By Scott Howard-Cooper
May 22, 2009

This was not the worst possible outcome. If the Kings had dropped to fourth and the Knicks had moved up to first or second in the draft lottery, that would have been the doomsday scenario -- FIX! -- in Sacramento, a place that doesn't need much encouragement to break out the inferiority complex against anything tied to New York and NBA HQ.

But this was bad. The team with the worst record in the regular season, with a roster that so perfected rolling over that it quit in November, went into this week's draft lottery with the greatest chance to land No. 1 and left with crushing disappointment. All those hours of dead air during 82 games, wasted.

It would be one thing if this were just about the Kings, this fitting addendum to their dreadful season, but that makes twice in three seasons the team that finished last dropped to No. 4 and the team that finished next-to-last dropped to No. 5 in the worst mathematical outcome for each. The Wizards got fifth this time, though at least with the comfort of not being close to the 29th-best club when healthy and with a summer vacation that already includes the boost of adding Flip Saunders as coach. The Kings earned No. 30.

And it would be another thing if the flawed system will be addressed, but no one appears capable of devising a better plan or willing to step up at the next meeting of the competition committee, composed of one representative from the basketball side of each team, to demand change. It will not be the Kings and, based on a survey of other teams, it will not be anyone else.

"I don't think so," Kings president Geoff Petrie said. "Not as of today."


"You have to have something that makes some argument that the next way is different or better," he said. "I'm not sure I know what that better way is.

"It's one of those things that if there is, I'm not sure what it is. There probably is no perfect system. It's happened enough in the past already. It's not a first-time event. You have some sense [the drop] can happen. It's just that when it happens to you ..."

Valid point. No use complaining about the process if no one can come up with a better option. (Opposing viewpoint: The brainiacs who manage the jumbled algebra of the salary cap can't come up with a better way to play with Ping-Pong balls?) And it's certainly easy to see the logic in not simply ordering the lottery teams based on regular-season record, a move that would spark annual cries of tanking.

This is a series of system breakdowns, though. The team that finished last and had the greatest odds of drawing to No. 1 has held the spot only three times since the lottery began in 1985. It last happened in 2004, when Orlando used the first pick on Dwight Howard after its 21-61 season. The team with the best chance of getting No. 2 has held that spot twice. The lottery winners since the Magic jackpot: the Clippers in 2009 while tied for the second-worst record; the Bulls in '08 with the ninth-worst record; the Trail Blazers in '07 with the seventh-worst record; the Raptors in '06 with the fifth-worst record; and the Bucks in '05 with the sixth-worst record.

Meanwhile, the Kings were in line for No. 1 in 2009 and got No. 4; the Heat went from 1 to 2 in '08; the Grizzlies went from 1 to 4 in '07; the Trail Blazers went from 1 to 4 in '06; and the Hawks went from 1 to 2 in '05. The 2007 fun with numbers, in the Greg Oden-Kevin Durant draft no less, matched this year for No. 2 also dropping to No. 5, the Wizards now and the Celtics then.

Sacramento's plunge to the lowest spot it could go came with a final slap of unwanted irony. Petrie was flying back from Barcelona as the lottery was breaking bad for the Kings and Wizards, after a scouting trip to Europe that included a look at Ricky Rubio, the point guard likely to go second who would reenergize an angry fan base and fill a position need.

Petrie landed, turned on his phone and saw the text message from Troy Hanson, a team executive.


"For a couple minutes, there was disappointment," Petrie said. "After that, moving on. The reality is, being in the top five is not the worst place to be. I think there will be other players who eventually surface in this draft. I mean, is there another alternative?"

• The Magic's three-game stretch that culminated Wednesday in Cleveland could not have been more impressive. Game 6 against the Celtics was huge as a response mechanism to Dwight Howard's frustration with the offense two nights earlier. Then, a Game 7 win on the road, in Boston no less, and enough said. Then, in Game 1 against the favored Cavaliers, Orlando played with composure down the stretch to become only the third team to win in Cleveland all season. It's not just meaningful beyond words for the Magic. Most any organization would have trouble topping that for a better three games in a row.

• Seven games of Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest as a sidebar to Lakers-Rockets was great theater, but their supposed bad blood was overblown. They like each other and respect each other, largely because the combative nature comes through as a passion to win. More than that, Bryant remains intrigued by the idea of Artest as a teammate, a particularly relevant point with Ron-Ron about five weeks away from free agency. Artest told the Houston Chronicle that his heart belongs only to the Rockets, but that will change. It always changes.

Wayman Tisdale will be missed. Not for his basketball, although he was great at the University of Oklahoma and averaged 15.3 points in 12 seasons with the Pacers, Kings and Suns. Not for his jazz, although he made the Billboard top 10 as a passion for music turned into a post-NBA career. Tisdale's legacy is the joyous personality and beaming smile that made him one of the special people of the game long past his 1997 retirement. He is so beloved in his native Tulsa and his college home 20 miles from Oklahoma City that it qualifies as the rarest of cases when a team -- the Thunder, in this case -- should consider retiring the number of someone who never played for the franchise.

• It's official. Nothing was more overhyped then the soap-opera breakup of Stephon Marbury and the Knicks followed by his arrival in Boston as some sort of conquering hero. In the end, Marbury broke 20 minutes all of one time in the playoffs, the Game 3 blowout victory against the Bulls, and he averaged 11.9 postseason minutes for a team short on bodies and playing seven overtime-filled games in the first round and seven games in the second round. The only unknown of the anti-climactic time as a Celtic is what got into Bill Russell, who made the laughable suggestion to the New York Post that playing for the Knicks damaged Marbury psychologically. Of all the times for Russell to deign to clear his throat in public.

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