20 Mayıs 2008

Heat's fortunes riding on lucky (or bad) lottery bounce

It won't be a 7-Eleven on a Wednesday or Saturday night.

Instead, it will be the Secaucus, N.J., studios of NBA Entertainment on a Tuesday night.

But when it comes to getting lucky, the desperation, hope, greed will be similar.

"Two hundred and fifty quick picks, please."

Such is the essence of the NBA Draft lottery, the random-but-weighted drawing that could shape the Miami Heat's future for years to come.

Just prior to the establishing of the draft order for the league's non-playoff teams, a computer will generate 1,000 random four-digit combinations. Two-hundred and fifty will be issued to the Heat, a fantasy four that could produce an eventual jackpot payoff of Memphis guard Derrick Rose or Kansas State forward Michael Beasley, or consolation prizes along the lines of Stanford center Brook Lopez or Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless.

Then the pingpong balls will be released.

A franchise's future will be in the balance.

"It's a competitive situation, even though you have nothing to do with it," said Heat General Manager Randy Pfund, who represented the team during its first lottery visit of the Pat Riley era. "When you're there, it turns into a very competitive thing."

The Heat is there because it was very uncompetitive , going a league-worst 15-67 to tie for the worst record in the franchise's 20 seasons.

Because of that, it has a better chance than any other team to land the first pick in the June 26 draft.

"It's nerve-racking, even though there's nothing you can do about it," said Heat Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Andy Elisburg, who will represent the Heat in the behind-the-scenes drawing. "It's a nerve-racking day as you get ready for it."

While Elisburg will be an anonymous observer, guard Dwyane Wade, who will represent the Heat on stage as the envelopes are opened, figures eventually to have input into the situation.

Should the Heat land the first pick, Wade has made clear his preference for Rose as a backcourt partner.

Should the Heat fail to land one of the first two selections, Wade has hinted of a preference for some type of win-now trade, similar to what Boston did with No. 5 for Ray Allen last season.

With Wade in position to opt out of his contract after two more seasons, today could prove to be as much of a set-up for the June trade market as the draft. By rule, the Heat would have to exercise its pick before it deals it, with next season's first-round pick already ticketed for the Timberwolves to complete the ill-fated Ricky Davis acquisition.

Should the Heat land the right to select Rose, it would take a huge step toward rounding out its lineup, with Rose at point guard, Wade at shooting guard, Udonis Haslem at power forward and Shawn Marion at small forward.

Should Beasley wind up as the most likely option, it would mean a considerable amount of tinkering, with a logjam at forward with Haslem and Marion.

A pick at three or four, on the other hand, could provide a long-term answer at center, should Lopez be the choice. Currently, the best the Heat has to offer in the middle is Mark Blount. Of course, currently the best it has to offer at point guard is Marcus Banks. Every other option at those positions ended the season as impending free agents.

While the lottery is weighted, it also is designed to discourage teams from intentionally losing, as some accused the Heat of late in the season.

Because of that, the Heat actually has a better chance of landing the No. 4 pick (35.8 percent) than No. 1 (25 percent). Only three times since 1990 has the team with the top seed won the drawing: the Nets, with Derrick Coleman in 1990; the Cavaliers, with LeBron James in 2003; and the Magic, with Dwight Howard, in 2004.

Last year, Memphis went into the process as the No. 1 seed and exited with the No. 4 pick, going on to draft Ohio State point guard Mike Conley Jr.

That led then-Grizzlies President Jerry West to fume, "I don't think the lottery is fair. I never liked it. I don't think it's a good system at all. Period."

In 2002, the Heat nearly became a huge fan of the lottery.

With Elisburg clutching his number sheet, the first ball out of the hopper was 13. The Heat had it.

The second number was eight. The Heat had that, too.

The third number was 11. Suddenly, the Heat was one number from Yao Ming.

The fourth number was four. Bingo! — for the Houston Rockets. (The Heat needed a "9" or "10".)

The Heat exited that lottery at No. 10, eventually drafting Caron Butler.

The following year, in 2003, its most recent lottery visit, the Heat did not come close to the four-number combination for James.

Now the Heat is flush with lottery combinations, but also aware there only will be one or two true winners tonight.

"There's one person with a fist pump or a shout or a yell," Elisburg said of the moment of truth. "Everyone else is fairly quiet."

kaynak : NBA