I still remember the nervous feeling.
It was May 22, 2003, and the NBA lottery was being held. The Pistons, thanks to a great trade that sent Otis Thorpe to the Vancouver Grizzlies, would receive the Grizzlies’ pick – as long as it wasn’t No. 1.
So, no LeBron James. But the Pistons could still get the player I had been fawning over for a year, Darko Milicic. He was big, athletic and could shoot. He had all the intangibles. He would be great. I’m sure in part because I knew all along James wasn’t a possibility, I actually wanted Darko more.
Everything seemed to line up just right that day. The Pistons had an Eastern Conference Finals game at the Nets, and the lottery was held pregame in New Jersey. Darko worked out for NBA teams in New York that day, and the buzz said he looked amazing.
I was thrilled when the Grizzlies didn’t get their slotted pick, meaning they would be top three. ABC cut to a commercial before David Stern revealed the first three picks, and I paced around my house.
Finally, the commercials ended and the Nuggets got the third pick. It was all or nothing. I literally jumped up and down in my living room when the Grizzlies landed the second pick.
In hindsight it was nothing or nothing. Darko might be the biggest draft bust ever. Plus, the Pistons lost to the Nets that night, eventually being swept. I was reading some articles about that night, and I enjoyed this story from Chris McCosky of The Detroit News:
Pistons President Joe Dumars found a penny on the floor outside his hotel room Thursday morning.
Since he didn’t bring any kind of lucky charm with him, he picked it up.
"I looked at it and it was a 1989," Dumars said. "I said, ‘Yep, I’m keeping this one.’"
Wonder if Dumars will have that penny with him tonight…
For the first time since 2003, the Pistons have a stake in the lottery, which will be held at 8 p.m. The results will be announced on ESPN, and you can watch online on ESPN3.
When to cheer
The picks will be announced in reverse order.
The Rockets, Raptors, Grizzlies and Hornets will most likely receive the 14th through 11th picks. If they do, it’s good for Detroit because all three top picks will still be available.
After those picks are announced, the Pistons’ pick possibilities begin. If the order isn’t Pacers-Jazz-Clippers, one of those teams has moved to the top three, taking a spot away from the Pistons.
If the seventh pick comes and the Pistons still haven’t been announced, congratulations, Detroit will get a top-three pick. Let’s hope it goes better than last time.