Out of the cellar: Cavaliers win No. 1 draft pick

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SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) - The losing started when LeBron James left and kept going throughout the season.

Hope is back for the Cleveland Cavaliers, thanks to a long-shot win by owner Dan Gilbert’s “hero.”

The Cavaliers got a huge jump on their post-LeBron rebuilding process, winning the lottery and the No. 1 selection in next month’s NBA draft.

Defiant when James bolted last summer, Gilbert was a proud parent Tuesday when 14-year-old son Nick, who has battled disease since birth, stood center stage as deputy commissioner Adam Silver announced the Cavs had beaten the odds to pick first.

“We had a lot of young guys, just learning the game and a new head coach and a new coaching staff and a lot of injuries and obviously we lost some players last summer,” Dan Gilbert said. “I don’t know if it makes up for it, but certainly it makes it worth the pain we all went through and we’re believers now. Bright days ahead.”

And they started when a pick acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers with only a 2.8 percent chance of winning came out on top.

But Nick Gilbert is used to overcoming long odds.

He was born with Neurofibromatosis (NF), a nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow anywhere in the body at any time and has endured brain surgery and the loss of vision in one of his eyes. He was wearing black-rimmed glasses and a bow tie and looked serious until he showed a keen sense of humor in a television interview. His father called him his “hero” for the way he has fought the disease.

“It’s sort of Nick fashion. He has been doing it his whole life to some degree. I’m proud of him. I’m proud of the way he carried himself and I am very excited for the fans of Cleveland, Ohio, who have been through a very, very rough year,” Dan Gilbert said. “They deserve it more than anybody and they have some good hope now.”

The Cavs will select first for the first time since 2003, when they drafted James out of high school.

He left for Miami last summer and the Cavs tumbled to the second-worst record in the league, but they will have two top-four picks next month as they try to back Dan Gilbert’s boast that they would win a title before James. They already had their own pick and acquired another at the trade deadline from the Clippers in the deal for Baron Davis.

Minnesota will select second and Utah turned New Jersey’s pick from the Deron Williams trade into the No. 3 selection.

The Timberwolves continued their unbelievable lottery losing streak, falling to 0 for 14 and dropping for the eighth time. They had a 25 percent chance of winning after finishing with a league-worst 17-65 record.

Instead, the luck went to the Cavs, who are used to playing deep in the playoffs and hope they won’t have to worry about this trip again.

Besides Nick Gilbert, the Cavs also brought along current Cleveland Browns players Josh Cribbs and Joe Haden, dressed in the Cavs’ wine and gold jerseys, and former Browns star Bernie Kosar for good luck.

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