I’ve been a serious fan of two sports teams in my life – the Winnipeg Jets and the Vancouver Grizzlies. The main thing they have in common, of course, is both have moved. I followed the Coyotes (former Jets) very closely for a while, especially while the Canucks were horrible in the late 1990s, but Phoenix kept alienating me by making horrible decisions (signing Tony Amonte) and continuing to employ a completely inexperienced loser coach who values loyalty over everything else (Wayne Gretzky).

But I’ve remained an avid fan of the Grizzlies and regularly read the Commercial Appeal website in Memphis to keep up with the team. The draft this year was the great hope for the franchise to finally become a legitimate contender. They looked like they timed it perfectly with Pau Gasol’s injury last summer causing them to plummet to the worst team in the league in the same year that not one, but two, franchise players are coming into the draft. It was shaping up just like the San Antonio Spurs in 1996-97, who lost David Robinson (and Sean Elliott) to injury for most of the season and changed from a very good team to a terrible team in one year. They won the lottery, drafted the consensus franchise player (Tim Duncan), and were champions within 2 years.

So I just listened to the NBA draft lottery on the Atlanta ESPN station. Everything was going completely according to form for picks 14 through 7, meaning that no team with a low probability of success had jumped up. And then it all ended in an instant. The Milwaukee Bucks, who had the third best odds, were announced as holding the sixth pick, and the significance of that announcement was completely lost on the ESPN announcers! Milwaukee had just dropped three picks, and THE ONLY WAY THAT COULD HAPPEN IS FOR THREE TEAMS LOWER THAN MILWAUKEE TO MOVE AHEAD OF THEM. So it was immediately obvious that Portland (six slot), Seattle (five slot) and Atlanta (four slot) had jumped into the top 3, pushing Boston from 2 to 5 and Memphis from 1 to 4.

Am I surprised the announcers missed the significance of the Milwaukee announcement? No, not in the least. Why are the people announcing these events so clueless? Who knows.

I guess that if Memphis had to lose, it’s positive that Oden and Durant will end up with the 2 NBA teams closest to where I live (Portland and Seattle). Perhaps Durant can even save the Sonics and help get a new arena built. Then again, both guys are in the Western Conference and it’ll be even tougher for the Grizzlies to get ahead, what with Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Utah, and the Lakers likely to continue to be very tough.

And I also feel for the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, who was looking at this lottery as an opportunity for his team, the Celtics, to set themselves up for at least a decade. He loves basketball more than any writer I know and I’m sure he’s a lot more heartbroken than me right about now.

I guess the only consolation is to hope that this year turns out like 2003, when LeBron James was the consensus top pick and Carmelo Anthony was also expected to be a franchise player. No one really expected the fifth pick that year, Dwayne Wade, to turn out the best (at least so far). Chris Bosh at #4 is also a big star, so hopefully Corey Brewer or Mike Conley or Al Horford or Yi Jianlian or whoever the Grizzlies take this year can also catch up to the top 2 in his impact on the game.

If not, I guess the Grizzlies can always trade Gasol for Andrew Bynum, cut loose Damon Stoudamire (please) and look forward to Derrick Rose or Brook Lopez in next year’s lottery…

Advertisements