CHICAGO — New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry couldn’t contain his emotion. And new general manager David Griffin eschewed hope for a future that could have Anthony Davis in it.
Gentry admitted he leapt out of his chair and let out an F-bomb in celebration after the Pelicans stunningly won the NBA draft lottery — and Zion Williamson sweepstakes — Tuesday night.
“I probably overreacted a little bit,” Gentry said. “I probably said a word I shouldn’t have. It was raw emotion, it really was. I think what our fans have been through, what our team has been through. This is…”
Gentry was at a loss for words. New Orleans entered the day with just a 6 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick, vaulting up from the seventh odds position. After reality set in, a less jubilant Gentry was more grounded.
“This kind of thing has happened before,” Gentry said.
The Pelicans, coming off a 33-49 season, were plagued by injuries and distracted by a seemingly inevitable Davis trade. But they were closer to the middle of the drafting odds pack than the New York Knicks (17-65), Phoenix Suns (19-63) and Cleveland Cavaliers (19-63).
The NBA’s revised lottery system paved the way for New Orleans’ historic night, as new guidelines gave those aforementioned teams a 14 percent chance of the top ping pong ball (last year New York would’ve had a 25 percent chance). That allowed teams like the Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies (second) and Los Angeles Lakers (fourth) to move up.
Gentry said the Pelicans’ night, which on paper at least could change the franchise, served as a message to teams that might’ve positioned themselves to tank last season — or at the very least put together rosters built to regularly lose for the sake of good fortune in the lottery.
“I don’t think it’s luck,” Gentry said. “It’s definitely luck on (the surface). That’s what the lottery is. What I think it says is that you deserve to play the whole season out. Try to win every basketball game. You know, not doing that, (other teams) picking up 2 percent chance winning doesn’t mean anything when you look at what happened tonight — how everything fell into place. Actually losing games to try to better yourself in the lottery doesn’t mean a whole lot. Except losing tonight.”
“Obviously, we had injuries and stuff like that affect us (last year). All of the sudden a team that missed (the) playoffs to winning the lottery, that can change everything about a franchise.”
Anthony Davis (Photo: Tom Pennington, Getty Images)
Gentry added of Davis, who made no secret he wanted out of New Orleans and many believed would join LeBron James in Los Angeles, remains a key figure on the trade block: “The one thing you have to understand is (Davis) is (still) on our roster.”
But will Davis remain in New Orleans?
David Griffin, the Pelicans new general manager, said his next meeting with Davis' agent Rich Paul didn't take on any more weight.
"No more so than before. We have reason to believe that’s something that is attractive. And if I’m Anthony Davis, I’m skeptical obviously," Griffin said. "He’s wanted to win this whole time and he felt compelled to try to win elsewhere. I think if you look at the totality of where this organization is and where we’re going, we feel very strongly that we’re going be the environment he wants to be part of."
Griffin now has been a part of four top picks — three with the Cleveland Cavaliers — and forecast the big night. Gentry, meanwhile, was initially more flabbergasted and mauled Griffin in celebration after the team’s unexpected fate was unveiled.
“I flew into (Chicago) this morning, and for some reason, Griffin convinced me we were gonna win,” Gentry recalled. “I was like 'Ehhhh', and he was like, ‘No, no we’re gonna win.’ As I sat there hearing them call out numbers and ours wasn’t called, I started shaking.”
Follow Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson
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