Alone in an empty Long Island bar on a Tuesday night.
Rarely do uplifting stories start out this way, and my tale of the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery is no exception.
For the life of me I don't remember what I did that day or where I came from before finding my way to the Green Turtle that evening. "The Turtle," as my wife and I referred to it with as little affection as possible, was the nearest watering hole to the illegal basement apartment we had been renting out for the past year and a half. It served its purpose and little else.
We would go there every Sunday for football, when nothing good ever seemed to happen to either my Steelers, my fantasy teams, or my wagers. I was always dubious of whether a national chain could be a karmically sound enough environment to foster the growth of good sports juju into full blown positive outcomes, and that Tuesday night only reinforced my fears.
Despite my doubts, I entered the evening upbeat and hopeful. For one, I was a few weeks away from trading in my law license - a career I had come to despise - for a teaching one, which at least represented the possibility of happiness. At the very least, I was looking forward to having more time on my hands, perhaps to see if anyone outside of my couple of law school buddies had any interest in reading my inane thoughts on the NBA that I would email them from time to time. Blogging, I think, was my aspiration?
I was also encouraged, for once, by the odds. The Knicks had the second highest chance of both securing the number one overall pick and of remaining in the top three - the highest they'd ever had on a pick they didn't previously trade away (hey, LaMarcus!) under the current lottery format, which had been in place since 1994.
Most of all, I wasn't going in greedy. The number one pick would have been nice, but I just wanted to be somewhere in the top trifecta. There was only a one in five chance of getting the first selection, but staying in the top three was essentially a coin flip. The last time I'd gone to AC, I bet my last $50 on black and lost. I figured the universe owed me one.
Although somewhere, deep inside the recesses of my soul where Renaldo Balkman was still walking past Rajon Rondo in the green room and Jordan Hill was congratulating Steph Curry on his way to the stage, I knew what was going to happen. Leave it to the Knicks, in a draft with two generational big men and combo guard perfectly suited for Phil's triangle offense, to end up with a lanky Euro who couldn't even consistently put up numbers in Spain.
Some things are just destined not to happen the way you want them to.
As I sipped my generic lite beer and watched as team after team had their cards pulled, I held my breath when it got to five, which the Knicks had a small but not impossible chance of getting.
It went to Orlando. Momentary relief.
I took a sip, and before the suds had made their way down my esophagus, my gag reflex had set in. I'm sure Mark Tatum is a lovely man, but at that moment I wanted to reach through the television and choke that smile off his face, if only because you could see right through his teeth and into a soul that laughing its ass off at my continued personal misery. What did I ever do to you, Mark? Really now.
It's probably a good thing that I wasn't yet on Twitter, because the reaction would not have been kind or pleasant. Hell, I didn't even want to finish my beer, which, if you've been following me for some time, well...a commonality, it was not.
As I got in my car and made the two-minute drive home, the memory of New York winning two of their final three games by a total of five points didn't even enter my mind. I didn't believe in tanking. How ever could the lottery gods reward such baseless pandering, I thought.
No, mostly I just wondered. I wondered when the stroke of luck that had always eluded us was finally going to come. I wondered whether someone ahead of us would do something stupid and one of the projected top three would fall our way. I wondered if this would further open the door to a rebuild, and whether Phil would consider dealing the franchise's prized piece just a year into his new contract.
But most of all I wondered who the hell was Kristaps...Porzingis? That can't be a real name? Zing? Who has zing in the middle of their last name?
On second thought, maybe I better grab a six-pack at the corner gas station after all.