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Magic try to follow Howard trade with lottery luck

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POSTED May 21, 2013 1:45 a.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — Pat Williams is pretty good at being lucky, and he’s got a hunch.

“I got a funny feeling that this could be another Magic year, here. For some reason, I’ve just got the feel,” Williams said.

Orlando sure could use it.

Following a difficult first season after trading Dwight Howard, the Magic are hoping Williams can bring them more lottery luck.

Armed with the best odds and their three-time winner back on stage, the Magic will try to jump-start the rebuilding process Tuesday night by landing the rights to the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

Williams has won four times, including victories in 1992, ‘93 and 2004 with the Magic. They used the most recent one to draft Howard, and no team since has entered with the best odds and won the lottery.

The Magic were back in the lottery the next two years but were busy playing in the postseason every spring since until this one, when they finished an NBA-worst 20-62 after sending Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers last August in a four-team deal.

That gives them a 25 percent chance at winning the rights to choose first in a draft that appears uncertain. Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel is considered the top choice, though he could miss the first two months of the season while recovering from a torn ACL.

Williams, the longtime team executive, thinks a victory would give the Magic and their fans a boost.

“And obviously, to be in that first slot, it gives you lots of flexibility,” he said. “Even in a year like this when there a lot of uncertainties with the draft — there doesn’t appear to be a franchise turner, but there are lots of good players in this draft who will have NBA careers. But if we could pull off a win here, it would give our city just a big lift and after a tough year that would be more than welcome.”

Williams, in good spirits and saying he feels well 2 1/2 years after being diagnosed with blood cancer, jokes about his lottery history. The Magic celebrate it, with pingpong balls in their trophy case.

He’s been so good that the NBA was forced to change the lottery process after Orlando’s second victory. The Magic won the 1992 lottery and picked Shaquille O’Neal, then barely missed the playoffs in his rookie season. Yet they won again with just one pingpong ball out of 66, swapping the rights to Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway, and starting with the 1994 lottery the NBA tweaked the system to give the worst team an even better chance to win and making it nearly impossible for the lottery team with the best record to pull the upset.

“The Orlando rules,” Williams said.

The biggest loser now has 250 chances out of 1,000 but keeps coming up empty. The Charlotte Bobcats had the worst winning percentage in NBA history last season but slipped to No. 2, missing their chance to pick college player of the year Anthony Davis.

Davis will be at the Times Square Studios on Tuesday to represent New Orleans in the Pelicans’ introduction for much of the national audience. The former Hornets’ name change became official at the end of the regular season.

The Pelicans have the fifth-best odds at 8.8 percent. Charlotte is second at 19.9 percent, followed by Cleveland (15.6) and Phoenix (11.9).

The lottery has supplanted the playoffs as Cleveland’s offseason destination. The Cavaliers are in the lottery for the third straight year, a run that began when LeBron James packed his bags and headed for Miami

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who also has a string of casinos throughout Ohio, will be hoping for a little luck when the pingpong balls drop. The Cavs won the lottery in 2011 and used the No. 1 overall pick on point guard Kyrie Irving, who was named an All-Star this past season.

Last year, the Cavs picked fourth and chose Dion Waiters, who had a solid rookie season.

Cleveland has four of the top 33 picks — Nos. 19, 31 and 33 — in this year’s draft and intend to add some talent and depth for coach Mike Brown, who Gilbert has brought back after firing him three years ago.

The draft is June 27 at Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets.

Williams and the Magic have been gone so long that he isn’t even sure the setup in the new location, after it was held for years in Secaucus, N.J., at an old NBA Entertainment studio.

“We’ll have to see if we still have our Magic touch in the next decade,” he said. “But we’re ready, we come loaded for bear. We worked hard and earned our 25 percent chance through 82 games, and that puts us in the pole position here.”



Randolph, Grizzlies on the rebound again: SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Zach Randolph’s miserable Western Conference finals debut led to a sleepless night and a long film session.

The All-Star power forward and his Memphis Grizzlies are hardly down and out, though. In both rounds of the playoffs so far, Memphis has lost Game 1 before rallying back to knock out the Los Angeles Clippers and then the Oklahoma City Thunder.

This time, Randolph had his worst game ever in the playoffs, managing two points in a 105-83 blowout. His only lower-scoring game in 40 playoff appearances was when he played 1 minute as a rookie for Portland in a 2002 game.

“It’s more frustrating than embarrassing,” said Randolph, who missed his first seven shots in Game 1. “It’s basketball. It happens to the best of them.

“Muhammad Ali, he got knocked down before. What made him the greatest fighter in the world is he always bounced back.”

It took the Grizzlies two games to get off the mat in the first round, when they suffered a 21-point blowout at Los Angeles and then lost on a Chris Paul buzzer-beater in Game 2. Memphis then won the next four.

There weren’t as many adjustments needed in Round 2, when Kevin Durant’s spectacular finish lifted Oklahoma City to a two-point win in the opener. Again, the Grizzlies won four straight to advance.

So, the panic button is nowhere in sight for these comeback kids with Game 2 on Tuesday night in San Antonio.

“That’s what you do in life. Every time you have a bad moment, you’ve got to bounce back and get up and go again,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “You have a bad day, you’ve got to get up the next morning and make it a good day. Every team has lost games that have been really bad, they’ve lost one-point buzzer-beaters, all of those types of things.

“If you’re going to be in life and live, you’ve got to get up and go do it again and try to be better.”

After last year’s West finals, the Spurs are wary of feeling good about any series lead. San Antonio won the first two games at home last year, and then lost four in a row to the Thunder.

“Everything can change real fast,” point guard Tony Parker said.

The Spurs had a surprisingly easy time against the NBA’s best defense in Game 1, shooting 53 percent and making a franchise postseason-record 14 3-pointers on just 29 attempts. It took Memphis too long to settle in during its first conference finals appearance, and San Antonio was up 17 by the end of the first quarter and 20 in the second quarter.

“We found out it wasn’t as bad as it looked,” Hollins said. “It was a lot of just out of position, playing with hyper speed and doing things that we don’t normally do because of the moment and not just playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

The mistakes were many. Point guard Mike Conley said Memphis needs to pick up its defense on Parker beyond the 3-point line and keep him from penetrating the lane so easily to set up the 3-point shooters around him. Once in scramble mode, the Grizzlies over-helped and left too many openings.

On offense, the ball got stuck, which allowed the Spurs’ defense to recover and wipe out any scoring opportunities for Randolph around the basket.

“All the things that we did wrong — no pace, no moving the ball, no running back, no communicating — if we do all that good and we are who we are and we lose, now we’re going to see,” center Marc Gasol said. “It’s hard to get a lot of information about that last game because we just played so poorly.”

Game 2 provides a clean slate to try again, and Memphis hasn’t had two straight poor games yet this postseason.

“We adjust, I think, pretty well to teams and this is no different. We have to come out, make the same adjustments, stick to those adjustments and trust them because this team is so disciplined that they’re not going to stop what they’re doing,” Conley said. “They do what they do very well. They’re the best in the league at it.”

The Spurs were hesitant to take too much credit for what went right.

“The ball happened to go into the basket,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s a game. Some nights you make two, some nights you make 14. That’s a rarity. But there’s never really a reason. ... We didn’t run anything magical to get the shots. They just went in.”

It was quite the turnaround from the last round, when San Antonio made 44 percent and struggled to make shots consistently.

“I’m a math guy,” said Matt Bonner, who made four of his five 3-point attempts. “It’s highly improbable we’re going to shoot at the clip we did last game. They’ve got the best defense in the league. They’re going to come out and make adjustments and play better on defense for sure.”

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