As I walked in to the NBA's New Jersey offices, Portland GM Kevin Pritchard was right there in the lobby. I introduced myself, and said to him this is for you indicating my good luck charm, the clothespin-and-paper-towel butterfly with a photo of my daughter's face on it that I held in my left hand.
Of course, what I meant was: this is for your good fortune. He took it as, this is for you. For an instant, he started to reach for it. I pulled it back. He got the picture. We kind of laughed, and he said "I need all the help I can get!" and we moved on ...
... to the really excellent buffet the NBA has here. Really, way better than your regular media spread.
And I should mention that it's a fantastically beautiful sunny day, so the fact that the media workroom is actually a tent in the parking lot is, on this day, a feature.
David Stern was even here a few minutes ago. The gist of his informal mini-press conference:
- The playoffs are great, with a high quality of play, and bunch of Hall-of-Famers and international players duking it out.
- The NBA opened an office in London because the city has an NBA-quality arena, a big market, and the Olympics on the way.
- He was not so into Ed Snider's reported idea that every team in the lottery should have one ping pong ball, but added that he's open to any ideas from owners, and he sounded serious about doing something to make sure teams play to win all season long.
- ESPN's Chad Ford wondered how the NBA scrutinizes whether or not a team is playing to win. Good question. David Stern's answer was along the lines of we don't want to micromanage substitution patterns. But still ... good question.
- The commissioner reinforced his previous points about the suspensions of Boris Diaw and Amare Stoudemire, adding that when there are altercations, the referees all one place: to the fight. They shouldn't be worrying about the rest of the court. He made clear once again that he is open to reconsidering that rule.
More as I can.
UPDATE: Wow. Really, I mean ... wow.
I don't want to put myself in the middle of the story or anything, but I can't shake the feeling that I did this. Clothespins fashioned as butterflies with my daughter's face on them now have a 100% success rate in bringing home the best possible draft pick.
It really is an amazing moment for the Portland Trail Blazers. Now Kevin Pritchard gets to do all his gamesmanship magic and try to freak out the rest of the league -- who know that he'll do some bold stuff because he did it last year.
I am not convinced that that this is guaranteed to be a Greg Oden pick, and I imagine this'll be like the Dwight Howard/Emeka Okafor draft where no one will really know for sure until David Stern says the name.
Even if Portland intimates they have a clear favorite, I'm not buying it until it's official.
Also, before the lottery there was much talk that Portland didn't need to get any younger, and might trade the pick for a veteran. I imagine that is crazy talk now, but for the record, the veteran you could get just got a lot nicer.
A couple of other observations:
- In the hallway not far from the studio where the magic went down, there is a great, vintage Wilt Chamberlain mirror advertising Lord Calvert Whisky. There's the big man, high ball glass in hand, with the slogan Up Where You Belong. When's the last time you saw an NBA player pushing booze?
- Also on the wall, an old Sports Illustrated cover with a Bill Russell cover story I'd love to read, called "How I Psych Them." (Me? I use a clothespin and some paper towels.)
- In the studio watching the presentation: a grand total of 18 media members. Glad I squeezed in early. The vast majority had to watch on TV.
- Remember how they show the head of NBA security sternly overseeing the envelopes with the picks? As soon as they cut to commercial, he sauntered off, laughing, and chatted to friends. The envelopes sat there, unguarded. (That's when I made my move ...)
- This lottery does not do wonders to restore the East/West balance of power.
- Worth considering: if Portland takes Oden, and Durant turns into the next Michael Jordan, Portland will have passed on both Michael Jordans. For the record, I trust Kevin Pritchard with this decision.
- I suppose this means Zach Randolph is more available than ever? Dallas?
- Brandon Roy came here without a good luck charm, unless you count his brother. All the more reason I'm glad I came. They asked him if this team was headed to a title in a few years and he said "I think you have to start thinking that way."
- I have goosebumps.
- I asked Lenny Wilkens if he was sure Portland would take Greg Oden, and he was vague, kind of laughed, saying they'd examine it.
- Everyone loves to say this event is rigged. If you were rigging it, though, would you have two of the top three teams those with uncertain ownership (Atlanta) or location (Seattle)? Also, wonder if a #2 pick does anything to get Seattle feeling like they love the NBA any more.
- Overheard as I walked out of the studio: "He's going to make them forget Bill Walton."