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By George, they got it

Steinbrenner's Nets nab No. 1 pick in lottery

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Monday May 22, 2000 12:45 AM

  katz New Jersey owner Lewis Katz reacts to the Nets' good fortune. AP

SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) -- The New Jersey Nets, a team looking for a coach, a president and a director of basketball operations after another dreadful season, finally won a big one, getting the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft lottery on Sunday.

"It's so unbelievable that it's hard for me to stand here and tell you how I feel," said principal owner Lewis Katz, who pumped the air with his fist after the Nets won. "My insides are shaking right now. This is it. This is the beginning of something good for the Nets. I really believe that."

The Nets (31-51) only had a 4.4 percent chance of jumping from the No. 7 spot in the lottery to the top spot in the draft, but luck was on their side when the numbers 6-8-9-14 were drawn in the Ping Pong ball lottery.

"This should also make it easier for us to fill some slots in the administration for us, because this could make the difference, having the top pick," Katz said.

The lottery was filled with upsets, as the Vancouver Grizzlies also made a move up, jumping from No. 4 to the second pick. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls, the two worst teams in the lottery, slipped to the third and fourth picks in the draft, respectively.

The Clippers (15-67) had a 25 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick and the Bulls (17-65) had a 20-percent chance of winning the lottery.

"This pick could basically really move the team up a substantial notch," new Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley said. "There are so many options. We may be able to make a trade for the pick; we may be able to trade for two other picks further down. This really opens up a lot of opportunities for us."

The Nets' jump from the seventh spot to No. 1 overall is the second biggest since the league switched to the weighted Ping Pong ball system in 1990. Orlando jumped from 11th to first in 1993, the year it took Chris Webber and then traded him to Golden State for Penny Hardaway and three first-round picks, the last of which gave the Magic the rights to the Warriors' choice this year.

That turned out to be No. 5 overall. Orlando also will have the 10th (from Denver) and 13th.
NBA Draft Order graphic Click on image for a larger view. CNNSI.com  

Atlanta will pick sixth and will be followed by Chicago -- using a pick it got from Washington -- Cleveland, Houston, Orlando, Boston, Dallas and Orlando.

Chicago, which won last year's lottery, did have a little luck as Washington did not get one of the top three picks. That means the Bulls get the Wizards' choice. That will give Chicago the fourth and seventh picks.

Since joining the NBA in 1976, the Nets have been one of the league's perennial doormats, losing 50 games at least 12 times. They have made the playoffs 11 times but only advanced beyond the first round once.

"I sure hope this is a giant step," said general manager John Nash, who reportedly will be fired once a new director of basketball operations is found. "It's one small step for the NBA, one giant step for the New Jersey Nets."

This will be the second time the Nets will have the No. 1 pick. They had it in 1990 and took Derrick Coleman.

New Jersey has two of the more talented young players in the league in point guard Stephon Marbury and forward Keith Van Horn, but the Nets lacked a dominant player in the middle, as Jayson Williams was sidelined all season with a knee injury and a broken leg sustained in April 1999.

Cincinnati forward Kenyon Martin is considered the best player in the upcoming draft, but he broke his leg late in the season, and that makes him somewhat of a question mark.

Nash isn't concerned, saying the Nets doctors will evaluate him.

Almost three dozen underclassmen have entered the draft, headed by Iowa State forward Marcus Fizer (22.8 points, 7.7 rebounds) and Texas center Chris Mihm (17.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.7 blocks).

Other underclassmen include Joel Przybilla of Minnesota, Jerome Moiso of UCLA, Stromile Swift of LSU, JaRon Rush of UCLA, DerMarr Johnson of Cincinnati and point guards Erick Barkley of St. John's and Khalid El-Amin of Connecticut.

 
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Nets owner Lewis Katz feels the No. 1 pick could give the Nets the final player they need to be a contender. (168 K)
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