2013 Pelicans Draft Lottery Diary
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Tuesday’s trip to New York City for the NBA draft lottery did not yield the desired result in the form of a second straight No. 1 pick. Instead, New Orleans dipped one spot to owning the No. 6 selection in the first round of the NBA draft. However, the day proved to be quite eventful. Our Pelicans.com writer was there to chronicle some of what took place over a 15-hour period that started in the Big Easy and culminated in the Big Apple:
9:00 a.m., Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
The team’s representatives – headed by Pelicans owners Tom and Gayle Benson – depart from Louisiana for the two-plus hour flight to New York. Anthony Davis, who will serve as the Pelicans’ unofficial face of the one-day trip, is excited about getting to spend additional time in Gotham. He’s only been to NYC previously on “business,” including playing games at Madison Square Garden for Kentucky and New Orleans, as well as visiting for last year’s draft. This time, he’s hoping to see a bit more of the city, even if his Tuesday itinerary is fairly jam-packed.
“I’ve wanted to try New York-style pizza every time I’ve come here,” notes a smiling Davis, a pizza aficionado. “There were a lot of other cities (on the road this season) where I had their version of New York pizza, but not here yet.” He pauses, then chuckles while realizing his hectic agenda: “It won’t be today, though. When I come here next season, I’ve got to try a slice.” The Windy City native’s hometown pride is evident as he discusses cuisine. “I still have to give Chicago the edge (in pizza),” he adds. “A big slice of Chicago deep dish is unbelievable.”
1:00 p.m., Carnegie Deli, Manhattan
Davis sits down for lunch near one of the bustling centers of NYC, but he’s not having pizza. Sitting next to Pelicans head coach Monty Williams, the two munch on giant sandwiches from the iconic eatery. Not long after sitting down, Williams looks up from his chair and is shocked to see a photo that includes an extremely familiar face – himself.
Some background: As a New York Knicks rookie forward in 1994-95, Williams stopped by Carnegie Deli. Realizing he was a Knicks player, the restaurant asked to take a photo of him. Unbeknownst to Williams, the picture was soon added to the restaurant’s wall of celebrities. In a completely unintentional coincidence, the Pelicans’ group Tuesday afternoon was seated at a back table facing the same wall where Williams’ picture has resided for nearly two decades.
“There are thousands of pictures in that place,” an incredulous Williams says afterward. “I was just kind of looking around and having a casual conversation. I happened to look up in the corner and was like, ‘Wait, that’s me.’ ” In typical self-deprecating fashion, Williams notes that there must have been some confusion at Carnegie when they decided to post the photo next to so many world-famous actors, musicians and performers. “I’m not sure what they were thinking,” Williams says. “I’m definitely no celebrity.”
Although Williams isn’t superstitious, the Pelicans opted specifically to dine at Carnegie because it was their lunch spot a year ago, when they won the 2012 draft lottery. “That wasn’t my doing,” a grinning Williams says of choosing Carnegie again based on its past good fortune. “But because we got the (No. 1) pick last year, everyone wanted to go back there. I don’t believe in that (superstition) stuff, but I’m certainly not going to rain on somebody else’s parade. If that’s where they get their joy and happiness, that’s cool with me.”
3:30 p.m., Milennium Broadway Hotel, Manhattan
Just steps from Times Square, the Pelicans – including Davis, Williams, Tom Benson and Mickey Loomis – meet members of the New Orleans and national media for sitdown interviews in a hospitality suite. Crews from three local television affiliates – WVUE (Fox), WWL (CBS) and WGNO (ABC) – have made the trip for the unique opportunity to experience lottery day with the Pelicans. As a result, New Orleans appears to have a far larger media presence at the lottery than any other NBA city. By my estimation, there were a total of 50 media types working out of the event’s media headquarters. Including Pelicans second-year sideline reporter Jennifer Hale, about one-sixth of all media members were from New Orleans.
4:30 p.m., Times Square, Manhattan
Helpful representatives from the NBA league office give Davis and the Pelicans a walking tour of the area outside the studio where the draft lottery will be held. They’re outstanding guides – after all, they live and work in NYC. Towering over everyone at 6-foot-10, Davis draws a big crowd of curious spectators, though the locals generally seem accustomed to celebrity sightings, especially in this part of town. As Davis and the group walks along the sidewalk, a few non-sports fans put 6 and 10 together and agree with each other that, “He must be a basketball player.” A couple pedestrians tap me on the shoulder to ask, “Who is that?” I reply, “Anthony Davis. He plays for New Orleans. He was the No. 1 pick in the draft last year.”
5:15 p.m., ABC/Disney Times Square studios, Manhattan
Davis is guided into the building where the actual drawing for the lottery will take place, as he and the New Orleans contingent are given a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the process works. A friendly lottery-night official talks the group through the complicated process, including the particulars of how there are 1,000 different combinations of numbers that are divvied up between the 14 lottery teams. A few listeners’ eyes begin to glaze over.
Later, while waiting in the elevator, someone half-jokingly asks Davis if he understands exactly how the lottery works now that he’s heard the lengthy and detailed explanation. Davis just smiles, while someone else quickly answers “No.” Davis later says, “I thought they just put the teams (logos’ on ping pong balls) in a machine and pulled them out one by one. I had no idea it was this complicated.”
7:55 p.m., ABC/Disney Times Square studios, Manhattan
After taking a break to eat a casual dinner with a large array of NBA and team officials back at the Milennium Hotel, Davis and the Pelicans are now being prepped for the 8:30 broadcast on ESPN. Minutes before the show is to begin, Davis jokes with Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, who finished just ahead of Davis in 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year voting. The TV studio feels a bit like one of those “This is SportsCenter” commercials. Look over there, and Kevin Love is conversing with a few fellow players. Over here, executives and GMs are joking about their pre-lottery nerves.
A league official walks over and explains that I’ll be sitting in the area of the audience reserved “for the Hornets.” Immediately realizing her minor mistake, the NBA official says, “Oh sorry… I mean for the Pelicans! It’s going to take me a little while to not do that anymore.” I quickly joke, “It’s OK – we’re not going to start fining people for that until the season starts.”
8:45 p.m., ABC/Disney Times Square studios, Manhattan
NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver – who’ll take over as NBA commissioner from David Stern just prior to next season’s 2014 All-Star Game in New Orleans – begins unveiling the envelopes in front of a national TV audience. There is palpable tension in the studio. Unfortunately for the Pelicans, when Silver gets to the No. 6 spot in the order, he says “the sixth pick belongs to the renamed New Orleans Pelicans.”
At the podium on stage, Williams cracks a half-smile on ESPN’s broadcast. He later repeatedly tells the media various forms of this same sentiment: “Why should we be upset? The lottery is completely out of your control. There’s nothing you can do about it. And the sixth pick is still a very good pick.”
10 p.m., Teterboro Airport, New Jersey
The Pelicans begin their post-lottery flight back to New Orleans. Although there was no repeat victory at the draft lottery, it still gave the franchise an optimum opportunity to receive additional national exposure for its new nickname and brand. For some NBA fans throughout the country, Tuesday was the first chance to see the Pelicans’ name and logo.
“Mr. Benson asked me if I wanted to come,” Davis says of his participation in the lottery-day trip. “I thought it was a great idea. I looked at it as a chance to represent the Pelicans.” The 20-year-old, All-Rookie first-team selection smiles, before alluding to the relative quiet of not being part of the NBA playoffs. “Besides, I didn’t really have anything else to do.”
It’s not really true. Davis’ individual workouts and preparation for next fall are under way. For Davis, the 2013-14 season has already begun.