Legendary lottery (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday May 23, 2007 3:00AM; Updated: Wednesday May 23, 2007 11:32AM
Brandon Roy, the league's Rookie of the Year in 2007, had been sent by Portland to be its on-camera rep, while Pritchard stayed in the back room to witness the actual drawing. Echoing Bird's praises for this draft's headliners, Roy said he recalled watching Oden play in the NCAA title game against Florida and thinking to himself, This guy is going to be the next great center in the NBA.
Even though the Blazers had long odds to crack the top spot (just 5.3 percent) Roy did not deem it necessary to bring a good-luck charm, which seems to be de rigueur for most team dignitaries at the lottery. "That wouldn't be me," Roy said. "I never had a good-luck charm, and I didn't want to start today with one." He did, however, bring along his 24-year-old brother, Edward, from Seattle and had told him, "Come out to New Jersey with me and get this No. 1 pick."
On Tuesday morning the Roy boys left their hotel in New Jersey in search of breakfast, ending up at a Dunkin' Donuts. Over a glazed (for Brandon) and a powdered (for Edward), they discussed what might happen, should the Blazers -- who were booted out of the top three picks in '06, despite having the league's worst record -- actually win the lottery.
"Man, if we get Oden," said Brandon, "We'll be a playoff team."
"If you get Oden," Edward countered, "you can win championships."
Edward might be getting a little ahead of himself, but in theory, he's not crazy. Indomitable big men have been the key to winning NBA titles of late, and Oden, who was dominant despite playing with an injured right wrist at Ohio State, could eventually join that club. In the meantime, though, adding the Buckeyes 7-footer at least makes Portland the most intriguing young team in the league, with Roy and Jarrett Jack in the backcourt, and Zach Randolph, LaMarcus Aldridge and Oden up front. It should also set the city abuzz with renewed interest in the club; on Tuesday night, an advertisement on the Blazers' Web site for season tickets read: "Monumental, Historic, Epic: Portland Lands No. 1 Pick."
Pritchard, wearing a massive grin, found Roy amid the post-lottery media scrum and hugged him from behind while saying, "Good job." The GM had, unlike Roy, been toting a good-luck charm: a ladybug pendant given to him by his 10-year-old daughter, Kendall. Although he would not publicly commit to Oden as the No. 1 -- "you have to go through your process," he said -- he still seemed stunned by the fact that his team was actually sitting atop the draft board. Pritchard had met with his staff last week and had remarked that it would be nice to simply be faced with the debate of Oden vs. Durant. It is, obviously, more attractive than what the Blazers would have faced had they been in this position last year: Bargnani vs. Morrison vs. Aldridge vs. Thomas.
Inevitably, seeing that the Blazers traded up for Aldridge and Roy in '06, the subject of a trade in '07 was brought up with the GM. Pritchard's response: "I would be very, very, very, very surprised [if we did that]."
"That's four verys," a reporter noted.
"Make that one more -- five verys," Pritchard said.
Understood. No sane executive lets a franchise center escape. The Knicks rode Ewing to two NBA finals. The Magic went to one with Shaq, before he won three titles for the Lakers and one for the Heat. The Spurs won three sets of rings with Duncan. The Blazers, the luckiest team in the lottery, are no doubt hoping that they are next.