- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003

Minutes after the NBA Draft Lottery revealed that the Washington Wizards would indeed have the No.10 pick in the June 26 draft, team owner Abe Pollin broke his silence concerning the Michael Jordan debacle two weeks ago.

“I just want to add one thing,” Pollin said at the end of a five-minute address. “We’re talking about the future and we have great hopes for the future. We’re not talking about the past. I will say only one thing about the past and that is I never have said anything negative about Michael Jordan and I never will. And that closes the book on that.”

Pollin’s appearance yesterday took most of the focus away from the lottery. With the 10th pick, the Wizards, who are said to be interested in adding either a point guard or a small forward, probably will be able to chose from players such as Jarvis Hayes, a 6-7 junior forward from Georgia, or Mickael Pietrus, a 6-6 forward from France. Perhaps the top point guard on the board when the Wizards choose will be Oregon junior Luke Ridnour.

And if they are put in the position of drafting the best players available at that time, Georgetown power forward Mike Sweetney could be available, as could Marquette’s Dwyane Wade.

The Cleveland Cavaliers (17-65), who finished tied with the Denver Nuggets for the worst record, won the first pick and will almost certainly use it on Akron, Ohio, schoolboy sensation LeBron James, who yesterday also inked a $90million shoe deal with Nike. Cleveland and Denver had the best chance of landing the top pick — each had 225 ping pong balls out of 1,000.

“I can’t speak for all the other teams, but we know who we want with the No.1,” said Cavaliers general manager Jim Paxson, who knows landing the local star would also guarantee a turnaround at the box office.

The team that made out the best was Detroit. The Pistons, who finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference, were awarded the No.2 pick in the draft because of a previous trade with the Memphis Grizzlies.

General manager Wes Unseld, who will step down from the position after the draft, said the Wizards would “look for the best player to fill our needs” with the pick.

“We’ve got a few spots on our roster that we need to address,” Unseld added. “This is where we’ll start.”

But the Wizards still have some huge questions to answer, ones that overshadow getting the 10th pick. To begin with, the Wizards have not yet found a president of basketball operations to replace Jordan, something Pollin said he is in the process of doing.

“I have interviewed some folks who are candidates for the president of basketball operations and I’m going to interview some more,” said Pollin, who would not reveal whom he has talked to. “I can tell you that we are going to pick the best basketball brain in America to head our organization. We are in the process of it. I can’t tell you how soon it will be because I don’t know. We are looking to find the best out there and we will find the best brain that can to run the franchise.”

Although Pollin said there was no deadline for getting the president of basketball operations in place, he added that it was something “that needed to happen sooner rather than later.”

Pollin left no doubt that he would have the final decision on the team’s selection.

“There is no doubt about it,” he said. “I will make that decision, absolutely.”

There has been Rampant speculation that coach Doug Collins, handpicked to coach the Wizards when Jordan came out of retirement for the second time in 2001, will be fired. Pollin did not deny nor confirm this. He did say this would be the decision of whomever is hired to run basketball operations.

“The new person will pick the coach,” Pollin said.

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