By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
After meeting a friend for some slices of the best pizza in Philadelphia (shout-out to Vince’s Pizza), I walked over to the NBA draft lottery watch party co-hosted by Liberty Ballers and Spike Eskin. Few things speak to it being 2014 like hundreds of people who read the same internet website meeting up to cheer on the results of 1,000 different numbered permutations from the drawing of ping pong balls. As we were still two parking lots over, we could already hear the chants of ‘Let’s Go Sixers’ coming out the open windows of Miller’s Ale House’s back room. I knew there was no place I would rather be to watch Sixers history take place.
Near the entrance, a group of septuagenarians looked flummoxed as to why so many people had descended on this small bar/restaurant in Northeast Philadelphia and why random chants were breaking out early on a Tuesday evening. We met the third member of our group at the door and walked into a scene that was pure Philadelphia. The crowd booed whenever Doug Collins came on-screen for the pre-game show (I couldn’t hear but I’m assuming he was making an argument for why another team should give Kwame Brown a multi-year deal), in addition to voicing its animosity for the hated Lakers, Celtics, and Kyle Singler (everybody hates Duke after all).
Sixers representative Julius Erving and crowd favorite Andrew Wiggins both received huge ovations whenever they appeared on-screen, as did the attractive daughter of Kings owner Vivek Ranadive. Surprisingly, similar cheers did not extend to Mallory Edens, daughter of Bucks owner Wes Edens and the latest internet trending topic. Apparently, lottery implications superseded the appreciation of a pretty young woman in that instance; way to stay on point Sixers fans.
Then, at long last the lottery began, and the anticipation built with each of the teams below the Pelicans staying put in their respective spots. When it was revealed that the 96 percent odds were safe enough (despite some initial Dr. J confusion), and the Sixers would be receiving the Pelicans pick in the 10th spot, the room erupted as though the team had beat the streak all over again. However, the biggest prize was still out there. We saw Cleveland jump into the top three, but there was no additional movement from the next sequence of teams, and when the 4th and 5th picks showed no Sixers logo, every fan’s mind began to race.
With the top three set as some order of Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Cleveland, the broadcast went to a commercial break, which was the worst thing that could have happened for Sixers fans. During the interim 3-4 minutes, the city of Philadelphia set aside its natural pessimism and dared to dream. It would all be worth it: the Jrue Holiday trade, the D-league level roster, the historic losing streak. The 1st overall pick was in our grasp and Sam Hinkie’s master design was going perfectly according to plan.
But then, the card for the third overall pick revealed the red, white, and blue of Philadelphia and the air went out of the room like the team had lost a title. The fact that Cleveland went on to defy their 1.7% odds and receive their third #1 pick in four years only served to rub salt in the recently open wounds of Sixers fans, who had let their guards down with Dr. J up there in the final three and the ultimate prize seemingly there for the taking.
Even so, I’m here to say, take heart Sixers fans. There was only a 38.7% chance the Sixers’ pick landed in the top 2, yet some people on the internet are acting like there was some huge conspiracy to hold the Sixers down with their receiving the third pick. Acknowledging the fact that’s what people on the internet do, it’s not the end of the world that the Sixers have the 3rd and 10th overall picks. In fact, it’s a better result than what was actually the most likely scenario (4th and 10th). Cleveland needs a center who can defend the rim so it wouldn’t surprise me if they took Embiid #1 and one of Wiggins or Parker fell to the Sixers at #3. I’m definitely Team Wiggins among that pair but I know plenty of people fancy Jabari’s scoring prowess.
The point is, the Sixers will have two lottery picks for the first time in history and the new Sixers management team has made great decisions at every turn since taking the reins. Trust in the process and stay excited for draft night next month. Great times remain ahead for the Sixers, and judging by Tuesday night’s watch party, plenty of passionate fans will be along for the ride.