Time for the NBA draft lottery, where some team will get a nice reward for a miserable season. Not the Los Angeles Lakers, though. Their misery is set to make a good year even better for the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Pelicans are the lone playoff team among the clubs who can get a boost from lotto luck when the drawing is conducted Tuesday night in Chicago.
The Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, and Detroit Pistons all share a 14 percent chance of winning the lottery and the No. 1 pick for the June 23 NBA draft in New York. Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, and Duke’s Paolo Banchero are among the top college players available.
The Rockets, Magic, and Pistons were young teams who finished at the bottom of the league, the kinds of teams the lottery is supposed to benefit.
Then there’s the Pelicans.
They were just like most other observers in and around the NBA this season, expecting the Lakers to be a winning team, and possibly a championship contender. But when they instead flopped to 33-49, eighth-worst in the league, it left New Orleans in position to cash in one of its chips from the 2019 trade that sent Anthony Davis to Los Angeles.
The Pelicans will make the pick from the Lakers as long as it lands in the top 10 — and there’s about a 99.6 percent chance of that.
Executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said nobody on the Pelicans was expecting to get a top-10 pick from the Lakers this season, in which New Orleans rebounded from a 1-12 start to make the playoffs led by All-Star Brandon Ingram — acquired in the trade with Los Angeles.
“So we got very lucky and as is often the case in our business, it’s better to be lucky than good,” Griffin said after the playoffs. “And if you can be both, you can achieve something and so we’re grateful we’re a playoff team that’s holding a lottery pick. It’s a highly unusual thing.
“So we got lucky there for sure.”
That’s what Tuesday is all about.
The Pistons had the luck last year, when they won the lottery and eventually chose guard Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick. He went on to finish third in the voting for rookie of the year.
Houston and Orlando also have plenty of young talent and are prepared to add to it. All three have a better than 52 percent chance of landing a top-four selection.
The lottery sets the top four picks. The remainder of the non-playoff teams pick in reverse order of their finish. Besides the Rockets, Magic, Pistons and Pelicans, the other teams participating Tuesday are Oklahoma City, Indiana, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, Washington, New York, Charlotte, and Cleveland.
There are only 13 teams instead of the 14 that missed the postseason, because the Thunder also own the Clippers’ selection, which goes into the lottery in the No. 12 position.
Report: Rajon Rondo pulled gun, threatened to kill mother of his children
The mother of Rajon Rondo’s two children was granted an emergency protective order against the former Celtics guard last week, according to TMZ, following his pulling a gun and threatening to kill her.
The order is for Ashley Bachelor and their children, Ryelle Rondo and Rajon Rondo Jr., referred to in the report as Pierre, the elder Rondo’s middle name. Bachelor wrote in the order of protection that the 36-year-old Rondo “has a history of volatile, erratic, explosive behavior. He is verbally, emotionally, and financially abusive.”
Bachelor also cited verbal abuse of both children, and wrote “Rajon has made several threats on my life, saying at various times he will shoot me or shoot up my car.”
The specific incident which prompted the request for the order happened May 11, when Rondo became enraged while playing video games with Rondo Jr. Bachelor wrote when she attempted to deescalate the situation, Rondo — a free agent after finishing last season with Cleveland — allegedly told her, “You’re dead.”
After leaving the home for about 15 minutes, Bachelor said Rondo returned brandishing his gun and berated both of his children “for being afraid of him.”
Rondo must stay at least 500 feet from the three under the order, which is temporary until a formal protective order is argued in court. TMZ also reported Rondo has been ordered to turn over his firearms to the court, and that the NBA is investigating.
Representative for Rondo did not return a TMZ request for comment.
Shellshocked Suns dealing with ouster
Chris Paul worked his way around the perimeter and got the shot he wanted on the first offensive possession for the Phoenix Suns — an open 14-foot jumper near the free-throw line that he’s made plenty of times during his 17-year NBA career. It rattled in and out of the basket.
The unwelcome surprises were just beginning. Two hours later, the top-seeded Suns walked off their home floor after a 123-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals that will go down as one of the most embarrassing no-shows in NBA playoff history.
If it’s possible, the final score didn’t indicate how lopsided the game actually was. The Mavericks led by 46 points at one juncture.
“We didn’t step up to that challenge today,” Suns forward Cameron Johnson said. “I can’t tell you enough how much I wish I could rewind the clock a few hours.”
It’s difficult to know what to make of the Suns’ season. Yes, they won a franchise-record 64 games during the regular season. Yes, they had an All-Star backcourt of Paul and Devin Booker. Yes, Monty Williams was the NBA’s Coach of the Year. Yes, when they were rolling they were one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the league.
And then, Sunday.
“We were the best team in the league all season long,” Williams said. “We made it to the second round and lost in a game seven. That is not a bad team, we are a really good team. We had an off night. We probably had an inconsistent two weeks if I am directly honest. But I am proud of what we accomplished. These guys are the new standard of Suns basketball.
“That is something to be proud of.”
Most of the Suns’ nucleus is under contract for next season, including Paul, Booker, Mikal Bridges, Johnson, and Jae Crowder. But management has at least one big decision to make: Deandre Ayton’s future.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2018 was a key cog in the team’s run to the NBA Finals last season. Now he’s a restricted free agent and wants a lucrative long-term contract. It’s unclear whether the Suns are willing to give it to him. The next few months should bring some clarity to the situation.
Bucks might’ve been without Khris Middleton in East finals
Khris Middleton might not have been available for the Eastern Conference finals even if the Milwaukee Bucks had won Game 7 on Sunday at TD Garden.
The three-time All-Star missed the Bucks’ last 10 games after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in Game 2 of a first-round series with the Chicago Bulls. Middleton sat out Milwaukee’s entire second-round series with the Celtics, and said Monday “I don’t know if I would have been ready for [Tuesday’s Game 1 of the East finals]. I don’t know if I would have been ready if it went to Game 7.
“It was almost a day-by-day thing, just waking up and seeing how I felt, seeing if there’s swelling in there, and there’s a point where you have to make sure the ligament’s completely healed.”
Antetokounmpo was the first player to have 200 points, 100 rebounds, and 50 assists in a playoff series. Jrue Holiday, who attempted more than 21 shots in a game just twice during the regular season, averaged 22 in the Celtics series. It wasn’t enough to win.
“If we had Khris, not that I’m trying to make excuses, but maybe a different story,” Antetokounmpo said after Sunday’s game. “But we gave everything we had. Guys came together. We realize, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get better. We’ve got to get better as a team. We’ve got to want it more. We’ve got to work on our games.’ “