.
Knicks twitter is an irritable, jittery, giddy, edgy, nervous wreck right now...— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) May 14, 2019
Some folks arguing whether the core KD, Kyrie, AD and Zion will win four straight championships.
Other convinced NY will end up with Cam Reddish and Khris Middleton & Boogie Cousins on max deals
- Memphis gets the #2 pick. Of course David Griffin wins the top pick again. Again. Again. AGAIN. The man carries little wooden angels around for good luck. Also:
This is ridiculous: the team that has employed David Griffin has won the No. 1 pick 4 of the past 5 times it’s been in the draft lottery. Cavs with Kyrie (2011), Bennett (2013) & Wiggins (2014). Now Pelicans with Zion. Only other team to win in those years? NOP with AD (2012)— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) May 15, 2019
ESPN’s Maria Taylor, 6’2”, is interviewing Griffin, who is...not 6’2”. Standing next to each other they look like Boris and Natasha.
Taylor asks Zion how he felt after the lottery was over. “Still nervous...I don’t know where I’m gonna be.” I choose to spend the next six weeks imagining Zion devising a plan to force his way to New York. IT WORKED FOR ELI! IT CAN WORK FOR YOU, ZION!!
Jay Bilas tries to console us by pointing out R.J. Barrett, the early favorite to land with the Knicks’ selection, was the consensus #1 prospect a year ago. Cool story, bro. Remember how Donald Trump was gonna be runner-up for president until he wasn’t? 2018 is over and done with, Bilas. I can’t feed my family in 2019 with 2018. Move on.
Nichols points out Steph Curry is a two-time MVP who was picked seventh, so we shouldn’t obsess about the top-three. I can’t feed my family on not-obsessing, Rachel. Move it along.
Zach Lowe says that apparently the most enthusiastic reaction ever in the actual lottery drawing room came when New Orleans won in ‘12, and that this time around Alvin Gentry stood up, “may have uttered an expletive” and ran around high-fiving people. Hey. That’s awesome. I’m so happy for them. It’s like half a town turning up at the train station during a terrible war back in the day to learn which soldiers were returning and which wouldn’t be, and every family but one learns they’ve lost loved ones, and the family that lost no one is running around high-fiving people. I don’t care how happy the freaking Pelicans feel. They’re the Tampa Bay Rays of the NBA. I could barely remember they exist before. Now I just don’t want to be reminded.
Are there bright sides? Sure. Zion could be Tony Mandarich. Barrett could be better than anyone anticipates. Dropping two spots saves the Knicks about $2M in cap space this summer. The Dallas picks worked out well. There are reasons for optimism.
A top 3 pick to add to the 3 lottery picks we got last year. This was a win.— Posting and Toasting (@ptknicksblog) May 15, 2019
And never forget: things could be worse. They can always be worse.
Lakers got LeBron and a better pick than us— Justin Rowan (@Cavsanada) May 15, 2019
Ok, well at least the Wizards have a pick this year. Looks like we're getting... *squints* pic.twitter.com/RNANjHkK4P— Chris Almeida (@chrisjalmeida) May 15, 2019
What a night. There was drama. Ups and downs. All six stages of grief in about five minutes. Denial.
I’m not as sad as I thought I would be— Angel Diaz (@ADiaz456) May 15, 2019
Lots of folks are concerned if Zion's 285 lb frame is built for a NBA schedule and he's gonna be in the worst possible city for that— Beyonce has an uncle named Larry Beyince. Bruh.... (@DragonflyJonez) May 15, 2019
FUCK YOU STATE FARM— NBA Injury Report (@NBAInjuryR3port) May 15, 2019
If the Bulls get the #1 pick and the Knicks get #3, and CHI would trade down for the pick and Mitchell Robinson, would you do it?— Matthew Miranda (@MMiranda613) May 13, 2019
Knicks fans at 8:27PM vs Knicks fans at 9:01PM pic.twitter.com/0U612nxMid— Terence Malangone (@SpikeMal) May 14, 2019
Zion Williamson was QUICKLY whisked out of the room after Pelicans were announced the winner of the draft lottery. Source said the former Duke star was rooting to go to New York, but now is going to New Orleans.— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) May 15, 2019
We now bring you James Dolan crying nude into his pillow— Jeff Pearlman (@jeffpearlman) May 15, 2019
Knicks fans looking up Ja Morant and R.J Barrett highlighs pic.twitter.com/wdVGuNiKoK— LakeShowYo (@LakeShowYo) May 15, 2019
The Knicks had better luck than every other team with top odds.— Robin Lundberg (@robinlundberg) May 15, 2019
That was my journey last night. How you feeling today, fam? Take a load off in the comments.