- The Washington Times - Monday, May 20, 2002

SACRAMENTO The last time the Houston Rockets won the NBA Draft lottery, they selected Nigerian-born center Hakeem Olajuwon, who went on to lead them to a pair of NBA titles and is completing his Hall of Fame career in Toronto. After winning yesterday's lottery, the Rockets, who are set in their backcourt and could use help up front, might use the top pick on another foreign center.
The Rockets, who had just an 8.9 percent chance of securing the top pick in the draft, won the NBA lottery that determined the draft order for the 13 teams that failed to reach the playoffs. The draft will be held June 26 in New York.
The Wizards, who last year finished with the third-worst record in the league but won the lottery and selected Kwame Brown with the top pick, made no move up or down yesterday and will select 11th overall.
Former University of Maryland standout point guard Steve Francis, an All-Star this past season, represented the Rockets in Secaucus, N.J., site of the lottery. Francis is the reason why the Rockets likely will pick 7-foot-5 Chinese center Yao Ming rather than Duke junior point guard Jay Williams. Williams is generally considered better prepared to play in the NBA, but the Rockets are more than satisfied with Francis.
The Chicago Bulls will pick second, and the Golden State Warriors will have the third pick. The Bulls and the Warriors finished tied for the worst record in the league at 21-61, and each had a 22.5 percent chance of winning the lottery.
The Rockets had the fifth-worst record (28-54) in the league this season. By winning the draft, the Rockets kept a streak alive no team with the best chance of winning the lottery has done so in the last 12 years.
Although the Rockets would appear better off drafting Ming, they also will take a look at Duke's Mike Dunleavy and Connecticut's Caron Butler.
The Wizards were represented at the lottery by assistant general manager Rod Higgins. Higgins was present in New Jersey last year, clutching a lucky penny, and when the Wizards won the lottery they became the first team to make a high school player the top selection.
However, the Wizards didn't expect to move up this time and have been preparing to select 11th. They likely will begin bringing in potential selections as early as this week.
"The 11th was pretty much what it was going to be,'' Wizards general manager Wes Unseld said. "We have been looking at that position.''
Although the Wizards are uncertain Michael Jordan will return next season, they will approach the draft as if Jordan, who finished the season on the injured list with a knee injury, will not play.
According to front office officials, the Wizards' biggest needs are at point guard, where they are small with 6-footers in Chris Whitney and Tyronn Lue, and small forward.


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