The Philadelphia 76ers won the National Basketball Association lottery today, giving them the first selection in the college draft on June 17 and perhaps easing a bit of the pain from being eliminated from the playoffs later in the day by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Philadelphia owner Harold Katz, Coach Matt Guokas and General Manager Pat Williams had all indicated in the past few days that if the 76ers won the lottery, they probably would select North Carolina 7-footer Brad Daugherty. But today, Williams said no decision had been made.
The envelope containing the logo of the 76ers was the seventh and final one pulled from a glass drum at a New York hotel this afternoon. And it concluded a final bit of irony in which Philadelphia and Boston -- two of the best teams in the league -- wound up getting the top two picks in the college draft.
Golden State will select third, Indiana fourth, New York fifth, Phoenix sixth, Dallas seventh and Cleveland eighth. Earlier in the day, the Washington Bullets got a small break when they won a coin flip with the New Jersey Nets for the 12th pick in the draft. The teams had the same record in the regular season, 39-43. The Nets will pick 13th.
In the regular season, Boston and Philadelphia won a total of 121 games, and the four lottery teams that did not make the playoffs won a total of 111.
Even the beaming Williams conceded afterward: "It doesn't seem quite fair that the clubs with records this good are picking No. 1 and No. 2. But the league powers had a chance to study this method two years ago, and they made their decision. We both got these picks with off-the-wall trades. . . . This is the last thing in the world the league powers would have orchestrated."
None of the six other club officials here complained about their draft order today, because there does not appear to be any one potentially dominant player who stands out from the rest, as Patrick Ewing did last year. There does not appear to be any great disparity between the top seven to 10 players in the draft pool.
Celtics boss Red Auerbach laughed and took a drag on his cigar after the first five teams had been announced. And Williams fired his right fist into the air and pounded the table when the Boston logo was announced as the No. 2 pick, leaving his team with No. 1.
"We haven't had much success against Boston the last couple of years," Williams said. "It's nice to beat the Celtics in something."
The man who was really depressed last year was Golden State General Manager Al Attles. He wound up with the seventh pick, even though his team finished last. Today, he was all smiles with the No. 3 pick. "I'm about to call home, and this time, I think they'll accept the call," he said.
None of the club representatives were ready to say which players they would be selecting.
But that was before Auerbach played with Williams' mind here in the midtown hotel where the lottery was staged for a national television audience at halftime of the Milwaukee-Philadelphia playoff game.
Immediately after the lottery, Auerbach began joking with his colleagues, telling Williams he would pick Daugherty if Philadelphia did not.
"Red was chipping away, telling us all whom to draft, who he'd draft," Williams said. "He's playing mind games with us. . . . We'll be studying the scene in New England very much."
Williams did acknowledge that Daugherty "seems to be" the logical choice for his team, which he called "the smallest in the league. We have a dearth of big men. . . . William Bedford a 7-footer from Memphis State is a big guy who has to be studied. . . . We'd have to be thinking big."
But Williams and the 76ers are also in no hurry, since five weeks remain between now and the draft. "We want to take our time and study it," Williams said, "and we'll also be finding out how valuable this pick is to other teams in the league."
If the clubs continue to feel that big is best, Daugherty, Bedford and North Carolina State's Chris Washburn (6-11) could be the first three players chosen.
Williams said Washburn might have the most talent but could be furthest away from developing into an NBA player of impact, that Bedford is more mobile than the other two and that "there is no down side to Daugherty. He's the surest pick."
Auerbach said he had "no idea" right now whom the Celtics will take. And since he is selecting for a team virtually without weakness, Auerbach said he is thinking more about what Boston will need in two or three years.
Attles, with the third pick, said Golden State will almost certainly take a player 6-11 or taller.
Knicks General Manager Scotty Stirling may have the fifth pick in the draft, but he's still behind Atlantic Division rivals Philadelphia and Boston. "That's a little disturbing," he said.
Williams was anything but disturbed, considering how he got his team into this position.
This was the culmination of a deal struck back in 1979. Today, Williams remembered driving back from a preseason game at Capital Centre in October 1979 and getting so itchy to make a deal with the San Diego Clippers that he pulled into a gas station in New Jersey, found a pay phone to call the West Coast and made sure the deal was still on.
San Diego owner Irv Levin reportedly wanted to give up his first-round draft choice in the year 2010; Williams wanted something a little sooner, like 1983. They settled on 1986, and today that pick -- obtained straight up for Joe (Jellybean) Bryant -- became the No. 1 pick in this year's draft.
The year before he traded Bryant, a classic journeyman, to a desperate San Diego for today's top pick, Williams sent World B. Free to San Diego for the first-round pick that became Charles Barkley. Williams' biggest worry was that the Clippers would fold before he could get his draft choices.
The year before that, 1977, Williams sent Terry Furlow to Cleveland for two first-round draft choices, one of which Philadelphia used to pry Moses Malone from Houston in 1983. And in 1980, Williams got a No. 1 away from Indiana (in exchange for Mel Bennett), which the 76ers used to draft Andrew Toney.
So today's success, though very dramatic, is nothing new for Williams and Philadelphia.
"This is not as overwhelming as last year, when you knew you were getting a franchise player Ewing and were going to sell 5,000 extra tickets, and the whole world was going to explode," he said. "But today, the pulse quickened, believe me.
"Where are you, Jellybean Bryant?"