You could feel excitement in the air as league deputy commissioner Mark Tatum strode to the podium at the Midtown Hilton in New York City Tuesday night at the NBA draft lottery.
He had in his hand the envelope that would hold a team’s fate. He cracked opened the envelope and said the dreaded words, “The fourth pick in the NBA draft will be held by the New York Knicks.”
The excitement left the room like a punctured balloon. You could hear the audible groans of the hometown fans as they realized the awful luck of their team.
As I walked into the hotel earlier that evening, I was extremely nervous. I was worrying about my article before I had even experienced the events! My mind was flooded with questions: Would I get good interviews? Would anyone be there? In the end, though, everyone was helpful and nice.
There are many things that happened at the draft lottery that the fan watching at home doesn’t see. On TV, the lottery seems neat and organized. In reality, it’s chaos. Reporters, cameramen, and people just looking for memorabilia were all floating around trying to get an interview or a picture.
The press room was just as busy. It was a massive room filled with cables, TVs, laptops, chargers, and phones. People tried to cram in some last-minute research. There seemed to be some sort of code about media helping media. People were glad to let others record their interviews and give advice on reporting.
And there was commissioner Adam Silver in the middle of everything, the head honcho, talking calmly. I found it stunning how cool he was under the pressure of it all.
I was lucky to be at a great lottery. There were surprises, such as the Knicks, who had the league’s second-worst record, dropping down to the fourth pick, and there were some expected things like the Timberwolves, who had an NBA-worst 16 wins, getting the first pick.
Other than the Knicks though, the evening was pretty surprise-free, with the Lakers moving up to number two, and the Sixers remaining third. Most of the other projected picks were about the same.
Once the show ended, the building went nuts. Around 50 print reporters and broadcasters surged forward trying to get a quote from the more popular teams. Among those flocked by the throngs of journalists were Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, Knicks GM Steve Mills, and Lakers coach Byron Scott.
Some of the best moments of the night included getting to meet a handful of basketball greats. I talked with Adam Silver, Larry Bird, and several players. A highlight for me was talking to Frank (the Tank) Kaminsky, my favorite college basketball player.
Knicks fans may be grumbling and ranting about the draft lottery, but this hoops fan thought it was perfect.
During the draft lottery, I tracked down some of the top prospects. Here's what they had to say about the draft.
Ten years ago could you see yourself at the draft lottery?
Emmanuel Mudiay: Yeah, I always had the confidence like that, so I saw myself 10 years ago being here.
Frank Kaminsky: No not really. Who knows maybe you one day. You never know.
Karl-Anthony Towns: You know what. It's amazing. Back in the day, you're reading and looking at Sports Illustrated Kids, and you're looking at all the things people have done and it's one of the great things to know that the people you read about in the magazine ... you are going to have a chance to do what they did and have a chance to make your dreams come true.
Jahlil Okafor: Ten years ago this was my dream…Now [my Duke teammates Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow and I are] in New York and ready to find out the draft lottery, and we're living our dream.
Photos: JJ Post