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Archive for Sunday, May 19, 2002

NBA opens lottery to media

May 19, 2002

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— When four pingpong balls are chosen one at a time to determine the winner of the NBA draft lottery, four new sets of eyes will be watching.

Although the NBA says the policy change has nothing to do with debunking conspiracy theories, it has decided to let the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, ESPN Magazine and USA Today watch the proceedings in person.

The lottery results will be announced at halftime of today's Boston-New Jersey playoff game, with the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors having the most chances 225 each out of 1,000 of winning the rights to the first overall pick.

Chinese center Yao Ming and Duke undergraduates Jay Williams and Mike Dunleavy have been projected by many as having the best chances of landing among the top three picks.

"I think there is potentially a number of players that could go No. 1 this year," said New York Knicks president Scott Layden, whose team finished with the seventh-best record and has only a 4.4 percent chance of landing the first selection.

The last time the Knicks won the draft lottery was 1985, when every team that missed the playoffs had an equal chance of landing the top pick.

New York won the right to choose Georgetown center Patrick Ewing, and conspiracy theorists have long suggested that the envelope containing the Knicks' logo had been placed in a freezer prior to the drawing, or doctored in some other way.

A representative of the accounting firm Ernst & Young, along with the four media members, various league officials and a representative of each of the 13 lottery teams, will witness the actual drawing, which takes place about an hour before the results are announced.

Pingpong balls numbered 1-14 are placed in a hopper, and four are drawn in succession. There are 1,001 possible ways those numbers could come up, and each combination is assigned to a different team.

The Bulls and Warriors have 225 different combinations, the Memphis Grizzlies (who had the league's third-worst record) will be assigned 157 combinations, and so on. The non-playoff team with the best record, the Milwaukee Bucks, will have only five winning pingpong ball combinations, or a 0.5 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick.

Drawings determine the top three picks, and the remainder of the draft order is determined by inverse order of finish during the season.

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