SECAUCUS, N.J., May 19 (Ticker) -- With the help of Steve Francis' lucky lavender suit, the Houston Rockets defied the odds Sunday and climbed to the top of the NBA draft lottery.

The Rockets had an 8.9 percent chance of receiving the top pick in the 2002 draft and should have gotten the fifth overall pick based on their 28-54 record. But form rarely holds in the lottery, which was conducted at NBA Entertainment Studios.


Steve Francis gets congratulated by Jerry West after winning the draft lottery.
Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images
Francis, the All-Star guard of the Rockets, was selected to represent his team on the set built for the lottery, which was televised live by NBC at halftime of a playoff game. He wore a suit colored somewhere between heather and powder purple.

"I told our GM (Carroll Dawson) about the suit I was going to wear on TV today so I could really represent our team well," said Francis, himself a former No. 2 overall pick. "I'm just excited we were able to pull off the first pick."

The Rockets leapfrogged Denver (27-55), Memphis (23-59), Chicago (21-61) and Golden State (21-61). It marked the 12th straight year in which the team with the worst record did not receive the top pick.

The Rockets will have the first pick in the draft for the first time since 1984, when they selected center Hakeem Olajuwon. That was the last year before the inaugural lottery and marked the second straight year Houston had picked first.

"If we don't win this year, it's going to be on us," said Francis, whose team has not made the playoffs since 1999. "Hopefully, we're able to get a player who can immediately come in and help us."

Dawson and Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich will use the next month or so to determine how to use the pick. Houston had problems with injuries and inconsistency on its front line last season and could go for Chinese center Yao Ming. Or it could add to its lightning-quick backcourt by drafting Duke guard Jay Williams.

"I know we definitely don't need help at the point guard position," joked Francis, a point guard.

Chicago and Golden State each had a 22.5 percent chance of winning but will select second and third, respectively. The last team with the worst record to receive the top pick was the New Jersey Nets in 1990.

"The trick is to hopefully get out of here and not be here next year," said Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, whose team was in the lottery for the fourth straight year. "As you sit here, you hope you won't be back next year."

"From our perspective, there are three good players out there and we're going to get one of them," Warriors CEO Robert Rowell said.

For the first time in the event's 18-year history, media members were allowed into the private room where the lottery drawing is held. Also on hand were NBA vice president Joel Litvin and members of the accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Fourteen numbered ping-pong balls were placed in a drum and three drawings were held. The combination of 4-8-11-13 came up first, one of the 89 out of 1,000 assigned to the Rockets. Combinations assigned to the Bulls and Warriors came up next.

Memphis, which had a 15.7 percent chance of winning, will pick fourth and Denver, which had a 12 percent chance, selects fifth. Had Memphis dropped to sixth, it would have had to give its pick to Detroit to satisfy the conditions of an earlier trade. Denver also has the 25th overall pick.

"The good thing is, we retained our pick, because we could have lost it," said Jerry West, the newly named president of the Grizzlies.

Cleveland (29-53) will pick sixth, followed by New York (30-52) and the Los Angeles Clippers, who received the pick from Atlanta (33-49) as part of the Lorenzen Wright trade two years ago.

Phoenix (36-46) picks ninth, followed by Miami (36-46), Washington (37-45), the Clippers (39-43) and Milwaukee (41-41). Already one of the youngest teams in the NBA, the Clippers will have two of the top 12 picks.

"There's also the possibility of putting those together and trying to move up or putting those two picks together and trying to go get a veteran player," Clippers coach Alvin Gentry said.

Last year, Washington had the first pick and used it on high school center Kwame Brown, a project who averaged 4.5 points per game.