- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

SECAUCUS, N.J. | Tuesday ended up being a lucky night for the Los Angeles Clippers, who wound up with the top pick - presumably Blake Griffin - despite having only a 17.7 percent chance of winning the NBA Draft lottery.

A little more than an hour before the sealed envelopes were delivered on stage at NBA Entertainment headquarters, the actual lottery played out in a guarded room three floors up and in front of representatives from 13 of the 14 teams (the Clippers didn’t have anyone in the room) and a handful of league employees. And the Clippers proved to be twice as lucky as any team in the lottery.

At 7:20 p.m., the 14 pingpong balls were inserted into the glass drum scrambling machine and mixed for 20 seconds. The first combination drawn - 5, 3, 6, 10 - was a combination belonging to the Los Angeles Clippers. So Washington won a tiebreaker to receive more combinations over the Clippers, then lost the lottery to them.

The machine started again, and the balls were mixed for 10 seconds. The next combination was 5, 6, 3, 4, which also belonged to the Clippers. Talk about lucky. But a team can’t have two lottery picks, so that combination was disregarded, and the drawing for the second pick was conducted again.

Next time around? 9, 5, 1, 14. So the second pick went to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Draw for No. 3: 14, 6, 13, 3. The third pick went to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

With the Sacramento Kings - the league’s worst team this past season - ensured of finishing no lower than fourth and the Wizards guaranteed no worse than fifth, the drawing was halted.

After a 40-minute wait, the envelopes were delivered on stage with the team’s on-screen representatives unaware of the outcome because their lottery-room counterparts’ cell phones had been confiscated.

From 14 on down, the names were announced. with the teams’ spots coming in order of their records from better to worst all the way through the seventh pick. Then the fifth-worst team, Minnesota, was announced at No. 6.

And then came the Wizards at fifth, going against the 35.5 percent chance they had of getting a top-two pick.

“We were almost kind of surprised because everything had held true to form until six,” said coach Flip Saunders, who represented the Wizards onstage. “So in order to get to five or four, two of those teams needed to hold on, which at that time I thought was pretty unlikely, but turns out I was wrong.

“But we’re going to get a good player. There was only one player we thought coming into this draft that could have an immediate impact. But we’ll get a good player, and our team ultimately will be judged by our health.”

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