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The 2020 NBA lottery: A real-time diary

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One writer’s courageous passive absorption of content.

2018 NBA Draft Lottery Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images

The first lottery diary I wrote was in 2015. That night the Knicks fell two spots and the Minnesota Timberwolves won the top pick. Last night the Knicks fell two spots and the Minnesota Timberwolves won the top pick. The results were the same; only how we got there differed. That’s the epitaph for most Knicks seasons this century. Let’s muddle our way through.

8:30

The lottery is on hold while Milwaukee finishes dusting off Orlando in Game 2 of their series. These two playoff teams offer Knicks fans reasons to rationalize why the high end of the lottery is no salvation. The Magic were in the lottery six years in a row, from 2013-2018. The only players still on their roster from those picks: Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, and Mo Bamba, all of whom were top-six picks, none of whom are franchise players (though I do loooove me some Isaac). Milwaukee has had just three top-10 picks the past 13 drafts: Yi Jianlian, Joe Alexander and Jabari Parker, two of whom are out of the NBA and one, Parker, who is getting there.

8:34

Choose your fighter.

I’ve been playing a lotta Mortal Kombat recently in an attempt to unwind from weeks of overworking, so I couldn’t help seeing this lineup and wondering: who would win in a no-holds-barred brawl? Detroit’s Troy Weaver looks like he dies in Act One. Rui Hachimura looks like he has better things to do, a vibe that seems to encompass Washington’s franchise as a a whole. San Antonio’s Peter Holt looks like he has enough money to pay someone else to fight and die for him, an American tradition that the North and South both took advantage of to screw over other people. Trajan Langdon is the guy who just stands there for a while. Gotta watch out for that guy.

Not to be a homer, and again this may be ‘cuz of too much MK on the brain, but...I gotta go with Leon Rose. He looks like his human form is hiding something much more powerful underneath, like the Liu Kang fatality where he turns into a dragon.

Also apparently it’s a rule that if you represent the Cavaliers at the lottery, you must wear a stupid bow-tie.

8:35

The broadcast opens with a feature on Golden State. This past season I often forgot the Warriors even existed. What a weird interregnum. They fell as far and as fast as the second Bulls’ dynasty, only they’re not dead and buried. At all, as this night would reinforce.

8:36

Rachel Nichols is interviewing Steph Curry and Steph is looking so hot even he can’t handle it.

8:37

Nichols is dying laughing about Larry, a rescue dog the Lacob family, who own the Warriors, adopted. I was going to make a snarky dig here about billionaires repeatedly fighting to pay their players as little as possible and the Lacobs in particular pricing out diehard fans yet pampering some First World dog.

But then I remembered my one dog has two beds in my office and often finds his way up onto my bed anyway, so I should pro’ly sit this one out. Here’s my dog on my bed. The pic keeps coming out sideways for whatever reason, but in the spirit of my dog being born with back legs that don’t work, I’m cool with whatevs.

8:38

Jay Williams is asked to give the Knicks’ perspective on this draft. Why? I’d rather hear Herb Williams, Derrick Williams, Frank Williams, Buck Williams, Jerome Williams, Shawne Williams, Shelden Williams, Troy Williams, Andy Williams, Williams Sonoma, William Carlos Williams or Williams Jennings Bryant talk Knicks than him. Jay says there’s “no consensus” on who the Knicks would draft if they win the top pick. “I think a lot is on the line for the Knicks...there’s a lot of energy in the city.” We already know that, Jay.

8:46

Nichols is interviewing LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards, who evince all the joy and interest of government witnesses subpoenaed to appear before Congress. Ball looks like he’s thisclose to finally reaching the Minus World on Super Mario Brothers. Edwards looks like he’s trying to think of the word for “the precise moment when you realize that you’ve actually forgotten how it felt to make love to somebody you really liked a long time ago.”

8:47

Here we go!!!

The Celtics will pick 14th courtesy of the Grizzlies, due to a 2015 trade that sent Jeff Green to Memphis. Boston still reaping the payoff from trades made before any of us had ever heard of Kristaps Porziņģis — awesome. The Pelicans hold at 13. So do the Kings at 12. The Spurs secure the 11th pick, their highest slot since leapfrogging Boston to land Tim Duncan in 1997. Count on San Antonio selecting Aleksej Pokuševski and him turning into the greatest player in the history of all sports.

Phoenix stays at number 10, which was the Knicks’ worst-case scenario (other than the last 20 years). Washington holds at 9. Mark Tatum begins the sentence “Picking eighth is — ” and I shut my eyes. I know what’s coming. I can feel it. I know it. I know it...

“ — the New York Knicks.”

My eyes stay closed. I smile. My head does not move, but inside it, where no one can see, I am shaking it furiously. Some things are unknown until they’re known, at which point you realize you knew them all along. Love is a lot like that. Sickness, too. That’s what this moment felt like. Love and sickness, all rolled into Tatum’s pseudo-duck face.

Mira.

If you’re thinking, “Yo, Miranda. I didn’t come here for this nonsense,” welcome to the Knicks fan’s 2020 lottery experience!

8:54

Detroit and Atlanta also dropped two spots, if that does anything for you. The Bulls jumped to the fourth pick, because God forbid the Knicks ever come out ahead of the Bulls in anything. The Hornets rose to number three, because as long as Chicago is a source of pain might as well have Michael Jordan double down on that. Golden State gets the #2 pick and the Timberwolves once again will be picking first. I wonder if Tom Thibodeau felt anything when he saw that. I wonder if Tom Thibodeau feels anything, ever, besides the need to grind.

8:56

My fiancee, seeing whatever it was my face looked like: “It could have been number nine.”

9:00

Jay Williams on Golden State: “The rich keep getting richer.” WE ALREADY KNOW THAT, JAY!

Your consolation for the night, courtesy of Marc “The Mensch” Berman: most of this year’s All-Stars (13 of the 24) were drafted eighth or later. And honestly, not long after the lottery ended, I checked in with myself and realized I wasn’t really bothered. It’s not like this is a draft with three clear Hall-of-Famers and the Knicks dropped to the fourth pick. This isn’t 2015, when an obvious generational big man was available with the top spot.

The Knicks have more holes than space does black holes; they’re going to land someone who, at least in theory, will address some of those holes. Several prospects people have been pumped about — Devin Vassell; Killian Hayes; Tyrese Haliburton; to a lesser extent, Cole Anthony — could very well be available at that spot. If you’re done with Kevin Knox, Isaac Okoro seems like a Thibs guy and may be there for the taking.

Remember Miwaukee. Remember Orlando. There are a lot of ways to build a good team. The Knicks have a new regime in place and will be adding someone young with upside in a couple of months. For all we know, they may land this year’s Donovan Mitchell or Giannis Antekounmpo with their pick. And if not? There’s always next year’s lottery.