SECAUCUS, N.J. — It was nearly a year ago, when John Wall was seated on a couch in the Los Angeles home of his agent, Dan Fegan, pondering his future and anxiously awaiting the results of the NBA draft lottery. When the Washington Wizards won the No. 1 pick, Wall was surprised, but not nearly as shocked as former majority owner Irene Pollin, whose wide-open mouth and widened eyes encapsulated the stunning development for a franchise that rarely experiences much luck.
A month after completing his rookie season, Wall was sent to NBA Entertainment studios here to represent the team as the undisputed face of the franchise. He wanted to borrow Pollin’s yellow blazer, or possibly bring some pearls, but when those efforts failed, Wall brought the only good luck charm he could find: His mother, Frances Pulley.
(Julio Cortez/Associated Press) - NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, left, congratulates Nick Gilbert, 14, the son of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, after it was announced that Cleveland won the draft lottery.
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Pulley was in the audience on Tuesday to see Wall’s stone-faced reaction after watching NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver lift a placard revealing that the Wizards would get the sixth pick in the June 23 draft. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the top choice for the second time in franchise history, less than 11 months after their previous No. 1 overall pick, LeBron James, decided to take his talents to the Miami Heat in free agency. Minnesota finished second and Utah won third.
“I’m still happy. I wish we would’ve got higher, but I still think we can get somebody who can help our team out in that position,” Wall said. “We always want to get closer. I hope we can find somebody that we like.”
Wall had hoped to help the Wizards become the first team since Orlando in 1992 and 1993 to win the lottery in consecutive seasons, but with the fourth-best odds of winning (11.9 percent), they fell back for the 11th time in 15 trips to the lottery.
Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld returned, equipped with his good luck charm from last season — a miniature gold ball attached to a chain that was a gift that his father gave him when he was six. But the experience of watching the number combinations for the top pick in the back room didn’t have the same feeling as a year ago.
“Last year, the time went by real quick. This year, it took a little bit longer in that room,” Grunfeld said with a laugh. “That’s the way the situation goes, but we’re prepared for any situation and I think we’ll get a solid player that will be a part of our core for now or down the road. We’re going to do the best that we can and get a solid player.”
The Cavaliers won with the unprotected first-round pick that they acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in a cost-cutting trade that involved point guard Baron Davis. They managed to overcome 2.8 percent odds to claim the top choice, moving up from the eighth spot. In 14 previous trips to the lottery, the Wizards had only moved up twice — to win Wall and Kwame Brown in 2001.
The Wizards have had the sixth pick twice before in the lottery era, selecting Tom Gugliotta in 1992 and Calbert Cheaney in 1993. They will also have the 18th overall selection, acquired from Atlanta in the Kirk Hinrich deal, and the 34th pick. Grunfeld said that the Wizards would have to be patient when introducing more rookies into the mix. Even the addition of Wall only resulted in the Wizards finishing with the fourth-worst record at 23-59.