April 14 - A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours
May 22nd is when the NBA draft lottery occurs. That's the next day I'm worried about, as a Celtic fan.
For those of you who je ne sais this stuff, I'll try to explain. Every year, teams get a crack at the top
talent leaving college (or high school, before they changed the rules). In theory, the worst team got to
pick first, then the second worst picks next... all through to the best team, which gets to pick last.
Sounds fair, right?
Welllllllllllll... the problem was that, once a team figured out that they suck, it only made sense for
them to lose as many games as possible, so as to get the top draft pick. They call this Tanking, and
it's not at all unlike how professional wrestling jobbers work. Special Delivery Jones rarely won a
fight, but he sold a good enough ass-whippin' that fans came out to see him perform.
Of course, wrestling is staged (far too much pain is inflicted for me to ever call wrestling "fake."), so
it's ok if S.D. Jones gets stomped every week...it's a part of a greater Whole that all makes sense if
you watch enough. They also have an audience that is trained from birth to know that sometimes the
Hand is quicker than the Eye in the WWE.
The NBA is run differently, and- even though losing favors the Celtics right now- it doesn't look good to
say "Come out tonight and watch the Celtics job ("job" = "lose on purpose") to Milwaukee!" You can
fake effort and lose by playing rookies or getting the ball to a guy who can't shoot, but people see
So.. the NBA came out with the Draft Lottery. To ensure that, back in 1985, no one lost on purpose to
get Georgetown's Patrick Ewing (or "to ensure that New York got a superstar"), the NBA instituted a
closed-room draft lottery. Every team that doesn't make the playoffs gets a few ping pong balls in a
big tumbler, and they draft in the order of which they are drawn.
Unfortunately... running an NBA team involves a great amount of risk assessment... and the best
chance a bad team has to get better is to get the best college players. General Managers usually
have short contracts, and are under pressure to produce quickly. It ends up that teams now tank to
get more ping-pong balls, as opposed to flat-out tanking to get a particular pick.
Which adds risk... you can lose every game, and still not get the top pick... but a 38% chance of getting
the next Abdul-Jabbar is better than a 15% chance, especially when your ass is on the hot seat and
the fans already know that team you assembled blows like the North Wind. Those silly little ping-pong
balls become the hope that your career hangs on.
So... 20 years after the fact... the NBA Draft lottery has actually increased tanking. A team that was
looking at the 13th overall pick in 1984... perhaps a great team that had their best player injured the
year before... now has the chance to bring home the next Larry Legend with just one funny bounce of
a ping-pong ball. That team- which may have played for the sake of pride before, or for the benefit of
the fans who supported them all year- now goes out and clowns through a game.
Granted, a higher draft pick doesn't guarantee success. The team that drafted Shaq never won ditka
with him...or the team who drafted Kobe, Dr. J, Moses Malone, or Charles Barkley, for that matter.
Also, draft picks can be botched. At least one man thought that drafting Sam Bowie over Air Jordan
was a good idea. Millions thought Bush would be a good President. Mistakes happen.
How does this get to me? I have this sore spot on my hand, which will never go away. I got this sore
spot by slamming my fist into the table when San Antonio beat us out in the draft lottery for the right to
draft Tim Duncan, who went on to win 3 titles and maybe more. We finished the next season with Ron
Mercer to show for our draft. Ron's out of the NBA, currently.
Whenever I see Tim Duncan, the pain in my hand returns. I've grown to love the pain, because the
pain came through the acquisition of Wisdom. Wisdom is that little voice in your head that overrides
your urge to act on impulse... sort of how Freud viewed the interaction of the Id and Superego, and
why you don't tell the cop to suck an organ or why you don't bang your wife's friends.
Wisdom is setting off all kinds of alarms in my head right now. Some have been quited. It looks like
we'll hold off Milwaukee for the greater amount of Ping. One of the two better college players- scoring
machine Kevin Durant- is coming out. Either Durant or Greg Oden would be a nice fit alongside
current Celtic keepers Paul Pierce and Albert Jefferson. These facts comfort me.
Oden is the one I worry about. He's a 7 foot monster, he's about 19 years old, he moves in the post
like a young Hakeem and instinctively goes after every shot taken within 15 feet of him. There aren't 5
men on the planet who combine his size and skill set. You can't teach that, and getting this kid makes
you a contender almost immediately. Given Jefferson/Pierce and the fact that the Celts play in an
almost comically pooor division, Oden could carry us right into the Finals.
Unless, of course he A) stays in college or B) gets drafted by someone else... which is what torments
me right now. I'm betting that he'll drop out of college- he'd be a fool not to. What scares me is where
we started off here... the draft lottery.
Once those ping-pong balls start tumbling, anything can happen. Those of you who think the lottery is
rigged occassionally might expect Oden to end up in Seattle (which is struggling to stay afloat as a
franchise) or a big-market team like Chicago or Los Angeles (New York won the Ewing lottery). Or a
team right behind us- say, Atlanta or Charlotte- leapfrogs us and takes our big monster. Either one of
these scenarios screws up my 2007-2015 NBA seasons, and might just drive me to kill.
As of now- April 14th- I'm just a soccer mom who knows things like what a Tommy Point is, and how
to execute a box-and-one zone defense. By May 22nd, I might be Ma Barker. I'm small and pretty, too...
you'll never see it coming. Few of us do.