I should have known that the NBA Draft Lottery was not going to fall in the Washington Wizards favor when I walked into the media area. Two members of the Cleveland Browns, Joshua Cribbs and Joe Haden, who are from Washington, D.C. and Fort Washington, MD respectively, were sitting at a table with former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar. Maybe under different circumstances Cribbs and Haden would have donned the new colors of the Washington Wizards, but on this evening, their roles were to be good luck charms for Dan Gilbert. They were ensconced in Cleveland Cavaliers gear – the former pseudo-rival of Washington which also happened to be the team that eliminated the Wizards the last time they were fortunate enough to make the playoffs
Two hours later, Dan Gilbert, his charismatic son Nick, Kosar, Cribbs and Haden were posing for pictures in front of the ESPN camera, and celebrating the fact that the Cavaliers had won the first pick of the 2011 draft. The Wizards, who were represented by last year’s number one selection John Wall, were left with the sixth pick, despite having the fourth-worst record in the NBA.
Despite the disappointing draft position, there were still some positives for the Washington Wizards franchise. As I wrote for the DCist, in just a short period of time Wall displayed the type of confidence and leadership that the Wizards braintrust probably expected when they drafted him first just one year ago. He worked the room, he joked around with his fellow 2010 draft classmate Greg Monroe, as well as Kyrie Irving, who figures to the first pick of the 2011 draft class. He was equally comfortable in between Toronto Raptors President Bryan Colangelo and Mayor of Sacramento Kevin Johnson; Wall even mentioned that he asked Mayor Johnson about his role in keeping the Kings in Sacramento.
Here is Wall speaking confidently on his summer plans, his opinion of some of the players in the draft and his expectations for his fellow teammates among other things:
Kyrie Irving, who figures to go head-t0-head with John Wall for at least a decade, if not more, seemed a bit out place at the lottery selection show. Typically the festivities are reserved for individuals who are currently affiliated with the NBA, but the yet-to-be drafted Irving was right there hob-nobbing with players, GMs, owners and writers with the poise of an NBA veteran. When asked why he was at the NBA Entertainment Studios in Secaucus, New Jersey for this event, Irving calmly said, “I live 20 minutes from here, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Once the Cavaliers won the lottery and he was flanked by 10-20 writers and reports, Irving handled it in a way that suggested he was much older than 19 years old. But when he was getting ready to leave the premises, he was told by a member of the NBA staff that sliders and french fries were being served in the media room. Irving’s youthful side surfaced, proving that he is still a kid at heart: ”For real? There are sliders? Man, I gotta get some of those. I’m hungry!”
Ernie Grunfeld, the man who drafted Wall, and who would probably love the opportunity to draft Irving or a player of his caliber (like Arizona’s Derrick Williams), was also in attendance. Unfortunately his answers were much less exciting than the likes of Irving and Wall. Both before and after the lottery, Grunfeld spoke in his usual ambiguous, cryptic tone swhen asked about the draft and what the Wizards needed to do to improve:
But as TAI’s Kyle Weidie wrote, the key to the Wizards success in the 2011-2012 season has little to do with the sixth pick in this draft, and everything to do with what happens past the lottery. There are personnel decisions to be made, players who need to be evaluated, a free agent class that needs to be considered, and terms of the yet-to-resolved collective bargaining agreement to be studied before the players who will don the new Wizards uniforms are decided upon. There will be an entire summer to discuss those types of issues ad nauseum.
In the meantime, it’s more fun to listen and watch a new and improved version of John Wall, as he flexes his new leadership chops: