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The Washington Wizards finally had some good magic cast on them Tuesday night, winning the NBA draft lottery after a season filled with on-the-court disappointments and off-the-court drama and heartbreak.
Irene Pollin, wife of the team’s longtime owner Abe Pollin, stood with her mouth agape as the Wiz won the number one pick in the league’s June draft.
“This is very, very special. I have been in this my entire adult life and to be here, representing my husband, this is very special to me tonight,” Pollin told The Associated Press while wearing her late husband’s 1978 NBA championship ring. “I think it’s the culmination of my husband’s dream because he wanted another ring and maybe this will get us another ring.”
Washington beat out the Philadelphia 76’ers and the New Jersey Nets -- the team with the league’s worst record -- to secure the top pick. The Wizards will most likely decide between the national player of the year, Ohio State’s Evan Turner, or Kentucky freshman phenom John Wall.
The Nets, represented by new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, brushed off his team’s third place lottery finish, despite the fact that they had the best odds of picking first.
“Sometimes luck makes all the difference, but it never comes down to one player,” the Russian billionaire told the AP. “I’m sure we’re going to get a great player. For our team, the only way is up.”
The Wizards are coming off a tumultuous year in which their best player, Gilbert Arenas, was suspended for brandishing a firearm in the team’s locker room and fan-favorites Caron Butler and Antwan Jamison were traded away to clear salary cap space.
Ted Leonsis, the owner of the NHL’s Washington Capitals who is in the process of buying the Wizards from the Pollin family, said the pick will help re-energize basketball in Washington.
“We have a lot of work to do with the franchise,” Leonsis told the AP. “The players, the culture, the expectations, the discipline around the team, but I do think it is a breath of fresh air and does revive the franchise and gives us a shot to be an exciting team with a lot of expectations. I know how hard it is to rebuild a team. I am going to be patient but I have a strong belief that our management team and ownership team is very focused.”