The Wonderful sport with ping-pong balls carry Plenty of weight
CHICAGO -- NBA executive Lou DiSabatino summoned you numbered ping-pong ball from the lottery system, yet another and yetanother. Another league executive, Kiki Vandeweghe, pulled them out one by one and held them up for NBA team representatives andmedia to watch: 9, 12, 6. At the moment, the Hawks had a opportunity to buck the odds and win against the No. 1 choice in thedraft. All they wanted was for that machine to suck the ping-pong ball with the No. 3 on it -- a 1-in-11 chance.
The lotterydrawing is a sterile affair compared with the made-for-TV reveal of those picks that followed. But there's a real play when staffagents learn if they win among those top-three selections, particularly during the 10 minutes involving the drawing of the fourthand third balls. In these moments, the whirring of the lottery machine was going to the only noise within the room in the HiltonPalmer House.
Michelle Leftwich, Hawks' vice president of salary-cap government, tried to stay calm. "Take a deep breath, have adeep breath," Leftwich told herself. Micah Day, the NBA's director of event management, served as the official timekeeper. Hecounted off the 10 seconds while standing with his back into the drawing. Read more How to hold a ping pong paddle correctly for newbie. Once Day gave the signal, DiSabatino prompted the systemto draw another chunk and Vandeweghe pulled it in the tube. The ball had a 1 on it.
The Suns won the best pick, no surprise sincethey had the best odds of doing this. In fact, the Suns also won the following two drawings, requiring redraws for the No. 2 pick.On the third try, the Kings leapfrogged four additional teams with better chances to win the No. 2 pick. That meant that the Hawkscould wind up choosing as late as sixth. Rather, they obtained the combination of numbers they had for the No. 3 pick: 5, 4, 6,12. Leftwich nodded her head and smiled as Vandeweghe held up the last ping-pong officials and ball affirmed the combinationbelonged to the Hawks.
The Hawks didn't get really lucky by winning the No. 1 choice -- they'd the fourth-best odds -- but theyhad been lucky to move into the top three. "After Sacramento transferred up, I thought,'I just don't need to proceed down,'"Leftwich said. Leftwich was at the lottery room before. She worked for the NBA for more than 20 years before joining the Hawkslast autumn, including 10 years as a vice president and assistant general counsel. However, after witnessing emotional reactionsfrom staff representatives who learn their lottery fates, Leftwich was experiencing these feelings firsthand. The draft is stillthe best way for teams to get superstar players so those ping-pong balls carry a great deal of weight.
"Before I got here, Istarted to realize how important it really is," Leftwich said. "I knew it from working together with the league but it wasdifferent being on this side of it." Following the lottery drawings, Leftwich managed to unwind with her fellow staffrepresentatives, media members, and NBA officials. Barred from communication with the outside world until the selections wererevealed publicly, there was nothing to get those in the area to do but wait and then watch the series.
The representative for asingle team who wasn't as fortunate as the Hawks attempted to put a positive spin on his team's bad fortune, however he seemed tobe trying to convince himself more than anybody. Reporters accustomed to getting out advice as soon as they know it uneasily saton the lottery information. Approximately 45 minutes later, the ESPN lottery series began. The Hawks were represented on stage bycelebrity Jami Gertz, spouse of chief owner Tony Ressler. Her surprised reaction upon learning the Hawks would get one of the topfew selections got a laugh out of people in the drawing room. Ahead of the drawing, Gertz said she felt pressure as the publicface for the Hawks' fortunes from the draft.
Afterward, she said she had been pleased with the No. 3 pick. "It was pretty cool,"she said. "But I wish I could select the ping-pong balls" Gertz motioned in the group of top draft prospects in the event:"Look atthose young men. We will be blessed." It is up to Hawks general director Travis Schlenk to pick the right player. Among the Hawkscontingent in the event, he seemed most stoic about the lottery drawing. Maybe that's because Schlenk had been experienced at it:the Warriors had three lottery picks during his time as a front-office executive in Golden State. Schlenk said Ressler and manyothers in his group were worried during the reveal of selections. Read more What is the Standard size of a ping pong table? "I told them,'Listen, it's out of our hands,'" Schlenk said."It's all been decided." It happened at a nondescript room two floors below.
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