- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A rabbit’s foot, anyone? A four-leaf clover? Or perhaps the Wizards should dispatch a penny-toting representative to the celebrated Upwey Wishing Well, located just north of Weymouth, England.

The Wizards need all the luck they can summon going into the NBA Draft lottery Tuesday night in Secaucus, N.J. Prayers, too.

They have a 17.8 percent chance of securing the No. 1 pick next month. That pick will be Blake Griffin, the Oklahoma forward with an All-Star future.

Ricky Rubio, the 18-year-old point guard from Spain, is the next flavor of the moment in the draft. Yet he is a precipitous drop from Griffin, as teen perimeter players with a steep learning curve ahead usually are.

The draft has a Griffin-or-bust sense to it. Not that other future All-Stars won’t emerge from it. Just try determining which ones they are from the information that is available.

Michael Jordan missed on the small hands and small heart of Kwame Brown and eventually came to rue that night in 2001.

So much would be different with the franchise today if Brown had met even a modicum of the expectations. That is not to forget the appealing size of Brown that led to the acquisition of Caron Butler, who has become a two-time All-Star with the Wizards.

The Wizards have been compromised by injuries the last three seasons. They are due some good fortune. It cannot help their equilibrium to see an old playoff nemesis, the Cavaliers, in a position to win the NBA championship this season.

At full strength, in 2006, the two teams were separated by the tiniest of margins. The Wizards actually outscored the Cavaliers by one point overall in losing their 2006 playoff series in six games, two by one point in overtime.

The Cavaliers have spent the last three seasons becoming the defensive stalwart that Mike Brown originally envisioned, while the Wizards have languished in purgatory, their potential championship mettle in serious doubt.

With the favorable turn of a pingpong ball, the Wizards would be transformed in an instant.

And never mind an aspect of the conventional wisdom that suggests Ernie Grunfeld possibly would shop Griffin if he comes into the possession of the Wizards. Griffin is a franchise’s building block. He could be around long after Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Butler have departed. There is no chance Grunfeld would shop him.

The prospect of a starting lineup of Brendan Haywood, Griffin, Jamison, Butler and Arenas next season excites the imagination. If it comes to be, the Wizards just might want to deploy a few extra employees later this week to handle the spike in telephone inquiries on the team’s various season-ticket packages.

Griffin just might pay for himself by the end of the week, the luxury tax included.

The obsession with Griffin comes with the sobering reality of 17.8 percent. That hardly qualifies as a good chance, not unless David Stern is in a mood to massage the lottery, as it is said he did in behalf of the Patrick Ewing-seeking Knicks in 1985.

The Wizards are dispatching coach Flip Saunders to the television-studio hot seat. He is their human amulet.

“I am putting our lucky coach up there,” Grunfeld said Monday. “He was up there one time before, and his team got Kevin Garnett.”

Grunfeld calls the 17.8 percent an “exciting” opportunity.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “It’s the luck of the draw. But we’re right there with the Clippers. We’ll see how it turns out and go from there.”

The Wizards, if healthy, are no lottery team. The lottery is the bonus of the interminable 19-win season.

“Regardless, we’re going to get a quality player,” Grunfeld said.

Let that player be Griffin. Or Rubio as the consolation prize. Let the offseason healing begin in dramatic fashion.

“I’m feeling good,” Grunfeld said.

But are you feeling lucky?

“Yeah, I’m feeling lucky,” he said.

The team’s supporters can hope.

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