SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) – With a lucky charm from the franchise’s best days, the Washington Wizards won the NBA’s draft lottery Tuesday night. Washington moved up from the No. 5 spot to earn the top pick in next month’s draft, when it will likely choose between Kentucky freshman John Wall and national player of the year Evan Turner of Ohio State.
The Wizards were represented by Irene Pollin, who wore the 1978 Bullets championship ring of her late husband, longtime owner Abe Pollin. When the Wizards pulled off the surprising win, Irene Pollin’s jaw dropped and appeared to mouth ‘Oh my God!!’ with wide eyes.
Abe Pollin died at age 85 in November.
“My husband wanted another (championship) so badly,” she said. “He really did. So maybe this will be the beginning of another one.”
The lottery victory is one of the rare things that has gone right in a disastrous year for the Wizards, marred by the suspension of Gilbert Arenas for bringing guns into the Verizon Center locker room. They finished 26-56 after being widely forecast to finish in the middle of the Eastern Conference.
Now they hope the No. 1 pick can help spark a quick turnaround under Ted Leonsis, who is close to completing a deal to buy the franchise from the Pollin family.
The Philadelphia 76ers, another disappointment this season, moved up to grab the No. 2 pick. The New Jersey Nets continued the run of failure by teams with the best chance of winning, falling to the third.
Represented by new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets had a 25 percent chance of winning after going 12-70. Instead, the team with the worst record still hasn’t won since 2004, when the Orlando Magic selected Dwight Howard.
Asked before the lottery about potentially changing the system to keep teams from losing on purpose to improve their probability of winning, commissioner David Stern said he thinks, “the results of the lottery, if anything, are causing teams with the worst record to feel as though a paucity of wins is not being adequately recognized and compensated.”
Arenas’ suspension is over and he is eligible to return next season, but the Wizards may have found a replacement for him at point guard in Wall.
“I’m just going to come in and work hard … just try to win games for the organization this year,” Wall said.
But the Wizards will have to do better than they did last time they had the No. 1 pick. That was in 2001, when Hall of Famer and former Washington executive Michael Jordan selected Kwame Brown, considered one of the biggest busts ever at No. 1.
The losers this time were the Minnesota Timberwolves, who fell from second to fourth. Sacramento (No. 5) and Golden State (No. 6) also tumbled — the second straight year the Kings went the wrong way in the lottery.
The Kings went from first to fourth last year, but did end up with Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans — who represented them Tuesday. So maybe the Nets shouldn’t lose hope.
The NBA draft is June 24 in New York.